Friday, November 26, 2010

Loved and Called

How many times have you read a familiar Scripture passage and "filed" it away in your memory? "Oh yes, I am familiar with that verse," we say to ourselves. However as the saying goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt." It is one thing to be familiar with a Scripture passage or verse and another to really meditate upon and internalize it. I have had the experience on many occasions of really allowing God to speak through a very familiar passage. Most recently Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Sadly this verse has been misused by well meaning Christians to try and encourage others who have experienced a loss or some other traumatic event. When I really stopped to break this verse down I discovered the beauty of God's activity and the humility of being included in His purposes. "And we know"..(This is not a guess, not an uncertainty. It is a sure thing, an unspoken promise by the Promise keeper Himself) "that in all things"(joys as well as sorrows, victories as well as defeats, every facet of life) "God works" (He is at the center, He is active not passive. He is laboring not indifferent) "for the good" (For He is good. There is no darkness or shadow of turning in Him. There is no evil intent or impure motive.) "of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Loved and called; chosen out of love for His purpose. An instrument of grace, especially chosen and selected because of His knowing that I am an instrument He can use for His honor and glory) I was especially moved by recognizing anew that God is at the center of all of creation and of my life. Romans 8:28 dovetails beautifully with Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Did you notice? God works, (Romans 8:28) God created (Genesis 1:1). God is always moving, re-creating, restoring, and making things come together to display His glory. The heavens and the earth declare His glory (Psalm 19) and He works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. His purpose ties into and reflects back His glory. All of creation is the conduit through which His power and presence flows. We see Him in the out working of that which surrounds us and the outpouring of His grace upon us which flows to others. What greater glory can there be, than to be loved and called by the Creator of the universe.  All glory to God!
In His grace,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's A Miracle!

In searching for a new church home, we have had the opportunity to visit many different congregations with varying worship styles. The past two Sundays we visited a church whose denomination is known for its charismatic displays of worship and strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned in my first blog, I carry on the legacy of my great-grandmother who was a woman of great influence in the church. The particular body of believers she belonged to was Pentecostal in nature and she manifested one of the more unusual sign gifts. I believe that the Spirit of God still moves today in powerful ways. Two weeks ago at this church we attended, we sat behind a young woman who was in a wheelchair. She was being wheeled around by others and there was no indication that she was able to get out of the chair without help. I had no idea why she was in the chair and I thought maybe she had broken a leg or foot but there was no sign of a cast. The young woman was lifted out of her wheelchair and placed on one of the pew chairs for the church service. During the course of some very emotionally charged singing, I noticed the young woman standing up to worship. I thought to myself, "Maybe she has a back problem," as she stood up very carefully. When my husband and I returned to the same church this past Sunday, the pastor interrupted the worship time to give a testimony. He proceeded to state that the young woman from last week who was in the wheelchair was the victim of severe abuse. She had been abused so badly that she ended up in a wheelchair unable to physically walk. During the time of praise the young woman whispered to the folks who had brought her to the service that the Lord told her to "Get up and walk!" She obeyed and stood to her feet and was able to walk out of the church service on her own two feet! In fact, she has continued to walk unassisted since that day. I realized I had witnessed a miracle! It reminded me of Jesus healing of the paralytic in Mark chapter 2. The paralytic's friends ended up lowering the man through the roof of the house because they couldn't get through the crowd at the front door. When Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic and his friends, He said to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." This angered the teachers of the law who questioned Jesus' authority to forgive sins as such authority belonged to God alone. So to prove Jesus had such authority he said to the man, "I tell you get up, take your mat, and go home." Mark tells us the man "Got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" (Mark 2:11-12) I know how those people felt. Imagine my surprise when I learned the real story about that young woman. I had witnessed a miracle and didn't even know it! I do not want to imply that this woman's paralysis was due to sin in her life. If anything, she was sinned against by her abuser. The message I take away is the power of God is still living and active in this world. We may not experience a "miracle" on such a grand scale as this young woman but God is able "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 2:20-21)
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Valuable Lesson

A classic line from the movie "Forrest Gump" states, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." As a Christian Counselor that is a great line and is often true. Recently I was meditating on the idea of the Lord's presence with us. In fact, God's presence within us is to be so apparent that others will see it. A verse from Matthew 5:16 states, "In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." I received a referral from a pastoral colleague of mine and after talking to the gentleman on the phone, I became concerned about meeting with him. Everything inside of me was saying, "Make up an excuse not to meet with this man" but I scheduled the appointment anyway. The gentleman described himself as a "redneck" which my pastoral colleague confirmed. As a black woman, terms like that can cause great anxiety. He also had committed a murder but it was deemed self defense and no time was served. I asked my pastoral colleague to accompany the client to the session for safety purposes which he did willingly. I had it all planned out in my head as to what I was going to do. I would politely meet with him, then refer him to someone else. However, just before the meeting, being a "good pastor" and Christian, I asked the Lord to give me the eyes to see this man as Christ would and the heart to have compassion. God is faithful and during the session I saw a very wounded person whose anger was driven by a difficult past. Yes, he was very much the "redneck" he described but there was something more than what physical eyes might see. Suddenly, my plans for referring him to someone else dissolved. At the end  of the session, the client stated that he "liked me" and I reminded him of his former therapist who he loved very much. I admitted to him some of my initial concerns about our meeting and he asked me not to judge him because he was from the south. We ended the session holding hands and praying together. God taught me a valuable lesson that day. When we let our light shine before others and approach them with the compassion of Christ, they will see the Lord and God will get the glory. I believe if Christ were here on earth, He would be hanging out with this client a lot. Don't forget who you are in Christ and the call of the gospel to bring the good news, hope, and healing to the broken hearted.
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Eagles Wings

On Monday as I pulled into the church parking lot where my counseling practice is established I looked up and there circling the church steeple was a red-tailed hawk. It rode the air current with grace and beauty ever circling the steeple cross. I just sat there to take it all in. In my CD player was a song by one of my favorite groups SELAH. The song is entitled, "You Deliver Me." The chorus states, "When I feel like I can't go on, You deliver me. When the road is winding and way too long, You deliver me, You deliver me."  For me that hawk symbolized freedom and deliverance which comes from the Lord's hand. As the hawk hovers and soars on the unseen wind, so God's Spirit brings me life and allows me to soar. I watched the hawk as it slowly started to drift away until it was joined by another hawk. Together they circled and soared ever higher. I thought about the Lord's presence with me. He joins with me in this journey called life and is always by my side. I never have to worry about being alone or abandoned. I thought about my experience that morning and throughout my day. Later that afternoon, the word of the Lord came to me from Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Glory to God who delivers us from our fears and lightens our burdens so we can soar!
Be Blessed,
Pastor Sheree