Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Fresh Start

Once again I find myself at a crossroads in ministry. I have been wrestling for sometime with a part of myself that has remained dormant and unfulfilled. A part of myself that I believe the Lord wants alive and active for His kingdom. Yet, in my efforts to see that part of me come alive, there have been countless roadblocks put in the way. I in turn have responded with frustration and anger. I have come to a point of giving up and trying to live "half" a life. Recently, God has reawakened in me His call to use His gift of pastoral ministry. I had considered planting a church last year after a very good Christian friend and brother felt the Lord saying that I needed to start a fellowship of my own. However, after realizing how great a task it was, I threw in the towel. However, no matter how hard I try to deny this part of me, it keeps pursuing me. A few weeks ago I was at a prayer gathering and met a pastor whose story resonated with mine. He had also run into many roadblocks in an attempt to use all of the gifts God had given to him, especially the gift of teaching/preaching. He spoke of having visited numerous churches only to be unable to get as he put it, "plugged in" using all of his gifts. He had gotten to the point of just showing up to church but not feeling fully connected to anyone or anything. The straw that broke the camel's back at the last church he attended came after he had surgery and was out of commission for awhile. In that period of time, he did not receive any phone calls or visits from church members to check on his healing. At that point he felt led to begin a home Bible study with a handful of folks and is beginning to experience an increase in those attending. His story stirred a passion in my soul that this may be what God meant when my Christian brother stated that God wanted me to start my own fellowship. Last week I was sharing my story with another Christian brother. While we were talking, he paused in the middle of our conversation and stated that the Lord put a word on his heart for me, "This is your time!" Again I felt this passion stirring in my spirit. During one of my recent devotional times, I was reading Matthew's account of Jesus walking on the water. (Matthew 14:22-36) After the disciples cried out in fear to what they believed to be a ghost, Matthew tells us Jesus immediately said to them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." (Matthew 14:27) What jumped out at me in Jesus' words were three "identifiers" coinciding with His comfort to the disciples. First, Identify faith in yourself. ("Take courage!") Second, Identify the "Faith-Giver." ("It is I") and third, Identify the fear and let it go. ("Don't be afraid.") That same day as I was reading the devotional, "Jesus Calling" I felt God reinforcing His message to me. The devotional stated, "Don't waste energy regretting the way things are or thinking about what might have been. Start at the present moment----accepting things exactly as they are----and search for My way in the midst of those circumstances." Those words felt like echoes of Paul's letter to the Philippians, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13b-14) The devotional went on in the same meditation to say, "Trust is like a staff you can lean on, as you journey uphill with Me. If you are trusting in Me consistently, the staff will bear as much of your weight as needed. Lean on, trust, and be confident in Me with all your heart and mind." Again I heard echoes of Scripture as I had read in Exodus chapter 4 about the staff the Lord gave to Moses to use as a sign to Pharaoh of who God is and the power He possesses. Additionally, came the words of Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." So, I am pursuing ministry on a smaller scale and stepping out in faith to start a home Bible study and trusting God to take it wherever He desires. My encouragement to you as you move through the seasons of your life is to remember the three identifiers,  Identify faith in yourself, Identify the "Faith-Giver", and Identify the fear and let it go. God is with you!
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Longing For Relationship

The New Year is 10 days old and folks have long forgotten the joyous celebrations that took place all over the world on December 31, 2014. One of my traditions is to stay up until midnight and watch the ball drop in Times Square in New York City. No matter how cold the temperature, people huddle together waiting for the big countdown. Once the New Year comes in the celebration begins complete with confetti, horns, cheers, lots of hugs and some kisses. I often wonder what drives people to stand out in the freezing cold to watch a large ball with hundreds of L.E.D. lights slide its way down a shaft until the New Year's sign lights up? I believe that in that brief moment of time, people forget about what's going on in the world and focus on being together with friends and/or family. People are interested in relationship. God created us to be in relationship. In both the Old and New Testaments God reveals Himself as a God who desires to be in relationship with His creation. From the opening chapters of Genesis where God creates man and woman (Genesis 1:26) and then brings them together (Genesis1 :22-23) relationship is God's design and desire. After the Fall, the idea of covenant is introduced and established with Noah after the flood. (Genesis 9:8-17) A covenant is not the same as a contract. A contract calls for certain conditions to be met in order for the contract to remain valid and in effect. Contracts can even be broken by one party or the other. The language of contract says, "I will do this if you do that. A covenant runs much deeper and when established by God it is unconditional and unbreakable. The language of covenant say, "I will" no if's, and's, or buts. There are several major covenants established throughout the Old Testament in anticipation of the establishment of the New Covenant which finds its fulfillment in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. (Luke 22:20) When God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage, He establishes His relationship with the people using the language of covenant, "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God." (Exodus 6:7a) Moreover, in the closing chapters of Revelation as the New Jerusalem descends out of heaven, God uses covenantal language to reinforce His relationship with humanity. "And I heard a voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:3) While the introduction of modern technology has helped to connect us globally, it has also served to isolate us from community. Face to face interaction appears to be secondary to media like Facebook, Twitter, texting, and e-mail. However, deep down there is a longing to be in relationship with another human being. Have you noticed how the latest cell phones now have someone you can talk to? Her name is Sirri and she is able to respond to many issues, from questions you may ask about locating a particular address to reminding you of your appointments. Isn't it ironic how marketers of cell phones on some level have realized that people long for relationship? Sadly, technology appears to have become the new "god" for most people. Just like the ancient God's of wood and stone that the people worshipped drawing them away from their relationship with the Living God, so our "gods of bytes and gigabytes" threaten to do the same. Is there something deep inside your soul that longs to be connected to someone? Could that someone be even greater than yourself? God wants to be in relationship with you. He is the One your heart ultimately longs for. God says, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me."(Proverbs 8:17) May 2015 be the year when we take time to be in deep and meaningful relationships with God and with each other.
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree