Posted by: Shelton Covenant Ministries/AKA/GracePointe © 2014 | April 12, 2013

What exactly is Covenant Talk, anyway?

Welcome and thanks for reading this journal. A few years ago I began writing essays about certain words that had become important to me in my spiritual life.  I love to read, write, sing, and the arts in general while all of my adult life I have been a shepherd of people.  At different times and for various purposes my title has changed somewhat, but really, for me, I have just always connected with David, the shepherd-psalmist.  In David’s illustrious and at times infamous lifetime he wore many hats (or crowns as the case may be), but underneath them all was the soil of his beginning – shepherding.  This truth was never more clear than when David  the King of Israel was being corrected by the prophet of the Lord in II Samuel 7:8.  There the Lord instructed Nathan to begin His rebuke like this, “Now therefore so shall you say to my servant David, Thus said the LORD of hosts, I took you from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel.”

So, I’m essentially ok with that; I like taking care of people and things.  People matter to me and I want them to be well and to do well, so whether I am called singer, soloist, preacher, bishop, Dr., prophet or apostle, I realize that these are just ways to better understand what a shepherd does – which is follow, protect,  lead, feed, sheer, hold, comfort, live with, sing to and listen to… sheep. I don’t think that it is very useful to divert people’s attention from this essential function of life with God, which is to follow the Chief Shepherd and then lead the sheep that I’ve been assigned.

In professional ministry people often want to know what you’ve accomplished; how many years, how many churches, how big is the church, what style of ministry, etc. Sometimes I am tempted to reply, “well this month I’ve been removing a lot of thorns from the sheep’s feet. It seems some of them have been wandering off the beaten path and gotten into some briars in the underbrush.” Ever try to hold a fat, wiggly lamb still in your lap while you pull a thorn out of its foot? I’ve been the happiest though when I’ve stayed pretty close to those basic functions of sheep herding; it’s a respectable trade. It’s a covenant work, actually. The shepherd has a God-given skill and a calling to be a good steward over some sheep. It requires getting accustomed to one another; their bleating and the sound of my voice and the touch of my hand; the way I sing to them in the evening or in mid afternoon when the hot sun is high in the sky and we’ve come to a shaded valley near a spring of water. Sheep, care, watchfulness, rescue, healing, these and many more like them are the language of the covenant of a shepherd – Covenant Talk.

So, that’s what we do here. We don’t attempt to sell the reader  a lot of glitz and life-changing ideas, but instead we just break open the husk of words and get inside of them, pop them in our mouths and see how they taste and feel and if they just might help us on our journey. After all, we’ve been reminded by David the shepherd, “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Those essays that I mentioned earlier, eventually became my first book and I just wanted to keep the discussion going.  Feel free to comment – this is a table that we share. Glad to have you along.

Ken

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Posted by: Shelton Covenant Ministries/AKA/GracePointe © 2014 | May 8, 2009

Mother’s Day- People, Places, and Time

12420020            This Sunday is Mother’s Day and your weekend, I’m sure, will be filled with either the activities or memories that the day brings.  Flowers, dinners, gifts and lots of hugs are what Mother’s Day is all about, and it is generally a good time.

However, some might actually find it difficult to read through a devotional like this, knowing that Mother’s Day accents a deep and, at times, painful loss.  I am very aware that somebody reading this may have recently buried a mother or child and the wound is too fresh to think about.  I’m not sure that it is possible to ever get over it, but it is possible to adjust and it does get easier over time – which is what I really want to write about here – time.

Most of us find that our days are very busy and filled with all sorts of detail.  Very often it is difficult to separate the urgent from the important and to fall into the trap of majoring on the minor things.  When company comes over, it is easy to fret about the house or that the kitchen hasn’t been cleaned up from dinner yet, and miss the joy of just being with the people that you love.  The Internet and television just make things worse.  When a family or group comes together it isn’t long before someone is online while others are gathered around a televised sporting event and still others are just preparing the meal – no guilt tripping here; we all do it.  But the question is, is that what you really want to do with your time?  Sometimes, it is a really good thing to just break the distraction habit and spend meaningful time focusing in deliberate conversation with the people we love.

All sorts of wonderful things occur when this sort of engaging conversation takes place.  We discover things about those we love that we had somehow missed.  Maybe it’s a story or a mannerism that is just a part of who they are; maybe it’s the truth in their eyes.  Rehearsing family memories, vacations, reunions and, yes, even awkward moments brought to life by a photo album or a family video, quickly act like glue that serves to hold us together in difficult times.

Really, all that we have in this life, besides our faith in God, are places, people and time.  It may seem that we have more than that, but all of those other things, whether money, possessions, jobs and positions are simply composed of or result from places, people and time.

Earlier this week, I spent the afternoon with my parents, walking around Kensington Metropark.  We visited the livestock at the petting farm and gazed at a large number of swans that had congregated in an alcove on Kent Lake.  We watched them from the shore and then sat down at a picnic table.  I watched my mother and father, both now in their 80s, look at each other and also at the swans, which mate for life, and thought how fitting it was since next month Mom & Dad will celebrate 68 years of marriage; still lovebirds as well.

Life has slowed down for them over the past few years and I have watched them simply take time for each other.  At their age and from their vantage point, they seem to realize the true value of people and time.  Happy Mother’s Day Mom…I love you.

Here are some memories from our day together.

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Posted by: Shelton Covenant Ministries/AKA/GracePointe © 2014 | May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer

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By now, I am certain you know that today is the National Day of Prayer.  Perhaps you even know some of the history relating to its establishment and focus over the years.  Maybe you are also aware that President Obama has decided to pass on the East Room Inter-faith Prayer Breakfast that has been the tradition over the past few years.  His reasoning was that since prayer is a personal matter and since prayer is a regular part of his daily life, he thought the day would be better served by making a paper proclamation as some of his predecessors have done in the past. 

The National Day of Prayer Committee, chaired by Shirley Dobson, expressed disappointment.  The Interfaith Alliance was actually pleased, because they resent that the National Day of Prayer Task Force has been given so much latitude over the day, saying that this national day of observance does not belong solely to the task force.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is defending the National Day of Prayer in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin.  It seems a lawsuit was filed there by the Freedom From Religion Foundation saying that the existence of a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional since it violates separation of church and state.  The Obama Administration disagrees and is standing up for the observance since it was written into law in 1952 and since 1988 has been proclaimed by Presidents.

So what to make of all of this?

  • It is good that we have a National Day of Prayer  

  • It seems good that the President prays 

  • It seems strange that he doesn’t want an interfaith prayer service

  • It seems right that his administration is defending the NDOP in court.

  • It seems evident, that we are infected with religious pluralism in America.

This pluralism  has caused us to recognize a national opportunity to pray (which is something we’ve always had) but has done little to increase the national appetite for prayer and, sadly, it has left the nation with an anonymous god.  Really, the National Day of Prayer – as presented – does little more than accent the idea of religion and spirituality within the context of the nation.  If America were a restaurant, then the National Day of Prayer would be a mini-religious buffet on a larger menu full of other special interest mini buffets.  A day, where we can go to the table and choose the tossed salad over the pasta salad, and skip the fruit plate completely.  But at least we are called to the table.

So what about us? Prayer is the privilege of every person and the glory of a nation. Jesus is Lord and one day, everyone at the spiritual buffet table will bow to Him. According to scripture, we ought to always pray and not to faint and if we, who are called by His name, will humble ourselves, pray and turn from our wicked ways, the Bible promises we will hear from heaven and experience national  healing. Because prayer is personal does not mean that it cannot be corporate.  Because other faiths are praying to their deities, does not weaken the prayers of those who pray to God in Jesus’ name: He is not in competition with any other god.

So instead, I encourage you to skip the national drama and the opportunity for political positioning and choose a place to fall on your knees and cry out from the depth of your soul, that the one true God, who is revealed to us through Jesus Christ, would have mercy on every person, family, business, government and the nation-at-large.  That a true spiritual awakening will sweep this land, calling people everywhere to repentance and faith in God through Christ.  Pray that until our economic downturn (our land) is healed, that it would be useful in turning the nation’s attention toward heaven.  Pray that terrorism, war, human trafficking, ruthless political regimes, poverty, all kinds of abuse, fatherlessness, addiction, and suffering of every sort will be quelled, and that our hearts and homes will be truly satisfied by justice and mercy.

Let us pray…

Ken Shelton

Posted by: Shelton Covenant Ministries/AKA/GracePointe © 2014 | April 29, 2009

The High Cost of Not Paying Attention

nodenom-img1“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.”  Matthew 26:41

I think it was my second meal in the cafeteria at college when, upon opening my eyes after praying over lunch, I found my entire meal had disappeared from the table.  It was my freshman year at a Christian college and I was still trying to learn the ropes of exactly where in the cafeteria to sit and not look like a nerd.  Obviously, I was caught off guard while everyone sitting nearby acted as though nothing were wrong.  After looking goofy for a minute or two some guy further down the table produced my tray of food and reminded me to “watch” and pray (ruck, ruck). And so I was reminded to pay attention.

Paying attention – okay, so if we have to pay attention, how much does it cost?  The answer? Not nearly as much as not paying attention.  Increasing our spiritual attention span is just part of following Jesus and is the primary purpose of prayer.  Prayer is not so much what we say or ask for, but rather what the Bible refers to as “waiting on the Lord.”  We aren’t told to wait because He is slow, but because if we aren’t paying attention to His thoughts and ways in our day-to-day lives, it is easy to miss the miracle of His presence and action in our circumstance.  In short, He wants to partner with us, and so if we are not paying attention, things slow down spiritually for us.

With all of this talk about paying attention and possibly missing what God is doing, it might seem like there is cause for anxiety; I assure you there is not.  The truth is that the Holy Spirit makes His presence and action known to anyone who is watching.  Actually, it is hard to miss, but you will need to pay attention.  The result of not paying attention is often felt in missed opportunities, damaged relationships and challenging circumstances.  Most all of us get caught up in things that distract us and steal our attention, and so the nudge from the Matthew 26:14 serves to bring us back to an awareness that God is here, in the middle of our circumstances, right now…and He wants us to see and act right along with Him so that His will may be done in earth as it is in heaven.

We live in challenging times, to say the least, and the cost of not paying attention is more than any of us can afford.

Grateful For Grace,

Pastor Ken Shelton

Posted by: Shelton Covenant Ministries/AKA/GracePointe © 2014 | April 23, 2009

Which Way?

“ Teach me your way, O LORD;  lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” Psalm 27:11,images

            So, let’s say you are on a journey and you suddenly realize that it is taking longer than you thought, it is more expensive than you had planned and the natives are restless.  As you analyze your situation, a person you do not know stops and asks you what you are doing and so you tell him about your situation.  After listening intently, he smiles an irritating but knowing smile and says, “well, if you want to reach your destination, you have three things to think about.”  Then he points toward your left and asks what you see.  Read More…

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