Category Archives: Thoughts

Pastor’s Thoughts

December 18, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Again, blessed Advent Season to all of you, and may we all be renewed in hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday on December 13th, we continued with the third segment of our four-part Advent series with the sermon The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Joy. The sermon’s scriptural support came from the Hebrew Old Testament text of Isaiah 35:10 and the New Testament text, Luke 1:35-45. This series is based on the 2020 Advent FBC theme of: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. The Scriptural support is Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

For the past three weeks I have asked you to reflect upon the following three questions and encouraged you to honestly answer them in the context of the Romans 12:2 text.  They are:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

Last week’s sermon which focused on “joy” truly transformed me. What did it do for you? Now here are more poignant questions. Are you going through a transformation with this series? I pray that you are!! Have you reflected this week on the manner in which you receive “joy” from God? Are you overlooking God’s gifts to you because they are not as you had expected, hoped for or prayed for? In the sermon last week, I stated two tenets we should learn: 1) Let’s Rely on the Power of Faith, and 2) Let’s Accept God’s Gifts as God Chooses to Give. These are powerful tenets and should be accepted in belief and trust that “All Things are Possible with God” (Genesis 18:14). When this is accepted, then we will accept the tenets given in the context of the “joy” sermon.

Now, this coming Sunday, December 20th, we will conclude the series with The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Love. The text is I Corinthians 13. Please study this text in preparation for Sunday’s sermon.

So, are you being transformed by the renewing of your minds? Are you willing to do the hard work in order to have hope, peace, and joy? Only you can honestly speak to all of the questions that have been posed to you.

Please continue to have a transformation goal with part 4 of the series: The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Love. We must remember that Love is powerful…Love is lifechanging, and most of all, God is Love!!!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, December 20th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Also, you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.” We have a special guest soloist this week, the wonderful and talented Wanda Houston – the Berkshires’ “gem” of a vocalist. Wanda is a renowned star who has traveled the music world…was on stage in New York, and was always the featured soloist at the FBC Annual Gospel Concert. She will grace us with God’s Gift to her.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

 

 

December 11, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Again, blessed Advent Season to all of you, and may we all be renewed in hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday on December 6th we continued with the second of our four-part Advent series with the sermon The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Peace. The sermon’s scriptural support came from the Hebrew Old Testament text of Isaiah 26:3 and the New Testament text, John 14:15-27. This series is based on the 2020 Advent FBC theme of: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. The Scriptural support is Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

For the past two weeks I have asked you to reflect upon the following three questions and encouraged you to honestly answer them in preparation for each sermon and the Advent theme. They are:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

I pray that you are going through a transformation of sorts with this series…I know that I am. How? Because each week I am asking myself the above questions, and sometimes my responses are not what they should be. When I offer a sermon to you, I want to be “fed by God” too so that I can change for the better. And with that, I am including the above questions. Please allow me to remind you of some “take-aways” from the prior two sermons.

In the Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Hope sermon, our “take-aways” are that we should read the Bible to unclutter our hearts in order to renew our minds for encouragement. We accept that the Scriptures are to be trusted for their usefulness although they were written thousands of years ago. Also, we must pray for the “Jesus within us—the Holy Spirit” to provide us with hope, that feeling of expectation and desire through steadfast belief in God. This is the belief which enables us to move forward in life.

With the Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Peace, our “sermon take-away” was that in order to have peace, we must not rely on how the world defines having peace—that being: having power, control, worry, success, etc. at any cost, but we that must rely on keeping God’s Commandments in that of loving God and our neighbors which enables calmness and tranquility. Also, we must trust that we have an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that enables such peace to occur if we will just “surrender” our hearts and souls to Jesus.

Whew…that was a quick review.

So, are you being transformed by the renewing of your minds? Are you willing to do the hard work in order to have hope and peace? Only you can honestly speak to all of the questions posed to you.

Please continue to be transformed with Part 3 of the series: The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Joy. The sermon texts are Isaiah 35:10 and Luke 1:35-45. Don’t forget to reflect upon the Advent theme questions as you also read the sermon and Advent theme texts.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, December 13th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

 

 

December 4, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Blessed Advent Season to all of you, and may we all be renewed in hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday on November 29th, we began the first of our four-part Advent series with the sermon The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Hope. The sermon text came from Romans 15:4-6; and verses 12-13. The series is based on the 2020 Advent FBC theme of: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. The Scripture support is Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

I asked you to reflect upon the following three questions and encouraged you to honestly answer them in preparation for the sermon. They were:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

Did you do your homework? Were you prepared to actively hear the sermon? Are you being transformed in “hope” through the Holy Spirit? Are you hearing and listening to God’s Voice? Part 2 of the sermon series is The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Peace. The sermon text comes from Isaiah 26:3 and John 14:15-27. I want you to think about the things that you do in order to obtain peace; and to think about what you believe is “true peace.”  Please read the texts for this coming Sunday; integrate the Romans Advent theme text, and finally, again reflect on the above questions.

In next week’s message, I will sum up some lessons for you to internalize from parts 1 and 2 of this series of sermons to hopefully guide you in your on-going transformation process.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, December 6th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

November 20, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving…and not just because 1st Gentleman and I are preparing a New Orleans style dinner, but because I am just grateful that in spite of everything that is going on, I still have joy. This joy comes from the hope I have that the tomorrows will get better. Those tomorrows that include the upcoming Advent season. Will you, too, be filled with “joy” in spite of the current climate? And I’m not speaking about the cold weather here in Pittsfield.

The chair of the Diaconate, Linda Haas, and I had a conversation to discuss the 2020 Advent theme, and I was so filled with joy to hear what was placed into her spirit as a theme, and it is—The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. When I heard the recommendation I said, “This is it.” Then the Holy Spirit placed into my spirit the Bible text to support the declared theme: Romans 12:2. This text tells us: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

I want you to honestly reflect upon this text for a while, and I want you to ask yourself the following:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

During the next several days, I want you to ponder these questions as you prepare for Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the Advent Season. As God’s people, we must work towards having a mindset and inner peace for transformative purposes so that we can be acceptable to God. I am not saying we will not experience different disparaging thoughts due to life’s vicissitudes, but I am saying we will move from persistent negative thoughts pertaining to the world when we unclutter our minds and focus on Jesus and what this entails. When we focus on Jesus, we move forward in hope; we move forward in joy; we move forward in peace; and most of all, when we focus on Jesus, we move forward in love. I pray this focus will go beyond the Advent Season so that the positive transformation remains a part of us as disciples of Christ with those uncluttered hearts.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, November 22nd at 10am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

November 6, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC) —

Psalm 23

King James Version

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Relying on the Great Shepherd

Please, keep reading the above text of the 23rd Psalm until you have a peacefulness that transcends whatever you are feeling during this time of division in our country. We are living through the stress related to the presidential election, and of course we are living in COVID times; along with the possibility of a “new wave” of this Coronavirus. Then, let us not leave out that we have entered into the cold and flu season. This Psalm is for the “living,” although we usually hear it read at funerals. As people of God, let us rely on the “Great Shepherd” for our peace during any difficult time; and remember, that God, as our Great Shepherd, will always meet our needs. When we maintain that hope in God, this enables us to move forward in peace!!! Let us also encourage others to read it or “you” read it to others as a demonstration of “peace within” that transcends all understanding that they too believe in…just encourage them to internalize the gift from God and you.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, November 8th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

October 30, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Well, I want you all to know that I am no longer “weary,” thanks to all who wrote very comforting notes to me and also for your prayers…but now, I am feeling a sense of sadness. Why? This will be our first year (usually held on the 2nd Sunday in November) that we will not celebrate the annual First Baptist Church Gospel Concert…better known as the Gospel Fest. It’s truly a sense of sadness because this church would be filled to almost capacity. The FBC choir, directed by James Kupernik was ALWAYS phenomenal!!! And our annual special guests…from that of Wanda Houston, Rodney Mashia, The Berkshire Concert Choir, just to name a few of our annual participants would always add to the occasion. I am saying all of this to enable you to reflect upon prior years of how we were so blessed. Yes, a sense of sadness now, but we will come back even stronger next year; just you wait and see.

But even through sadness there still is joy to be found…

Mamé Opoku, the wonderful congregant who always ensured that on the 1st Sunday of each month FBC would celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with a beautiful cake has been led by God to coordinate a new ministry. This ministry, through the recommendation of Missions, will enable congregants to connect via Zoom for social and spiritual connection. We need interested folks to contact the church’s office (413-445-4539) to advise us of your interest or just email us and we will provide Mamé with your information. These Gatherings will be developed by Mamé…so all Gathering information will come from her. Aren’t you EXCITED? See, joy can be found even during the midst of sadness. We will not have the Gospel Concert this year, but we do have the opportunity to continue being together.

So, in closing, Happy November…Remember to set your clocks back and enjoy that extra hour of sleep. We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, November 1st at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. I really encourage you to read the “Beatitudes,” Matthew 5:1-13 in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, and then ask yourself, “God, where am I in regard to these blessings?” If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

October 16, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

If I am allowed to be honest and transparent, I will now tell you that I am weary. Will you allow me to admit to you that I am at times so weary? I am weary because I hear about so many of my congregants who are hurting at this time for many reasons. Many are hurting because they are experiencing grief over the death of loved ones…parents having to bury their children. Children burying their parents…spouses burying their partners after long periods of togetherness. Also, many are hurting due to the stresses of COVID and being confined and lonely in their homes and backyards. Then we must remember that the winter is coming, so sitting in backyards 6 ft away from family and friends will no longer exist for us. Many of us are hurting due to emotional or physical pain; and then we are all hurting due to the prolonged issues of injustices from that of ageism, racism, sexism, and all of the other “isms” associated with life.

So, now I am asking you: “Are you weary…can you be transparent and admit that you are weary about one thing or another?” Remember, even Jesus became weary at certain points…that’s why He would go off to pray so that He could rest upon God, His Creator. So, I ask you again: “Are you weary?” Be honest, it’s OK to admit to it…it’s not a fault or weakness…it is being fully human as was Jesus. If you are willing to admit your weariness, then I have a verse for you as spoken by Jesus to His disciples.

Let’s go to a beautiful Scripture found in John 14:27:

[The]Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

This Scripture is bringing me comfort today because I keep repeating it over and over as a mantra. Jesus is the peace giver for our weariness. It’s OK to admit being weary, but it’s more important to know where to go in order to be relieved of the weariness that comes upon us in our humanity. Let’s hold onto our mantra of peace in that of the risen Jesus, the Christ. Let us not hold onto being troubled or being afraid. Let us hold onto peace.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, October 18th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

 

October 8, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

WOW!!! Wasn’t yesterday evening’s storm in the Berkshires scary?

As we were going through the storm, I thought about the song I taught the Christian Youth campers in the summer of 2019. One of the Campers, as a going away present to me, created an art piece depicting the song. I taught it to the FBC congregation, too. The piece, which is in my office, and gives me hope on difficult days is titled: The Storm is Passing Over…

Encourage my soul and let us journey on

Though the night is dark and I am far from home

Thanks be to God, the morning light appears

The storm is passing over…the storm is passing over…the storm is passing over Hallelu.

Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…the storm is passing over…the storm is passing over…the storm is passing over Halllelu.

The song reiterates the following beautiful Scripture:

Psalm 42:4-5

Living Bible

4-5 Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.

As I left home this morning I focused on the beautiful sun, and the crisp breeze, and the birds chirping and singing, and I said, “Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise God again.” God provides me with help through all storms…God also provides “you” with help. Just ask for it and believe in hope. Help comes in many forms…a form that I love is “peace of mind.”

Yes, some of us were without services like telephone, electricity, and some of us may have lost trees, but we still have hope in God because the storm has passed over…hallelujah!!!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, October 11th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!  I invite you to read II Corinthians chapter 9…it’s not a very long chapter in preparation for the morning’s sermon.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

October 2, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Here we are in the month of October…how are you feeling? Are you enjoying the foliage? Are you seeing the Beauty of God? Yes, the Beauty of God even during these difficult times. I am here to tell you that things are getting better. How? Because we can experience the Beauty of God, if we so choose.

Next, the Trustees will be meeting during the month of October and will discuss our re-opening plans and protocols. Let us all pray for great news regarding the date First Baptist will re-open.

And during this month of October, it is also Stewardship Pledge time…letters and pledge cards have been mailed, and the letter is also being emailed. The Trustees are requesting that pledge cards be returned by October 11, 2020 in order to develop the 2021 budget.

Let us choose to see the Beauty of God in the changing season…let us choose to pray for the re-opening of FBC, and believe it will happen soon…let us choose to give “Bountifully to God so we can Reap Back Bountifully from God.” Let us choose wisely.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, October 4th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!  I invite you to read Romans 4:13-25 in preparation for the sermon title: Having a Steadfast Faith!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

September 25, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

For the past several weeks, my devotional time with God brought me to Paul’s letter to the Romans. Now history tells us that Paul didn’t start the Church there, but wrote the people while in Corinth, and repeatedly tells them that he loves them. Why? Because God has commanded followers to love one another; however, it became clearer to me why it was necessary for Paul to tell the people about his love for them. In the final chapter of Romans, chapter 15 and verse 13, Paul says:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Life Application Study Bible).

Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. And although he was writing to the Christians in Rome to admonish them about some issues they were having, he was also telling them about the importance of caring for one another. Paul also told them he had heard of the wonderful things they were doing. When we are filled with joy and peace and we overflow with hope, then we are able to talk to others about all things, but especially we are able to tell them that we love them because of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us when we are in relationship with Christ.

So, I have a few questions for you:

  1. Are you able to tell people beyond family members that you love them?
  2. Are you able to tell people you are at odds with that you love them?
  3. Are you able to tell yourself that you love “yourself”?

Maybe the 3rd question must be asked of yourself first before you are able to address the other two; however, when one is truly connected to the Holy Spirit, to Jesus within us, and we know the God of hope Who provides us with joy and peace as we trust in the Holy One, then by the power of the Spirit, we are able to love.

I Love You!!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, September 27th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!  I invite you to read Exodus 17:1-7 in preparation for the sermon title: Is the LORD Among Us or Not?!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila