Pastoral Resources

Sunday Bulletin Inserts

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Genuinely Flawed

I have been learning the difference between the real and the genuine. See Cubic Zirconium is real, but Diamonds are genuine. It's a funny thing about diamonds. They are imperfect. In fact, the more imperfections and flaws they have, the more valuable they are.

I have been studying out 1Peter recently. It's a powerful letter written to offer encouragement to suffering Christians. See, I don't deal well with suffering. I like to avoid it or discard it, but unless it is dealt with suffering returns. I can be "real" about how I feel, but not genuine. I can in reality express myself without really addressing or dealing with what I fear or that which hurts me. Or I can become genuine through the process of dealing with the fear and pain that life brings. The cool thing about genuine stones is they are not manufactured in a lab. They are produced under intense pressure, immeasurable heat, and over thousands of years.

1 Peter 1:7 Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.

When I first read this I remembered reading are present then even more purification is required. In fact without PGM's the gold can be purified 99.99% vs. with PGM's it can only be 25% pure.

Wow, I thought about what my 'PGM's' are -what are the things that hold me back from being drawn closer to God, made more genuine, and purified?

1 Peter 1:17 Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.

I can make excuses and say things whenever they come to my mind (lack of discernment and discretion) and people can say I'm being real, or I can be vulnerable (use discretion and speak with discernment) and be genuine. I can admit to fears and concerns instead of just expressing hostility and insecurity by deflecting and highlighting others' flaws. I have continued to hurt brothers around me with my harshness of tongue. When I sought advice an older friend and mentor shared with me that if I want to be in a loving relationship one day I can't make my brothers feel like there is nothing they can offer me. Through my quick tongue and opinions, as well as defenses, I can give that very impression. In fact, if I am genuine I would admit that I am equally a mess and equally afraid as they are. Though I hear what is in their hearts, even when they can not say it forthright, my fears result in me being 'real' and telling them what I really see in them, instead of acknowledging what they are going through and inciting courage in them through my vulnerability. I must make a conscious decision to be genuine in order to obtain a deep consciousness of God.

Daniel 12:10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

It's scary to think that I can be 'real' all my life, but if I am not seeking to be genuine and to be refined I will continue to be wicked. It is only through the process of purification (the very long, painful, HOT process) that I am able to make it to heaven. We are purified when we become Christians and are baptized, but that is only the beginning of the purification process, and not all will make it to 99.99% pure. I desire to make it.

Get Back Through God

Every now and then things can get testy in the world of professional sports. NASCAR has its moments when people get, as they say, tapped by another car and lose a race as a result. Retribution can follow. In hockey the retribution is a little more immediate. The old saw of, "I went to a fight last night and a hockey game broke out," bears a certain measure of respect. Golf is a little more subtle. The things that happen in golf take a little more time to settle than in many other sports.

Take the instance of Phil Mickleson and Tiger Woods a couple of years ago. Mickleson made a rather brash statement to the press. "He hates that I can fly it past him now. He has a faster swing speed than I do, but he has inferior equipment. Tiger is the only player who is good enough to overcome the equipment he's stuck with." Tiger's response was a rather odd one. While he defended his Nike equipment he was using (Nike pays him millions of bucks a year to play and wear their golf gear) he inexplicably put his Nike driver away and brought out a Titleist driver he had used previously.

Then came the "slump." In 2003Tiger was very, well, un-Tigerish. His wins dipped. The odd thing was, his performances in the major championships, the Masters, the U. S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship, were nowhere close to those of past years. Mickleson seized the moment to foment to the press, "What kills me is that all you guys who found it easy to lay into me, none of you have admitted the accuracy of that statement." As the slump continued into 2004 and Tiger lost his number one world ranking to Vijay Singh, Mickleson made a playing statement by winning the Masters and coming close in the U. S. Open, still with no Tiger on the radar.

After starting the year like this was going to perhaps be his best year, Mickleson has faded into a shadowy area of the PGA radar where he barely raises a blip while Tiger has gone first-second-first in the three majors this year. His comment concerning a slump had been that he was tinkering with his swing. The media dogs got on him about it as to why he needed to tinker. Following the British Open Tiger made a simple short statement as to why he did so. "One, two and one, that's why." Tiger's lull had nothing to do with equipment and everything to do with simply getting better at his craft.

Tiger's retribution was to get better and silence his critics. What's ours? Seriously, when Satan lashes out at us what do we do? Peter gives us a very simple solution. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." 1 Peter 5:6-9 A simple solution. Through God, we get better at who we are.

Get The Message?

Sometimes we humans can be deadly serious and wind up being outrageously funny. Don't know what I mean? Consider this. Every now and then we have the opportunity to make a statement and that statement results in being nowhere near as accurate as we meant it to be. In our seriousness (or seriocity as I like to call it) we use words that absolutely don't carry the intended meaning or else come across as a pun. It's all unintentional but it does, nonetheless, leave us bewildered and others laughing. The problem is, did we get the message?

Perhaps this is never more evident than in some of the signs that we attempt to post for people's information. One such sign was posted in an office; "Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken." This sign was hanging outside a London disco; "Smarts is the most exclusive disco in town. Everyone welcome." How about this one posted on a roadside in Cape Cod; "Caution water on road during rain." What's frightening is that there must be people who don't realize that water gets on the road when it rains. I just hope they got the message.

Sometimes warning signs caring a definite deadly message. Then the second line makes the deadliness comic relief by completely ignoring what made the first part so deadly. Like this sign at a railroad station; "Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted." It kind of reminds you of the old "airplane crash on the border of the U. S. and Canada" joke. Where do you bury the survivors? Problem is, that's a joke. The railroad sign was done completely in seriocity. But did people get the message?

There are those times when the information given is conflicting without deadly consequences. Such signs can leave us with our heads wagging that there are actually people whose minds think that way. A sign outside a new town hall is just such a situation; "The town hall is closed until opening. It will remain closed after being opened. Open tomorrow." That's a definite maybe with the probably that it will never happen but is supposed to tomorrow. Such signs rise out of people who either ignore information or don't process it logically. Like the Israelites under Moses and Joshua. They had made a sea crossing like no other. They walked across the Red Sea on dry ground with two huge walls of water on either side threatening to fall in on them and crush them and drown them at the same time.

When it came time to use the information they had amassed, i. e., God is in control, they completely lost it. Ten spies returned a report on the Promised Land that said the people were too big to conquer (. Forty years later, Joshua gave the people a statement that was deadly serious following the Israelites entering the Promised Land. He chose his words carefully ( as he challenged the people to "choose whom you will serve." He left no doubt as to how he personally had processed all the information concerning God. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Get the message?

Get to Work and Run the Race

Something marvelous happened recently and the sports world missed it. The media made a big deal about a situation that didn't really have that huge an impact on the event it was supposed to dampen. What was missed? Tiger Woods did not compete in the 2008 British Open and it didn't make a lick of difference. Now, wait just a minute, you might say! He could have won it. Ah, but that's just the point. He didn't beat the winner, Padraig Harrington, last year and the only other time he played Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, he finished third.

Granted, the greatest golfer in the world was unable to compete for the greatest championship in the world. The justice to that situation is that Padraig Harrington, who outdistanced Tiger last year (Harrington: 1st; Tiger: tied for 12th) won it again this year in decisive fashion. In Tiger's place was 53 year old Greg Norman. The Aussie recaptured some of the fire he used to have as the number one golfer in the world; which is what he was when Tiger turned pro. However, even some late heroics by Norman and others were unable to thwart the steady, if not spectacular, play of Harrington. By being the first person to repeat as champion of The Open Championship since Tiger did it a few years ago, and being the first Irishman to ever win back-to-back titles, he silenced the 'where-is-Tiger' talk.

You see, The Open Championship is not about Tiger Woods...or Padraig Harrington either, for that matter. It is about one hundred and thirty-seven years of golf history. It is about the evolution and refining of the greatest game in the world. It is about honor and integrity; skill and luck; pride and passion. That is not one person's private domain. That belongs to every golfer, professional or amateur, who has ever teed it up, be that at Royal Birkdale or a local muni. It is all about the game; a game that has such words as 'honors' built right into its fabric. It is a game that a cheater doesn't stand a chance of winning, because the game will refine the cheaters right out of the competition.

Look at golf's champions, especially Tiger Woods. They have gotten there through talent, granted. But every one of them had to polish that talent, honing it through competition to a razor's edge until it could slice through the competition and be found standing alone at the top of the leader board. The names seen atop leader boards over the years are those of men and women who have pushed their craft to the limit. They have hit thousands upon thousands of golf balls and spent thousands of hours in practice and contemplative self-examination, tearing down and reconstructing their game just to have the chance to compete and, hopefully, win. Dare we do anything less for the cause of Christ and His kingdom, the church?

'Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.' victory. Countless souls hang in the balance.

The proof is there in the witness of those who have gone before us and done what needed to be done. They outdistanced Satan and beat him. They did it through hard work, prayer and trust in God to open doors that they couldn't budge themselves. It is time for us to honor their example, to lay aside the things that hold us back, get to work and run the race.

Getting Out of Your Own Way

It takes great humility and vulnerability to get out of my own way and just obey. Day in and day out I have watched God answer prayers, specific prayers, some within hours of me writing them out, and yet I can still wake up on some mornings fearful, doubting or anxious. I can feel inadequate because I lack perfection the way I think it should look. Yet, God doesn't expect perfection from me. He expects me to be humble enough to admit my weaknesses and committed enough to press through difficult or uncertain times. He guides me past my doubt and fear when I allow Him to.

ow and understand God's character the more I desire to be humble and obedient. When I do this everything else does become less important and my "fair" does not compare to His justice. The more I seek and see God's character the more I draw strength from God to strengthen others in my imperfection, my weakness, even in my times of uncertainty.

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Getting the Point Across

My oldest son is serving in Christian camp this week just a half hour down the road. He was the one asked to speak last night for the worship time for the campers so my wife and I went over to hear him speak. While there we met Gene and Pat White. They are originally from the North Central Ohio area as well as having served ministries in the Central Kentucky area. We know a lot of the same people.

And they knew Earl Swank. Earl Swank was from North Central Ohio and an Associate Minister at the Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Kentucky. He served there under Wayne Smith, the venerable dean of Central Kentucky ministers. Earl was asked to return to his home church in the little community of Palmyra, Ohio for a revival one year.

I preached just a few miles up the road in Bellville and was asked to lead the song services. The first evening was one of the best revival services I can remember. The people sang their hearts out for the Lord. Then Earl Swank preached a sermon on worry that made several men in the sanctuary, myself included, weep.

When I hugged Earl that evening on the way out I did not know that a few hours later he would be dead. Yes, Earl Swank preached a sermon on worry and then seemingly died to prove his point. He suffered a heart attack in his sleep. His sister, with whom he was staying, told me that he had slept very restless that night. When she went to wake him he was dead.

Another man was preaching one day. It was not a formal revival service or even a church service. He was preaching to a group of some twelve men. In the body of His sermon he said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13 Then he went to the cross to make sure they understood the message. Do you?

Giving yourself a time-out!

Now that school is underway and the weather is cooling a little, I'm getting that restless feeling -- I want to redecorate the house, or at least get out of the house since it doesn't look like the magazine cover I admire!

A couple of years ago I found another stay-at-home mom in my church who shared this feeling. We decided to start a group to combat our cabin fever/boredom/nesting instinct-which-can-get-expensive.

We called our group T.I.M.E.-out (Toddlers, Infants & Moms Encouraged). The group was free and open to anyone (we even welcomed dads and grandparents). We tried to meet once a week in one of our homes or, if the weather allowed, at the park.

One of us would bring a snack and we would visit and fellowship while the kids played for an hour or two. People would come and go as their schedules allowed. There was nothing really organized or structured, just "time out" to hang out and get to know each other, share, laugh about our problems and challenges and provide support for each other.

Sometimes it was a real challenge to find a time when we could all be there between school, doctor appointments, shopping, part-time jobs, etc. But that was part of the fun!

Our group hasn't met in awhile. The co-founder moved overseas when her husband had the opportunity to transfer; at least three of us got part-time jobs; and things just became harder to coordinate.

I miss that time. If I can find a window of time and several moms who can fit through it, I think I'll try to get it going again.

Our culture today hasn't built in that "girl time" with quilting bees and church socials like our grandmothers probably experienced. We have to be creative and work it in for the sake of our sanity.

"Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:11

As you find your 10 minutes today, read the rest of 1Thessalonians and encourage another mom!

Global Impact

I recently heard a well-known talk radio personality ask a journalism student who called in to the show, "Why do you want to become a journalist?"

I had the answer on my lips before the kid could word his noble reply. (Having been that student, I won't say how many years ago, I remember the itching feeling of wanting to make a difference.)

His reply: "To let people know the truth." I shook my head as I heard it and the host simultaneously said, "Wrong answer. The correct answer (yes, I can say it with you) is to change the world."

He went on to explain to this eager, yet naive student that if you tell people you want to expose the truth, you will have trouble doing so.

Unfortunately, whether it's the stress of meeting a daily deadline on the local newspaper or the challenge of keeping my sanity while being in a house with only preschool companionship all day, such a lofty goal as changing the world is elusive at best.

What did I think I would fix as I headed into a jaded world of news reporting? Localized problems to begin with: college administrators who didn't know what the students needed; student government that was not representative of the student body; lack of parking spaces on campus!

Did any of these things create a global impact? Did I change the world with my solid reporting or even with a clever editorial? Probably not. Did I make things better for a few people in a limited area? Possibly. Did I give a voice to someone who was frustrated and crying to be heard? I hope so.

My dream of changing the world is still alive, but I realize the only way I can achieve it is one person at a time. I have to begin with my own home and workplace, loving and teaching my children and those I with whom I work.

More importantly, I need to focus on the one person who has had a global impact on every generation for thousands of years. If Jesus Christ is my truth and living for him is my goal, I can have an impact from which the ripples may travel the globe.

"For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth." - 2 Corinthians 13:8

Go To Church

Holy Week. The week beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter. A time of triumph and victory. A time of reflection and reconsideration. A time of challenge. A time of awe. Eight days which rocked our world as none had ever before or have ever since. Holy Week. A time of shame?

Having been in the ministry for some thirty-four plus years now I have marvelled at the human intellect and its disfunctional nature at this time of the year. Only perhaps at Christmas will the human intellect operate at a level comparable to that of this week. For somewhere deep inside the human intellect exists a thought process that reasons plausible probability that God can be apeased by a one service wonder Christian.

You know what I'm talking about. It's Easter. Maybe I better go to church. What kind of person wouldn't go to church on Easter? Ah yes, the human intellect at its finest. This is the same person who never attends church because you don't have to go to church to have a relationship with God. True. But the same holds in other situations as well.

You don't have to live with your wife or husband to be married to either, but the relationship usually fails if you don't. You don't have to go to work to be hired for a job, but if you intend to keep it showing up and working never hurts. You don't have to play golf to have a tee time, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to have one if you don't play golf. That's the thing about a relationship with God.

You don't have to go to church to have a relationship with God. But it stands to reason that if God doesn't think you're comfortable in His house here on earth He probably won't make you endure eternity in the one He has in heaven. The Hebrews writer put it very well. "Don't forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but encourage one another enthusiastically as you see the Day coming. Hebrews 10:25 Hope you're in church on the 18th and 25th as well.

God Chastens in Love

Sibling spats are nothing new. They have been going on since the dawn of time. Recently, a mother of three was talking with me about her difficulty in controlling her children's internal wars. After talking with her I began to remember the skirmishes that my late sister, Peggy, and I used to get into. We had some doozies, but one in particular stands out.

I was all of ten years of age. My family and I were heavily involved in the church life of the Jeffersonville Church of Christ in Jeffersonville, Ohio. As it usually happened, Sundays were a chore for my parents as it was that day that Peggy and I were normally at each other's throats arguing. One Sunday was no different. My sister had gotten ready before me and we were hard at it. Mom told Peggy to go sit in the car until time to go so that she and I would not be around each other for at least that amount of time.

Peggy went to the car and began filing her fingernails with a metal fingernail file. When Mom, Dad and I came out she had plotted a course of action that would stay in the family lore for years. I opened the passenger's door on the driver's side of Dad's '56 Olds and flopped down on the seat. As I dropped to the seat, Peggy reached over and held the fingernail file right underneath me. Somehow, miraculously, the sharp pointed end of the file never hit flesh but ripped a large hole in the seat of my pants as I jumped up suddenly, screaming.

Mom was furious. She took me inside to change pants while Peggy was left alone in the car with an incensed Dad. When we finally left for church I had formulated my sweet revenge. After we had parked, Peggy, still wiping away tears, got out on her side of the car. Quickly I slid across the seat and started to get out on her side as she slammed the door shut without looking. I shoved my hand up against the door and started screaming at the top of my lungs. Peggy was sure that she had just shut the door on me and rushed to get it open. When she opened the door, I sat there laughing at her. Then Dad acted.

My Dad pulled me from the car seat and lifted me up under one arm into perfect spanking position and began flailing away. As I began crying at the punishment I saw my friends, Roger Garringer, Dennis Avey and the Sanderson girls, all watching and laughing. Dad saw them, too, and stopped. He set me down and looked at me and said, "That's good enough punishment for the day."

God deals with us in much the same manner. He allows us to receive things that are uncomfortable so that we can be reminded when we have been disobedient. "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?" Hebrews 12:7 My father loved me and my sister. We know that because he chastened us. God loves us, too. So don't be surprised when, following a time of disobedience, things don't go perfectly right. God does chasten and you know He loves you.