Pastoral Resources

Sunday Bulletin Inserts

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Haboub!

A Haboub for those who aren't familiar with the term, or the Sudan for that matter, is a fear inspiring term that means one thing: SAND STORM. Now in my time here I have seen light versions of dust in the air that look like a thick fog and taste, well, like sand. But they were nothing like what I experienced the other day. There is nothing like a good, old fashion natural phenomena to reveal God's power and leave one in awe.

At approximately 7:00pm the sun was still shining bright as I glanced out the window. I got ready to leave and as I barely blinked the sky turned pitch black, some people let out a sigh and dove to close the windows and doors of where we were. We were at church nearing the end of the service. When I asked what was going on, someone calmly and matter-of-factly replied, 'Haboub.' To best describe this to you, you must imagine a scene from the movie "The Mummy," when the pharaoh turns into a sand storm and literally cascades down on the people. This would be a very good depiction. For those who have not seen the movie, but follow history, an approaching Haboub can look kind of like a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb. In utter silence a wave of sand towers and rolls as it picks up speed until it completely engulfs everything around it in utter darkness. Once in this storm, the dust is so thick it is nearly impossible to breathe or see. Nature at its most glorious can make us little humans quiver and multiple people remarked that it was the worst storm they had ever seen. Some even half-jokingly said, 'It's the end of the world.' And it can look like it in the moment--let me tell you. Three hours later, everything was covered in inches to feet of sand, the sky cleared, the air crisped and cooled and the sky parted to a light rain. The sand was washed away and I slept like a baby. <!-- D(["mb","u 003c/p> u 003cp> u 003c/p> u 003cp>Why do I share this? Well beside this being a phenomenal experience all in itself, for me it revealed a side of God that I have only read about in the Old Testament. It reminded me of God's wrath and His glory. As I have been finishing reading the Sacred Romance, a book about finding your own epic adventure as part of the ultimate love story between God and me, I picked up a new book to start, The Alchemist. It is very ironic that of all the many books I could have and did bring with me to Sudan I would pick this very book up next, as it too embarks on a quest to follow one's own 'Personal Legend' and gold figure the main character of this story, is taken to Africa. I see that God is trying to reveal a peace of my Epic, or Legend to me. He has littearly been screaming for me to pay attention and just trsut him but I have not always succeded in listening. I think sometimes God sends me signs and I just can't see them, but trust me when a Haboub hits there is no way someone could miss it!? Even if you sleep through it, when you wake up in the morning and find yourself and your house covered in a think layer of dust you would have known it hit!u 003cspan> u 003c/span>u 003c/p> u 003cp> u 003c/p> u 003cp>So I saw my own insignificants in this act of nature. I saw how truly fragile we are as human begins. I was also able to reflect on some things and as the rains came I felt like God was sending yet another message: He will clear all things, he will wash away what needs to be washed away and He is the only one powerful enough to bring about change, peace, redemption.u 003cspan> u 003c/span>u 003c/p> u 003cp> u 003c/p> u 003cp>The storm hit a few days after I had started reading Matthew 7:24-27.u ; //-->

Why do I share this? Well beside this being a phenomenal experience all in itself, for me it revealed a side of God that I have only read about in the Old Testament. It reminded me of God's wrath and His glory. Since I have finished The Sacred Romance, a book about finding your own epic adventure as part of the ultimate love story between God and me, I picked up a new book, The Alchemist. It is very ironic that of all the many books I brought with me to Sudan, that I picked this very book to read next, as it too embarks on a quest to follow one's own 'Personal Legend.' Furthermore, the main character of this story, is taken to Africa.

I see that God is trying to reveal a peace of my epic, or legend to me. He has literally been screaming for me to pay attention and just trust Him, but I have not always succeeded in listening. I think sometimes God sends me signs and I just can't see them, but trust me when a Haboub hits there is no way someone could miss it!? Even if you sleep through it, when you wake up in the morning and find yourself and your house covered in a thick layer of dust, you would have known it hit!

So I saw my own insignificance in this act of nature. I saw how truly fragile we are as human beings. I was also able to reflect on some things and as the rains came I felt like God was sending yet another message: He will clear all things. He will wash away what needs to be washed away and He is the only one powerful enough to bring about change, peace, redemption.

The storm hit a few days after I had started reading 'These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. <!-- D(["mb","u 003cspan> u 003c/span>Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house.u 003cspan> u 003c/span>It was fixed to the rock.u 003cspan> u 003c/span>'But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up it collapsed like a house of cards. u 003c/i>u 003c/p> u 003cp> u 003c/p> u 003cp>I used to think that this scripture only referred to a person who was becoming a Christina but as I read it recently, know I think it can also apply to a Christian builder, as we never quite stop building and at any point in the construction process we can mess the entire thing up or at least I know I can. u 003c/p> u 003cp> u 003c/p> u 003cp>I live in a very sturdy building. When the sand storm hit, it was crazy, despite all the closed windows and doors the sand seeped in and blanketed everything it touched. Despite this the house stood unbudged. I thought of how I am rooted in the word and in my Epic, because I have recently made this connection that unless I am rooted in the word there is no way I will see my epic.u 003cspan> u 003c/span>I was out in the sand storm for a very short period of time but in that time I managed to grasp how powerless I truly am and how powerful God is. When I build on Him nothing will move me, shake me, break me, distract me, or terrorize me. I will be able to get through the storm and see the sky clear and the rain wash away the residue and I can not look back because looking back is like running back into the storm and that's just ridiculous. I think there are times here where I have looked back and felt like time has gone by so quickly and I have not done enough; I have gotten caught up in the storms. I know that to continue to build on solid rock means that I have to continue to look forward and follow the blue prints and than I will make it through the storms. u 003c/p> u 003cbr clearu 003d"all">u 003cbr>-- u 003cbr>",1] ); //--> Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. 'But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up it collapsed like a house of cards.

I used to think that this scripture only referred to a person who was becoming a Christian, but as I read it recently, now I think it can also apply to a Christian builder. We never quite stop building and at any point in the construction process we can mess the entire thing up or at least I know I can.

I live in a very sturdy building. When the sand storm hit, it was crazy and, despite all the closed windows and doors, the sand seeped in and blanketed everything it touched. Despite this, the house did not budge. I thought of how I am rooted in the Word and in my epic, because I have recently made this connection that unless I am rooted in the word there is no way I will see my epic.

I was out in the sand storm for a very short period of time, but in that time I managed to grasp how powerless I truly am and how powerful God is. When I build on Him nothing will move me, shake me, break me, distract me, or terrorize me. I will be able to get through the storm and see the sky clear and the rain wash away the residue. I can not look back because looking back is like running back into the storm and that's just ridiculous. I think there are times here where I have looked back and felt like time has gone by so quickly and I have not done enough; I have gotten caught up in the storms. I know that to continue to build on solid rock means that I have to continue to look forward and follow the blue prints and than I will make it through the storms.

Happy New Outlook!

After a hard year filled with significant work and relationship challenges all I really looked forward to was a new year that would be different. So my first prayer of the year was for a year filled with some happy and easy things, some rewards right here on earth and some earthly comforts. How ironic that as soon as I finished praying those words I was led to passages of scripture that addressed how necessary trials were in the process of change and how sometimes we are called to prepare (preparation takes work) before we can receive His blessings. I of course did not appreciate this right away.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, lust and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for He [God] Himself has said, I will no in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will never, ever, ever [not in any degree] leave you helpless nor forsaken nor let you down (relax My hold on you)!

After reading this passage I began to realize how necessary trials are to not only my growth and appreciation of the blessings God is preparing for me, but also how they illuminate God's love for me. Sometimes discomfort is the sign of progress. Some of the greatest trials of this past year have been some of my greatest teachers. Because of these trials I have been much more appreciative of the people God has brought into my life recently. I have also been able to search for career opportunities with so much more confidence of what I truly want and desire. I don't think I would have recognized these blessings and revelations for what they were if it were not for the preceding trials.

Hebrews 10:35-37 Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and enjoy to the full what is promised […]

God can and will bless me, but if I am unprepared I will not be able to handle the blessing. Therefore, I am learning what it means to spiritually prepare for the blessings I desire. I need faith, patience and endurance to receive the end result of all God promises. Trials and challenges are great teachers of faith, patience and endurance. In order to be prepared I have to embrace them.

I have seen as a result of my childhood that over time I developed a very independent personality. This independent attitude is not biblical and it can cost me job opportunities, relationships and even hinder my impact on people for Christ. I will face trials this year, both inward and external, but I must seek to get through this year with God and not on my own. The more I focus on who I am with Christ the less it matters who I was in the past or even what has happened. So the new year may hold more trials and pains along the way but they will serve a better purpose. In some odd way I am almost looking forward to seeing what they teach me as last year's lessons were truly invaluable.

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.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

My good friends, I hope that your day is one in which you can relax with the knowledge that God has blessed you immeasurably. Take comfort in the safety of your family, consolation in what health you possess and encouragement in the fact that you are able to care for yourself and those around you.

Most of all exalt the God who gave His only Son to die for you in a war fought in your heart. Give thanks for the victory that has been awarded you through His blood and the great promise that is yours by His sacrifice and resurrection. In gratitude, recognize the spiritual strength that is in you through God's own divine presence, His Holy Spirit. Look beyond the surface of your life and see the inner structure of a life that is now holy before the Lord.

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back; the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields; and until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

You are loved by your heavenly Father and me.

Happyness

Don't you just love that movie, The Pursuit of Happiness? The main character, played by Will Smith, gets bugged by how happiness is spelled on the side of a wall. He just says it once, "Happiness is spelled with an I, not a Y," as he and his son go into the daycare. His point is that ignorance is why someone spelled I it with a Y.

My point is that it is spelled with an I because the state of being Happy is generated from within you. It is our choice. It is not generated from circumstances, just like joy or faith or love is not generated from circumstances.

What of Jeremiah 29:11 promises us... and Deuteronomy 20:3-4

Deuteronomy 20:3 and say to them. Hear, Israel, you are drawing near today to battle against your enemies. Do not let your heart be faint; do not fear nor tremble, nor be terrified before their faces. 4For Jehovah your God is He who is going before you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

Hard Work

I remember warm summer weekends with my father back in Jeffersonville, Ohio. He would have a project and I would be his co-worker. We would start early in the morning, right after breakfast, and work until lunchtime or beyond if needed. Dad always wanted to get something done rather than leave it for even the briefest of pauses.

He and I have built sidewalks, workshops, picnic tables and cabinets. When we got done we knew that we were not the best at what we just completed, but we had done it right and it worked. And we had done it together as Father and Son. No matter how slightly imperfect it might have been (and the imperfections were there, often cleverly disguised by paint) we had worked together and accomplished a project.

Hard work is laborious if it is singular. Working with someone is always more rewarding than for someone. Accomplishments achieved together are all the sweeter than those that result in a seeming brag of personal skill. Hard work often comes with a reward that is half accomplishment and half amazement. Two absolutely must work together if they are to achieve a common goal.

Then we have the church. In smaller congregations there are often disagreements concerning how something ought to be done. While the agreement is that a certain goal must be met, how that goal should be met is often the sticking point. In too many instances effort is dispelled to prove that one's how is better than another's even to the point of a lack of cooperative effort.

"Can two walk together unless they are agreed?" Amos 3:3 The point of understanding in this has often been the agreement part. However, the true measure is in the challenge, "can two walk together?" Are two walking together if they are not working together diligently? The apostles of Jesus were all working but on singular motives and with discord. After being united in the resurrection they stood as one and declared the gospel. Is the voice of your church one voice for the gospel? Are you working hard for the gospel...together?

Have Some 'Mom Time'

Last fall I was helping with a Cub Scout campout and my five-year-old went along with me. We stayed at the camp site to help with the Scouts until my husband could get there after work.

In the meantime, my son was running around with the big kids, pretending to be one of them and trying out the tent where Dad would sleep. As it got later and we sat by the campfire, he snuggled on my lap and once again begged to stay and sleep in the tent. I explained to him that since he had a soccer game in the morning, he needed to get a good night's sleep in his own bed and get up early to be ready for the game. He looked at me and said quite seriously, 'Pleeeease let me stay here. Then you can go home and have some mom time.'

I only laughed a little. He was too tired to notice.

Mom time. When is the last time any of us planned serious, no-kids-no-husbands-no-interruptions-turn-off-the-cell-phone-and-hold-all-messages mom time? I can't remember. (I did go out with 'the girls' from church for a pizza night last week. Does that count?)

When I used to do direct sales I would attend company meetings and weekends a few times each year. My manager's rule was 'don't call home - they can find you in an emergency'. At the time I was a new mom and didn't know how wise her advice was. I usually called home several times. But I had a good time and didn't feel guilty being there.

I believe God designed us to need 'mom time', which includes time alone with Him, time alone with ourselves and time away from the family with other women. This is how we refuel. Moms can run on four hours' sleep per night for weeks on end, skip two or three meals without noticing when a child is sick or a project is on deadline, but take away our alone time and girl time and we become rather irritable.

; look for great deals or start filling that Christmas list; spend a relaxing afternoon at a museum; see a chic flick; just sit, drink coffee and watch people (notice the women toting children and be thankful your children stayed home today); get a group together and order one of everything from the menu of your favorite Chinese restaurant.

On the way home drop a thank-you note in the mail to your husband/babysitter/grandparents/neighbor and thank them for a time of refreshment - serious mom time!

Having a Blind Moment

I have had these random moments where I have been looking for something after being told where to find the given item. In these moments the harder I looked in the instructed location, the more frustrated I got when I could not find it. In these moments the person who told me where to look tends to come over and, with impeccable ease, pick out the sought item, adding salt to the wound by saying something along the lines of, "it's right in front of you, what are you blind?"

I have had many blind moments. The harder I tend to look, the harder it is for me to see what is right in front of me. For some strange reason, I focus so hard on looking beyond what is before me that I completely miss it (whatever it is). This past week the 'it' has been my future. Sometimes I try to peer so hard into the future that I am completely blind to the present. It's like a little child staring at the dot picture and trying desperately to see the castle that the instructions say is there; I have moments where I almost see it, but then it quickly fades away and there is nothing but dots again. It isn't until the eyes relax and I stop trying to force the image that it appear in full view. This week I have had a few blind moments.

Luke 18:35-42 35He came to the outskirts of Jericho. A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts. 36When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. 37They told him, 'Jesus the Nazarene is going by.' 38He yelled, 'Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!' 39Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, 'Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!' 40Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, 41'What do you want from me?'

There have been moments this past week where I have yelled out for Jesus, but when He asked what I wanted I did not answer. Instead I made statements of what I thought His answer would be. I think X is my future, I believe A will lead to B. If I think about it, really Jesus, this is what I think will happen. I can run scenarios, I can assume the intention of others' actions, I can draw conclusions out of thin air, everything and anything, but asking Jesus to see again. It's as though I am experiencing a schizophrenic moment of yelling out for Jesus one minute and then yelling "shut up" the next.

He said, 'Master, I want to see again.' 42Jesus said, 'Go ahead--see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!' 43The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing--and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God. (emphasis mine)

The man saw because of his faith. He did not know how, or when, or what it would feel like, or be like but he had faith that Jesus could restore his sight and instantly he was able to see. When I chose to have faith instead of trying to determine and see my fate, I too see instantly. I see what is right before me and trust that what I cannot see will be revealed in due time. I can see the moat around the castle and trust that one day I will see all the details of every chamber and this time the picture will not fade to dots because the dots connect to reveal the picture, but it takes time, faith and patience to see it.

When I try to peer into my own future and determine what is to come by passing judgments quickly and drawing my own conclusions I only end up dizzy, nauseous and anxious. Yet, when I remember to seek faith and not try to fast forward I remember the God who is working out the best for me, whether I am in great distress or simply stressing myself out greatly. I am able to enjoy my present life and blessings.

As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wit to get out of it, we were forced to trust Go totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead!

He Came to Bring a Sword

There is a prevailing misconception of the purpose of the first coming of Christ. This misunderstanding and spurious view of Jesus can lead to developing a wrong view of the Father, a view which ignores or negates the justice and holiness of God. It is easy to only view Jesus as simply a tender, loving, gracious, forgiving, and gentle figure. He is all of those things, but He is not just full of grace but full of truth as well (. The grace part is not a tough message to preach or to receive until it is combined with the truth that all men have sinned and will suffer eternity in hell fire unless they repent and turn to Christ as Savior and Lord. Grace that enables a person to stay in their sin is not a threatening, divisive message, but grace that requires a change of heart and lifestyle according to God's truth is a tough reality. The truth about Jesus is that, though He is a peaceful person Who desires peace on the earth as well, He did not come to bring peace on earth when He came the first time. It is common thinking that Jesus was born to bring peace on earth and good will toward men, but that is a poor translation of . That some people were lost indicates division, and the preaching of the gospel would delineate that division with the hope that some would see their lost state and turn to Christ. Christ did not come to accept the entire world in their sin but to call the entire world to turn from their sin. This is highly divisive, and Christ understood that faith in Jesus could and would rip families apart. This isn't because becoming a Christian makes a person mean and nasty, for we are called to live peacefully with people as much as it depends upon us (. However, sometimes people are so turned off by Jesus and the testimony of a life lived in holiness before Him ( that they can turn to spite us because they spite Him. They don't want to own up to the fact that they are hopeless, sinful, evil, and corrupt. It is a blow to their pride. Thus some, receiving our testimony as an aroma of death rather than an aroma of life (, could become angry rather than humble. Many believers can testify to the ridicule and persecution that they have faced because they took a stand for Jesus Christ. For some, maybe they just get teased at family gatherings. For others, their family may put a death threat out upon their life. Jesus came to bring a sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (, which divides between joints and marrow and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart (. The message of the gospel is the only hope the world has, and some will receive it while others will reject it. Some will go to heaven, and others will go to hell. The dividing factor is what they do with Jesus Christ.

Let us not be fooled into thinking that if Jesus was present on earth today that He would only be giving out hugs and free food. Remember, He also drove out the corrupt businessmen from the temple of God (, and He boldly condemned the leaders of the day in their hearing (. When we remember the glorious message that Jesus was born, we need to remember that He is not just full of grace but also of truth. His peace is available to everybody, but only those who love Him can receive it. He did not come to bring peace without conviction, but He rather brought a sword that saves. This is because He loves us, knowing that the only way to true peace is through first being saved. May our lives, by the grace of God, be the perfect blend of grace and truth, showing forth love and acceptance while never hiding the truth about sin, repentance, and holiness. Jesus was full of both grace and truth, and may such be the case for us as well.

He Made It

Back in the mid 60's there were a number of us in my home town of Jeffersonville, Ohio, who were devoted to sports in general and baseball in particular. During the late Spring, through the Summer and on into the warmer days of Fall, we played baseball. But the public diamonds in town were so heavily scheduled that we could not play on them. Kenny Houseman, a farmer/businessman in the town, gave us some land on the north edge of town just over the bridge on 729. He owned the field and had farmed it. It became our ballfield.

Our little group of somewhere around fifteen guys all pitched in and bought chicken wire for the back stop along with two by fours. We built the back stop about fourteen feet high and thirty feet wide to stop any ball missed or fouled off. It wrapped around the home plate area. Our outfield fence was an assist from Kenny Houseman. He and a few friends had some old snow fence that was pretty far gone. They gave it to us and we removed the old pickets and replaced them with good ones from the other fencing. It served its purpose.

We mowed the entire field and then caught a break. It rained. While the field was still wet we were able to wrangle a roller and we rolled the field as smooth as we could get it. Our bases were feed sacks filled with sawdust and painted white. Our home plate was homemade by Richard Kinneson out of cast off plywood. The pitching rubber was a two by four painted white and fastened to the ground by spouting nails. The left and right field lines were cast off fire hoses from the local volunteer fire department painted white and also nailed to the ground.

When we finished we stepped back and took a long hard look at what we had made. "Shag Stadium" was not a masterpiece but it was a great place for us to play ball and we had built it. We declared it to be good. God created the heavens and the earth. How, I have no idea. When it came time to create man he used a different method from the other things he had created.

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being." Genesis 2:7 God exerted some effort to make man. He labored over His creation. Then He declared it good. When you take time to make something and make it just so, you have a keener appreciation, even love, for that one thing. Is it any wonder that, after painstakingly forming man, God would send His Son to save His creation?

He Walked With God

The story is told of a backwoods preacher who was preparing to preach a series of sermons on the Holy Spirit. He was a flamboyant sort and known in the area for some rather ostentatious displays in the pulpit. That's a fancy way of saying he had a lot of stomp and snort. If you don't know what stomp and snort is then I guess you'll just have to stay with flamboyant and ostentatious.

The first sermon he wanted to preach involved the story of the baptism of Jesus at the hands of John the Immerser. It was at Jesus' baptism that God, pleased with His Son's actions, sent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The backwoods preacher sought to recreate the descending dove as well as he could for the dramatic impact that he hoped it would bring. He gave one of the boys in the church fifty cents to catch a dove and take it into the rafters of the old church house and hide there with it Sunday morning. "When I say, 'The Spirit of God descended like a dove,' " coached the preacher, "you send that dove on down."

The boy got to the church early before all the other people got there, and took his place in the rafters holding the dove with a little wrap around its ankle so it could stand on the rafters. The people started filing in and before long the old church house was full. They sang "Amazing Grace" and "Shall We Gather at the River" and a few other fine old hymns. Then the preacher began preaching. He had all the stomp and snort going that a preacher had a right to and then some. He had finally gotten to his big moment. He was finally on the baptism of Jesus.

When he came to the proper place in the story he lifted his eyes and said, "The Spirit of God descended like a dove." Nothing happened. He said it a second and a third time and again nothing happened. Finally he boomed in his most preacherly fashion, "I said the Spirit of God descended like a dove!" The little boy peeked out over the edge of the rafters and said, "The cat ate the dove, ya want me ta send down the cat." So much for the dramatic moment.

Do we hope that there will be some dramatic moment in our lives that will show God just how good we are? One of the most dramatic numbers in the Bible is 969. That's the number of years that Methuselah lived. Most people know Methuselah. Do they know his dad? His dad was Enoch. Nothing dramatic with Enoch. Genesis 5:24 pretty much tells all there is to know about Enoch. "Enoch walked with God and was not, for God took him." Other than Elijah, Enoch was the only man to not die in the Bible. The drama in his life? He simply walked with God. No record of great accomplishments. No incredible feats on mountaintops. No doves in rafters. He simply did what God wanted; he walked with Him.