Sunday Bulletin Inserts
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Since returning to the country I have been fighting to transition this 'new' person I had become into my 'old' environment. I know one does not need to leave the country to change but apparently I did. In my return I have been continually faced with 'old' ways and wondered why the 'new' me has been unable to emerge. I finally realized this past weekend that the 'new' me has returned and her perception is a lot sharper, so much so that she can see the 'old' me a lot clearer, or rather, no matter how far I go when I return I still have to face my faults, my sin and because of my experience away I can see the things that I was unable to see before so much clearer. Not only can I see my arrogance and pride but I can see some of the roots of those behaviors which I was unable to see before. I also see how one of my greatest weaknesses was well and easily masked in my travels and yet it is raw and in the open here; my desire for control. My desire to be in control and be self reliant exposes my lack of trust in God. No matter how I mask it when I saw the following versus I was unable to hide from it.
Vs 25 (Message) You're all I want in Heaven! You're all I want on earth!
Earth has plenty I want and desire besides God. I desire stuff on earth on a daily basis. I long for things here on earth a LOT! This scripture cut so deep, I could not claim it for myself. God is not enough and he has not been enough for a while. When I desire "more" and God is not enough I try to manipulate people and situations in order to be in control and play God. I see now that the reason I have not been able to cross that threshold of a deeper faith to make Him enough has been because I have refused to relinquish my control.
When I first became a Christian it was as if I had to empty my entire bag on to the floor in front of Jesus and say here is all my stuff, all of it, it's all yours and I don't want any of it. Yet, as time passed I slowly began to horde stuff back in the bag and there have been times when I have emptied some of the bag but it's been a while since I emptied it ALL. I know this because this past weekend I saw how a familiar environment where I feel in control brings out an arrogant attitude toward the people around me. When I feel as though I am losing control of my surroundings I begin to attempt to grasp control through manipulation. This can even be seen when I take on the roll of serving, because by giving to another person I still maintain control. Allowing others to give to me or teach me something takes that control away.
Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.
So because of who I have become I can see a little clearer and with a bit more urgency some old ways which must change . I can also be encouraged by the challenge presented to me from God as a dare to go ahead and do this and watch Him open the floodgates of heaven and pour out his many blessings on to me because the one who created me and knows my intricacies, my heart, all my weaknesses is preparing a place for me, a personal intimate place in heaven. If I pour out all the junk out of my bag before Him, If I love Him enough to do that he will draw me not just a peace of heaven in the form of a "room" or promise of no tears but heaven in it's entirety: HIM- ultimate state of love and contentment in that love. It takes a lot of effort to not be a jerk, because that is my protection and default behavior in contrast to the vulnerability of emotion which needs to be surrendered to God not just in intention but in action. I think some people have seen this battle within me but like myself were unable to quite put their finger on it. And yet every step leading up to this revelation God has been their equipping me for the journey ahead. I have His Spirit. There is nothing I can not do.
Just two days to go. Just two days before "IT" has to be in the mail. Just two days until the package that evryone dreads sending must be postmarked. Just two days until many must part with their hard earned cash to satisfy the demands of their government. Just two days left before the Internal Revenue Service of the United States Government must be given the taxes that are due for the year 2003.
Ever listen to the disdain with which most people talk about the I. R. S.? Ever hear someone actually talking to an I. R. S. agent? It can be rather frightening. Usually mild mannered people suddenly become raving epithet shouting morons, implying that the I. R. S. agent has never had a legitimate marriage in their family for generations. I have often wondered why people do that. What is particularly disturbing is when Christians behave in such a way to tax collectors.
A friend of mine, who runs his own business, was going off on the I. R. S. one day when I was shopping in his store. I picked an item from the shelf and took it to his cash register. He rang it up and said, "That'll be seven forty-one, please." "But," I replied, "the tag says it's only six ninety-nine." "Six percent tax. You know that." "So," I began slowly, "you're a tax collector for the state government?"
I. R. S. agents are nothing more than people who work for a living just like you and me. They don't make the rules they just live by them; and they pay taxes, too. We Christians should take our lead from Jesus in dealing with tax collectors. He treated them with dignity and respect. He even included one in His personal cadre of friends by calling Matthew to follow Him.
Jesus honored Zacchaeus by inviting Himself to Zacchaeus' house for the day amidst cat calls from those around them who called Zacchaeus a sinner. Jesus was merely doing what He came to do. Zacchaeus needed to change; not his employment but his method of carrying it out. Jesus' self-professed reason for coming to the world was given in response. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
'Jesus has left the building!' I have these types of moments. Moments where I simply want to leave Jesus at the door, walk in and do what I want to do or more like rule the way I think is fit. This usually happens when I am upset and want to hurt someone physically. I feel angry or hurt or I feel like injustice has been done. I feel what I know is true; I have no control over the present situation. In those moments I want to open the door to my heart and kindly ask Jesus to skooch out for a few minutes, 'please turn away, and let me do some damage and I will be more than happy to let you back in after I'm done.'
Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your heart, love is on the way!
As I get ready to face the journey home I have mixed feelings and emotions. I'm ready to go but at the same time it is hard to leave. I can worry, get anxious. I can be easily agitated or angered and forget who I am. I am Gods', His workmanship and He is telling me to relax and trust in his love, wait for it. I can want to do what I think should be done before I leave, I want to right wrongs or finish what I concider unfinished.
v 3 I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.
When I become works oriented I leave faith out. It's funny how easily I can forget things, lessons taught before, signs sent that I did not head. So now as I stand ready to leave I pray that I do not forget the lessons learned here and accept all the outcomes. I must fight with everything I have for faith. If this call (v 3) is here to me that means two things. Firstly, I will have to fight with everything I have to protect something so precious. I definitely feel that I have had moments when I have had to fight with what felt like my last ounce of strength because I had nearly let go and forgotten of the true value of what I had been entrusted with. Secondly, if it requires a fight that means there is opposition and it won't quit until it steels my gift.
v 5 I'm laying this out as clearly as I can, even though you once knew all this well enough and shouldn't need reminding.
I'm ashamed to say that I constantly need reminding. Yet, encouragingly enough God knows it and spells it out all the time, sends warnings and reminders constantly.
v 10 But these people sneer at anything they can't understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing – living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction.
On the one hand, there are people who will not accept what I have to offer and although it is sad to watch them self destruct God has warned me about their behavior and there is nothing I can do about it. It is in His hands. On the other hand, I must be careful not to become one of those people by going on momentary emotions and 'instinct'.
V17 In the last days there will be people who don't take these things seriously anymore. They'll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.
I can easily stop taking things seriously when the fight gets hard. As I read these verses I realized they were written to Christians who had forgotten, who had stopped fighting, they were written to those who had fallen or where in danger of falling. Yes, there are those who will chose not to understand but there are those who will understand and chose to turn away. When I want to leave Jesus outside, even for a moment, or worst, when I do leave him outside and follow my whims, I'm not taking Christ seriously and I'm not an example to others.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
When I first came to Sudan I remember arrogantly thinking that I was strong in my faith, that I was standing firm, only room to grow. From the second I stepped foot off that plain God has been working on humbling me! And every time I kindly asked Jesus to, 'step aside a minute,' He has been gracious enough not to accept my offer and has stood by me the entire time sometimes to only witness my shameful and ridiculous behavior. I have fallen flat on my face many times during the past five months but Jesus has always picked me up. He is the only one who can stand me firm.
Growing up in a small Midwestern town I developed some simple appreciations which have never left me. I still say "Sir" and "Ma'am" to most folks older than me. I hold a door for people, especially ladies and children. I don't sit down until the ladies at a table have been seated. Then there was one the other day that came back to me. I was at the local coffee shop and I was the only customer at the time as it was fairly early. The barista was setting up the back room and I went back to help. "Tom," she told me sternly, "I've told you before, you don't have to help me do this." My reply was simple. "My dad told me that real men don't watch women work."
I have drawn a lot of who and what I am from my parents. The funny thing is, the one thing they did for me I do not now get to enjoy. I was raised on a front porch. The old home at 34Maple Street, Jeffersonville, Ohio, has a wonderful front porch just perfect for sitting in the evening or even the early morning, if you are so inclined. After supper we would take a glass of iced tea and go out on the front porch and sit and watch the world go by. Some of the world would stop by from time to time.
In small towns back in the 60's, people walked a lot. They would just go take a walk and relax in doing so. Invariably their route would lead them right past our front door. I have seen ten people or so gathered on our front porch just talking and relaxing. And mom would always make sure they were offered something to drink, usually iced tea. All the problems of the world would get solved and the bonds of true community would be cemented as a result of such times.
Yes, for some reason, the world as we knew it, Jeffersonville, Ohio, often congregated right there on our front porch. Off duty local police officers, the mayor, council members, street workers, school teachers and even kids out on their bicycles; at one time or another they all found a place of acceptance on our front porch. That was what that front porch was all about. It was all about acceptance; acceptance of each other as family, acceptance of neighbors as friends. That front porch became a haven for people in their walks, a brief respite from their little journey.
The church is much like that simple front porch. The church is a place where people congregate. Hence, the term congregation. The church is also a place where everybody and anybody can find acceptance. Acceptance as friends, as family, as having worth. The church is the people of God; a people ready to hold all those who seek Christ and His promises. That's the "whoever" that Jesus was talking about when He said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
In God's mind, the heart is the central issue (1Timothy 1:15,. He is not interested in externalities, showmanship, performance, or smiles falsely pasted on our faces. He cares about who we really are on the inside, and therefore, so should we (. When we come to Christ, He gives us new hearts that can and do desire the things of God (Ezekiel 18:31;36:26,, though our hearts can be corrupted and definitely need continued sanctification (. But we ought to consider the state of our hearts because it will affect everything we think, do, and say.
The heart, according to the Scripture, is, by definition, the seat of desires and affections. It is the true measure of a person. Does the person have Christ living in his heart and is he letting Christ have full control of all that he desires and possesses affection for? These are the key questions. Jesus gives a treasure principle as a means to assess the true state of our hearts. He said in . The events were so wonderful that she just couldn't stop thinking about them. Her heart was filled with joy and delight in what God had done, and she was thrilled to keep thinking about it. Second, what we treasure will be born out in what we do and what we say. Jesus said in . What we say and what we do, as with what we think, should be driven by the leading of the Holy Spirit Who must transform our hearts so that we are no longer conformed to the ways of the world (. It is only He Who can give us self-control which can provide more consistency and persistency in the Christian life. Sanctification is a process, no doubt about it (, but as we submit to our Lord, it will be accomplished.
. So if the heart affects our thoughts, attitudes, actions, and words, as we have already established, it is crucial that we take care that it is not corrupted or deceived. The Bible says we do that by keeping it with all diligence. The idea here is to watch over, guard, and blockade the heart from any corrupting influence. The imagery created by the original words used in the text are of a guard posted at a prison cell standing watch over the prisoner so that everything remained secure and as it should be. There would be no escape and no unlawful entry. Nothing would get in to that cell unless the guard gave his approval and consent. This is what the Bible wants us to do with our hearts, guarding them fervently and vigilantly, not letting anything in that could corrupt us and take us down.
The battle for the heart is very much related to the battle for the mind. . Our mind is to dwell on these things, pondering them in our hearts. Staying pure and guarding our hearts involves following the directive of .
My husband enjoys watching the British parliament on C-SPAN. The members are remarkably animated, though usually good-naturedly.
Shouts of "Here, here!" are often heard and there is much poking fun even during serious discussions and at important officials such as the prime minister.
I can't help but contrast that with our congressional proceedings in the United States, where often most of the seats are empty and no one seems to be passionate about the discussion, muchless enjoying themselves.
I'm afraid I have been guilty of this in my Christianity. Going through the motions. Singing a song or teaching a class just because it's what I was supposed to do. Not thinking about the impression I might make on those watching me, or how my actions will ripple out and affect others.
There are so many wonderful ways to serve the Lord and others, to express His wonder and power! I pray that I won't waste time doing so only halfway or with an attitude that will discourage or dishearten those observing me.
Our service to the King should be met with a "Jolly good!" or an "Amen!" Any effort that doesn't merit those responses is less than our best!
"But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." --
If you ever get the chance to make it to Stamping Ground, Kentucky, be sure to take in one of Central Kentucky's finest little establishments. Melissa's Country Cooking, as far as I know, is the only restaurant in Stamping Ground, but, as Andy Griffith would say, "It's a good'n." It's located on Main Street in the first floor of the Ruritan Building on the right as you head north out of town. If you're fortunate you may get to meet the same cherubic presence I did just recently. You may get to meet Jordan Hopkins.
When I entered the restaurant the other day I was met by this little face peering over the check out counter. I was fascinated by what I was seeing. There before my eyes was a beautiful little girl putting napkins into a napkin dispenser with all the aplomb of a pro. I went on over and found a seat and saw an adult women in her late twenties or early thirties head toward me preparing to grab some silverware and a menu for me. The little napkin loader beat her to the punch and brought me my silverware and menu. I was impressed. The adult server beamed.
As the server took my drink order the little girl headed to the drink station and filled a glass with ice and my drink selection and brought it to me with a youthful grace. That's when I found out that my little server was the seven year old daughter of the adult server. That's when I found out the mother was home schooling her daughter and had brought her to work with her. That's when I found out that this little angel always came prepared to help out however she could. That's when I was introduced to Jordan Hopkins.
In an age when most kids would be bored out of their skulls and whining and complaining about not being able to watch TV or play their video games, Jordan was a breath of fresh air. She wanted to help and was actually quite good at it. To find a genuine servant spirit in a child that young is rare. She seemed wrapped up in the idea that she could be doing her mother's work. She was intensely interested in, I guess you would say, being all about her mother's business. These are the ones who are so easily led into an understanding of Jesus as Savior. They have already embraced His Spirit. All they need to do is understand His grace.
Jesus Himself was such a child. You may be familiar with the story in
An irritated chirping sounded from the bushes behind me. Good, I thought. Better the birds should be uneasy in this hush before dawn. I had never heard the city so quite. My chest hurts from so much weeping. I think I have poured out all my tears and yet, more come. My body aches from so much lamentation.
I seek a more comfortable position on this hard rock I chose for my night's repose… more like a vigil, though. The chill in the fibers of my being had little to do with the chill of the night, although, it truly is unusually cold this night, too. The stars seem to have lost their luster and the moon hides its face from any who looks for it. Too many have hidden their faces from not only the moon, but from those who have murder in their hearts. It is a cold Hell and has been for several days. It is a wonder the tears on my cheeks have not frozen into trails of ice.
I tug my robe tighter across my shoulders and tuck it under me for an ever so slight a cushion. Like a sore tooth, I poke and prod at the anguish in my heart. Not one person in all of Jerusalem could half way imagine my desolation. Well, maybe Peter can. He has hidden his face, too. John, so young and his resilience stronger, is probably with him.
My life was filled with evil and torment for the most of it. Only a few brief years of respite, one might even call it happiness. Yes. I could call it happiness.
A beautiful man had crushed my tormentors, broke the shackles of bondage and set me free, cleaned me up, dusted me off and I was so deeply grateful for that. Why couldn't those knuckleheaded priests see the Truth for what it was? Why had this terrible thing happened?
I tried once to make them see… to make them understand. They would have none of it. I was tainted. I was unclean. Some thought I was a whore. No so! I was none of those things, but they could not see past the surface. Well… back to the Man.
His name was Jesus. Rabboni, master, teacher. One day I was drawing water and He walked by. Something compelled me to spit in His face. I cringe now to think of it. These tormentors who spoke things in my mind and took control over of my body screeched at Him obscene things that make my whole body blush to think of them. He just looked at me with the strangest expression. I had no idea what it meant. I had never seen compassion on anyone's face before. I saw that same look on His face when He healed the lame and the sick and the demented. Some part of my brain registered surprise that he would look at me so when I'd just spit at Him. He spoke two words. Come out! His voice was soft, but held such authority that my tormentors flew from me. Emptiness after that.
Nothingness. The clamor was gone. The thunder ceased. The change was so abrupt I collapsed in a faint. The next thing I remember was the tenderness of His touch. He was washing my face with His robe dipped in the water I had drawn. For the first time I knew what clean meant. It had nothing to do with the removal of a bit of dirt from my face. It had everything to do with the removal of those things from my mind and a completely different path to walk.
Now look! The sky is getting a bit lighter. Not much longer now. The spices at my feet give off a heavy, but sweet aroma. What's this?
The earth trembles and shakes.
I lost my balance. One minute I'm sitting on solid rock and the next I've been tossed to the ground. Oy! What is going on? My hearts stops beating along with my breath when I look to the tomb. Oh! The stone is gone!
The other women come out from their places of vigil and look at this most extraordinary sight. I cannot stop the tears from flowing. My body is wracked with sobs and I pay no attention to the two men dressed in shining clothes because the worst possible thing has happened. Jesus is gone. His body has been stolen and I cannot do this last thing for Him… to wrap Him in spices and to prepare Him for His final repose. It is too much to bear!
One asks me, "Woman why do you weep?" I fall to the earth in fear and despair.
Desperately I cry, "They have taken my Master and I do not know where they have put Him!"
One of the men said, "Why seek the living among the dead?" I paid no attention and ran from them into the garden, seeking I know not what.
A Gardner stood a short way away. Again I am asked that horrid question, "Woman why do you weep? Whom do you seek?"
I did not know that who I sought was standing right beside me. I accused Him, "Sir! You have taken Him. Tell me where You have put Him and I will take Him away."
He says one word, "Mary," His voice so tender and so soft and so full of authority. I knew.
How does one describe joy? What is this emotion that displaces despair? The one is death and the other is life. I can only tell you that my heart started beating again. My breathing started up again. Where there was numbness, there was life. Where there was darkness, there was Light.
He cautions me not to touch Him for He had not yet ascended to our Father. He knew I wanted Him to stay here forever so that I might love Him and serve Him and learn from Him. He tells me and the other women to go tell the disciples what we had witnessed. I had a mission! What greater joy than to be a service to Him. He could have done that Himself, yet He told us to go. We had great news and we could bear this great Joy to those closest to Him!
I ran. I could not help it. The energy surging through me had to be expended or I would burst. I knew what David's thirtieth Psalm meant. It seemed that David had written that Psalm just for this morning, for truly, my joy came this morning.
2 O Jehovah my God, I cried to You, and You have healed me.
3 O Jehovah, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You have kept me alive, from going down into the Pit.
4 Sing praises to Jehovah, O saints of His;
and give thanks to the memory of His holiness.
5 For His anger is only a moment; in His favor is life.
Weeping may endure in the evening, but joy comes in the morning.
6 And in my prosperity, I said, I shall never be moved forever.
7 O Jehovah, in Your favor You have made my strong mountain to stand;
You hid Your face; I was troubled;
8 I called to You, O Jehovah; yea, I prayed to Jehovah.
9 What profit is in my blood, in going down to the Pit?
Shall the dust praise You? Shall it tell of Your truth?
10 Hear, O Jehovah, and favor me; O Jehovah, be my helper.
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have loosed my sackcloth and have clothed me with gladness.
12 So my glory shall praise You, and not be quiet;
O Jehovah, my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
A spreading of fiery orange, tinged with pink through the deep indigo; sometimes bursts of fuchsia with violet streaks; when the air is right, a warm glow like a child's cheeks rouged by the winter breeze.
This is the glimpse out of my bathroom window as I meet the day. I must admit that I only get this incredible view during the winter months when the sun sleeps later than I, but what a show!
Last summer while vacationing in Colorado I got up around four in the morning to take a twisting drive up into the mountains with my die-hard, hiker-boy brothers and watched the sun rise over the next range and kiss the valley and river below with heavenly light.
It was worth the loss of sleep and I have some beautiful photographs, but that same sun rises on the prairie every day and many of the windows in my house face east. Why was it such a big deal to view it from the mountaintop?
I don't think it was. That is, I don't think the location was what made it so magnificent. It was the anticipation, the out of the ordinary possibility. Those gorgeous tints of red, pink and purple are just as beautiful in Illinois. In fact, they may be more spectacular because the lower altitude and humidity blur and swirl the colors. A bit more Renoir.
Though most mornings I peek out the window several times to see the colors emerge, I believe this is just a glimpse of what heaven will be like. God has given us great beauty here on earth, but heaven will be beyond imagining.
The visual part will only be one aspect. We will be in the presence of God, the creator of color and all else.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed way." --
Try getting up to see a sunrise this week, or peeking out the window as you rise early to care for your family. Thank God for his color palette and for the new one which awaits us someday.
Sneezing. No, you're not seeing things. That's the word. Sneezing. I was told one time that it is physically impossible to sneeze with your eyes open. Guess what? I don't want to try. The thought of all that pressure and then having my eyes open when it gets cut loose; well, I just don't want to try it. However, I have another little nugget of info concerning sneezes for you. If you feel a sneeze coming on and you're at the top of the staircase heading down, sneeze first, then head down the stairs.
This past Saturday morning I was getting everything together to go out to the church and practice with our youth for their big morning yesterday. As I got to the top of the stairs I felt a sneeze coming on. Instead of standing still and waiting until the violence had passed I went ahead and took the first step from the top and then sneezed in mid-step. A couple of seconds later I dragged myself to my feet at the bottom of the steps. My ill-timed sneeze had sent me on a rough and tumble descent of the stairs.
I don't recommend falling down the stairs for anyone at any age. I seem to remember I used to do it to entertain my kids when they were much younger but that was a very deliberate act that was carefully choreographed so as not to damage any body parts. At fifty-five plus years a tumble down the stairs can be a tad bit brutal and the aftermath very painful. I am still feeling the effects of the fall in my shoulders which, this morning, still ache. And, of course, we had to have nine foot ceilings which added one extra foot of tumble to my journey.
Falling is one of those things that sits in the back of our minds and kind of hangs there as a reminder of our mortality. The fear of falling is one of the top three fears we have today and stands just ahead of fear of death. I know why. In death you're dead, it's over, you don't feel anything. In falling you have the sudden stop that jars your whole body and threatens to leave you incapacitated or, at best, severely limited. Do we worry as much about our spiritual lives?
The Apostle Paul wrote to a very worldly group of people in the church at Corinth. He warned them of all the ways that the Israelites transgressed God's will in just the forty year span on the way to Canaan. He noted their lusts, idolatry, sexual immorality, tempting of one another and their complaints. Then he wrote, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."
the Second Week after Epiphany