Sunday Bulletin Inserts
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Is he back? Isn't he back? Probably. This week has been a difficult one for writing a column. If I was one of those guys who has all the toys, laptop included, I could have kept up. But I don't, so I missed Monday morning (on the road to Florida) and Wednesday morning (on the road back home to Kentucky). I am at home today and tomorrow.
Yesterday was an interesting day. I left my nephew's home in Melbourne, Florida, around 7:10 A.M. I had figured that I could drive the entire thirteen hour trip and take enough stops to stay fresh. My target time to be home was 10:00 P.M. I had driven that distance home back in 2000 but that was before my arthritis had gotten quite as bad. I was hoping for a restful (yes, restful) trip home. I got it.
Now I understand some things a little bit better than before. My brakes were mostly for needed sustenance both for me and my car. However, I always got a little exercise in such as walking around or stretching. When I got home I was feeling fine. No back pain, no knee pain, no nothing. I was not even road weary. I actually felt rested.
So how does one feel rested after a thirteen plus hour trip? How does one feel rested in a seemingly interminable life? We take breaks. We recharge. We go on a road trip, vacation, stay-at-home-I-gotta-lotta-stuff-ta-do. The thing that benefitted me was that I was feeding my body during the breaks and the engine that was carrying me safely home.
That's where a lot of people get tired. They forget to feed the soul as well as the body. When Jesus sent out the twelve He had a plan for them when they returned. But it wasn't more work. "And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. And He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place."
It was all cackles and sputters and tweets and hums and beeps. It's fascinating to listen to a dial up for the internet squawk at you incessantly for five minutes until you finally get the picture and hit cancel. Such is life in Dial Up City. It's tough; it's brutal; it's where I live. And it can be frustrating. It's a good thing that the monitor is located where it is on my desk. At my age and condition it is too much effort to lift a leg high enough to put a foot through the thing. Hopefully today will be different.
This is day three of "Dial Up Captivity". Seriously I hope it isn't. This IS the third straight day that I have prepared a column with the hope that this time the internet beasties will allow me access to their hallowed ground. It is a good thing that I don't have a firearm somewhere in the house for that matter. I may not be able to kick that high but I can still aim and pull a trigger. Is that how we deal with such frustrations? Drastic measures? Do we resort to the unthinkable or the uncharacteristic to settle difficulties?
The phone rings (or chirps or buzzes or sings or plays the National Anthem) and you answer it only to find a telemarketer on the other end. However, what they have is something you have been interested in for some time. The problem is that they're from somewhere in Papasymballaoompadawip and you can't hardly understand what they are saying. Do you, [A] tell them to slow down for the twentieth time and speak clearly for you, [B] hang up, or [C] throw the phone on the ground and do the "I-wish-they'd-hire-Americans-who-talk-like-me" dance on it?
If you chose [C] then you know what I have been through the last two days and the certain fear that pervades my soul as I prepare this column in the hope that the internet will finally let me in. In the realm of human development there is an equation that sometimes works. It goes something like this; frustration plus desperation divided by an expert opinion equals understanding. In short, I called a friend last evening. This morning optimism is my ally. I actually believe that today I shall triumph past the dial up and enter the worldwide web. Why? Because I found out what was going wrong.
Last night my wife and I spent zero time together once we got back from eating supper out. My wife had a couple of cakes to bake and she had to watch them closely. Was she baking for family members or close friends of the family? No. She was baking for a guy at work. My wife is employed by Jack Burford Chevrolet in Richmond, Kentucky. She is in her sixth year with them. A few years back she baked a cake for a fellow employee as just a special thing for what was, I believe, an important birthday. It caught on.
Now she has a list of the birthdays of all the employees with Jack Burford. The evening before their birthday she bakes them a cake and then she takes it to work with her the next day. She always takes care to make sure that the person whose birthday is being celebrated gets a piece of the cake. Believe me, once you taste one of my wife's cakes you grab a piece quickly. If not, the cake could be gone and the person being honored by it might never get a piece. So she takes care of the birthday girl or boy first.
This is where her heart is truly seen. She never takes a dime for the cakes. She does it because she wants to. The neat thing is that she also takes orders on the cakes. The birthday person tells her their favorite cake and she bakes it for them. Today's honoree is the Service Manager. His favorite? Red velvet cake. It's a popular cake with the employees. The cake will go in the service area and the extra one will go in the sales area. Becky does this just because she wants to. Thing is, now it is expected. That's the bugaboo about things, isn't it? Raised expectations.
Think back to when you first became a Christian. How did you react to your new life? Were you exuberant? Did you tell everybody you knew about your newfound friend, Jesus? How about now? The rush may be over. The exhilaration of being 'saved' may have subsided. You may have settled into being just a church member and gotten swept up in the press of activities. Perhaps you teach a Sunday School class or Junior Church. Maybe you're the president of the women's fellowship or the church treasurer. You're involved and busy and even satisfied. Here's the grinding question. When we get settled into Christianity that way do we disappoint the expectations of the one who saved us?
'Then (Jesus) said to them, 'Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentence and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.' '
Each Thursday morning a large, loud vehicle lumbers down our street and everyone under the age of six gets excited and stares in fascination out the front window as the air brakes bring it to a squeaking-whooshing halt and a guy in a fluorescent T-shirt jumps out and attaches a large trash receptacle to the back. The kids point and squeal as it gets dumped into the truck. Then it's time for a mad dash to the side window to watch the scene repeated at the neighbor's house. (This is often a good time to sneak off for some quiet time. They won't miss you 'til it turns the corner at the end of the block!)
I get amused at the way my kids react to something as mundane and offensive as the garbage truck. It was quite a sight when I had a home day care and five or six of them would crowd in front of the window as the truck came down the street.
But I remember one month when I forgot to pay the garbage collector and they didn't stop. My husband was not thrilled to get out the extra garbage can to store two weeks' worth of trash. So as unexciting and loudly annoying as the garbage truck may be, we need it to stop every week.
Does our excitement over God's grace fade with the years like the elation over the garbage truck as we grow up? I'm afraid it often does.
But what happens if we don't take out our trash regularly by praying, repenting, praising and being in fellowship with other Christians? The result will stink up our lives -- bad habits, resentment, discontent and temptation will bury us.
God doesn't want that garbage of sin in our lives. So even though he hates it, he graciously and lovingly gave us His son to pick up the trash and put it where neither He nor we have to look at it or be offended by it. (
We know the aroma of Christ is pleasing and pure, not tainted by any of the garbage of sin, and we need others to notice that aroma as well. So when you hear that truck coming this week, reflect on whether you've taken out the spiritual garbage for the day.
I really don't give God as much glory as He deserves. A sure sign of whether or not I am giving God His deserved glory and reverence is to ask myself what I value the most at a given point in time. What I am most committed to is what I worship. I can easily divert my reverence from God and instead worship people, my relationships and myself.
As I have prepared to leave the country God has used many people to encourage me and to give to me, but I took this gift and corrupted it. I began to get puffed up by people and their attention rather then continue to focus on God. When pressed for time and caught up with life's busyness, I began to reminisce on people's praises of me and get my drive from them rather than getting my comfort and strength from God and His word. The very thing people had praised me for, my reliance on God, I easily perverted and instead relied on myself.
God was trying to use people to reveal Himself in a greater way in my life and remind me of how much He has done through me--this is only because of my willingness to let Him use me and not because of how great I am. Because let's face it, without God we are not great at all. In fact, without God, there is no way I would give of myself the way I have been able to, nor would I have such deep, honest and transparent relationships with people. God was trying to build my faith before I leave, but when I began to focus on people in my heart I took the honor away from God and took the glory for myself. I put God second when I began to get security from their words, attention, affection, and love for me instead of His.
During this time I prayed to God and thanked Him as He continued to bless me. I was oblivious to the sin growing in my heart. It took an entire week for me to see what I had allowed to happen. See, sometimes I don't think one can tell outwardly that the heart is getting corrupted. I think it can be a gradual process of little baby steps taken towards people and away from God. It can sneak in slowly and we won't even notice when our happiness 'all of a sudden' (not really sudden at all) is dependent on circumstances and others. I can tell what I worship by what happens when it is challenged. Yet scriptures can quickly expose the sins of the heart and redirect. You know it applies to you when it stings a little when you read it. At least that's how I know it applies to me.
I have been incredibly blessed by God and surrounded by so much love and support, especially in the past few months. It was really encouraging to see in His letters to the churches in Revelations, as well as in Malachi, that God loves me and His people so much that He would warn us, plead with us and even still bless us, despite our disrespect, self righteousness, and just plain ignorance some times. It hurts Him so much and yet He loves so deeply to continue to take us back every day and bless us beyond what we can even imagine. I pray to continue to be refined by Him and see my sin before me when I get all twisted. It will happen, but if I can see it, I can change it- if I seek Him daily.
I've heard poems and songs about life being a tapestry. A beautiful work of art which tells a story through brilliant colors and detailed pictures.
Imagine how much time and effort it must take to weave a tapestry, especially at their height of fashionable decorating hundreds of years ago. The planning and knowledge needed to create such a work of art was unbelievable.
A person of wealth would decide they wanted a tapestry to beautify a certain room (as well as cut down on the drafts) and they would hire an artist to sketch or paint the theme of the tapestry. Often changes would be made to the final picture after months of work. Then when the patron was satisfied, a weaver would be commissioned to make the tapestry.
A sum of money would be agreed upon, as well as a date for the tapestry to be completed. Regardless of the availability of good help, rare dye for that exact color of blue wool, or an unforeseen breakdown of the loom, the weaver was to have it ready at the appointed time, and would most likely have the commission pay reduced if it was not produced.
One small mistake could set them back weeks if it was not discovered soon enough. One thread breaking or unraveling could ruin an entire panel.
Sometimes its easy to let daily stresses ruin the day, or a busy month to unravel our patience for the week! There are days I look at my calendar and wonder how I can possibly weave one more activity into the month without breaking a thread (my last thread to sanity!).
But God can see the entire story, woven over years, one color blending to the next. He can also tie off those broken and unraveling threads and repair any mistakes or blemishes.
God has woven us from the moment of our conception. He has so much in store for us -- to do in service for Him and to enjoy in this life and the next. He is the Master Weaver and will tie up all the loose ends we are willing to surrender to Him.
When my husband and I were first married we were broke. We bought basic groceries but not many favorite snacks or treats. One day my mom called and said she had a platter of one of my favorite snacks leftover from a get-together at her house. I was taco dip - the layered kind with refried beans, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, tomato - yum!
She brought "the platter of ambrosia" over with a couple of bags of tortilla chips and I couldn't wait to savor it. I was even considering eating the entire thing and not sharing any with my husband. The only drawback was that I had been suffering (and I don't use that word lightly) from a cold and had not been able to taste anything for at least 24 hours.
I just knew, though, that my taste buds would not fail me with this delight. As I took the first bite I recognized the texture of each layer, felt the chip crunch, and kept anticipating the burst of flavor. It never came. I tried another, sure that the spice of the salsa would cut through my stuffed up senses and allow me to enjoy at least a few bites.
An occasional tease of flavor came through, but it was decidedly unsatisfying. Half a platter later I decided to give up and put the remains in the fridge for another day. Of course it wouldn't taste as good the second day, but then considering I hadn't really tasted it at all, it couldn't be worse.
Despite how badly I wanted to taste my favorite snack the virus which had invaded my body effectively blocked the pleasant taste that I longed to experience. I believe the sin which invades my life often does the same with God's good gifts. I sometimes can't see past my selfish focus to receive the delicious things God has offered me.
That sin may be something that is easy to slip into, like slacking on my scripture reading and prayer time or as blatant as resentment of a Christian brother or sister. As I ask God to reveal these sins to me and I repent of them, He begins to heal my spirit and His blessings begin to flavor my life.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
I have often thought about, and discussed, from Thanatos literally meaning death of the body which means life on earth is ended. And literally keeps more sins from being committed by that brother. For me, this is a greater example of the 'sin unto death' that John talks about in . It must be a mother and lay an egg, but it can never be what it once was.
Therefore I must look at . These were enlightened by Jesus' teaching. But even Balaam's eyes were opened and still he went down into utter darkness. Jesus told them that day that the only work God required of them was to 'believe in the One whom He has sent', but they could not 'stomach' the fact that Jesus is the Bread of Heaven and that 'he who... eats ... of Me shall continuously dwell in Me and I dwell in him.'
These followers of Jesus had been 1. enlightened; 2. tasted the heavenly gifts; 3. partakers of the Holy Spirit--the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; 4. tasted the good word of God; 5. tasted the powers of the world to come. And they fell away in true believers, he dances around but never plainly says true believers can submerge in apostasy.
Being a partaker of the Holy Spirit is a far cry from being indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
Tasting the word of God is a far cry from being renewed and washed in the word of God.
Tasting the power of worlds to come is a far cry from being saved from the wrath of God.
There are many who sit in the pews of churches that think they are saved, but in truth are not possessors of Jesus. These are the ones who are tasting of what a true relationship with Jesus might be like, yet are not buying into or fully committing their life to serving the one true God. It will be a rude awakening for them when the Great Snatch happens.
The good ground drinks in the rain that God pours out on to it. The good ground bears much fruit 30,60, or 100 fold but the bad ground bears nothing but briars and thorns. Yet the rain pours onto both good and bad ground. This is how I understand
We have reached a time in our society where old is not so much an age issue as it is a technology issue. Granted people still celebrate birthdays which means that each year a person is getting older. However, their aging factor is compared against that of the technology around them. Let me use myself to illustrate. This year I will be fifty-six years old. In some places I am considered a Senior Citizen. In others I am still almost a decade away from being able to merit "the breaks" of advancing age. I rub elbows with people twenty and even thirty years my senior who wish they had my youth.
What I can remember is what makes me old. Yeah, there are the nuts and bolts things like being old enough to remember Jack Nicklaus as a rookie golfer, Jim Brown as rookie running back and Mickey Mantle as a rookie center fielder. I remember the DeSoto, the Edsel and twenty cents a gallon gasoline, and the station attendants came out and pumped it for you as well as checked under the hood. I remember nickel Cokes and taking fifty cents to the theater and having ten cents left after a ticket, soft drink and popcorn.
But there are other things I remember. I remember rotary phones that came only in black and had short phone cords, from the base unit to the handset, that were actually covered in fabric in order to be flexible. I remember my uncle's ham radio and the fun we got from hearing things from all over the world when the conditions were right. I remember television...at my uncle's house. We couldn't afford one at that time. We were doing good to have phone service.
About those televisions. They were big and deep units but they had small screens. When you turned the tv on it took time to warm up and the picture on that small screen would then kind of unfold for you. Then when you turned it off the picture went from full screen to a tiny spot in the middle of the screen before finally going away. You got reception by what was known as a "Lazy X" antenna, if you want to call three channels reception. If you wanted to complain about the programming you used what is call the U. S. Postal Service and sent a letter for five cents that you typed on a typewriter to the station. There were no P. C.'s so there was no internet. Al Gore had barely been invented by this time.
Today our phones are mostly unencumbered by wires in our homes. We even have phones that we carry with us wherever we go. Instead of ham radios to contact the world we have the world right at our fingertips through the internet. P. C.'s have replaced typewriters and even libraries. Televisions now come on through remote control and most don't even have channels to select on the cabinet. There are almost innumerable stations to receive either through cable or satellite. Know what? With all that technology there is one thing that has not changed. "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me."
The call and ministry of every Christian is to be an evangelist. Not to witness is sin because we know we ought to be doing it (. We can't solely rely upon our pastor or church to do it because we are the church. It is our call and our responsibility. We are ministers of reconciliation, and we will be judged for our faithfulness in that ministry (.
The ministry starts with a burden for seeing the lost come to Christ. If that doesn't exist, we must pray for it to become a reality in our hearts. I pray that God would break our hearts for the lost. (Consider prayerfully reading through my devotional entitled, 'Lord, Break My Heart for the Lost'- . If a testimony has been lost, we must ask for forgiveness and begin to shine forth the light of Christ.
Third, the evangelist must be a person of prayer. He must be pleading with God for opportunities to share the gospel, and he must be interceding on behalf of particular souls. He knows that salvation cannot be manipulated, and he is trusting God to release some of the captives of the devil (see .
Ninth, he prays again for those with whom he has spoken or for those to whom he has given a tract or Bible. This is to be done lest Satan come and take the seeds away that have been sown (.
Tenth, the evangelist doesn't take anything personally. Successes are because God gives the growth (, and rejections of the gospel (which are far more common) are merely rejections of Christ (. His focus is on sharing the gospel as he has the opportunity (.
the Second Week after Epiphany