Sleep Squadron

He called to let me know his fourteen year old sparrow hawk had died.

I had met Gary, or as I fondly referred to him, “Little Gary”, over thirty years ago at a falconry exhibition. He apparently had some developmental limitations, but he was fascinated by the hawks. When he asked if he could go hunting with me, I said yes.

Gary joined me in the field many times, and we became friends. I learned that he was employed through Sparc, and had a gift for fixing mechanical and electronic devices. He worked on the church’s VHSs several times, and started coming to church.

Before long he was bringing a friend along on our hunting adventures, and to church. Grant had been severely beaten by his father as a child, and was handicapped because of it. Eventually I had the pleasure of baptizing both Gary and Grant into Christ.

Gary became an usher at CCC, and the official filter changer. He would let me know when the furnace filters needed to be changed, and would spend the better part of a day changing them for me.

His interest in falconry kept building, and he began asking if I would sponsor him as an apprentice falconer. I was afraid he couldn’t handle a Redtail, but said he might be able to fly a Kestrel, if he could pass the federal test and state inspection. After several attempts he passed the exam, and was authorized to catch a Kestrel. When he called, he told me Jack, his last bird, had died in perfect feather at fourteen.

I hadn’t seen Gary for a long time. He stopped coming to church regularly because worship made him very emotional, and he was uncomfortable crying in church. Then he fell asleep one Sunday, and started snoring loudly. He was so embarrassed that he said he could never return.

I assured him it was no big deal. That I had told others I’d rather have them fall asleep in church than stay in bed at home, and that before I started standing behind the pulpit I had often fallen asleep sitting in a pew. I even told him about Eutychus falling asleep, and falling out of the window while the Apostle Paul was preaching. It didn’t matter. He said he could never return.

Falling asleep can be problematic, and even embarrassing. I know. In fact, I’m going for a second sleep study tonight to see if I need to join the squadron who wear flight masks during the night.

God Bless, Rick

A Persistent Podcast Patron

She really wanted to get ahold of us. She left a message on the church phone, and on Mark’s and my cell phone. The call came from North Carolina, and when Mark couldn’t understand what she was saying, he deleted it, thinking it was a telemarketer. I was at home, and at first thought the same thing. But I listened long enough to hear her mention Chatham Christian Church and my name, so I listened again carefully.

She gave her name, and said she had been listening to the podcasts from our church, and was pretty impressed. She went on to say she was an Israeli Christian, a Reformed Jewish lady believing in God like Abram, and got Jesus fourteen beautiful years ago. She said she now has a relationship with God through Jesus, believes in Him and loves Him.

She said if I could call her she would appreciate it, and of course I did. She was thrilled to hear from me, and had some very complimentary things to say about my sermons. I would tell you what she said but Marilyn won’t let me repeat them, thinking they will give me a big head.

We had a delightful time talking together, and I discovered her name was Edna, the same as my mom’s, so our connection deepened. She told me a bit more about her history and her family. Sadly she said her parents died without knowing Jesus, and her daughter doesn’t like to talk about Him much. She, on the other hand loves to talk about Him, and wondered if would be alright if she told others about our podcasts. She said she listens to one every day during her personal study time, and was even then downloading three of them.

The fact that someone in North Carolina had found our website and was listening to sermons from CCC blew me away. I may be preaching most of the sermons, but turning them into podcasts that are heard through the internet is something that is done by a team of techies headed by Chris Luzio. Their efforts in getting the word out is apparently bearing fruit, and I am so grateful for our shared ministry.

It probably comes as no surprise, but I had to ask Chris how to even get podcasts on a smart phone. In case you don’t know either, all you have to do is go to the App Store and download any podcast app, and then type in Chatham Christian Church.

I had to laugh when I found it and under Best of the Podcast was listed “But I say…Adultery”and “Balaam and His Donkey.” I laughed even harder when under You Might Also Like it suggested Joel Osteen’s podcast.

God Bless, Rick

Preaching Until Our Last Breath

Since we last visited via this column I have turned 71, and we have celebrated Thanksgiving. I mention them together because I am very thankful I’m on the other side of my 70th year.

When I entered into my 70’s I was the picture of health…for a 70 year old. I wasn’t on any medication, and didn’t think I would need any. In fact, I had foolishly thrown away my Medicare Rx card. Then the dominoes started to tumble.

My PSA took a jump, and it was discovered that I had prostate cancer. As it was being addressed, it was discovered that I had Afib. Going from healthy to having cancer and a heart condition was disconcerting to say the least.

By the grace of God both conditions were apparently successfully treated. I don’t have to see my oncologist or my cardiologist for a year. And the $500 a month medication that was reduced to $50 when I got a new Rx card is no longer needed. I’m back to self-prescribed baby aspirin and fish oil. As I said, I am very thankful.

It would appear that health issues and age may have given some the idea that retirement might be on the horizon for me. Several have asked me about the possibility, and I’ve been encouraged by their response to assurances that I haven’t even had a glimpse of that distant horizon. And I had to laugh when someone left a book on my desk about how to avoid burnout in ministry. I took that as a sign they hoped I wouldn’t burn out any time soon. Let me assure you that I have no plans to do so.

In fact, those who know me well have probably noticed that burnout has never been an issue for me. I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy balance between ministry, family, and personal time. I long ago gave up the “I’d rather burn out than rust out” mantra. I just want to keep going until I exchange a worn-out temporal body for an eternal one.

Jesse, our missionary in Thailand, and I share the same goal. After he sent me a note assuring me of his thoughts and prayers concerning my health, and I told him I was doing well, and assured him of my prayers on behalf of his many health issues, he responded with, “Praise God! We will preach Christ until our last breath.”

That is indeed my hope and prayer.

God Bless, Rick

Cut to the Heart

One of the best things about reading the Bible in various translations and paraphrases is that you see things you may have missed reading it the same way every time. I was struck by this again last week.

As I was reading the account of Stephen preaching to the Jewish leaders, the way the New King James Version said they responded to his message caught my attention. After noting that Stephen was full of faith and power, had done great wonders and signs among the people, and that the Council had seen his face as the face of an angel, he accused them of resisting the Holy Spirit and persecuting the prophets as had their fathers. He then stated that they had become the betrayers and murderers of the Just One that had been foretold. His rebuke was obviously very harsh, and when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart.

That phrase, “cut to the heart,” sounded familiar to me. I had just read the same phrase a couple of days earlier.

On the Day of Pentecost, after witnessing the miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly stated that those present had crucified Jesus, the one God had made both Lord and Christ. When they heard it, they too had been cut to the heart. My NASV used different phrases to say the same thing, so I had missed the similarity. What struck me, however, was not the similarity, but the difference in their response.

When Peter’s hearers were cut to the heart they responded by crying, “Brethren, what must we do?”, and 3,000 of them were baptized. When Stephen’s hearers were cut to the heart they gnashed their teeth, and stoned him to death. The difference wasn’t the rebuke. It wasn’t even the emotional response to the rebuke. It was what they did after coming under conviction.

This got me thinking how we are not responsible for the way people respond to the reproofs and rebukes that come from God’s word. Even If we present the truth with grace and the right motive, as I’m sure both Peter and Stephen did, they may or may not receive it positively.

Perhaps even more important, however, is to make certain that we respond to rebukes from God’s word positively.

God Bless, Rick

The Daily Message Challenge

I hadn’t planned on announcing my offer of Bibles for those who would join me in reading it through in 2019 quite yet, but couldn’t help but mention it in my sermon last week on the importance of reading it.

If you recall, last year I offered to personally buy a chronological Bible for anyone who would commit to reading it through in a year. Many of you accepted my challenge, and I was delighted to buy them. Many have kept up, but I’ve heard from some who haven’t managed to stay on track, and even some who have given up. Let me encourage those who didn’t keep up to keep on reading, and not worry about the deal I made with them. The important thing is to just read it.

Anyway, someone asked me several weeks ago what kind of Bible I was planning to read through next year. I had been giving it some thought, but hadn’t yet decided. I really enjoyed reading through chronological Bibles the last two years, but thought I might try something a bit different next year.

After exploring several options, I decided I would read through The Daily Message by Eugene Peterson. I enjoyed reading through The Message paraphrase several years ago, but this particular plan of reading it through in a year is set up so you alternate reading through Old and New Testament books, so you’re not stuck in the Old Testament for nine months. It also includes a brief reading from Psalms, Proverbs or Isaiah each day.

When contemplating whether to make the offer of buying this more expensive Bible for anyone who would commit to reading it with me, my inclination toward tightness reared its ugly head. So when I mentioned in my sermon that I was planning on making an offer to buy Bibles this year, I hedged a bit, and said I might split the cost with those taking the deal.

After the sermon I was approached by someone who offered to cover the entire cost of the Bibles. When I hesitated to accept his offer, he added an intriguing twist. If anyone doesn’t read it through in a year, they have to pay back the cost of the Bible. I liked the added motivation, so agreed to let him do it.

If you want me to order one for you, there is a sign-up on the bulletin board. I do need to warn you that the printed addition uses very small print, so you may want to simply order a digital copy from Amazon on your own. But if you want a free printed copy, all you have to do is sign-up, and then make sure to read it through in 2019.

God Bless, Rick