What do four grandpas talk about at the café after a Thursday night at the range? Obviously they talk about guns, and as soon as the scores are available they congratulate the winner, and make excuses for their jams and misses. Then, after offering sage advice on the problems of the world, they talk about something near and dear to their hearts. They talk about their grandkids. And after having beat my time by two seconds last week, I was glad when Jamie moved us on to grandpa talk.

He had taken the girls to Scoop Du Jour earlier in the week, and when Kiayla saw a sign advertising our VBS, she excitedly exclaimed, “That’s my church!” Jamie thought that was great, and so did I.

Years ago I attended a seminar on church promotion, and the presenter shared something I found very interesting. He said when General Motors advertises for Chevys their goal isn’t to get more people to buy a Chevy. Their primary goal is to keep those who have already bought one excited about their purchase. They want people to respond by thinking, if not actually saying, “That’s my car!” That obviously has a bearing on advertising for a church.

Few people are going to decide to go to a particular church because they see a billboard, even one that really catches their attention. But if they hear someone exclaim, “That’s my church!”, they might. A personal endorsement, or in the case of a church an invitation, is obviously the best form of advertising.

When you came to church last Sunday, I trust you were overwhelmed by the way the building had been transformed into an African savannah for ROAR!, our VBS. Untold hours, and a considerable amount of money, was invested to make our VBS into one that will really impact the lives of our kids, and kids of the community.

Even if you didn’t have any children or grandchildren at VBS, I trust you are excited about what our church is doing. I hope that you, like Kiayla, are loudly exclaiming, “That’s my church!”

God Bless, Rick

Monster Mose and the Nightlight

My good friend George, who was in town last week, told me about a poem he wrote and illustrated years ago to help his son handle fears at night. I thought you, and your (grand)kids, might enjoy it.

Well, the lights went out without a peep, and they both snuggled under the covers deep.
The floor was dark and as cold as frost. Mose wanted up, whatever the cost.
As mommy tucked David and Mose into bed, she sang a lullaby.
But David had a bad dream, and he turned and tossed. Poor Mose landed in a heap.
Monster Mose had sleepy in one eye, he stretched and he yawned, and he let out a sigh.
She smiled and whispered it was time to sleep. And God heard the prayers they said.
They both hugged Mommy, and she kissed each head. They mumbled and grumbled they’d rather play instead.
But David didn’t hear him though he yelled and he tugged. Poor Mose knew that he was lost.
So he looked straight up, and—Oh! What a sight! Just outside the window stars were shining bright.
Mose began to cry, he was in such a fright. He needed to be hugged.
And the moon above the treetops was the world’s nightlight. And a thought came to Mose that brought him such delight—
The end zzzzzzz

Good Enough for Joseph

Romans 8:28 is a verse that gives us assurance and comfort. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It’s been at the heart of our Sunday morning studies for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve tried to make it clear that not everything that happens to us is God’s will for us. The promise is that He can take anything that happens to us in a fallen world, and make something good out of it; if we love Him, and are seeking to live out His purposes in our life. Having hopefully made that clear, I hope I haven’t given you the idea that God’s activity in our life is limited to a clean-up operation.

Duane gave me another book by his second favorite preacher, Alistair Begg, several months ago. It’s on the life of Joseph, and it ended up at the bottom of the stack because I know the story. Or so I thought.

When I finally started reading The Hand of God, I not only realized how much of the story I had overlooked, but I was reminded again that God doesn’t just make good come out of the bad things that happen to us. He providentially, and even directly, causes some things to happen to us. Both good and bad.

Alistair began his first chapter by noting: “The story of Joseph is a tale of jealousy, deceit, slavery, misrepresentation, injustice, lust, rivalry, and forgiveness. It pits brother against brother. We encounter imprisonment and deep trials that do not produce self-pity, and prosperity that does not bring the accompanying pride.

“Joseph’s life encompasses all of this and more—and in it all, the overarching theme is that of the sovereign hand of God manifesting itself in His providential care over His dearly loved children and bringing about all that He has purposed in the affairs of time.”

I don’t think we can discern what God actually caused to happen to Joseph, or what He simply allowed. But it didn’t matter to Joseph. For as he told his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

If that’s good enough for Joseph, it’s good enough for me.

God Bless, Rick

Steaks and Streams

What’s the difference between a steak dinner and just eating steak? I’ve come to the conclusion that even adding a salad, baked potato, and broccoli doesn’t turn eating steak for dinner into a steak dinner.

Last Saturday I grilled a nice sirloin on our new gas grill while Marilyn was fixing all the sides. When everything was ready, I stood at the counter and cut the steak into bite sized pieces. That alone would have shocked my rich Aunt Nellie from Chicago.

She’s the aunt who always brought a leg of lamb to Christmas at Grandma’s, and taught me you had to eat lamb with mint jelly; something that was very hard to find in rural Kansas when a farmer from the church gave us some fresh lamb from his flock. She also made it very clear that you cut your meat one piece at time, put down your knife, and then eat it.

She would have been absolutely shocked at what Marilyn and I then did with the plate of food. We carried it into the living room, sat in our easy chairs, and watched TV while devouring our meal.

When the kids were home we turned off the TV, sat around the table, and had dinner together. It was an important time of sharing what was going on, practicing good manners, and just enjoying each others company. Now, for the most part, we just eat.

Sadly, it’s not just empty nesters who do this. I recently read that the typical family now manages six or seven simultaneous streams of information during the dinner hour. I really doubt family members are using those electronic devices to stimulate conversation. At least Marilyn and I try to outguess the contestants on Wheel of Fortune.

When we do have the family over for a special occasion, we pack around the table as best we can, and actually have dinner together. And the grandkids generally make it clear they’d rather be around our table eating pot roast, than in a restaurant eating steak.

Next time I grill a steak I think I’m going to dust off the china and crystal, and Marilyn and I are going to actually have a steak dinner.

God Bless, Rick

A Beautiful Paraphrase

At my ordination into the ministry 50 years ago, my Uncle Gene gave me a copy of J.B Phillips’ paraphrase of the New Testament. Inside the front cover he had written, “Make the Word of God plain to those you teach— God will convict them if they hear Him clearly. This is my favorite translation—it is plain.”

I’m not sure that I agree the Phillips“translation” is plain, but I do find it to be beautiful. And, as I did again last Sunday morning, I’ve often quoted Romans 8:18 from it. “In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared to the magnificent future God has planned for us.”

I’ve not only found it to be beautiful, but also very comforting. In fact, I used it in the first funeral I ever preached, and have used it in almost every funeral since then.

I don’t use the Phillips for serious study, nor as a text to explore while preaching. That’s not the purpose for a paraphrase. And paraphrases do more easily reflect the biases of the individual writing it. You never want to come to a doctrinal conclusion on the basis of what you read in a paraphrase.

While not being inspired by God as are the Scriptures themselves, they can however be inspirational, and they do have their place in personal reading. In fact, many of us are reading through The Daily Message this year, which is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible.

I do have to admit that while reading Peterson’s paraphrase this year I’ve often found myself wondering where in the world he got something. And at times I believe he tried too hard to be contemporary, and as a result his choice of words and phrases are already dated. I even found myself laughing last Saturday while reading through the daily passage, which actually happened to be the text I’d be preaching on the next day.

Paul does say that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth, but Peterson may get just a little too picturesque.“We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and more joyful our expectancy.”

I doubt that I’ll be using that in a funeral any time soon.

God Bless, Rick