Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (1)

A man came home after a rough day at work. It was one of those days where it seemed like everything that can go wrong, did go wrong. As he walks through the door, he says to his wife, “I’ve had a bad day. Please! If you have any bad news tonight, just save it for another day.” To which she replied, “Okay, no bad news. Now for the good news. Remember our four children? Well, three of them didn’t break an arm today.”

Bad days happen to everyone. They come more often that we think we deserve, and they sometimes last much longer than we think we can stand.


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Mother’s Day 2014

Have you found the perfect Mother’s Day present yet? If not, let me make a recommendation. In the Bible, in the book of Exodus, God gave us commandments for how we should live, how we should act toward him, and one another. And right in the middle of really heavy statements like “you shall have no other gods before me” and “you shall not murder,” he gave us the fifth commandment: “Honor your mother and father.” Honor means to regard with great respect, to recognize, or to esteem. The fact that God even added “honor your mother and father” to the Ten Commandments should show us how important it is. There are lots of things you can give your mom on Mother’s Day—whether it’s breakfast in bed, or a day at the spa—but let’s not forget the most important thing. The best gift you can give your mom is to honor her. That’s what we want to do here today—honor the moms of Blooming Grove.


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New Beginnings (Part 4)

One of my favorite lines from The Wizard of Oz comes after the Scarecrow tells Dorothy, “I haven’t got a brain… just straw.” Dorothy replies, “How can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?” So the Scarecrow says, “I don’t know… But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking… don’t they?” Of course, Dorothy agrees, “Yes, I guess you’re right.” Finally, she poses the question, “What would you do with a brain if you had one?” There’ve been a few times I’ve wanted to ask someone that question too.

But my question for you this morning is a little different. My question is: What would you do with a fresh start if you had one? If you could begin again today, if you had a clean slate, what would you do with it?


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New Beginnings (Part 3)

They say that April showers bring May flower. In other words, something dark and dreary can give rise to something colorful and alive. We’ve had our share of April showers this month. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving Sarai home from school, the rain gave rise to another colorful sign of Spring. I looked out the driver-side window of our van and spotted the very first rainbow of the season. Brilliant colors splashed across a grey canvas. It’s a thing of beauty, but fragile too. Just a moment later, as the clouds rolled passed, it slowly faded away. But for that brief moment we were able to witness one of the most inspiring miracles that God has set in nature—and a symbol of new beginnings.


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New Beginnings (Easter Special)

I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for choosing to spend Easter morning with us here at the Grove. Whether you’ve been coming to the Grove all your life, or this is your first time visiting, or you just haven’t been back since last Easter—we’re glad you’re here because Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it’s a time of new beginnings and fresh starts.

What comes to your mind when you think of Easter? Do you have warm memories of going to church and signing rousing hymns of resurrection triumph? Or maybe decorating Easter eggs as a family and hunting for them early in the morning? Have you ever wondered what bunny rabbits and colored eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus, anyway? The short answer is—nothing. The longer answer is that rabbits and eggs were both symbols of springtime and new life in many ancient near-eastern cultures and along the way got jumbled together with other Easter traditions.


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New Beginnings (Part 2)

It was a bright Sunday morning in 18th century London, but Robert Robinson’s mood was anything but sunny. All along the street there were people hurrying to church, but in the midst of the crowd Robinson was a lonely man. The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life. It had been years since he set foot in a church—years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved. That love for God—once fiery and passionate—had slowly burned out within him, leaving him dark and cold inside. Robinson heard the clip-clop of a horse-drawn cab approaching behind him. Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver. But then he saw that the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed in finery for the Lord’s Day. He waved the driver on, but the woman ordered the carriage to be stopped.


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A New Beginning (Part 1)

Have you ever wished you could have a do-over? I know of a teen-age girl in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who wanted one. Police stopped the girl after complaints that a car had been seen doing laps around her neighborhood in reverse for some time. The girl told police that her parents had let her use the car, but she had put too much mileage on it. “I was just trying to unwind some of it,” she said.

Unfortunately, cars don’t work that way. And neither does life, does it? The frustrating thing about time is that it always moves forward. There is no “R” on the stick-shift, no reverse in the gears. The hands of the clock always move clockwise, and the pages of the calendar are torn off in only one direction. Time never moves backward. Not an inch, not a step, never. But just because we can’t turn back the clock or run the odometer in reverse, doesn’t mean we can’t have a fresh start. Spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. And, the God who created the world specializes in new beginnings!


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Experiencing Revival

Recently, Ashley and I watched the movie “Princess Bride” for the first time with our kids. It’s a classic fairy-tale movie filled with romance and swashbuckling adventure. In one pivotal scene, Miracle Max lifts the lifeless arm of the hero, Wesley, and lets it drop to the table, massages his chest, and searches for signs of life. The situation looks awfully grim to Wesley’s companions, but then Miracle Max exclaims, “I’ve seen worse…it just so happens, your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There is a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there is usually only one thing you can do…go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

Sadly, there are countless churches all over the country that are in the same condition as Wesley… or worse. Last year more than 3,500 churches died, closing their doors for the last time. The same number will likely die this year, too. Myriad more churches have lost their healthy glow, displaying little or no signs of life.


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Saint Patrick’s Day: Our Three-in-One God

Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and, of course, in our modern-American celebration that basically means lots of drinking and the occasional pinching of those who forgot to wear green. Have you heard the one about the Irish priest driving home from church on Saint Patrick’s Day? He got pulled over for speeding and the state trooper smells alcohol on the priest’s breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says, “Sir, have you been drinking?” “Just water,” says the priest. The trooper says, “Then why do I smell wine?” The priest looks at the bottle, sniffs it and says, “Good Lord! He’s done it again!”

It’s really disappointing that Saint Patrick’s Day has regressed in many parts of the world to a celebration of Irish beer, but in Ireland itself it is still celebrated as a religious holiday by both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. What’s really disappointing is that many people, even Christians, don’t have a clue what Saint Patrick’s Day is really all about.


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Parables of Jesus: The Sower

In 1886, after the state of Georgia passed prohibition laws, a young man name John Pemberton invented a carbonated non-alcoholic beverage which he thought would appeal to Americans given the prohibition against alcohol. It was marketed as a “soft drink” as opposed to hard liquor and contained a mixture made from coca beans and cola beans, which inspired the name Coca-Cola. John first started selling the soft drink in pharmacies in his home town of AtlantaGeorgia, but he had a much grander vision for his invention. He had a dream that within 100 years every person on the face of the earth would have tasted the soft drink he created. He didn’t quite reach his goal, but I’d still say he was pretty successful, wouldn’t you? Today it is estimated that…

  • 51% of the all the people living in the world today have actually tasted Coca-Cola
  • 72 % have at least seen a can or bottle of Coke
  • 97%, if they haven’t seen or tasted it, have at least heard of Coca-Cola

On the other hand, only an estimated 73% of the world today has heard of Jesus Christ and I guarantee you—a whole lot fewer have actually tasted what he has to offer. I wonder how different things might be if Christians were as passionate about sharing their faith as John Pemberton was about sharing his soft drink—if we tried as hard as he did to put Bibles instead of bottles in the hands of people all over the world?


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