Back to School

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” It’s that bitter-sweet time of year again… time to go back to school. Our youngest child, Abby, is starting kindergarten this year. It’s hard to believe that she was only seven months old when we moved here, yet she’ll be turning five in a week. We got her registered a couple of weeks ago and met her teacher. She’s looking forward to seeing all of her friends, but I don’t know how she feels about being in school all day. It reminds me of one little girl, just home from her first day of kindergarten, who was asked by her mother, “Honey, what did you learn today?” The little girl replied, “Not much. I’ve got to go back tomorrow.”


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Are You a Fan or a Follower?

How many of you know what the letters DTR stand for? I didn’t know what DTR stood for until this week. Now I’m familiar with LOL, OMG, YOLO, and ROFLMAO. But I hadn’t heard DTR before. I actually looked it up on urbandictionary.com. But for a young man in a relationship, these letters strike fear in their hearts. They dread the DTR talk. It makes single men so uncomfortable they will only use the initials DTR. The objective is to postpone, run away, and put off DTR for as long as possible. In fact many men are so afraid of the DTR, they will self-destruct the relationship when they sense the DTR talk is imminent. Now do you want to guess what DTR stands for? D.T.R. stands for Define the Relationship. This is an official talk that takes place at some point in a romantic relationship to determine the level of commitment. You define the relationship and decide where things stand. Is it casual or is it committed? How serious is this relationship and where is it going? And how you feel about the DTR talk is determined by how committed you are to the relationship. If the relationship is one of convenience that you want to keep casual, then you will feel uncomfortable. You might feel anxious, shift in your seat a little bit, or you may even have a fight or flight response.


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Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (4)

A husband noticed that his wife was under a lot of pressure lately and she called him at work to tell him she was having a bad day, so he decided to do something he’d never done before. He arrives home from work one day, wearing a suit and tie, smelling of cologne and cradling a bouquet of flowers in one arm and a box of chocolates in the other. He rings the doorbell and stands with open arms, grinning ear to ear. His wife opens the door, takes one look at him standing there and starts crying. In between her sobs she says, “Oh, I can’t believe it! Michael’s been throwing up; the dishwasher just broke; your parents are coming to visit this weekend and to top it all off, you come home drunk!”

Perhaps you can relate. These past few weeks we’ve been looking at the life of Joseph. And so far Joseph’s life has been a whole string of bad days—one right after the other. Growing up in his father’s house, he was picked on a put down by his older brothers. His dreams of them someday bowing down to him got him thrown into a pit and sold like a possession to Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard. When Joseph stood firm in his convictions and rejected her advances, the Captain’s wife got him thrown into prison. While there, he worked hard and helped others who shared his cell. But they didn’t bother to return the favor. The good news is—we’re finally getting to the good news.


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Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (3)

Before James Garfield became President of the United States, he was the principle of Hiram College in Ohio. One day, an affluent father once asked him if a particular course of study could be simplified so that his son could graduate in two years instead of four. “Certainly,” replied Garfield. “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes a hundred years. When he wants to make a squash, he only takes two summers.”

Have you ever wondered what God wants to make of you? Or, perhaps, how long he’s going to take? We don’t like to wait, do we?  We’ve got schedules to keep and things to do. We weave through traffic looking for the fast lane. We frown at the person who takes eleven items to the ten-item express checkout. We drum our fingers while the microwave heats our coffee. We really don’t like to wait! We don’t like to wait on the doctor, we don’t like to wait on the pizza, and we certainly don’t like to wait on God.

Phillips Brooks, the famous Boston pastor, seemed particularly agitated one day. So his secretary asked him what was troubling him. He responded, “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry and God isn’t.” Isn’t that always the trouble?


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Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (2)

Yesterday we held a funeral luncheon here at the church for a member’s brother, who passed away earlier this week. I want to thank everyone who helped out with that. It’s such a blessing to have a church family that will come along next to you during difficult times. Funerals are never fun, but they remind us that loss is a part of life.

Suffering, struggle, and sadness are experiences that are hardwired into the world. It’s something we all go through at various times to varying degrees.

It reminds me of an Army Chaplain who had a sign on his door that said, “If you have troubles, come in and tell me all about them. If you don’t have troubles, come in and tell me how you do it.”


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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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