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Sad Face

Here’s a real uplifting passage from the Bible:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-3

Know anybody who says those are their favorite Bible verses? Me neither.

Lately we’ve had a lot of sad faces in our church. In fact, we’ve all had sad faces in the past few months, either because of something that’s happened to us, or something that’s happened to someone we love. I don’t like having a sad face. I bet you don’t either. Nobody does. So why would the Bible say, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad”?

Ecclesiastes can be a puzzling and troubling book for many people. The whole thing seems so…pagan. And that’s the clue. The writer of Ecclesiastes, usually identified as Solomon, kept what amounts to a journal about his attempts to find happiness in everything except God. The book of 1st Kings tells us how King David’s son Solomon turned away from the worship of Yahweh in his later years. Ecclesiastes seems to be the record of his search for happiness apart from God. So, the bulk of the book is, well, godless.

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About 1982 my family and I moved to Coal City, Indiana and I reconnected with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. His name was Richard, and he was a musician, too. I was playing strictly acoustic guitar in those days, and he loaned me one of his amplifiers and an electronic effects unit for guitar. (For you guitar geeks out there, it was an Ibanez rackmount unit with compressor, overdrive, chorus, flanger and phaser.) All of this opened up a whole new world of wonderful sounds to explore.

Even more significantly, he loaned me an album of contemporary Christian music. It was an LP (I know, I’m an old guy) recorded by Dion, of “Dion and the Belmonts” fame. Dion had some top-40 hits in the sixties and seventies with songs like “Runaround Sue” and “Abraham, Martin and John.” But later Dion became a Christian and began to record Christian music. His music was a revelation to me. He sang the Gospel, clear and true, but in his own style, with guitar, bass, drums, and a Hammond B-3 organ. It was fantastic.

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My four-year-old grandson is nearly fearless. He launches himself at you—or off the couch—with all the reckless abandon of someone who still doesn’t quite understand the physics of the world or such fundamental concepts as gravity and the effects of sudden, forced stops on the human body. But he’s learning. And we’re trying to educate him about these things without him having to experience too much injury.

I said he was nearly fearless. Earlier this year he accidentally slammed his own little finger in the pantry door. My daughter heard him screaming and found him standing bewildered in a pool of his own blood, dripping from his finger. Fast-forward through the trip to the emergency room and the subsequent sedation surgery to rebuild his little finger, and the weeks of his hand being bandaged and re-bandaged repeatedly. He really came through it all like a little trooper, and his finger has completely healed so you’d never know it had happened. But he is a different little boy than he used to be.

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This is the end of an era.

She was born in the Roaring Twenties (that explains a lot), grew up in the Great Depression, survived the World War Two era, lived through the Eisenhower years, got through the tumultuous Sixties and the scandalous Seventies, and all the way into the 21st century. Nearly a hundred years! What a century her life has spanned!

On Saturday, July 24, 2021, I got a call from Ruby Grindstaff at 9:37 AM. It lasted 25 seconds. She said, “Pastor David, I hate to bother you, but I wonder if I could trouble you to take me to the hospital? I’m not feeling at all well and I think I need to go.” I said, “Ruby, I’ll be right there.”

So here they are, in as close to the order I encountered them as I can remember.

When I got to her house a few minutes later she came right out. I opened the door to our car for her, and she apologized to me for disturbing my morning. I kept telling her she wasn’t disturbing me, and I was absolutely willing to take her to the hospital. Then she told me she’d been having chest pain all night and that she’d decided if it was still there in the morning, she would go to the hospital. And I wondered why she hadn’t called before.

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The Top Ten Books I’ve Ever Read

From time to time over the years I would finish a book and think, “That’s got to be one of the top ten books I’ve ever read!” And then I’d think, “Someday I’m going to make a list of the top ten books, besides the Bible, that I’ve ever read.” Well, today’s the day. I’m going to make an attempt to compile a list of books and tell you why they have meant so much to me.

But I have to tell you, this article is a fraud. There’s more than ten books on this list. As I started thinking back over the wonderful books I’ve read over the past forty-plus years, I thought, “How am I ever going to whittle the list down to just ten?” There are many other wonderful books in my library that are not on this list. But these are the books that came first to my mind as having impacted my life and ministry in meaningful ways. I ended up with thirteen books. That’s one for each of the twelve apostles, plus the Apostle Paul. (At least, that’s my feeble justification for going over ten.)

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(With my wife’s upcoming hip replacement getting nearer, I’m in the midst of making preparations for taking a week off in order to help her with the recuperation after her surgery. There’s a lot to get done, so with your kind indulgence I’m going to repeat an article from 2014. It still expresses my desire for our church here in our town.)

While visiting our son recently, we had the chance to sail on a tall ship out into Lake Michigan, and got a closer look at a lighthouse, one of many that are scattered around the lake.

We also got to attend Sunday morning worship at the Moody Memorial Church, which stands like a spiritual lighthouse in Chicago’s Olde Towne. And what a wonderful experience that was!

We parked in the first-time visitor’s lot just across the street from the church, and we were greeted by dapper parking lot “attendants” in coats and ties. I asked, “How do we prove to you that we’re first-time visitors?” He smiled a million-dollar smile and said, “Just tell us ya are!”

When we got out of the car and stepped onto the sidewalk, we joined a throng of people streaming to the church from all points of the compass. And that’s when we started to feel the excitement. People were smiling and greeting one another with “Good morning!” (I think that’s the first time that’s happened to me in Chicago!) We immediately felt that we were surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Stop Making Disciples!

When I was in college the King James Bible was pretty much the predominant translation used in most churches. Sometimes I miss the days when nearly everyone was reading from the same translation. We are wealthy in God’s Word today, with many good English translations of the Scriptures available. (There are some stinkers, too.) But in those days, it was the King James Version.

The college I went to emphasized what is called “The Great Commission” given to us by Jesus after His resurrection and before He ascended into Heaven. It appears five times in the New Testament, in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 and Acts 1. But the first time the Great Commission appears is in the Gospel of Matthew. In the King James Version it reads like this:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

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It seems a little unreal that it’s already Easter time again. This last year has been a strange and trying one with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the restrictions and shutdowns. A year ago, I was crushed to realize that we wouldn’t be able to hold our usual Easter services. As the weeks rolled by, Sundays seemed strangely quiet. We continued to put on a service with music and a message for the radio broadcast and the podcast for our website. But it was with a “skeleton crew”, just a handful of people to help us continue our radio presence.

Now here we are at Easter time again, and we want people to come back and worship and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in person at church again. But we also know that there are still many who have fears and concerns about the virus. So, like many churches, we are going ahead with Easter services, but it’s not “full steam ahead.” We’re forging ahead even as we acknowledge the lingering reluctance of some. Please join with us again when you feel that you can.

When I came down with the virus after Easter last year, time seemed to pause. I had a relatively mild case, for which I am very thankful. But every day was the same: I felt tired and achy, and I slept a lot, more than 20 hours out of 24 on some days. I woke up, ate breakfast; slept, ate lunch; slept, ate supper; then went to bed early. For days, the routine never varied. I told my wife I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

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