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Signs in Ghana  

It’s the best part of traveling in West Africa: the signs on the local shops. Please note that the term, “shop,” may be a bit generous for much of what we’ve seen in Ghana.  Some of them are little more than rickety wooden roadside stalls.  But nearly all of them sport a creative (if not pretentious) name of some kind.  And a surprising number offer a Christian witness.

Just for our Thursday Thought readers, I jotted down a collection of some of the best. For example, there’s the “Power of Prayer Fast Food Shop.”  I wondered who’s the prayer for—the customers eating the food—or the workers serving it? 

If the soles on your shoes are worn out, you might consider a visit to the “God is Great Shoemaker Repair” store. 

We passed by a number of noteworthy electrical businesses:

  • Great King’s Electrical
  • Jesus I Know Electrical
  • Thank God Electrical Works.

Another memorable sign grouping was observed in the beauty and clothing sector.  We drove past:

  • The Lord is One Beauty Salon
  • Clap for Jesus Barbering Salon
  • Finger of God Fashions

But other skilled workers also showed up in shop signs like:

  • Hand of God Metal Works
  • Joyful Aluminum Works
  • To God Be The Glory Brakes, Bands and Clutches

Some of the shop names puzzled me, such as “By God’s Grace Bar and Catering Service” (how does God’s grace intersect with a serving of whiskey?).  And I wondered what exactly is sold in the “Amazing Grace Cold Store.”   Also, what is the merchandise selection like at “The Yes of Jesus Mini Mart?”  And if they happen to run out of a particular item, do they offer a “no” at the “Yes of Jesus Mini Mart?”

The taxis in Ghana are also typically plastered with names as well.  Among some of our favorites:

  • The Lord Provides
  • God’s Way
  • Take Side with Jehovah
  • That All May Be One
  • Man No Work—Man No Eat
  • No Food for Lazy Man
  • Heaven or Hell
  • Decent (as in, “How was your ride?”  Answer: “Decent”)
  • God is King

But the award for the best sign I saw in all of Ghana has to be this:

“Please give your life to Jesus.  For He is.”

If you’ve been looking for a sign from God—this is it!

From Ghana, with love,

- Jon

 
Ministry Hurts.  

Her name is Sandra. She has no mother.

Looking at her, you would not know this about Sandra.  She smiles easily.    Generously.  I met Sandra in West Africa at a Moody Radio Global Partners Training event.  She was one of the students attending courses in the Radio Production track that I help teach in Ghana.

One of the best features of a Global Partners Training event is the daily “One on One” time we build into the schedule. Anyone attending can sign up for a timeslot with any of the presenters to talk about anything they like (typically job or ministry related).

One afternoon, Sandra showed up.  Now, in our seminars, we give practical assignments that are worked on in class, attempting to apply specific principals from the lecture.

Earlier in the day, students were asked to write copy for a radio advertisement of their choosing.  The class was over and we were moving on to other things.  Not Sandra.

She wanted to read to me the radio commercial she had written.  Curiously, it was about a business she would like to launch that sells locally grown honey.  In Sandra’s commercial, she spoke eloquently about the effectiveness of honey to help regulate blood sugar. She told how honey is extremely helpful for anyone facing the challenges of diabetes.

Then Sandra dropped the bomb.  Her mother was dead.  From diabetes.   Sandra was just seventeen when it happened.  She has never gotten over it.  Given an opportunity to write about any product or service in the world, Sandra chose to focus on the one thing that might have helped her mother.  How telling. How touching. 

Honestly, I was crushed. Here is a young girl who needs her mom.  All of her life is ahead of her. Boys surround her (I noticed this at the conference).  She needs the input only a mother can give.  So I gave her the only thing a Dad could give: a word of encouragement and a prayer.

I told Sandra that she was going to go far in life, that she had a great smile.  I also told her that God had chosen a boy for her who loved Jesus and who would treat her well—and she should settle for nothing less.  Then we prayed.

I wished I could have done more.  Said more.  Prayed more. I wanted to fix the unfixable. It is times like that I am reminded—ministry sometimes hurts.  Badly.

Her name is Sandra.  She has no mother. 

 
Rethinking Megachurch  

No one would ever mistake it for a mega church.

Not by today’s standards. 

If it were a mega church, you’d cruise along a winding, tree-lined asphalt road and be greeted by attendants waving orange batons directing you to a parking slot half a mile from the church doors.  Not here in Petersburg.

Take exit 11 off of Kentucky’s I-275 and the cloverleaf turn practically dumps you into the humble parking lot of Bullittsburg Baptist Church.   Organized in June, 1794 by Elders John Taylor, Joseph Redding and William Cave, it’s the oldest church in northern Kentucky. By 1797, the young congregation constructed their first meeting place. 

If you should ever be in the area, do stop by.  And don’t miss the church’s rambling cemetery adjacent to the parking lot. Unable to resist a walk through the old gravestones, I grabbed my camera and ambled across the grass. 

Snapping pictures of the granite markers, I tried to imagine just who these people were.  Tried to hear them swapping stories of revolutionary war battles like the Siege of Bryan Station or the Battle of Blue Licks. 

I tried to envision church services across the centuries.  Ponder the ministry they would have had to families devastated by the Civil War.  Or World War 1.  Or World War 2.  What a span!

There’s no gleam to the white brick structure known as Bulliltsburg Baptist Church.  Should you attend a Sunday morning service, don’t expect massive video screens or fog machines. 

But what you will find, is a long trail of faithful obedience to God and His Word.  You will see evidence of 223 years of faithful teaching and preaching and praying….223 years of caring for the neighborhood, praying for the sick, visiting the shut-ins…223 years of being a light in Petersburg, Kentucky.

And if faithfulness in ministry is the measuring stick, maybe—just maybe—Bullitsburg Baptist Church is more mega than most mega churches we know. 

“Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”      --1 Samuel 12:24

 

 

 

 
Unexpected Beauty  

Rainy days are nobody’s favorite.

Who plans a wedding and hopes for a rainy day?  No parade has ever been improved by a downpour.  Same for picnics.  Few love songs connect rainy days with nostalgia or romance.  No one but a farmer enduring a parched summer welcomes a “100% chance of rain” in the forecast.

Who could possibly find glory in a puddle, or majesty in mud?  Exactly what is there, beyond the banal acknowledgement of a watered lawn or garden, to commend a rainy day?  A hint of an answer presented itself recently in an unlikely place on an unlikely day.  

Knobby fingers of darksome clouds stretched their grip across the horizon.  From those fingers trickled a steady drip of rain.  Hardly ideal weather for a vacation, but there we were.  And there it was—rain—lots of it. 

Opening the car door, I happened to glance down.  I am guessing that a parking lot has never before framed a canvas of priceless art.  Yet it seemed to right then.

A perfectly shaped maple leaf blazed an almost surreal red against the coal black asphalt.  The leaf was bordered by soggy tan wet wispiness—seeds, perhaps.  By contrast, they were boring and colorless.  All the better to spotlight that leaf!  The sheen of water over the electric red leaf gave it the appearance of those plastic coated wood tables you sometimes see in restaurants. 

Would I have noticed the leaf had it not been a rainy day?  Perhaps.  But would it have appeared as stunningly beautiful (enough to take a picture of it) without the rain?   Likely not.  The rain brought a peculiar grandeur, a glisten.

Which brings me to a question or two.  Is life a steady drip of disappointment for you lately?  Had your umbrella up for longer than you can remember?  We’re not the first!

It was in the storm that Paul offered a beautiful word of comfort to an unbelieving crew about the protective hand of God.  It was in the storm that Jesus handed His disciples the priceless jewel of belief that “even the wind and waves obey Him.”

Maybe it’s time for us to look down and find the beauty right where we are.    Right in the storm.   Beauty, after all, has been known to show up in the most unexpected places. 

 

 

 
Hurting God  

The invitation to “vent” and “uncage the rage” is one that never really delivers. But with the enormous platform offered by the web, rants are everywhere (“flame trolling” is nearly an art form).

But there’s a dark side—a very dark side—to ranting before God to which I’ve previously given insufficient thought.  I make this statement reacting to a recent journey into the book of Malachi.

In chapter three God says to the nation of Israel, “You have said harsh things against me.”   What?  Sounds like God was offended—and He was. But what kind of “harsh things” had they said?  For starters, they claimed:

— “It is futile to serve God.”

— “What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?”

— “Certainly the evil doers prosper.”

— “Even those who challenge God escape.”

In other words, they demanded of the Lord, “What’s the point of trying to be godly? What’s the point of trying to obey?  Everybody else seems to be doing better than we are.  So what’s the big deal here?”

The big deal is they were whining in the face of Almighty God, humanity judging Deity. No appropriate “fear of the Lord.”  No honor reserved for His name.

While it is true we are free to be open and honest with God (David certainly was in the Psalms), let us ever remember God is still God.

  • He is still “a consuming fire” (Heb. 13:29).
  • He is still “robed in majesty” and “armed with strength” (Ps 93).
  • He still “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16).

As for our feelings of unfairness, God has warned us in advance, “My ways are not your ways.”  Nor has He made a secret of His perspective: “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.” 

Back to Malachi chapter three.  This God, this all-consuming, all-knowing, all powerful King of Kings was offended—and said so.   Hurt the Almighty?  That’s exactly what they had done: “You have said harsh things against me.”  But what about us?

If a recording of my every thought about God, my every conversation with God were to be broadcast on Facebook, I promise you I would be devastated.  God would likewise be forced to conclude, “You have said harsh things against me.”

Time to watch our words.

Time to watch our thoughts.

Time to honor our God—even when life disappoints.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Thursday, November 23, 2017
Signs in Ghana
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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Thursday, November 09, 2017
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Thursday, October 26, 2017
Hurting God
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Jon Gauger Media 2016