Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do not pass go until...

Anyone who has played Monopoly has landed on that spot that said, "Do not pass go, do not collect 100 dollars."  Then it's off to jail until you can set yourself free.

In the Epistle Lesson for this Sunday, the apostle Paul shows us that there is something very important, something we should make sure we do before we get on with our day.  What is it? Join us at Life in Christ tomorrow and find out.  We have worship at 8 and 11 am (and also a service today at 5 pm).  God's powerful Word & friendly people - it's the right mix to come and see us this weekend at LICL!

Reading People

Ever wonder why you are you? Why you connect with some people but not all people? Ever want to get inside the head of your spouse, kids, friends, co-workers to better understand who they are?

"Reading People" by Anne Bogel (Baker Books) is one of the best books I've read this year.  Bogel is a gifted and engaging writer and her transparency and honesty is refreshing.  She writes of her struggles to understand her own personality and that of her family.  What she learned can help us all.

This could have been a highly technical book but Bogel takes complicated systems and methods and breaks them down so that a layman can understand them.  She breaks down some of the myths regarding introverts and extroverts. She whets your appetite to know more about tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, The Clifton StrengthsFinder, and something I'd not heard of before, The Enneagram. She shows how using the Five Love Languages can really help to build healthy, loving relationships and breaks down what it means to have and understand the highly sensitive person living in your home.

If you have ever wanted to know... your personality type, determine if you can change certain aspects of your personality, live a happier and more fulfilling life with those you love (and maybe with those that you don't like so much), "Reading People" by Anne Bogel should be a definite addition to your "must read" list!

Friday, October 20, 2017

What if...

What if...
This is the manuscript from the sermon I proclaimed last Sunday at Life in Christ.  The sermon itself was 15 minutes long.

            Do not be anxious about anything.  Well, I guess that’s easy for Paul to say.  But what about you and me.  What about those of us who seem to have been stricken with the worry gene.  On our recent vacation, it was determined that we would do some snorkeling.  Anxiety set in.  I don’t know how to swim.  Dogs laugh at me when I try to dogpaddle, just to stay afloat.

            Don’t be anxious about anything.  It’s hard not to be anxious when you just don’t know how to care for your aging parents.  Or when a mysterious mole appears on your back. Or when your once conscientious child no longer seems to care about school or church or anything. 

            Anxiety ruins our sleep, our health.  It wrecks our concentration.  It can turn the most mild mannered person into a jittery, nail-biting mess.

            And with worry and anxiety comes guilt.  You know that it makes no sense to let yourself become anxious.  Jesus taught that if God clothes the flowers in the fields and feeds even the most insignificant sparrow, can’t He take care of you too? And you respond, “Yes, Lord! I know you love me and you take care of me every day! Forgive me when I act as if I don’t believe it.”

            I was in a meeting earlier this week and the ideas were coming fast and furious.  And they were good ideas, ideas that our church should consider as a part of extending our outreach.  But all I could think was, “My schedule is pretty full as it is.  How in the world could I possible see to it that all these other things get done too?” Finally, I had to call a halt.  “I’m getting stressed out!” It was too much for me.  My anxiety was running as hot as those plates they serve at Abuelo’s.

            Is that how it is for some of you.  You see your plate as being full, so to speak.  But at work you’re assigned three new tasks.  How will it all get done? Or, you’re a stay at home mom or dad.  You managed getting through the summer – barely.  But now the kids are in school, there’s now teams and practices to take the kids to, there are school projects that must get done – maybe that night! Suddenly, you feel stressed out! The worry gene kicks in.  The anxiety seems as thick as the smoke from a California wildfire.  What are you going to do?

            Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”  But that’s not all he says, is it?  “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

            So, what if we “worry warts” would do what Paul has suggested.  What if when we feel anxiety starting to build up to stop, drop to our knees or in a chair and pray about what we’re feeling? What if when we begin to feel stress pulling us down that we silently ask the Lord to lift us up and keep our minds focused on His love and mercy?

            Do not be anxious about anything but in everything…  Here is some good news – nothing that happens in our lives is insignificant to God.  We tend to categorized troubles. We reason, “Why bother God with some of the easy trials we face? We can take care of those.”  On the other hand, God says, “Bring it all to me.  The blown engine and the skinned knee.  The overdrawn account and the lost book bag.”  Jesus taught, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  So, with that kind of encouragement, bring everything to the Lord.

            Paul says by prayer and petition….  For many of us, we learned to pray at a very young age.  My parents taught my sister and I “Come Lord, Jesus, be our guest…”  And there was, “Now I lay me down to sleep…”  And, of course, there was the Lord’s Prayer.  I felt very good when I could pray that prayer without any help.

            I heard of one parent of who decided to teach the Lord’s Prayer to his son.  Each night the parent would add one petition with the hope that in a few weeks the boy could say the prayer without help.  One night the boy said, “I think I’ve can do it.”  So, he started out, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and away he went.  The child was doing so well until he prayed, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from email…”

            What if we would just devote ourselves to prayer.  Instead, of becoming overwhelmed by the tasks of the day, what might happen if we prayed to God first.  Is that not the example Jesus set for you and me?  Mark 1:35 – “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”  If Jesus thought that it was important enough to make an appointment to pray to His Father, wouldn’t we be wise to do the same?

            Don’t be anxious but by prayer and petition…  That word, petition, in the Greek, carries the meaning to “make a request for a specific benefit.”  I know that when I feel overcome by anxiety my mind seems to race at a thousand miles an hour.  It hard to think clearly.  It’s difficult to make a decision.

            What if, when caught up in the whirlwind of worry, we just stopped, took a couple of deep breaths and then spoke to God and made some specific requests?

            “Dear Lord, I have a doctor’s appointment today at 9 am about the results of my c-scan.  I fear it’s cancer.  Help me to calm down.  There is nothing the doctor will tell me that you and I can’t handle together.  And if I can’t handle it, you’ll take it all on yourself.  I ask that I receive a good report.  I pray that it is not cancer.  I ask that I would be blessed with good health.  I pray for the strength to accept whatever may come my way.  May Your will be done.  Amen.”

            Or, “Jesus, you know I have an important job interview this afternoon at 3 pm.  Enable me to relax.  Give me peace.  I need this job.  Open the door for me, please.  Let me leave there today with a job offer in hand.  Thank you for hearing my prayer, Jesus.  May Your will always be done in my life.  Amen.”

            Picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He is on His knees, His cloak pulled tightly around his body.  He is suffering anxiety like no one has ever suffered.  In a halting voice, He offers a very specific prayer – “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  And then Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will but as you will.”

            So, if Jesus can make specific requests to the Father, can’t we do the same? And if Jesus submitted Himself to the Father’s will, can’t we do the same too?

            Do not be anxious about anything…but by prayer…with thanksgiving.  Paul is teaching us that when we come to God in prayer and have made specific requests about those things that worry us so, wrap up those prayers with a bow of thanksgiving.

            I just recently celebrated a birthday.  And I was surprised and humbled by the thoughtfulness of those who gave me cards and gifts.  I was truly grateful for their love and care.  I hope that I expressed my heartfelt thanks to them.

            How much more does our God deserve our thanks.  Isn’t it just a little more than surprising that, given our rebellious behavior, that God would send His one and only Son to be our Savior.  Who else can offer a gift like that. One that we don’t even deserve.  And when we examine our lives and see our sin and selfishness and all those times when we didn’t live for God but only for ourselves, well, aren’t we humbled that God loves us anyway?  We’ve given God plenty of reasons to shake us off like so many dust particles off His feet.  Instead, He puts on us Jesus’ perfect robe of righteousness.  He makes us ready to enter His kingdom.  Someone once said, “A prayer without thanksgiving is like a bird without wings.  It’s hard to get off the ground.”  So, pray, pray specifically, but do so with thanksgiving.

            Now, what would happen if us “nervous nellies” would do just as Paul has taught us? What if, the next time we feel that our hearts are going to burst because of the pressure we’re feeling, we would take a deep breath or two, sit or kneel, and tell God what’s happening with us and be specific about it.  What might happen as a result of our time of prayer?

            How does the word, “peace,” sound to you?  Paul wrote: “And the peace of God, that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

            What a wonderful promise that is.  No longer living each day in a panic.  Instead, having the peace of God come over you, like a warm blanket that covers you on a cold night. 

            This peace is also a gift of God.  Peace is delivered by Jesus Christ.  Our sins are forgiven.  Our salvation is certain.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love.  We have His Word that He will answer our prayers.  We can leave our cares and concerns with the Father and trust that His watchful and loving eyes will never leave us as we go through our day.

            Well, I don’t snorkel very well.  But not all of my time at the beach was wasted.  At the Black Sand Beach on the road to Hona, I picked up this black stone.  I’ve decided it will be my “anxious for nothing” stone.  This doesn’t mean that with this stone with my pocket, I won’t ever feel anxious or worried.  But when I begin to feel like that, I’m going to reach in my pocket and hold onto this stone.  I pray that it will remind me to take a deep breath or two and then remember these words: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

BFP (blast from the past) one year ago today

Through the Word, then, the individual is brought into a personal and saving relationship with Christ; through the Word he is brought into personal union with Christ; through the Word he is built up and more and more perfected in Christ; and through the Word the whole body of believers, the church, is gathered, edified, and kept unto the end.

"The Lutheran Pastor," page 24

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quote of the day

The truth will set you free...but first it will make you miserable.

Richard Rohr, as quoted in "Reading People," by Anne Bogel.  Rohr's comment is related to the idea of learning to know one's self and then having courage to change those things about yourself that you want to change.  When you understand who you are - strengths, weaknesses, why you think and react the way you do - only then can you begin the work of becoming the true "you."

Bogel's book is excellent and she is quite transparent in describing her quest for better understanding herself and through that work to become the better person she wants to be.  She also a very engaging writer and takes a topic that could have become quite technical and puts it all down in layman's terms. A good read!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A prayer of repentance and faith

Almighty God, unto You all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from You no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy Name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Catching my breath

It was a pretty wild weekend for me.

Saturday morning was devoted to getting the house ready for a birthday party - my grandson, Will, celebrated his 2nd birthday.  That began at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I left the party at 4 pm to head down to church for our Saturday service.  I preached and served communion to the faithful.  At 6:30 we did the rehearsal for Melissa and Rich's wedding and that was followed by a dinner that was held in our Christian Life Center hall.  There must have been 50 people there including several that had traveled from Holland (family on Melissa's side).  By the team the hall and kitchen had been cleaned up it was almost 10 pm.  On Saturday night that's my bedtime!

On Sunday, I preached at 8 and 11 am and had a very interesting Bible class as we did another segment on Martin Luther.  Great discussion by the group made for a very fast hour.  Then we readied the sanctuary for the wedding.  At 2 pm the doors leading into the Sanctuary opened and Rich got to see his beautiful bride.  Melissa was gorgeous and so was the wedding.

Picture taking took almost an hour giving me enough time to run home, change clothes, pick up Sherri and head over the the wedding reception.  We stayed through the dinner, dances and toasts and then decided it was time to leave.  I've learned that people party more hearty when the pastor isn't around!

I finished my evening by going over to visit one of our members who is on hospice care and seemingly doesn't have much time to live.  Her family and I were comforted by her consistent confession of faith in Jesus Christ and could rejoice that "Whoever believes in (Jesus) will not perish but have eternal life."  My pillow felt wonderful as I went to sleep that night.

So yesterday? Sherri had a class to teach and I had the house all to myself.  I spent a lot of time reading a book for review from Baker Publishing (review coming soon!).  In the afternoon I watched a documentary about filmmaker, Steven Spielberg.  I had forgotten that he spent part of his formative years living with his family  in Phoenix.  Oh, I think there was a nap in there somewhere - maybe while the baseball game was on???

Going over my schedule it looks as if this week will be very busy.  It is good to have meaningful work.  Though the hours are long for clergy, the opportunity to be a part of the lives of others and to be able to offer encouragement through the Gospel makes it all worthwhile.