Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Your God is Too Glorious

If you enjoyed and were blessed by the writings of Brenning Manning, then you will like author, Chad Bird.

Bird has experienced the highs and lows of life.  He has been exalted and he has been broken.  He has experienced first hand what can happen when a person takes control of their own life.  And he has experience the grace of God who can put back together through forgiveness and love what has been broken.

Bird's new book, "Your God is Too Glorious," tells stories of toothless truck drivers and homeless, pregnant women left out and the street.  The truck driver becomes a tool in which God shows how He uses the least to preached the greatest sermons.  He uses the homeless, pregnant woman as one to whom His grace can be poured into and then writes of how it was done.  If you appreciate a good story teller, you'll like Chad Bird.

This is an author who really knows how to use words.  By use of his stories and by sharing his own experiences, Chad Bird shows us that our gracious God is really more glorious than we can possible imagine. 

Book for review provided by Baker Book House.

Jesus isn't worried about our reputation

Growing up my parents had a few favorite mantras.  My Dad was always worried about my future.  His life had not been very easy and he wanted better for me.  One of his favorite sayings was, "Hard work now makes for an easy life later."  I don't know if that's true in every case.  But looking at life of my father-in-law, Bill Landis, my Dad's saying was certainly true.  Bill was a tireless worker, a wise investor, and never complained about doing hard jobs, or "the dirty work" as it is often called.  Bill was able to retire at age 58 and spent many glorious years living in Prescott.  He had the time and the finances to be able to do what he wanted to do - his hard work made for a easier and much more enjoyable life later.

Another saying my folks had was, "Don't let your reputation be ruined by someone else's reputation." My Dad and Mom were constantly worried about the friends I hung out with and the company I kept. They wanted me to know that if I hung out with guys that were trouble makers or were disrespectful to others, I would be branded the same.  I objected, of course.  "I'm not like that!" I would say. It wasn't until one of my friends was busted for selling marijuana that I learned that my folks were right. After the bust, kids at school would say things like, "You must have been a user too.  You hung out with him all the time." In spite of my denials, my friends wouldn't believe me.  My reputation had been damaged.

It's this idea being careful about the company you keep that makes our relationship with Jesus so special.  Remember what happened when Jesus called Matthew to "Follow me?" Matthew celebrated by having a gathering of his friends to meet and break bread with Jesus. The religious leaders saw what was going on and were appalled. "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" The Pharisees would never eat with such people.  Their reputations as holy and righteous people would be sullied.

Did this bother Jesus?  He told the Pharisees, "I came not to call the righteous but sinners." Jesus worried not one whit about what the religious elites thought of Him.  More important than his reputation was the condition of the people around Him.  Those who were sinful He called to repentance. Those who were outcasts He reached out to and had compassion on them. Through His teaching of the Word of God, Jesus was changing the reputations of those who the Pharisees would have nothing to do with.  These outcasts were welcomed into the kingdom of God.  Through faith they had been given new life from the One who is the way and the truth and the life - Jesus!

That's good news for you and me, isn't it? Each of us has a reputation that is less than stellar. We, too, have thought of ourselves better than others.  Each of us has a closet full of sinful skeletons that we'd rather no one know about.  And if we were exposed - how fast do you think family and friends would run to distance themselves from us, so that their reputations would remain intact.

RJ Grunewald, in his fine book, "Reading Romans with Luther," makes this observation: Our Savior doesn't worry whether our reputation might damage His. He knows exactly what our reputation will do to His reputation. He justifies us, the ungodly, because it is His reputation that changes us - it's His work that makes us righteous.  (page 19).

Go ahead and be careful about the company you keep.  Hang out with Jesus.  Read His Word. Receive His Supper. You have no better friend.  There is no better company than Jesus.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A soldier of the cross

            The story is told that during the early day of the Civil War a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  He could not prove that the charges were unfounded and was declared guilty and condemned to die as a deserter.  An appeal was made on the soldier’s behalf and, as fate would have it, the paperwork ended up on President Lincoln’s desk.  The president was moved by the appeal and signed a pardon, freeing the soldier.  Then the man did a most surprising thing.  He reenlisted, returned to service and fought the entirety of the war on the side of the North.  Tragically, he was killed just as the war was coming to its conclusion.  In looking for some identification, found within the breast pocket of the soldier was the signed pardon of the president.

            In verses one and two of chapter five, Paul describes the “not guilty” verdict we have received by being declared “justified by faith.”  God’s pardon of our sins has given us “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Jesus’ victorious battle over sin, death and hell has brought peace for all who trust in the Lord.  We can live life without fear of God’s punishment.  We can enlist in the Lord’s service as soldiers of the cross.  We can arm ourselves for battle with the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Holy Word.  We can share the Word with those whose hearts are troubled and confused.  May the rich grace of God move you to faithful service as a soldier of the cross of Christ Jesus!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Very proud of my big ol son!

Permit be to brag a bit.  My son, Eric, above center, ran in the Rock and Roll Marathon yesterday.  He trained for four and half months, ran over 400 training miles, forsook favorite foods like pizza, all in preparation for yesterday's big day. He started out at the 11 minute pace that he thought would be best, actually increased his pace at mile 12, "hit the wall" as they say at mile 17, and gutted out the remaining miles. This was a "bucket list" item for him and it felt really good to check "marathon" off the list.

However, Eric didn't feel so great afterward.  His belly was upset and his legs were killing him.  I had hoped to leave church after the 11 am service and get to the finish line in time but the group he was in went out early and so Sherri advised me not to try.  Traffic and parking in Tempe at the finish line was pretty dense and crazy.

I was able to follow Eric's last miles by use of an app that was provided by the Rock and Roll Marathon.  Even though I couldn't see him, the app showed his progress on the course and gave information on miles run, time of each mile and approximate finish time.

Sherri left after the 9:30 am service, picked up Eric's wife, Christina, and their kids and made it to Tempe with time to spare.  It was a pretty special moment when Eric crossed the finish line.  The crowd there cheered everyone who finished which was a pretty cool thing to do.

I met them back at Eric's house.  We had a little celebration with, what else, pizza! Christina's back was really hurting - a result of too much exercise (which can be bad for your health) - so Sherri and I spend a lot of time with the kids outside while Eric and Christina relaxed indoors.

I couldn't be more proud of Eric than I am right now.  I admire that he set such a lofty goal and had the discipline to do the training and preparation to be ready for the big day.  He's not a runner, per se, so completing the marathon was quite an accomplishment.

When I asked him if this was the first of many marathons, he wearily smiled at me and said, "First and last!"

Don't blame him a bit.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

What are you going to be doing this weekend?

Have you got big plans? Taking a hike? Visiting a museum? Getting a jump on spring cleaning? You've got plans? So do I!

Today at noon we'll hold a Memorial Service for one of our members.  In the afternoon I'll practice guitar and review my sermon for the new 9:30 am service.  My dear, sweet wife and I are fans of the BBC/PBS show, "Call the Midwife" and we're working on season five right now.  I'm sure we'll watch an episode or two in the evening.

Tomorrow is another big day at church.  Worship at 8, 9:30, and 11 am.  My sermon at 9:30 am deals with the importance of listening, really hearing and listening to God's Word.  I'm pretty happy with the message and hopeful that it will encourage the hearers to make a new year's resolution - listen to God speak through His Word.

When I've visited with the last worshipper at the 11 am service, I'll change my clothes and head over to Tempe.  My son is running his first (and he says his last) marathon.  He's been training for several months now and has run over 400 practice miles! As he says, 26.2 miles to go.

Whatever your plans might be, I hope you'll be including worship and Bible study as part of the agenda.  Come and join us this weekend at LICL - Saturday at 5 & Sunday at 8, 9:30 & 11 am.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Show and Tell

A kindergarten teacher gave her students an assignment - to bring something to class that represented their religion.

The next day the first student stood up and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is the Star of David."

The next student stood up and said, "My name is Mary and I am Catholic and this is a Crucifix."

The third student stood up and said, "My name is Danny and I am Lutheran and this is a donut and a cup of coffee."

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

He is ours and we are His

I discovered this beautiful paragraph which reading an Epiphany sermon by the sainted Normal Nagel.

The delight and pleasure of God are in His beloved Son, and that is where we are too.  What is ours in His; what is His is ours.  So God delights in us too.  If our hearts would take this in, Martin Luther said, they would burst for joy into a hundred thousand pieces.  In a world that is given over to sin, death and the devil, there is one point where the delight of God dwells. "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."  That is where we are in solidarity with Jesus.  With Jesus there is God's delight.  God, Christ, you - all together like one thing.