Friday, December 30, 2011

In times of trouble, turn to the Psalms

All of us have people in our lives that have influenced us or made a lasting impression on us in someway.  Because of their faith in us or love they've shown to us, we consider such people our heroes.  We look up to them.  We admire the example they set for us.  We want to be like them.

One of my heroes is Father Tim.  I've never met him in person.  In fact, he doesn't exist - except in the pages of the Mitford series of books written by Jan Karon.

Father Tim is the pastor of the Lord's Chapel in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina.  Each of the Mitford books follows the life of the humble and devoted pastor as he cares for the people of his little community.  I appreciate the fact that Father Tim knows what people need the most - the Word of God.  And he uses the Psalms very effectively in his ministry.

For example, as Father Tim sought to minister to a young man who had been abandoned by his mother, he prayed Psalm 32:8b - "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."

When searching for encouragement, Father Tim remembered Psalm 69:19 - "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."

To the individual near death, the first verse of Psalm 27 was Father Tim's prayer: "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?"

You can't spend enough time in the Psalms.  Luther loved sitting down with his psalter.  The comfort and hope he drew from the Psalms was good medicine for those stressful and dangerous days of the Reformation.  I pray that you find verses and chapters from the Psalms that give you comfort in troubled times and peace when your heart is troubled.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My last sermon of the year

is finished, whew! Depending on the kind of year you've had, you might need a pep talk to get you pumped up for 2012.  Join us Saturday evening at 7 pm for worship at Life in Christ.  The apostle Paul has got something to say that you need to hear.  Be here!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going All In with Professor Grant Horner

Who is Grant Horner? I didn't know who he was until the other day when I was reading Tim Challies' blog.  Horner is a fellow who has developed a Bible reading system that, when used faithfully, will lead you to read 3650 chapters of the Bible over the next year. 

It's a pretty ambitious program.  You read 10 chapters from the Bible every day.  These chapters are taken from 10 lists that have been devised by Horner.  I liked how he broke down the 10 lists.  In a given day a person would read five chapters from the Old Testament and five from the New Testament.  I like the balance such a schedule provides.

According to what I've read, reading the 10 chapters takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour a day.  At first I wondered where I would find an extra hour in my day to do this kind of reading.  The truth is that I have a least an hour that I can devote to this.  I can do some reading in the morning during my devotion and prayer time; I can read more while eating my lunch (which I do most of the time in the office); and I can finish up by leaving the TV off and spending that time listening to the Lord.

I read the Bible every day.  But usually it is in conjunction with preparing sermons, Bible classes, and other such tasks.  I need to spend more time in God's Word for myself.  I want the Lord's voice to be the loudest I hear as I live from day to day.  His Holy Spirit works through means - like the Scriptures - to keep strengthening faith and forming us into faithful disciples.  I want the Spirit to be doing this work in my life.

What are you doing for your Bible reading and devotion time? You can check out Horner's Bible reading system by going to and look for the blog entry for Dec. 27.  Once you get there, read the articles and look for the tabs that will lead you to Horner's material.  Jan. 1 is just a few days away.  If you're going to make just one resolution for the New Year, resolve to spend more time in 2012 reading God's Word.  It will be the best resolution you've ever made!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Top Ten Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church

Here we go...

10) "The glare from the pastor's forehead is too blinding!"
9) Three letters - NFL
8) "I don't have kids yet!"
7) "I have kids!"
6) "People that happy just give me the creeps!"
5) "I can worship God in the outdoors...with the roof open at the University of Phoenix Stadium!"
4) "I'm a good person and I want to avoid hearing otherwise!"
3) "They don't serve a good cappuccino during the coffee hour!"
2) "When I want to feel guilty I just call my parents!"

And the number one reason why people don't go to church is (drum roll...)

Because you haven't asked them to come with you and your family!

You can change that, however.  Invite someone to come with you to the New Year's Eve service at LICL at 7 pm or on New Year's Day at 10 am.  Tell you what we'll do - we'll powder the head of the pastor so that the glare isn't so bright:-)!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Prayer for Christmas Eve

Dear Jesus Child, I want to kneel by Your crib.  I know I can never thank You enough.  I know I can't give You anything that would sufficiently thank You for what you've done.  But since You want to have everything that's evil in me, I will give You everything: my life and my heart, my past and my sins, my future and my eternity.  I wouldn't dare to come to You if You hadn't come to me.  But now You are here, and I know that it's for my sake.  Therefore, I kneel here and thank You, Jesus Child, Prince of Peace, You who are called Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God.  Amen.

Bo Giertz - "To Live With Christ" page 797, CPH

We'll have church today...and tomorrow

While reading Gene Veith's excellent blog yesterday, he noted that the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, many churches kept their doors closed.  The logic was that Christmas is a family holiday and it would be better if families were able to stay home and enjoy their time together.

Is church really that much of an interruption or inconvenience for families? You mean to tell me that devoting an hour of worship to the God who gave us the gift of His one and only Son completely messes up Christmas day for families?

There is no better place for a family to gather - no matter what day of the week it falls on - than Christmas Day.  What could be better for a family than to be in God's House, giving thanks and singing praises that Jesus Christ is born?! Church is the perfect place for parents and kids and grandparents and relatives and friends to be on Christmas morning.  The presents and goodies and basketball and football games will wait.  They won't disappear - trust me!

Tonight at 5 pm our Sunday school children will tell the Christmas story.  I watched them practice and they will do a great job.  At 8 pm and 11 pm (take your pick) you can join us for a candlelight service.  It's goose bump time when the lights go down, the candles are lit and the church sings with one voice, "Silent Night, Holy Night."

Then on Christmas Day we'll have a worship service at 10 am.  More great singing and special music is scheduled.  Come and learn why the Babe born in Bethlehem treats us like a shepherd and why that is really good for us.  It's Sunday, the day of the Lord's resurrection.  We worship on Sunday.  Don't treat this Sunday as something different.

God's very best to you and your family! See you tonight...and tomorrow!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One way to get rid of the garbage

Have you heard this Christmas, Tom went to visit his brother, Frank, who lived in New York City.  After being dropped off at Frank's apartment, Tom was horrified to see garbage piled up on the sidewalks as far as a person could see.  Frank explained that the city was in the midst of a long garbage strike.  Tom asked, "What do you do with your garbage?" Frank replied, "I've come up with a very ingenious idea.  I take the garbage bag out of the can each evening and wrap it up in Christmas paper so that it looks like a gift.  I then take it downstairs and put it in the back seat of my car with the door unlocked.  Every morning the car is empty."

How blessed we are that Jesus never goes on strike.  He takes the garbage of our lives - the sins we commit each day - and removes it from us.  Not by tricking someone to take it off our hands.  He takes those things that would have separated us from our heavenly Father and buries it at the foot of the cross.  And now our sin account is empty.

Because of the love of our Lord and Savior, we can really celebrate His birth.  Join us at Life in Christ - Christmas Eve @ 5, 8, or 11 pm and on Christmas Day @ 10 am.  Blessings! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One who knows how to give gifts

Did you hear the story about the kid who wanted a bicycle for Christmas? All the other kids in the neighborhood had bikes so he wanted one too.  The boy's mother, trying to be helpful, encouraged her son to pray to God about this request.  So that's what he did.  "Dear Jesus, could you see that I get a bicycle? That's all I want for Christmas.  Amen."

Each night the boy prayed the same prayer.  But the praying didn't seem to help.  How could he be sure that God would give him the gift that he wanted most? Then the youngster got an idea.

When his mother wasn't looking, the boy snuck into the living room, found the little manger scene which was set up under the Christmas tree and put the statue of Mary in his pocket.  He rushed to his room, closed the door, and knelt by his bed.  He prayed, "Jesus, if you want to see your mother again, I'd better get that bike!"

This kid brings new meaning to the phrase, "Desperate times call for desperate measures!"

The good news for us is that God is without peer when it comes to gift-giving.  His gift of the Christ-child is a prime example of how God gives to you and me.

He gives in love - For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son...John 3:16
He gives freely - It is by grace that you have been saved and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...Ephesians 2:8
He gives perfectly - Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

It seems like every Christmas there is always one gift that has to be returned - wrong size, wrong shape or wrong color.  Praise God for His "one size fits all" gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 6:23).

Monday, December 19, 2011

What good are idols for?

Yes, American Idol is the most popular TV show in America.  Have you noticed, though, how most of the winners have faded into the background? That how it is with things that we often idolize - we focus our hottest attention on them for a while but then something else comes along that is new, prettier, different or somehow offers something that we think will make our life better or more exciting.  Working on a sermon for our Wednesday night service that takes various Hebrew words for "idol" and explains what they mean.  Some interesting discoveries regarding just how worthless idols really are.  Join us this Wednesday evening at 7 pm to learn more.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Something to think about...

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Greatest Story Ever

Everyone likes a good story, right? Join us at Life in Christ this Sunday for the greatest story ever.  Hear all about it at 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school, Confirmation, High School and adult Bible class meets at 9:15 am. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Luther on the 8th Commandment

For there is nothing on or in a person that can do both greater and more extensive good or harm in spiritual and in temporal matters than the tongue.  This is true even though it is the least and weakest part of a person (James 3:5).

From the Large Catechism, 8th Commandment

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hilton Head's Calling Us Home?

No, not quite.  But my dear, sweet wife and I enjoyed a wonderful visit this past weekend with my former congregation as  Island Lutheran Church of Hilton Head Island, SC celebrated their 25th Anniversary.  We were treated like royalty by our hosts, Bart and Dorothy.  They planned a little dinner party for us last Friday where we greeted 27 of our former church family.  Saturday we poked around Harbor Town for a bit and had lunch for our dear friends, Ed and Lois.  That evening we attended the 25th Anniversary Banquet - a fun evening.  On Sunday I had the great honor of delivering the sermon; the theme was "One People - One Mission."  During the service, 22 new members were received; of that number, 3 were baptisms and 5 were adult confirmations.  It was truly a glorious service!

Sherri and I very much enjoyed meeting the new pastor, Larry, and his sweet wife, Kathy.  Pastor Larry is the perfect shepherd for that congregation.  Very personable and enthusiastic.  We pray that God continues to richly bless his ministry there.

It was a wonderful visit but it wasn't until we landed back in Phoenix that we had the sense of coming home.  Peoria is our home.  It's the place where our kids and grand kids and our church family can be found.  Be it every so humble, there is no place like home.  Praise the Lord!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making the Sign of the Cross

We Lutheran make the sign of the cross.  It's not mandatory.  A person doesn't have to do so.  But making the sign of the cross is a very good reminder of our baptism - our adoption into the family of God.

While researching a topic the other day, I came across something in the book, Lutheran Worship: History and Practice that I thought I'd share.  The book references another book, Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, written in 1912, which gives instructions to the pastor on making the sign of the cross.  Read on...

The presiding minster will, therefore, position himself accordingly.  The signing with the cross connected therewith is a personal signature, and it is appropriate that all join in this act as a remembrance of Holy Baptism and the call to repentance.  Lutherans have commonly made this sign differently from Roman Catholics, specifically as to the direction of the last movement.  With the palm of the right hand held flat with thumb and fingers together, first the forehead is touched ("My Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven"), then the breast ("and was incarnate for me"), the right shoulder ("and was crucified for me"), and finally the left shoulder ("and entered into my heart").  Luther recommends the use of this sign in both the Small and the Large Catechism. 

For some, making the sign of the cross seems a little awkward.  You might even feel a little self-conscious about making the sign the first few times you do so.  After a time, it is quite easy and becomes more and more meaningful.  Anything we might do that reminds us of our baptism and the new life in Christ we have received through the washing of water with the Word, is a very good thing indeed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Join the Resistance

During last summer's European trip, I spent a week with pastors from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England for a time of study.  While there I got to know Rev. George Samiec, the editor of the British Lutheran magazine.  He's put me on the mailing list so I can keep up with all the stuff going on in the ELCE.  Turns out he is also acquainted with Dr. John Kleinig, a great theologian and author.  Kleinig is recently retired from the Australian Lutheran College but is in great demand as a speaker, preacher and teacher.  Kleinig has also written several books including a masterpiece, "Grace Upon Grace."  Rev.
Samiec included an excerpt from "Grace Upon Grace" in the latest edition of the British Lutheran.  Called "Joining the Resistance," here's what Kleinig had to write:

We resist the devil through our faithful attendance at the Divine Service.
We resist the evil foe in our daily devotions.
We resist the devil by trusting in the grace of God and living in it.
We resist the Satan by staying under the authority of Christ and His Word.
We resist the evil one by praying the Lord's Prayer and by using it as a pattern for our praying.
We resist the devil using the practice of intercessory prayer in the name of Jesus.

How about it...are you ready to join the resistance?

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Warm Up Act

A thankless job - being the warm up act for a big star appearing in concert! John the Baptist can relate for sure.  Find out more this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship @ 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school, Confirmation, High School and Adult Bible class at 9:20 am.  Visit us and hear the great Gospel of Christ Jesus and meet some great people!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are you walking in the darkness or the light?

The apostle John has some thought provoking words for us in chapter two of his first letter: Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dinner and Worship - What could be better?

Life in Christ tonight begins mid-weed Advent worship.  We start with a meal and a good time of fellowship at 5:30 pm in the Ed. Building and then worship takes place at 7 pm.  Throughout Advent, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we're going to look at the first 11 verses of chapter 40 of Isaiah.  The good news that the prophet proclaimed 2700 years ago still has much meaning for us followers of Christ today.  Come and join us at Life in Christ!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Sermon Machine

At least that's what I feel like I need to be in the month of December.  I have a sermon to write for tomorrow night (almost done), a sermon for Sunday (have an idea!) and a sermon I will be preaching for my former congregation's 25th anniversary.  I was both surprised and humbled that they asked me to take on this assignment.  I was there only 3 and a half years.  But during that time my dear, sweet wife and I met some of the nicest people on earth in South Carolina.  Many have remained friends to this day.  And that is one of the benefits of being in the ministry - making lasting friends.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Something missing from my 2012 calendar

Got my Pastor Desk Calendar in the mail a few weeks ago.  All the usual special holidays are listed.  But, as usual, one day was missing.  Can you guess which one.  Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ to find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school, Confirmation, High School and adult Bible class meet at 9:20 am.  Check the "location" tab on the home page to find us.  See you Sunday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why not pray?

You're on the road when you have a flat tire and when you reach in the trunk for the jack you find that your teenager forgot to put it back?
You're running late for your child's soccer match when you become ensnared in a traffic jam?
You have a misunderstanding with an old friend who rebuffs your efforts to try and make things right?
What do you do in those situations? Get mad? Get even? Laugh? Cry? Give up and throw in the towel?

Why not pray?

When you're tempted to lose your head, why not pray and ask God to help you keep your head and find a solution to your problem.
When the traffic jam is enough to make your blood boil over, use the time to thank Jesus for the forgiveness and salvation that is yours because of His shed blood on the cross.
When you feel powerless to bring reconciliation between yourself and your friend or loved one, ask the Holy Spirit to work through the power of the Gospel so that your friendship might be restored.

The apostle James wrote: The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  Since this is true, let's ask our Heavenly Father to help us make prayer the first option instead of the last resort as we encounter these and other situations in our lives.

Let us pray!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

God's Mercies Are New Every Morning

I'm working today on the end of the year report that I'll give at our upcoming Voters Meeting.  It's fun to look back and see God's handiwork in our midst.  We kicked off the year with a special series focusing on the verses from Lamentations 3:22-23 - God's compassions never fail...they are new every morning! We were all encouraged to read our Bibles daily, to pray every day, to keep the 8th commandment in what we say about others, to sit aside our own agendas and pray "Thy Will Be Done," and to receive God's gifts with gratitude and praise.  All of this led to the best Easter celebration we've ever had.  The church gave my dear, sweet wife and I a wonderful sendoff as I began a three month renewal.  The church spent the summer studying the topic of prayer and enjoyed a wonderful summer of music - soloists and musicians and a variety of concerts.  When I returned in August, it was business as usual - preaching, teaching, leading, serving and praying.  We wrap up the year with growth in membership, Sunday worship attendance, Sunday school and weekly Bible classes.  We began several new ministries and saw groups like our Lutheran Women in Mission help extend our reach into our community and world.  We also established a new mission statement: Live and Grow in Christ ~ Encourage and Reach Others.  All in all, it has been a year full of blessings.  And I should not be surprised by that - God's mercies are new every morning!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do you tweet?

You can find me on Twitter now and I think it's going to be lots of fun.  Just getting started but if you're interested, check it out @GeorgeSpicer1. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christ the King Sunday

marks the last Sunday in the church year.  Come and worship this Sunday and give praise to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Christ Jesus.  Sermon theme: "The King Has Another Move."  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am.  Music provided by our outstanding Bell Choir.  Sunday school at 9:15 am with Confirmation, High School Youth and Adult Bible classes at 9:20 am.  Come live and grow with Christ with us at Life in Christ!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prayer is...

Dr. Joe White, in his fine book "Life Training 2" wrote about an elementary school teacher who gave her students an interesting assignment.  She read to her students a number of old sayings that you and I would probably recognize.  But the teacher would stop reading just before the conclusion of the phrase.  The job of the students was to complete the phrase themselves.  How do you think the kids did?

"Better be safe than...punch a fifth-grader."
"You can't teach an old math."
"A penny saved is...not much."
"Children should be seen and not...spanked or grounded."

Here's one for you to try: Prayer is...

How would you complete that phrase.  How about:
     Prayer is...powerful! The apostle James writes, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  For examples of God's people praying with power see Acts 16:25-26, 1 Kings 17:21-22 & Acts 4:23-31.
     Prayer is...coming into God's presence.  Just think, each time we go to that quiet place in our homes or drive up the road to work or stop in the midst of a busy day, God will give us His undivided attention as we call to Him in prayer.  It's no wonder that the writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (4:16).

So, how would complete the phrase, "Prayer is..."  Think about it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Books on the nightstand

I never seem to be reading only one book at a time.  Often I'll be reading two or three, grabbing the one that piques my interest at that moment.  But right now I've got six books going.  They are:

Concordia, the Lutheran Confessions - Solid Declaration
As Luther Taught the Word of Truth - Richard Lauersdorf
Washingon, A Life - Ron Chernow
Gabby - Gabrielle Giffords & Mark Kelly
Obama's Wars - Bob Woodward
Luther's Large Catechism

Last year I think I read nearly 50 books so I'm interested to see what my total is for 2011.  Not trying to brag - I just love to read!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Look up the word "courage"

in the dictionary and you'll see a picture of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.  My dear, sweet wife and I sat in awe as we watched the story of her recovery and her interview.  My leg and back issues are very small in comparison to what Giffords suffered.  Her perseverance is an inspiration.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Without Any Instructions

You never give a job to a person without givng them some instructions, right? And yet, that is the very thing that is missing from the Parable of the Talents, this week's Gospel lesson.  Why does the Master not leave instructions for his three servants?  Come this Sunday to Life in Christ and find out.  Worship is at 8 am and 10:45 am, Sunday school, Confirmation, High School and Adult Bible classes are held at 9:20 am.  Join us at Life in Christ!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

God's Service Station

A while back in "Christian Reader" magazine, Jim Corley wrote about a conversation he had with a friend named Alex who attends Corley's church.  Meeting at an automobile dealership, Alex got right to the point.

"Jim," said Alex, "I feel like a hypocrite every time I go to church because I fail to live for Christ so often."

"Alex, what do you call this part of the dealership?" Corley asked, nodding to the area outside his cubicle.  "You mean the showroom?" Corley answered, "That's right.  And what's behind the showroom, past the parts counter?"  Alex answered confidently, "The service department!"

Corley then asked, "What if I told you I didn't want to bring my car to the service department because the car was running rough?"  Alex quickly answered, "That would be crazy! That's the whole point of the service department - to fix cars that aren't running right."

Corley responded, "You're absolutely right.  Now let's get back to our initial conversation.  Instead of thinking of church as a showroom where image is everything, start thinking of it as God's service department.  Helping people get back in running order with God is what the church is all about."

What can keep our relationship with God and others from running smoothly? In a word - sin.  So when you come to church on Sunday, you are stepping into God's service station! In worship, God serves you and the very first thing He does is to hear your confession of sin and to speak His Words of absolution and forgiveness.  God forgives that sin that separates us from Him and empowers us to practice this same confession and forgiveness with those whom we have hurt or have been hurt by.  Be faithful in Sunday morning church attendance.  Come and let God serve you!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

See "The Mighty Macs" while you can!

I run into folks all the time who lament that there are no clean and wholesome films to which they can take their families.  Let me recommend to you, "The Mighty Macs."  The film tells the story about the girls basketball team at tiny Immaculata College and how they overcame trials and challenges to be invited to the first National Basketball Championship for women.  The story is both captivating and inspiring.

Unfortunately, this is not a big Hollywood release with a huge promotional budget.  "The Mighty Macs" is showing in only three theatres in the entire Valley of the Sun! My dear, sweet wife and I saw it last night at a theatre in Goodyear.  It was the two of us and a family of five who came late and left early - not because they didn't like the film but because their three small children got antsy and wanted to go home.

I learned that this film has been in the can for a couple of years.  The director, as I understand it, had a distribution deal with Disney.  This film would have been perfect for them but Disney wanted some curse words added to the script so that the movie would have a PG rating.  The director would not bend to their wishes and it took him a couple more years before he could find a distributor who would make the film available with a G rating.

"The Mighty Macs" is well acted and produced.  If you enjoy inspirational films like "Hoosiers" and "Rocky," you will love "The Mighty Macs."  There is no gratuitous cursing, sex or violence.  It is a movie you can take your entire family to.  Support this movie while you have the chance.  It probably won't be around for much longer.  On the west side of the Valley you can see the film at Palm Valley Cinema 14, 1325 N. Litchfield Road in Goodyear.  Do check it out...and soon!

Friday, November 4, 2011

For All the Saints!

This Sunday is All Saints Sunday, that time in the church year when the church commemorates the martyrs of the church and all the people of God, both living and dead.  The First Reading of the Day in Revelation, chapter seven speaks of something that we have plenty of here on earth but will be totally missing in heaven.  Join us for a special Sunday.  Worship is at 8 am and 10:45 am with Sunday school, Confirmation and Adult Bible class at 9:20 am.  Come worship the Lord and meet the great people that make up Life in Christ!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keep praying, "someone!"

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half-an-hour.  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God and to whom were given seven trumpets.  Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden pan for incense.  He was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all God's holy people.  The angel put this offering on the golden altar before the throne.  The smoke from the incense went up from the angel's hand to God with the prayers of God's holy people.  (Revelation 8:1-4/Contemporary English Version Bible)

This is what author Max Lucado writes regarding the above scene: "Every song ceased.  Every being of the heavenly city hushed.  The noise stopped.  A sudden stillness fell like a curtain.  Why? Why did the Lamb lift His hand for silence? Why did the silver-trumpet voices hush? Because someone was praying! Heaven paused...and Heaven pauses to hear the prayers of...someone.  A mother for her child.  A pastor for a church.  A doctor for the diseased.  A counselor for the confused..."

Think about it - you are...someone! I am someone! When we pray, heaven hears.  When we offer our petitions, God takes note.  Our prayers do not vanish into thin air but are like the sweet smell of incense before the Divine.  When someone prays God gives His undivided attention.  He does not file our requests under "rainy day reading."  He receives our prayer requests and He returns His answers.  Sometimes His answers are "earth shattering."  (See Revelation 8:5).  Sometimes they come and we're not even aware until days, weeks or months later.  But God always listens and answers when "someone" prays.

Keep praying, "someone!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Confident Faith

As I was doing some devotional reading yesterday, I was struck by these words from the Apostle Peter: Though you have not seen Him (the Lord), you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8-9.

How is it that Peter can write with such confidence? How is it that he can be so sure that his readers are filled with such a trusting faith in Jesus?

The explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed in Luther's Small Catechism remind us that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts and gives us the saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior.  With this faith we can trust Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, rejoice in our new life of faith and find comfort in our Lord in all the seasons of our lives.  With the help of the Spirit, we believe in our Savior even though we do not see Him!

The psalmist Asaph speaks to this same kind of faith.  In Psalm 77, Asaph complains about the difficulties of life.  He has suffered so much and, without any relief, is beginning to wonder if God has forgotten about him.

But then Asaph begins to meditate on God's Word.  He remembers God's mighty deeds.  He recalls God's gracious help and deliverance when the people were freed from bondage.  He writes in 77:19 - Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen.

Faith enables us to know that God is with us even when our eyes can't see Him.  His Word assures us that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  This week offer thanks to the Holy Spirit who empowers you to know and trust Almighty God even when you can't see Him.  God is with you!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Go Crazy, Folks, Go Crazy!

That is, if you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan! 10 1/2 games out of first place on August 25, the Cardinals just completed an improbable run by winning the World Series tonight over the Texas Rangers.  What a run! Having lived in St. Louis for about 14 years, it's easy to become infected with Cardinals fever.  In August I didn't think they had a chance of making the playoffs.  Now, they're world champions! Excuse me now...I'm going to go crazy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What to do when under stress

1) Take a deep breath

2) Say a prayer

3) Focus on serving someone at that very moment

"The Calling" by Kurt Senske, page 23

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Argue or Contend?

A number of years ago the Chicago Tribune ran a story about London, England couple who had more than their fair share of arguments.  One argument turned violent.  The wife got so mad at her husband she got in their car and ran over him.  The husband suffered 45 leg fractures and a skull fracture and spent five months in the hospital.  His wife was thrown in jail for grievous bodily harm.

Then the husband did something that shocked everyone - he forgave his wife and asked the court to set her free.  The man, now wheelchair bound, told the court, "I can't live without her."  In response to her request, the court suspended her sentence and set her free.

Sometime later, a London newspaper did a follow-up story on the couple.  The husband reported, "We are back together and happy.  But my wife is very argumentative."

In this post-Christian world of ours, it seems that everyone has an opinion about religion or Christianity or about God or Jesus.  Maybe you know an opinionated neighbor.  Perhaps your cohort at work holds to some pretty strong views.  You might even have an acquaintance who likes to create controversy by challenging teachings and beliefs that the Christian church has held for centuries.

As Christians, we must contend for the faith.  But we are to avoid those who simply want to argue for the sake of arguing (see 2 Timothy 2:22-26).  Instead, the Christian tries to treat everyone with kindness while looking for opportunities to teach the truth of God's Word to those who seek answers to the important questions of life - Who is God? Where is salvation found? What does God think of me? How can I be sure I am going to heaven?  As we witness and teach God's Word to those who sincerely want to know the truth, we trust the Holy Spirit to lead our hearers to repentance and faith in Christ.  Such gentle instruction is much more effective than running over a person with a car!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Love in Action - tip #1

One person wisely said, "If you cannot speak to a person about God, speak to God about that person."

Robert J. Koester, in his book, "Gospel Motivation," page 132.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

God Speaks to Us

That's the good word that the writer to the Hebrews shares with us at the beginning of that New Testament letter.  But what does God have to say? And is there anything we can say in return? Join us this Sunday and find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible study, Confirmation and Sunday school at 9:20 am.  Come and meet the great people of Life in Christ!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Life. In Christ.

Life is a form of insurance...a type of soap...a magazine.  But is that all it is?

Life is clothes, cars and lots of spending money...good grades, a starting position on the team and the lead role in the play...popularly and friends...things to do and places to go.

And yet, Jesus teaches: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  (Matt. 6:19)

Life is also the teenager who struggles in conflict with parents...the convenience store worker bored with the job...a husband, wife or parent who no longer finds joy in the vocation...the chronically ill who slide into depression and despair.

That's life?

Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  (John 11:25-26)

That's Life.  In Christ.   I am the way and the truth and the life.  (John 14:6)

But what about the things I need? Do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?"  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matt. 6:31-33)

But what about loneliness? I will never leave you or forsake you.  (Joshua 1:5)

But what about temptation? Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Gal. 5:24)

But what about the things I worry about? Cast all your care on Jesus, for He cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7)

But what about all the ways I've messed up? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)

But what about death? Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.  (Psalm 23:4)

So, in Christ, we have life? Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.  (John 17:3)

That's life.  LIFE.  IN CHRIST!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

See "Courageous!" Be Courageous!

Last night my dear, sweet wife and I went to the movie theater to see the new film, "Courageous."  It was produced by the same fellows, Stephen and Alex Kendrick, who also wrote, directed and performed in "Fireproof," "Facing the Giants," and "Flywheel."  The two brothers are gifted and talented men who do a splendid job of bringing some of the important issues of our culture to the screen while doing so from a Christian perspective.

"Courageous" is a clarion call to fathers to be real fathers.  The story revolves around five fathers who are compelled to take this important life role seriously.  Some of the situations the fathers face are resolved as you would think they would.  However, there are several twists and turns in the plot that I didn't see coming.  There is also plenty of humor, including one scene involving the real identity of "Javier."  It was really funny and well done.

From my perspective, I wish there were more Gospel, more Jesus in the film.  Lots of talk about God.  But very little about Jesus.  It is through faith in Jesus and the encouragement the Lord gives in His Holy Word that truly motivates us to want to be real fathers to the glory and praise of God.  On the other hand, it is clear in the film that the motivation for these men to be courageous fathers came from study in God's Word.  Maybe it was assumed that the love of Jesus for us motivates us to want to be better fathers, mothers, husband, wives, employers, employees and so forth.  Still, I wish that Jesus would have been more front and center in the film.

In spite of that, the Kendrick brothers have done a real service for followers of Christ.  They have produced an exciting, engaging film with a message we need to hear and they did it without excessive violence, gratuitous sex or foul language.  If you are a father, see "Courageous."  If you are a grandfather, take your son or son in law and see "Courageous."  And then, with the help of Jesus and to the glory of God, be a courageous father.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Luther on the First Commandment

So you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires.  A person's entire heart and all his confidence must be placed in God alone and no one else.  For to "have God," you can easily see, is not to take hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag like money or to lock Him in a chest like silver vessels.  Instead to "have" Him means that the heart takes hold of Him and clings to Him.  To cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely.

The Large Catechism, 13-15

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Encourage and Reach Others!

What was the purpose of the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians? What does it have to do with our new mission statement? Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ to find out.  Worship is at 8 and 10:45 am.  Coffee fellowship on the patio at 9 am.  Sunday school and High School and Confirmation classes at 9:20 am.  We'd love to meet you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Luther says read the Catechism!

If these reasons were not enough to move us to read the catechism daily, we should feel bound well enough by God's command alone.  He solemnly commands in Deuteronomy 6:6-8 that we should always meditate on His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising.  We should have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant mark and sign.  Clearly He did not solemnly require and command this without a purpose.  For He knows our danger and need, as well as the constant and furious assaults and temptations of devils.  He wants to warn, equip and preserve us against them, as with a good armor against their fiery darts (Ephesians 6:10-17) and with good medicine against their evil infection and temptations.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The LICL Song

Last Saturday at our Oktoberfest, I was asked to sing a song I wrote for a talent show from a few years back.  The tune is the ever-popular "YMCA."  I wrote new lyrics and turned it into "LICL."  As the lyrics prove, I'm not much of a songwriter.  But it was fun to perform the song with Connie and Dan. 

Lutheran, it is time to rejoice, I said, Lutheran, won't you hear His strong voice
I said, Lutheran, you can come to this place, You will find good friends who love you.

Lutheran, just don't waste any time, I said, Lutheran, it is peace you will find
I said, Lutheran, settle in - you will see, You're a big part of our family.

It's great to worship at LICL, It's great to worship at LICL
There's a place for you here, There is nothing to fear, Dick M. is just one of the kids
It's great to worship at LICL, It's great to worship at LICL
The fellowship is fine, 9 am is the time, Come and eat all the donuts you want!

Sunday, bring your Bible along, And then, Monday, faith will surely stay strong
And then, Tuesday, if you suffer some wrong, You can turn it over to God.

Wednesday, you take time out to pray, And then, Thursday, you trust God more each day
And then, Friday, it's your last working day, Saturday then leads to Sunday.

It's great to worship at LICL, It's great to worship at LICL
Come and hear the good news, God will help with your blues, You'll be leaving with a smile on your face
It's great to worship at LICL, It's great to worship at LICL
Sing a great song of praise, joyful voices we raise, Pastor Spicer's guitar is out of tune!

Small groups, join with people who care, How about choir, singing songs like a prayer
How about bells, watch them play with great flair, People giving God the glory

Work days, keeping everything clean, And there's youth group, it's a place for our teens
And there's children, Sunday school - what a scene, Lutheran Women in Mission.

You crazy Lutheran sing LICL, You crazy Lutherans sing LICL
Yes, we love to eat, fellowship is a treat, Colleen D's chocolate cake is the best!
You crazy Lutherans sing LICL, You crazy Lutherans sing LICL
Hope you liked this big show, But we want you to know, Bill R. has got all of the dough!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

There Is Joy in Mudville!

and in Mesa and Gilbert and Glendale and Peoria and throughout the Valley of the Sun.  Our D-Backs, led by two players without any playoff experience pitched and hit Arizona into a big victory over the Brewers last night.  Alas, it's only one game and the Brewers still have the edge.  But hope spring eternal! Here's hoping for another big D-Backs victory!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Joyous Exchange

"Jesus is the greatest of sinners.  There is no greater sinner in the entire human race than the Son of God.  This is so true that He is called sin itself (God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God - 2 Corinthians 5:21).  His sin is ours.  It was foreign to Him.  He had none.  He committed none.  It was made His own because of the love wherewith He loved us.  He bore it, and because of it He suffered as though He had committed it Himself, although He was entirely innocent and spotless.  He was the Lamb foreseen from the beginning of the world, the woman's Seed promised to our first parents, Adam and Eve, immediately after their fall."  Martin Luther

Luther often described 2 Corinthians 5:21 with these words, "The Joyous Exchange."  While we can't imagine the pain and suffering Christ endured at the cross to be joyful in any way, still, the writer to the Hebrews put it like this: "Jesus...who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame..."  (Hebrews 12:2).  And in becoming "sin for us" we received in exchange the righteousness of God.  This "glorious dress" (see verse one of the hymn, "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness") makes us acceptable before our Heavenly Father.  In many ways, this is a one-sided exchange.  Jesus receives our punishment for the sins we've committed; we receive the perfect holiness and righteousness of Jesus which we need but do not deserve.  God's grace is truly amazing, isn't it? Now you know why Luther called it, "The Joyous Exchange!"

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm Excited

From the October newsletter

In my former congregation I used to do a little chapel service for our Preschool children each week.  I really had fun playing my guitar and teaching songs to our three and four year old boys and girls.

One of the songs they really enjoyed was entitled "I'm Excited."  It went like this:
I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited in the Lord
When you're walking with the Lord, you don't get bored
When you're following the Son, you have more fun
When you're working with the King, you really want to sing
I'm excited!

Behind this little children's song is a very powerful truth - it is exciting to serve the Lord!

Our new life in Christ isn't boring.  When you take seriously Jesus' admonition to "love one another," the Lord brings you in touch with all kinds of people with all kinds of needs.  You might find yourself doing things you never thought you could helping feed the homeless, praying with a friend in the hospital or serving as a volunteer at a community event.  Following Jesus is fun.  The more you read and study and apply His Word to your life, the stronger your faith becomes and you draw closer and closer to the Lord.  On top of that, Jesus invites us to work in His kingdom, reaching others with the good news of His salvation to our community and world.

I'm excited about all that God is doing at Life in Christ.  Guests each Sunday tell me they sense the joy that our congregation has in worshipping and serving the Lord and one another.  As we move into the Fall season, may the Lord continue to make Life in Christ an exciting place to be!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Words for a Thursday

"Never, ever, ever stop pursuing an intimate relationship with God, your spouse and your children."

Josh McDowell

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Man Called Peter

In my opinion, Peter Marshall, the Scottish-born Presbyterian pastor, who in 1947 became chaplain of the US Senate, was one of the finest preachers of the 20th century.  See the book, "A Man Called Peter" for examples of his inspiring and thought-provoking style.  He also wrote many wonderful and heart-felt prayers.  The following is a prayer of confession that you might want to use in your devotions this week.

O Lord, I come to You out of my great need.  You have pledged in Your Word that whoever comes to You shall not be cast away.

Lord, I confess before you that I have had longings and nudgings from You which I did not translate into action.

I have made decisions without consulting You, then blamed You when things went wrong.

I have said that I trusted You, yet have not turned my affairs over to You.

I have often sought the easy way, have consistently drawn back from the road that is hard.

Forgive me for all the intentions that were born and somehow never lived.

These, Lord Jesus, are sins, grievous in Your sight, grievous even in mine.  And now I claim Your promise to change me.  Do for me what I cannot do for myself.  Lead me into a new tomorrow with a new spirit.  Cleanse my heart, create within me new attitudes and new ideas, as only You can create them.

For these good gifts, I thank You Lord.  Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Love Is...

Down through the ages, many people have tried to define "love."

"Love conquers all"  Virgil
"Love is the only gold"  Alfred Lord Tennyson
"Who loves believes the impossible"  Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"The first duty of love is to listen"  Paul Tillich
"Faults are thick where love is thin" An old English proverb
"Love is a great beautifier"  Louisa May Alcott

Then we we 1 Corinthians 13, what some Christians commonly call "the love chapter" of the Bible.  Since love seems to be indefinable, the Apostle Paul describes how love manifests itself.  When directed toward others - spouse, children, family, friends and strangers, love is forgiving and self-giving.  No doubt, as Paul was describing the fruits of love, he surely had Christ Jesus in mind.  Through faith in Jesus, you have been "caught up" in the love of Christ.  Read 1 Corinthians 13 today and then look for those with whom you can share Jesus' love this week!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

The fellow looked me in the eye and said, "George, it's obvious that you can talk the talk.  But can you walk the walk?"  In the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, we discover a couple of boys who had trouble with the concept.  Maybe you do as well.  Join us for worship and learn more.  Services are at 8 am and 10:45 am.  Christian LIFE Hour at 9:20 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at Life in Christ!

The Difference Between Darkness and Light

Darkness is not knowing God and, even worse, not realizing that you are living for Satan.  Darkness is confusion over goodness and evil; it is not really understanding that true goodness can only be inspired by God's grace.  Darkness is looking at death with a big question mark or, more honestly, in complete fear.  Light is the opposite.  A person who stands in the light of Jesus and His revelation of God the Father knows God, flees the devil, loves good, hates evil.  He know that he can face death, for in Christ he has already died and risen again, and that his death is but a continuation of the life he now has but far greater.

from "Gospel Motivation" by Robert J. Koester, Northwestern Publishing House, page 113.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I love Board Meetings!

Not many pastors are willing to make that statement.  But it is such a pleasure to work with our Board of Ministry Directors that I look forward to our monthly meetings.  We are blessed with an outstanding leader in Dan, our chairman and he, in turn, is blessed to work with a group of committed and faithful men and women who want to serve the Lord and His church.  Praise the Lord for the joy of working with folks who aren't pursuing their own agendas and instead want to do what's best for the Lord's church!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Luther Says!

"I will give myself as a part of Christ to my neighbor as Christ gave Himself for me."

From "On the Freedom of the Common Man."

To whom can you show the love of Jesus Christ today?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Do it all for the glory of God!

The pastor arrived for the 7 am Men's Breakfast Bible study a few minutes late.  The guys gathered around the table at the local Denny's Restaurant sipped their coffee and carried on their conversation while only briefly acknowledging their pastor.  But one fellow looked the pastor over carefully.  He noticed the bags under the pastor's eyes and the look of exhaustion on his face.  He asked, "Hey, are you alright?"  The pastor shook his head and said, "We'll talk later."

After the Bible study broke up, the pastor and fellow found a corner booth.  The pastor said, "I shouldn't be talking to you but since you asked..."  For the next half hour the pastor explained that he hadn't slept more than a couple of hours each night.  Some concerns for the flock he was shepherding was causing sleepless nights.  Finances were not covering the budget.  Petty disputes threatened to tear the church council apart.  The "grapevine" was filled with gossip and half-truths.  The pastor was doing his best to apply God's Word and instruction to each situation.  But disobedient church members weren't showing much growth in the way of repentance and faith in God their Savior.

We don't know whether the church at Corinth was causing sleepless nights for the apostle Paul.  But we do know that many in the church were immature in the faith and said and did many nonspiritual things.  Because of Paul's concern for this particular park of God's flock, chapters seven through twelve of 1st Corinthians contain needed instruction and guidance.  Paul writes pointedly; his desire is to bring about repentance and faith among the disobedient in Corinth.

Read these chapters this week.  Note that Paul addresses issues which seem to stand front and center in the church today.  Watch how Paul continually points to God's grace in Christ as the motivation for setting aside our own wisdom and desires and, instead, seeking to live each day as God's forgiven people, dearly loved in the Lord.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday is for Celebration!

Yes, we celebrated yesterday at Life in Christ...Evan's baptism into the kingdom of God...14 more members becoming a part of our church family...Jack and Helen's 70th wedding anniversary.  O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Wonderful Collect for the Week

Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly; and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

from "The Divine Hours - Prayers for Summertime" by Phyllis Tickle, page 564.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

God's Approval Rating

Did you know that God now has an approval rating? That's right! Pollsters now rate God's performance just like they do the President or Governor or any other public servant.  Does that make sense? Can a person rate God's performance.  Come and learn the answer this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible class for every age begin at 9:20 am.  Come meet the nicest people in town!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cohabitation is not equal

I read a really informative article in the Sept. 2011 edition of "Christianity Today" that really reinforced something that I share with couples with whom I do premarital counseling - living together before marriage is hazardous to your marriage.

Glenn Stanton has written a book, "The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage."  Research has shown that there is a definite downside to couples living together before marriage.  Among the things I learned from the article is that, according to Stanton, "Marriage is actually a very pro-woman institution.  People don't fully realize what a raw deal for women cohabitation is.  Women tend to bring more goods to the relationship - more work, more effort in tending to the relationship - but they get less satisfaction in terms of relational commitment and security."

Those who live together first often say that they want to make sure they are compatible as a couple so that they can make a lasting commitment to each other.  But just the opposite occurs.  Stanton says, "Scientists find that cohabitation cuts down on commitment.  The message of living together is, 'I'd really only like to take a part of you.  And maybe some time later I'd like to take all of you'."

And then there was this shocking statement from Stanton: "Cohabiting men who go on to marry are significantly less committed to the marriage itself than men who don't cohabit."  Stanton goes on to add, "Again, that's not a preacher's line or a moralizer's line.  That's a scientific line."

Cohabitation doesn't at all sound like what God had in mind in Genesis 2:24-25: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and will become one flesh.  The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."  These words indicate something far different that what most couples do when the simply move in together. 

The truth is that relationships take time.  That's why a good, meaningful courtship leading up to marriage is still the best way.  A foundation is laid by both people upon which a loving relationship with real intimacy can be constructed.  It is a shame that our society and too many people who call themselves Christians have bought into the lie of the devil and settle for less in relationships that God wants for us all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jesus Saves!

For those of you who haven't heard this one yet...there must be one or two of you, right?

Jesus and Satan have an argument as to who is the better computer programmer.  Their argument goes on for a few hours until they agree to hold a contest with God as the judge.  They turn on their computers and begin.  They type furiously for several hours, lines of code streaming across their screens.  Seconds before the end of the competition, a bolt of lightening strikes, taking out the power.  Moments later, power is restored and God announces that the contest is over.

God asks Satan to show his work.  Satan becomes visibly upset and cries, "I have nothing! I lost it when all the power went out."  God says, "Very well, then, let us see if Jesus fared any better." 

Jesus enters a command and the screen comes to life in vivid display, the voices of an angelic choir pour forth from the speakers.  Satan is astonished.  He stutters, "But...but...but how? I lost everything yet Jesus' program is intact! How did He do it?"

God chuckled.  "It's easy...Jesus saves!"

Don't groan too loudly - you might disturb the others around you!

Still - it's true! Jesus saves! And because this message is true, you and I who believe have everything!

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  Acts 4:12

Since we have been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him! Romans 5:9

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people, and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.  Romans 9:28

It's no joke, is it? JESUS SAVES!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Wonderful Day of Worship

One of our largest crowds of the year...the Word of God to comfort and assure us...the Lord's Supper to strengthen and encourage us...Nicole sang and Connie played to perfection...Pat, Dan and Jon gave us goose-bumps as they played...God's love and warmth was felt throughtout the congregation...Praise You, Jesus, for Your loving kindness and tender mercies!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sept. 11, 2001

This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the day that America was attacked on its very own soil.  It was a day of amazement, anger and death.  Where does a Christian turn when fear and terror strikes.  Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ and find out.  Worship at 8 am and 10:45 am.  Christian LIFE hour for disciples of all ages begins at 9:20 am.  Join us!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Good Word from God's Word

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 (NKJV)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Can Overcome

I would love to look at my troubles as thought I were in an airplane.  At 35 thousand feet, even the mighty Rocky Mountains don't look so tough...Alas, in my life, I am not flying over my troubles.  I bump into every one because I am not traveling though my life in a plane.  I'm walking next to my oxen and my covered wagon.  But here is God's promise to me (and to you): "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me" (Psalm 50:15).

Crossing the great American prairie was a lengthy ordeal, not a stroll.  Your life is a long haul, too, and God loves you so much that he allows hardships to toughen you for the trials of the journey.  But you will make it because your God is with you.  Call on Him.  Expect deliverance.  Honor Him when it comes.

Mark Jeske, "Time of Grace," page 266, published by Concordia Publishing House

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Child of God or child of Satan?

"If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit," Jesus declares (John 15:5).  When our Heavenly Gardener plants faith in our hearts, He expects that faith to blossom.  Indeed, it's the very nature of faith to do and with increasing frequency.  Jesus the vine didn't say, "I hope you bear fruit" or "You must bear fruit."  He simply said, "You will bear fruit" and even added the word muchHow can children of God still live like children of the devil? How can those who revel in Christ's love react in hate toward those around them? How can those who are made in God's unselfish image still measure thoughts, words and deeds with the tiny yardstick of personal selfishness?  (underline mine)  Though this side of heaven the best of our blossoms still exhibit sin's blight, they grow.  When James declares that "faith without works is dead," he's reminding us that "no roses means it's not a rose bush."  (James 2:26)

Richard E. Lauersdorf
"As Luther Taught the Word of Truth - Devotions on the Small Catechism"
pages 78-79

Monday, September 5, 2011

What a great weekend!

It started on Saturday by spending most of the day with a group of people who were going through our Basics Class in preparation for membership.  God continues to grow our church - PTL!  Sunday was a wonderful day of worship with strong attendance at both services and a number of visitors to boot! Today, my dear, sweet wife and I went to see "The Help," a superb movie.  If "The Help" doesn't capture some Academy Awards I'll call for a recount.  My kids tell me that the book is even better than the film.  Back to work tomorrow - hope your weekend went well too.

Kirk Gibson for President!

My baseball team is the St. Louis Cardinals.  And now, as they have done for the last four years, the Cardinals started out the year quickly but are now fading, this time to the Milwaukee Brewers.  But, as sportscasters like to say, "How about those Diamondbacks!"  The D-Backs do not have a locker room full of superstars and their payroll isn't even close to teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.  But I believe the manager, Kirk Gibson, has motivated this team to play hard and Gibson seems to always have the right players on the field or in the batter's box when they are needed.  So...go Diamondbacks!!

How to size up a person

In Matthew, chapter 15, Jesus said to a crowd: Listen and understand.  What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean," but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean."

The Pharisees, Jesus' self-righteous enemies, considered a person unclean or unacceptable to God by failing to keep their regulations and traditions.  The Pharisees rule book far exceeded the commands of God.  For example, the Pharisees had very specific regulations about when and how a person should wash their hands.  But the people were expected to know and to keep every little rule.

The disciples didn't quite get what Jesus meant and asked him to explain His little parable.  Here's verses 16-20: Are you still so dull? Jesus asked them.  Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a mouth come from the heart and these make a man "unclean."  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man "unclean;" but eating with unwashed hands does not make him "unclean."

Jesus does something very revealing here.  He described the defilement of a person in much different terms than the Pharisees.  The Lord teaches that defilement comes from an impure hearts.  What seperates a person from God is not what they eat but by their sinful and unrepentant ways.

So if you really want to know what a person is made of just listen to what they say and write.  Do their words defend or accuse? Do their words lift up or tear down.  Do their words frame a person's actions in the best and kindest way or is their goal to hurt and ruin a reputation.  Oh, we all need to repent for things we've said and done that failed to keep God's command.  Have mercy on us, O Lord! Still, if you really want to know what is in a person's heart, then do as Jesus advises - hear what comes out of their mouth.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I'm blessed!

And so are you according to Jesus.  Do these words of the Lord mean anything to you?

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:11-12

So when you suffer persecution, don't worry.  You are blessed.  Jesus says so.  Instead, take comfort in these words from the Apostle Paul: Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge my friends by leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," say the Lord.  On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Check out this video!!

Who is the most interesting man in the world?  If you missed it, go back to the home page and watch the video!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NCIS is just around the corner!

Woo Hoo! Just learned from a friend that our favorite television program, "NCIS," starring Mark Harmon, will begin its ninth season on my birthday, September 20.  Chocolate cake and NCIS - now that's a birthday!!

Paid in Full?

Growing up, my Dad impressed upon me again and again to "pay your bills!" It feels good, doesn't it, when we pay off our debts? But in this Sunday's Epistle lesson, the apostle Paul informs us disciples of Jesus that there is one bill that we will never be able to mark, "Paid in full." What is it? Join us Sunday at Life in Christ and find out.  Worship takes place at 8 am and 10:45 am.  Hope to see you!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seen on a church sign

Love someone not because he is a Christian, but because you are.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My wife a NASCAR racer?

While rummaging through the house the other day, I saw some pictures that reminded me when my dear, sweet wife went for a ride in an official NASCAR vehicle.

This happened over 10 years ago but it is something that we still talk about.  One Christmas I gave Sherri as a gift a ride along pass for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.  She had to wait eight months to redeem the pass but it turned out to be worth the wait.

Before Sherri could get in the car she had to fill out about 24 release of liability forms (or so it seemed).  Then she was fitted with a helmet and before you could say, "Gentlemen, start your engines," Sherri and her driver, a guy named Mike, roared out of the pit area, making speeds up to 145 miles per hour.  The kids and I loved it and at the end of four laps Sherri climbed out of the car weak-kneed and with a huge grin on her face.

As we drove back home after Sherri's great day at the track, it occured to me that, in a small way, her gift mirrored the great gift God has given to us.  Sherri received her gift on Christmas day.  For eight months she'd had that gift in her possession.  Finally, on a Monday in August, Sherri enjoyed the gift.

In the same way, all who trust Jesus as Savior from sin and death have new life right now.  John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.  That is God's sure and certain promise that no one can take away.  We will enjoy the gift in all its fullness when Jesus returns to gather His church on the Last Day.  But we hold the gift now.  The writer to the Hebrews wrote: For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

May we all rejoice in this precious gift of new life in Christ, whether we are working in our yard, laboring at our work, or flying around a race track at 145 mph!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Who Wants a Free Booklet?

My friends at "Time of Grace," the great television ministry seen in the Phoenix area every Sunday at 7 am on channel 10, have passed along to me a number of copies of Pastor Mark Jeske's new booklet, "Fathers and Mothers."  Raising a family these days is hard, challenging work.  Our broken economy puts lots of pressure on Moms and Dads trying to pay the bills and take care of their kids.  Pastor Jeske offers a number of tips and ideas on how Fathers and Mothers can love and support each other and, in turn, bless their children too.  The booklet will be available in the Narthex at church on Sunday.  Pick one up for yourself (if you're a parent) or for your children (if they are parents) or for a friend, family acquaintance, co-worker or neighbor.  I believe you'll find "Fathers and Mothers" to be a most helpful resource.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Most Interesting Man in the World

Everything He says...happens.

He walks on water.  By the way, He created the water.

He is fully God and fully man.  That's right, you heard me.

On Christmas, you celebrate His birthday but He gives the gifts.  Actually, He is the gift.  How do you top that?

He loved you enough not to fight for His own life.

His presence often strikes fear in people - must be the nail-scarred hands.

The President of the United States won't give you the time of day.  He'll give you all the time you want.

Thirsty, my friends?  Read John, chapter four to learn how to quench your thirst.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Is Jesus Really Serious?

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  Does Jesus really mean this? Come and find out this Sunday.  Worship at Life in Christ takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible class for adults and Sunday school, confirmation and High School classes at 9:20 am.  Join us!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Luther Says!

Imagine there was a doctor somewhere who understood the art of saving people from death or, even though they died, could restore them quickly to life so that they would afterward live forever.  Oh, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain.  No one could find access to him because of the throng of the rich! But here in Baptism there is freely brought to everyone's door such a treasure and medicine that it utterly destroys and preserves all people alive.

From the Large Catechism, part four - Baptism, paragraph 43

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Sign of the Cross

Finishing up my confirmation lesson for this Sunday.  We've started the year by studying the Sacrament of Holy Baptism - a good place to begin because for most of us Baptism is when we entered God's Kingdom.  Ordinary water and God's extraordinary Word came together to bring about a washing away of sins and our adoption into God's family.

In the baptismal liturgy we say to the one being baptized: "Receive the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified."  The sign of the cross is one way for a person to appreciate their Baptism, especially if they were baptized as an infant.  So I'm going to teach the kids how to do this.

Do you know how to make the sign of the cross? The left hand is laid flat against the body midway down the chest.  The right hand traces the sign by touching the forehead with the index and middle fingers...then moving down to touch the chest just above the left hand...then the right hand is raised to touch the right shoulder and then finishes by touching the left shoulder.  Some make the sign by concluding by touching the heart, the place where faith resides.

Lutheran worship is not a passive act.  We use our whole bodies to worship God on Sunday morning.  We stand; fold our hands to pray or extend our hands to others in extending God's peace; bow our heads in awe and respect; we use our voices to speak and sing.  Making the sign of the cross at appropriate times during worship is one more way we use our bodies during worship.  All these actions help us to express the faith that we believe and confess.  They give testimony to everyone else in worship of our love and devotion for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Good Prayer for a Monday

O God, You make me glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of Your Son my Lord: Give me this day such blessing through my worship of You, that the week to come may be spent in Your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Take Courage!

Acts 23:11(b) - "Take Courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome."

Paul had every reason to be afraid.  He had spent the day before the Jewish high court.  Paul's bold testimony about the risen Jesus has filled the members of the court with hatred and rage.  It was this group that orchestrated the death of Jesus.  They have the power to do the same to Paul.  His life hangs in the balance.

While chained and under guard in the barracks, the Lord suddenly appears to Paul.  The apostle hears the words that the Lord utters to those who are afraid: "Take courage!"  Paul receives reassurance that his mission is not going to end in Jerusalem.  The Lord has another place where Paul will proclaim the good news of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus - Rome, the seat of the world's power in that day.

The Lord's comforting words remind us of another time when the disciples were filled with fear.  Read Mark 6:45-52 sometime this week.  The disciples were out in a lake, caught in the middle of a violent storm.  It was all they could do to keep the boat afloat.  Exhausted from their struggle, the disciples were filled with fear as they saw what they thought was a ghost walking on the water.  Instead, it was the Lord that they saw.  "Take courage! It is I.  Don't be afraid."  And as the Lord climbed into the boat, the winds died down.  They relaxed.  The Lord was with them.

The Lord is with you each day.  He is present always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  The next time you are afraid, remember the words God spoke to Joshua.  These words apply to you too.  "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jesus in the Gospel of Mark - Read all about it!

Our daily devotional, "Treasuring God's Word," will feature the Gospel of Mark beginning this coming Monday, August 22.  We'll spend about 8 weeks or so reading through what many scholars believe is the first Gospel written.  Mark doesn't linger very much - he moves quickly from one event in Jesus' life to the next.  If you don't have a daily devotional tool to use, I encourage you to give "Treasuring God's Word" a try.  Pick yours up this Sunday at worship or find it by going to the "Listen to God's Word" tab on the home page and scrolling down to "Treasuring God's Word."

Luther Says!

Let me tell you this, even though you know God's Word perfectly and are already a master in all things: you are daily in the devil's kingdom.  He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these first three commandments and all the commandments.  Therefore, you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips and in your eyes.  But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware.

Luther from the Large Catechism, Third Commandment, paragraph 100

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Modern People

The trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with and too little to live for.

Os Guinness from "The Call"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fancy Dive

I wonder if you can relate to this poem, entitled "Fancy Dive," by author and illustrator, Shel Sivlerstein?

The fanciest dive that was ever done
was done by Melissa of Coconut Grove
She bounced on the board and flew in the air
with a twist of her head and a twirl of  her hair
quadruple gainered and reached for the sun
and then somersaulted nine times and a quarter
And looked down and saw
the pool had no water.

The Apsotle Paul was having one of those days in Corinth (see Acts 18 for the details).  He discovered that his hearers were not listening - they had closed their hearts and souls to the good news that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Rather than continue to dive into a pool without water, so to speak, Paul turned the focus of His ministry to another people who were hungry for the truth.

Are you unsure about your next move? Seeking reassurance that the important decision you've recently made was the right one? The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision (Acts 18:9).  The Lord will speak to you in worship and as you daily read and reflect on His Word.  Give it a try and see if you don't receive the comfort and guidance that your Lord and Savior can offer.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stuart Townend's "The Journey"

Don't recognize the name? I think Stuart Townend is the best modern hymnwriter today.  He has written such wonderful songs and hymns like "How Deep the Father's Love For Us," "Salvation's Song," and "In Christ Alone."  His lyrics are filled with deep theological truths set to melodies that are instantly memorable.

Townend's new project is entitled, "The Journey."  The sound is refreshing and quite unlike most modern worship CD's found in the racks of Christian bookstores.  You'll hear fiddles, whistles, flutes, clarinets, accordians, dobros, banjos, guitars, percussion and brass instruments.  "The Journey" has a folksy, bluegrass feel and you get the sense that Townend and the other musicians had a blast making the music.

Townend's gift is writing beautiful and meaningful lyrics and his talent really shines on "The Journey."  "The Perfect Wisdom of God" exalts God's marvelous creation while pointing to His solution to our sin problem - the cross.  The refrain in "The Man Who Calmed the Sea" is simply glorious: But, no, death could not hold Him, The stone is rolled away! For He is the Master and the Maker, He's the Man Who Calmed the Sea."

I can't encourage you enough to buy a copy of the CD.  I'd be surprised if you didn't love it.  I bought my copy for less than 10 bucks at Crossroads of Life Bookstore, 59th Avenue and Peoria.  Or you can learn more about Stuart Townend at his website:

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I've been dealing with a desperate woman all week.  At least she seems so.  You can read about her in Matthew 15:21-28.  She's got trouble.  Her daughter needs healing.  What will Jesus do for her? Join us this Sunday to learn how Jesus deals with desperate people - like this woman and, maybe, like you.  Worship at Life in Christ takes place at 8 am and 10:45 am with SS and Bible class at 9:20 am.  See you then!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Could you use an Eight Ball?

When I was growing up I had a friend who had one of those big, black "Eight Balls."  Remember them? You could ask the Eight Ball questions like "Will I hit a home run in the Little League game?" or "Will my parents ever increase my allowance?" and then turn the big, black ball over and wait for the answer.  We kids never put much stock in the answers we'd get.  But it was kind of fun to mess around with it.

You wouldn't have found an "Eight Ball" in the apostle Paul's traveling bag.  He traveled by faith, trusting in God's presence and power to help him finish the race and complete the task given him by Jesus - "the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace."  (Acts 20:24)

There are times when a reliable "Eight Ball" could be helpful, wouldn't it? Being able to know about our health or finances or how our kids and grandkids are doing would seem to be a benefit for us.  But there is nothing in this life - no person or thing - that can tell us the future with any certainty.

How shall we then live? Paul offers a fine example for us.  He explained to the Ephesians Christians that he did not know what would happen to him as he traveled from place to place.  But he believed that the Holy Spirit would direct and help him.  He learned that he could trust God no matter where he might travel or what he might face.

We can do the same.  God has given us faith to trust in Him for forgiveness, new life and salvation.  We have God's promise that He will provide us with daily bread and help us meet our needs.  The Scriptures assure us that God is faithful.  His Word is certain and true.  God bless you as you follow Him day by day!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Treasuring God's Word

Do you have a daily devotional? Do you follow a Bible reading guide? Or are you looking for something that might help with developing the habit of daily Bible study and prayer.  Each week I write a little devotional called Treasuring God's Word.  It provides a Scripture reading for each day of the week and an idea to get your prayer time started.  You can find this devotional resource by clicking on the LISTEN to God's Word tab on the home page.  Then look for Treasuring God's Word.  This week's has been posted and ready for your use.  If you're not in the habit of reading the Bible every day, then try Treasuring God's Word.  Check it out!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What A Great First Week Back!

A red carpet welcome from Connie and answer to prayer in the form of an invitation to our church to participate in a District sponsored Stewardship opportunity to reach a young woman in need of a ride with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ...a sermon written (I still remember how to do it - I think)...reconnecting with our outstanding Planning Team as they continue to work toward helping our church sharpen its mission and vision for ministry...recording four new radio programs for the rest of of all, talking to or seeing many members of the flock here at Life in Christ.  "We're so glad your back!" sounded like sweet music to my ears.  I can't wait for Sunday - I hope you'll be here to worship our gracious and merciful God!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Chewing on this week's sermon text...Matthew 14:22-33.  Three times in 11 verses Matthew describes the action in this way: Immediately, Jesus made the disciples...Jesus immediately said to them...Immediately Jesus reached out his hand....  Immediately is not a word that Matthew uses a lot throughout his Gospel.  What can we learn about the immediate action Jesus takes with His disciples and, especially, Peter.  Join us at Life in Christ this Sunday at 8 am and 10:45 am for worship (SS and Bible class at 9:20 am).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stuff to do on the last day of renewal

Give thanks to God for providing a time of renewal and also providing the means to be able to do so.
Wash the car.
Give thanks to God for a loving and supportive congregation.
Shine the shoes
Give thanks to God for Connie and Mary, Pastors Pope and Darling, and many church officers and volunteers who carried on with the mission and ministry of our church during the renewal.
Get haircut.
Give thanks to God for renewed energy to worship, pray, study and serve.
Keep working with Sherri on our trip presentation to the congregration on Aug. 13.

Can't wait to get back to work tomorrow!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John Stott and All Souls Church

Relaxing and having fun with my kids and grandkids on this last week of renewal.  Learned this afternoon that John Stott, a truly great theologian and author, rests in Jesus.  He was 90 years old.

I first learned of Stott while studying at Concordia Seminary.  Professors encouraged us to read Stott with care but, by all means, read Stott.  I picked up his book on preaching.  I collected several of his commentaries.  Although there were doctrinal issues to quibble about, I appreciated the fact that Stott always had Jesus at the center of his writings.  Stott was unashamed in his proclamation of the Savior.  He did not "water down" his teaching to make it more popular with today's post-Christian culture.

In 2004 we had the opportunity to travel to London for 10 days.  A member of the church I was serving at the time owned a flat and offered it to me and my dear, sweet wife.  However, there was a condition - we had to worship at the church he attended when he lived in London - All Souls Church.  That was where John Stott pastored for years.  I easily accepted his condition and  hoped that I might even hear Stott preach while visiting.

As it turned out, Stott preached at the Sunday evening service we attended.  A member at All Souls told Sherri and me that we were very fortunate because at his age - then 83 - Stott didn't do much preaching.  We were blessed by his simple message.  In fact, he didn't say anything that we didn't already know.  But in his grandfatherly way, Stott encouraged us mightily.  We left the service that night strenghten by the Word of God he proclaimed to us.

The internet is full of tributes to John Stott.  I've read that he was a very humble man, not one to toot his own horn about his ministry, the people he met and ministered to or the many awards he received from his writings.  He'd probably be embarrassed by all the fuss about his life and ministry.  Praise the Lord for giving His church men like John Stott who keep us focused on Christ alone.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

10 Days and Counting

Until the end of renewal.  Time is fickle, isn't it? It seems like these past three months have flown by.  And then, it seems like I've been on renewal forever.  But as this time comes to an end, I do feel refreshed, renewed and ready to return to join my brothers and sisters in Christ in the work the Lord has given our church to do.

God is good! He knew I needed this time to recharge my batteries, so to speak.  He partnered me with Ken Firchow so that the application would be done properly.  He surrounded me with so many folks in our congregation who realized that a renewal could be beneficial for all of us at Life in Christ.  He led the Lilly Foundation to select Life in Christ - the only LCMS congregation in AZ to be chosen for a grant.

We've had the opportunity to visit other churches to see how worship is done and I've seen some things that we might want to consider and some things that we will avoid.  I've been able to begin a relationship with Helping Hands that has the potential to continue and who knows what opportunites we might find there.  We traveled to three European countries and were blessed by all we saw and all we met.  My time in Cambridge at Pastor's Study Week with the clergy of the Evan. Lutheran Church of England was inspirational.  And there has been plently of time to pray and read and study God's Holy Word.  God's Spirit continues to fill my heart with faith and peace and hope, the very things I need to faithfully walk with and trust in the Lord who loves me with all His heart.

God's best to you all! Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cross that one off the Bucket List!

Last Sunday my dear, sweet wife, Sherri and I and our friends, Dan and Janelle, went to Wrigley Field in Chicago to see the Cubs play the Florida Marlins.  There are two ballparks I've always wanted to visit - Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field.  Saw Fenway last year and that was a great experience.  And I must give kudos to Sherri - I don't think walking around old ballparks is her idea of fun.  But she likes a new experience too and as long as I don't suggest a tour of every major league ballpark, I think Sherri is OK with all of this. 

Wrigley Field doesn't have all of the modern conveniences of today's newer stadiums.  But it has a charm and character that you don't get in the new stadiums either.  Dan and I walked around the stadium and were amazed by how many seats are so close to the action.  The ivy on the outfield walls was in full bloom and we could see how you really could lose a baseball among the leaves and vines.  And we saw how the apartment buildings beyond the right and left field stands have set up bleachers on the roofs.  Pretty cool indeed!

As you might have read, the midwest is in the midst of a heat wave and the only negative to our visit to Wrigley was the combination of heat and humidity (95 degrees and at least 70 percent humidity).  Even though our seats were in the shade, we still boiled pretty good.  Still, that didn't spoil our visit to one of baseball's most amazing ballparks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Check Out "Time of Grace"

Last Sunday, July 10, my dear, sweet wife, Sherri and I, along with our friends, Dan and Janelle, had lunch with Pastor Mark Jeske, the host of the supurb television program, "Time of Grace."  The program is seen in Phoenix on channel 10 at 7 am every Sunday morning.  Along with Pastor Jeske, we met his wife, Carol (they were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary) and Mr. Jim Johnson, President of Time of Grace ministry.  We worshipped at Pastor Jeske's church, St. Marcus Lutheran in Milwaukee, and toured the Time of Grace offices and studios.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the only national Lutheran television program on the air in the country.  Pastor Jeske is an outstanding speaker who does a great job of applying Biblical truths to daily life in a practical, easy to understand way.  He faithfully points to Jesus as the only way, truth and life.  I record his program each week and watch it on Monday, my day off.  I encourage you to do the same.  Or if your ill and cannot make it to worship, there is still an option for you to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning.  Pastor Jeske talked about coming out to the Valley in late August-early September so you might just have a chance to meet him later this summer.  And by all means, check out "Time of Grace"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Salzburg, the Hills ARE Alive...

with the Sound of Music! Salzburg is the home of Mozart, magnificent churches and Suchar Cake, a rich chocolate cake that the locals rave about.  It is also the place where many of the exterior scenes for the movie, "Sound of Music" were filmed.  One afternoon Sherri and I took a tour and saw Mirabell Gardens - Sherri stood on the steps where the song, "Do-Re-Mi"was filmed; saw the gazebo which was copied and used in the film (we kissed in front of it, just like Lisle and Rolf and the Col. and Maria) and also traveled to parts of the Salzkammergut countryside where we saw the church used in the wedding.  Our guide told us that the house that the Von Trapp family lived in the film was actually two different houses.  One house was used for the "front yard"shots and a second house for the back patio and lake shots.  Above is the house that was used for all those famous patio shots - drinking lemonade, playing ball, and so forth.  Yes, Julie Andrews fell in that lake! The house is privately owned so we were able to see it by looking back across the lake.  I'm not much of a photographer but I thought the picture above turned out pretty well.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dinner and a Concert at the Palace

Here we are awaiting the beginning of a concert in the Great Hall of the Schonbrunn Palace.  The palace was built in the early 18th century by Emperor Leopold I for his son, Josef I.  The intent was to create a place every bit as magnificent as Versailles.  Schonbrunn is truly breathtaking.  Sherri and I had toured the palace as part of a bus tour through Vienna.  But we had acquired tickets for a dinner and concert as well.  We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and walked through the Imperial Gardens.  Dinner was delicious and featured Josef's favorite meal - boiled beef.  I didn't think I would like it.  I did!  Normally, the concert is conducted in the garden so it was a real treat to be seated in the Great Hall.  The concert featured music from Mozart, Hayden and Strauss.  The conductor and orchestra played with great, great joy - everyone looked like they were having a wonderful time.  Although the orchestra played for almost two hours, I could have listened to them all night.  Our dinner and concert as the palace made our time in Vienna very memorable.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Brother Pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England

Here is a group picture of all of us who attended the Pastor's Study Week at Cambridge - June 26-30.  I was very much inspired by the clergy of the ELCE.  One pastor described many people in England as "aggressively indifferent" to the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ.  I asked what he meant by that statement and he said: "It means that many people we witness to don't care about Jesus, don't want to care about Jesus and don't want me to want them to care about Jesus.  So you see what they are up against."  By the way, I'm the guy on the far left.