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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We're Back!

Hello friends! Sherri and I were gone for 3 & 1/2 weeks on the European portion of our renewal.  We visited Vienna and Salzberg in Austria; Leipzig and Wittenberg in Germany; and London, Liverpool and Cambridge in England.  Sherri kept calling it the "trip of a lifetime" and she was certainly correct.  We received multiple blessings.  Made some new friends.  Saw things that we'd only dreamed about.  Above all, God blessed and protected and helped us all the way from the time we  boarded our plane here in Phx. until we landed again last Friday, July 1 (in 116 degree temps!).

I'll be sharing stories and pictures from our trip on the blog.  But today I wanted to tell you about the trip we made over to the east valley on Sunday for worship.

Sherri and I worshipped at Christ's Greenfield Lutheran Church in Gilbert.  This church does something interesting with their schedule.  On the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month, all of their services are "contemporary."  On the second and fourth Sundays the services are "traditional."
Being the first Sunday of the month, we were there for the contemporary service.

Interestingly, their approach was identical to the LCMS church in Prescott.  All the music in the service had been written within the last 10 years.  But the songs were placed within a liturgical, divine worship service setting.  Music was provided by a single vocalist, pianist, two guitars and a base guitar.

I find this approach appealing.  What I have often noticed missing from most contemporary or praise services is the Word of God.  What folks sometimes forget is that the liturgy is God's Word.  The pastor speaks God's Word to the people and the people speak God's Word in response.  What good music it must be to the Lord to hear His children speak His Word to Him!  Not only that, some praise services I've attended have only included one reading - the text the preacher is using for that day.  In our services we read from Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel.  The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, strengthening faith and filling hearts with peace and joy and love.  God's Word must be an integral part of worship.

We are slowing adjusting our bodies back to Arizona time.  It's been a bit of a challenge.  Jet lag it us pretty hard.  And we knew it was hot - we had gotten some updates from family when we checked in.  Still, does anyone ever get used to 116 degrees! Not me.

When we came through customs, the officer there said to Sherri and I, "Welcome home!"  It it good to be home.