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!