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!