Friday, March 30, 2012

I buy books!

The quote is attributed to Erasmus: Whenever I get a little money, I buy books.  And if there's any left over, then I buy food and clothes.

One of my seminary profs was asked by his wife, "Just how many books do you need?" His answer: "Just one more!"

My love for reading began in childhood and there are few things more pleasurable for me than being able to get comfortable in my recliner and get into a good book.  This week I've purchased a couple of books for a worship class I'm teaching in April; an inspirational biography; something on the 1964 World Series (I was 12 but still remember the Cardinals & Yankees facing off and watching the games in the school classroom); three books about the Beatles that were missing from my library.

My kids have not embraced reading like I have.  My fear is that when I'm long gone they'll organize a yard sale and let my babies go for 25 cents to a buck a piece (Oh, the agony of it all!)

Still, I'm a blessed man.  My wife appreciates my joy for reading and patiently lets me indulge in my passion.  My biggest concern right now? When I retire, will she let me bring my babies home with me? Surely she wouldn't make me put them up for adoption, would she?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are You Passionate?

Neil Young first asked the question back in '02.  I'm asking this Sunday.  What does all this mean? Join us and find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school, Confirmation, High School Youth and Adult Bible class begin at 9:15 am.  We'd love to see you this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Can God both love and discipline?

Pastor Frank Starr, in his series, "Life for the Way," offers a good answer.

Some Christians maintain that wrath and punishment is inconsistent with a God of love and mercy.  But this view strips God of His holiness, which hates sin and cannot countenance it.  God's grace has made a way for us to escape His wrath by providing Jesus as our substitute.  On our behalf, the Savior on the cross bore the full weight of God's wrath against our sin.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the Lord's discipline in chapter 12:4-17.  But the writer offers the greatest reassurance for believers.  We "share in His holiness," that is, God sees us in the righteousness of Christ that we received in our baptism.  But like a loving father, our heavenly Father disciplines us to "struggle against sin."

What is the result of this disciplining work? We "strive for peace" with all those in our circle of friends and with everyone.  In this way others "see the Lord," and God is glorified.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Need a lift?

What is it that gets you down? Ever get frustrated with the lack of progress in your spiritual life? The apostle Paul has got some words that are sure to give you that needed lift of encouragement for daily life.  Come and be lifted up this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am.  Our new Worship Ensemble will be offering special music at both services.  Sunday school, Confirmation, High School Youth and Adult Bible class is held at 9:15 am.  We'd love to see you this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Put Your Hope in the Lord!

Author Joni Eareckson Tada, in her book, "Overcoming Adversity," wrote about a volunteer at her ministry, Joni and Friends, a high school students named Clay.  Clay cheerfully packed boxes and stuffed envelopes and just generally offered himself and his time wherever it was needed.

However, Joni noted, Clay's passion is running.  During cross-country season Clay didn't volunteer many hours of service.  Every hour he wasn't in school, he was out running.  The folks at Joni's ministry would report seeing Clay out running in the wee hours of the morning, piling up the miles.

When she had the chance, Joni asked Clay a question that had been on her mind for a long time: what is the most difficult part of a long-distance run? She thought it would be either the first mile or so as the runner is getting mentally prepared to run a great distance or at the end, when you're body is exhausted and you feel like you can't run another step.

Clay's answer surprised Joni.  He told her it was the middle portion of the run, "when you're out of range of those cheering voices at the start and finish lines.  It's that long, grey middle distance that saps your strength and your will.

Life has been likened to a long-distance race.  And there are times in our lives, especially when we seem to be in that middle distance, where the race is much more difficult than we could have imagined.  A health problem, financial struggles or self-esteem issues can all seem like reasons for giving up.

If you are in need of refreshment for the race called "life," be sure to read Psalm 42 sometime this week.  Hope in the Lord leads to praise.  Love from the Lord leads to prayer.  Verses 5 and 11 seem like a refrain worth singing: Put your hope in the Lord, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some things are futile

Like trying to go up a down escalator.  In John, chapter 3, the Pharisee, Nicodemus, visits Jesus.  Has he sought out the Savior because he's found it futile to try and live under the heavy burden of perfectly keeping the law and the traditions of the elders? Is there another option? Join us at Life in Christ this Sunday to find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school, Confirmation, High School Youth and Adult Bible class at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Got Hope?

Years ago an S-4 submarine was rammed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts.  It sank immediately.  The entire crew was trapped in a prison house of death.  Every effort was made to rescue the crew, but ultimately all plans failed.  Near the end of the ordeal, a deep-sea diver, who was doing everything in his power to find a way for the crew's rescue, thought he heard a tapping on the steel wall of the vessel.  He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and he realized it was the Morse Code.  He attached himself to the side and he spelled out in his mind the message being tapped from within.  It was repeating the same question: Is...there...any...hope?

That's a question we've all asked at least once in our lives, isn't it? Is there any hope...for my marriage, for finding a job, for earning a college scholarship, for an early retirement? Someone has said, "We can live forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without air, but only a few seconds without hope."

In Psalm 39, David is faced with asking the question, "Is there any hope?" He had been trying to keep a stiff, upper lip, so to speak, by remaining silent during a very painful time in his life.  Then he pours out from his heart all the impatience and frustration he is feeling.  But by the time we get to verse seven, we learn that it has been helpful for David to have been very honest with the Lord.  He responds with what we might call a "trusting prayer" that is fueled by the hope he has in his Lord.

God has given you and me that same hope.  We don't worry about our standing with God because Jesus has made us right and acceptable to our Father.  We don't despair about our future because Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for us.  We don't allow present day problems to consume us because Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  (Romans 15:4)

We have hope!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Money can't buy me love...or happiness

Need one more example? I was reading the latest edition of Sports Illustrated when I came upon a story about former Phillies and Mets outfielder, Lenny Dykstra.  It seems that post-retirement he became an entrepreneur of sorts and was very successful.  Then it seems that Dykstra got caught up in the lifestyle of the rich and famous and began shelling out enormous amounts of money for homes and cars and the like.  One telling paragraph read: "I said, OK, I know I'll be happy when I buy my own Gulfstream," says Dykstra, reflecting on the plane he purchased in 2007.  "But I got down to the end of the nose, I looked back and I said, OK, happy, come on, come on.  So it's not about the Gulfstream.  But it is about the Gulfstream.  Meaning it just wasn't as good a Gulfstream as I wanted."

Contrast that with the apostle Paul, who in writing to the Philippians had this to say: Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things who gives me strength.

How is it that Paul didn't become depressed when he had little? How did he keep from wanting to have more when he was well off? Paul had found the secret to satisfaction in his relationship with his Savior.  Knowing Christ and being known by the Lord had filled Paul's heart with a contentment and joy that he knew would never be his by having an abundance of earthly things.  Whether Paul had a lot or a little, he could live and worship and pray and serve because he could do all things through Christ who gave Him strength for living.

Satan, the world and our sinful flesh gang up on us at times and lead us to think like Lenny Dykstra and seek more stuff because, we are led to believe, that's where happiness and contentment is found.  Don't be fooled.  When we seek happiness in material things, we'll never be happy because there will always be one more thing that we need.  Instead, seek the "one thing needful" (Luke 10:42) - a living, growing relationship with Jesus Christ and find your happiness in the only Savior you'll ever need.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What about us Lutherans?

While going through an old journal the other day I discovered a couple of quotes that I think really capture something about our Lutheran theology and practice. 

While Lutherans also confess that God is almighty, Lutheran theology does not begin with His majesty but with His mercy in Christ.
John Pless, "Handling the Word of Truth" page 101

Lutherans are about faith in Christ and deeds that show Christ's love and mercy.
Matt Harrison, "Christ Have Mercy" page 142

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Remember Goofus and Gallant?

They were featured every month in "Highlights for Children" magazine, the one I used to read in elementary school.  You probably remember it.  Thinking about that monthly article helped to provide inspiration for this Sunday's sermon.  Want to know more? Join us at 8 am or 10:45 am and find out! Sunday school, Confirmation, High School Youth and Adult Bible classes meet at 9:15 am.  We look forward to seeing you at Life in Christ!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What do you take pleasure in?

An Arizona sunset? A long-distance phone call from an old friend? Balancing a grandchild on your knee? Having the entire family at the dinner table for a meal?

Did you know that God wants to have a relationship with you in which you take pleasure in Him?

David writes, in Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord."  This you can do in so many different ways.  You can take pleasure in being in God's house to receive His gifts of grace...kneeling at the communion rail to feast on Christ's body and blood for the forgiveness of the assurance of God's love as found in the Gospel...celebrating old friendships and making new ones with Christ at the being used by the Lord through meaningful and loving service among your family, friends, church family and even folks you don't know.

A word from Holy Scripture can bring delight in the Lord.  Lyrics from a great old hymn can produce a feeling of pleasure and contentment as we sing praises to our great and mighty God for His blessings.  To take pleasure in your relationship with the Lord is to give thanks to God for His unlimited mercy and grace.

This psalm comes with a promise - "and He will give you the desires of your heart."  Don't misunderstand - this is not the promise of a blank check for which you can have or do anything you want.  David is simply noting that when a believer takes pleasure in their Lord, they seek to make His will their will and constantly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that their life is in line with the life that God gives - the new life through faith in Christ.

As you make your way through this week, heed the advice of the psalmist - Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!

Monday, March 5, 2012

God Prevails...God Provides

Just finished working on Wednesday's sermon.  We'll continue our look at the Old Testament book of Jonah by considering how God prevailed in the life of Jonah (in spite of the prophet's disobedience) and how God also provided for Jonah (even though the prophet didn't deserve such provision).  We'll also see how God does the same in our lives.  Quick supper is served at 5:30 pm and the worship starts at 7 pm.  Join us at Life in Christ!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The joy of refreshing your Greek

I'm in the process of refreshing my Greek so that I can spend more time reading the New Testament in the original language.  Right now I'm translating the Gospel of John and made an interesting discovery.  The NIV renders John 1:11 like this: He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  But verse 11 literally reads: To His own He came, and His own He they did not receive.

John seems to be emphasising a point with the use of idioi autov.  I get the sense that John is amazed, flabbergasted in fact, that His own, the Jewish nation, rejected He - Jesus, the promised One of God! This emphasis doesn't really come out in the the English translations I've looked at.  But it hits you right between the eyes when read in the Greek.

A friend once questioned the reasoning why the seminaries taught Hebrew and Greek.  He said, "There are plenty of English translations of the Old and New Testaments.  Why learn the languages?" My little "aha" moment the other day simply reinforced the need for pastors to be able to read the Scriptures in the original languages.  This is the joy of digging in the Scriptures.  You never know what you'll find but you're sure to be blessed!