Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fun at the Radio Station

Once a month I drive over to radio station 1280 am to record a month's worth of programs for my little 5 minute weekly broadcast, "Wake Up With the Word."  It's heard every Monday morning at 8:25 am and it can also be accessed right here on the home page of our humble website.  I enjoyed writing and recording the upcoming programs for September.  To whet your appetite a bit, here's what is coming up on WUWTW!

9/3 - Have You Been Smearched Lately? Never heard of this particular word before? Neither had I until I read about it in an airplane magazine.  Tune in to learn more.

9/10 - A Story About Brotherly Love  I remember years ago a time when I was on the receiving end of a touch of brotherly love.  I've never forgotten it.  This kind of love, which Paul writes about to the Thessalonians, makes a difference in the lives of those touched by such love and compassion.

9/17 - The Greatest Commandment  A story about a young man, a beggar and a king gives a good idea on how to live out the greatest commandment.

9/24 - The Power of THE Prayer  Ever heard about Chaplain John Craven?  Listen in to find out how he discovered the power of THE prayer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Eat this Book!

Here is an ancient collect of the church that is worth being prayed regularly.  Goes like this...

Blessed Lord, who causes all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant me so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beware the backhanded compliment

So one of our members stops in on Friday and tells me that although he missed the previous service, he want me to know that he heard a nice compliment about the music.  He said, "What I was told was at least the music Pastor Spicer picked out was better than the usual stuff."

That's supposed to be something that going to encourage me?

Martin Luther's explanation to the 8th commandment reads: We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

So, dear blog reader, backhanded compliments are no compliment at all.  They are just the opposite - hurtful, critical and demeaning.  Defend those who are the target of backhanded compliments.  Ask such folks to keep such comments to themselves.  Do what you can do to snuff out such attacks (for that is what they are) so that the person they are intended for never hear them. 

With apologies to a famous bear - Only you can prevent backhanded compliments!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rally Day for Israel...and LICL

We're having a Rally Day at Life in Christ as our kids begin a new year of Sunday school.  Turns out that Moses once held a Rally Day for Israel.  What were they to rally around? Join us tomorrow and find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Sunday school, Confirmation, High School and Adult Bible class at 9:15 am.  You'll enjoy meeting the great people of Life in Christ.  See you there!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Stats Aren't Pretty

Someone dumped an article in my mailbox from "Ministry" magazine about pastoral burnout.  The article began: According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010) members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.  In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.  Many would change jobs if they could.

The "Ministry" article also included the following stats:

45% of pastors say that they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.

70% do not have any close friends.

75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation.

90% work more than 50 hours per week.

If you are a member of Life in Christ, please pray for me.  If you are a member of a different church, pray for your pastor.  Many pastors are their own worst enemies, heaping unrealistic amounts of pressure and expectations upon themselves.  Coupled with church members who constantly criticize and complain, often about the smallest and most insignificant things, many clergy feel like they are being crushed into the ground. 

While the rewards and blessings are without measure, ministry is hard.  Pray for your pastor.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Word of Undoubting Faith

Here's Luther from the Large Catechism:

But all depends upon this, that we learn also to say "Amen."  This means that we do not doubt that our prayer is surely heard and that what we pray shall be done (2 Corinthians 1:20).  This is nothing else than the word of undoubting faith, which does not pray on a dare but knows that God does not lie to him (Titus 1:2).  For He has promised to grant it.  Therefore, where there is no such faith, there cannot be true prayer either.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The End to a Good Day

Yesterday was one of those days filled with blessings...

God was present with us in worship, generously pouring out His rich gifts of grace upon us (and me).

I got to play music with Connie and Dan.

We finished up a good Bible study and discussion on the question, "What is worship?"

It was membership Sunday and over 20 people joined our church yesterday.

We had the entire family with us for dinner.  I played with Luke in our backyard until both of us had turned bright red.

Katie and Josh and my new grandson, Drew, stayed with us to watch a preseason football game.

Drew fell asleep in my arms.

It was the end to a very good day.

Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Will You Serve the Lord?

Joshua, in one of his final acts as the leader of Israel, made it clear that he and his house would serve the Lord? How about you? An easy decision? Might be harder than you think.  Learn why tomorrow at Life in Christ.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Sunday school and Bible classes at 9:15 am.  Join us, won't you?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Things I've learned along the way

It's the title of a blog entry from a pastor who was reflecting on his 20 plus years in the ministry.  Some of the observations were humorous and some were, from my experience, painfully true.  Here are some of the items on the list that I could relate to.

2) Sheep bite.  It's true.  They can even leave scars.

5) Nothing is as good as it seems; nothing is as bad as it seems.  Keeping balance in ministry is important.  That way you won't panic when someone comes into your office to complain about some part of the ministry "that's a total failure"; you also won't become so full of yourself when someone comes into your office to tell you that "this church is the best in town."

16) People will remember how you treat them long after they have forgotten your sermons.  'Nuff said.

19) The pastor who is always available will be of no use when he is available.  I know this from personal experience.  Folks love an open door policy but there are times when the door needs to be closed so that you can think, reflect and pray.

29) View pastoral ministry as a marathon, not a sprint.  We live in an "instant" society.  Don't let your people put you under such pressure.

34) Make friends with books.  They will never leave you nor forsake you.  (one of my favorites)  My books are my babies.  When I do retire I'm concerned that there won't be enough room at home for my books.  Something will have to go!

58) Most of the theories in church growth books are wrong.  (like that one too)  And besides, the Holy Spirit grows the church - not a bunch of techniques and theories.

92) Sermons don't grow on trees.  They can be found on the Internet.  But who wants to preach someone else's sermon?

103) If you can explain what's going on, God didn't do it. (my favorite) This one really resonated with me.  Life in Christ has grown in ways that we had never planned for.  I never expected that we would acquire property and build a brand new worship facility.  I never believed that our baptized membership would grow to over 500 souls.  In the end, we give God all the credit for the many blessings we've received in less than 10 years.  May the Lord continue to lead and guide us in the next 10 years!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Luther...on the 6th Petition

Here is a great quote from Luther's Large Catechism: Though I am now chaste, patient, kind and in firm faith, the devil will this very hour send such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand.  For he is an enemy that never stops or becomes tired.  So when one temptation stops, there always arise others and fresh ones.

So there is no help or comfort to run here, take hold of the Lord's Prayer, and speak to God from the heart like this: "Dear Father, You have asked me to pray.  Don't let me fall because of temptations."

As usual, Luther is right on the money.  The apostle Peter compared the devil to a roaring lion, always on the prowl, never satisfied, always hungry, ever on the lookout for another soul to destroy.    

Will you include Luther's petition in your daily prayers? "Lord, don't let me fall because of temptations.  Amen."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Act of Valor

The other night, at the urging of friends, my dear, sweet wife and I watched the film, "Act of Valor."  The film was based on the work of Navy Seals and portrayed, in rather graphic detail, the life and death missions they carry out.

I cannot recommend the film.  It is violent, realistically so.  Lots of blood, lots of dead bodies.  There were also several scenes of torture.  The language was often crude and vulgar.  While I enjoy a good suspense film, this was an uncomfortable, white-knuckle affair that, at times, was hard to watch.

Without giving the plot away, I felt that one of the overriding messages of the film was this, "Freedom is not free."  These soldiers were continually sent into situation in which it was possible that none of them would come back home alive.  Many of the men were married, with children or a child on the way.  But not once did they flinch or ask out.  They did their duty so that you and I might live in freedom.

In one scene, a grenade was tossed in a room in which a number of soldiers had gathered.  One called out, "Grenade!" and dove on top of it.  He was killed.  The rest of the men were saved.

That kind of sacrifice never fails to capture our attention.  We so admire those who are willing to give up their lives on behalf of others.

I couldn't help but think about the Lord Jesus.  He, too, gave up His life so that the world might be saved.  He didn't die just to save a few of His buddies.  Jesus died for those who hated Him.  He died for those who were jealous of Him.  He died for those had no idea that they were in trouble - with God the Father.  John 3:16 says it all: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...

Through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit enlightens us to see the sacrificial death of Jesus as something done so that we might be saved.  Faith embraces Jesus and makes His promises of forgiveness and peace our very real and personal possessions.  Every time I see a crucifix I think to myself, "He died for me."

And He did.  Jesus died for me.  He died for you.  It was the greatest act of valor the world has ever known.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What kind of heart does God have?

A good question, right? I wonder if a look at the life of Job would provide the answer.  Let's give it a try...this Sunday.  Worship at Life in Christ takes place at 8 am and 10:45 am with Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  We'd like to meet you.  Join us this Sunday!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Connie!

I went off Weight Watchers at lunch today.  I had a very good reason to do so.  I felt it was my duty to celebrate our church secretary's 6th anniversary by sharing a McFurry with her.

Connie Kanzler is our church secretary.  But she is so much more.  Yes, she does the type of administrative stuff that most secretaries do.  But Connie is more - an invaluable part of our ministry staff.

Often people in need seem to call when I'm out of the office.  Connie listens to them, offers good Godly wisdom and often prays with them.  People who were in need are blessed by Connie's compassionate heart.

Folks come to our office for various reasons.  Almost all of them love spending time with Connie.  Her greeting is sincere.  Her laughter is infectious.  Her care and concern is genuine.

We are so blessed to have Connie with us at Life in Christ.  I'm looking forward to her 7th anniversary next year.  Surely we'll have to celebrate with McFlurrys, right?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday is my Monday

Monday is my day off.  Although I sometimes joke that I only work one day a week - Sunday - the truth is that I work about 60 hours each week and I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  So Monday is pretty important to me.  It's my day to relax, reflect on the past week and get geared up for the upcoming week.  Today (my Monday)  I...

Put together Sunday's worship service
  Met with Dan to ask for help with a design for our upcoming Rally Sunday
Contacted a person from Lutheran Hour Ministries to see about support for the 3rd service we're planning
  Invited folks to attend our Saturday "Basics Class"
Called SRP about our power outage - fortunately power was restored in about 35 minutes
  Met with one of our members to put together a Deacon training program
Reviewed materials from our Strategic Planning Team
  Sent out a Prayer Team Update
Contacted several members who are fighting illness
  Talked to our lead organist about the upcoming schedule
Prayed Evening Vespers
  Called it a day!

I'm not always sure our members understand how busy clergy are.  We are called on to do much in the church.  And most clergy don't mind a bit.  What can be better than serving Christ Jesus the Lord?


Monday, August 6, 2012

Some thoughts on love

There is no third possibility: love is either conditional or unconditional.  Either I attach conditions to my love for you or I do not.  To the extent that I do attach conditions, I do not really love you.  I am only offering an exchange, not a gift.  And true love is and must always be a free gift.  John Powell SJ

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Jesus Christ the Lord

Friday, August 3, 2012

How many lives do you have?

If you answered "one," you might want to try again.  Or join us for worship this Sunday for the answer.  You might be surprised! Worship begins at 8 and 10:45 am with Sunday school and Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hoopin' with the Haboobs

Earlier this week, my dear, sweet wife and I went over to a north Phoenix rec gym to watch our son, Eric, play basketball.  He and his teammates were competing for the championship of their league.

Their team's name is the Hoopin' Haboobs.  A haboob, as you might know, is a massive dust storm that rolls into an area or community and simply engulfs everything.  A haboob is not pretty but very impressive.  I thought Eric and his friends had come up with a pretty creative name for a team.

Walking into that gym brought back lots of pleasant memories for me.  I played basketball in high school and continued on with city and church league basketball for years.  Hearing the squeak of tennis shoes on the floor and the ripple of the net as the ball went through the hoop were sounds that I loved and now miss a lot.  I have to admit, it was a thrill to watch my son doing something I used to love so much.

Alas, the Haboobs lost the game in overtime.  They started out slowly, came back to tie the game at half time and had the lead for most of the second half.  A few untimely turnovers were the undoing of the Haboobs.

Still, it was a joy to watch Eric and his friends play a little b-ball.  And, at the end of the game, Eric told me, "Don't worry, Dad.  We'll get 'em next year."

Which is exactly what I would have said.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What is God like?

He is like an eternal, unfailing fountain.  The more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give.  God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things.  In fact, He is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently (Hebrews 4:16)

From the Large Catechism, Second Petition, "Concordia - The Lutheran Confessions," Concordia Publishing House