Friday, September 28, 2012

On the road toward humility

Jane Fryer is a favorite author of mine.  Over the years I have found her notes in the "Today's Light Bible" from Concordia Publishing House to be invaluable.  I found this Fryer quote in my journal yesterday and wanted to share it with you. 

True, godly humility comes to us as God's gift of grace.  When His Word leads us to see our helplessness, our sinfulness, our need for Jesus, we're on the road toward humility.  When we - by grace - focus on Christ, when we cling to Him as our only hope, we are exactly where God wants us to be.  When we trust in Christ's pardon alone as the remedy for our sin, then God can lift us up.  He gives us - us! - the very righteousness of God.

Two things strike me as I read this.  First, humility is not something that we work up in ourselves but it is happens as we are changed by the forgiveness and grace of Christ.  Second, isn't the Gospel of Christ such sweet news? Nothing compares!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What is your Kryptonite?

He was called "the man of steel."  But Superman wasn't so super in the presence of kryptonite.  What is your kryptonite? What is the millstone of sin that hangs around your neck? How do you get rid of it? Who has the power to remove it? Learn more this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour (Learning Is For Everyone) at 9:15 am.  Join us if you can!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hooray for "The Middle"

Imagine my surprise as I read the back page of the "Life" section of USA Today and found the following: TV's most under appreciated great comedy returns with a one hour special as the Heck family makes its way through summer to fall.  Maybe this is the night the Hecks begin their break into the buzz and ratings elite - as they should...

My wife and I began watching "The Middle" from its first episode.  The setting is a small town in Indiana.  I can relate because I was born in small town Indiana too.  The show is based on the activities of the Heck family, a traditional family - something that is increasingly rare on television.  The parents are dealing with all the stresses of raising a family and the kids are feeling all the pressures of trying to fit in among peers while finding their own way in their world.

"The Middle" stars Patricia Heaton from "Everyone Loves Raymond" fame.  Her comedic timing is impeccable and the rest of the cast - especially the kids - are equally good.  It has seemed to me that the other, edgier comedies on the ABC schedule get all the promotion while "The Middle" is overlooked, even though it churns out one great and funny episode after another.

If you watch "The Middle," keep tuning in.  If you haven't yet checked out this program, do it tonight.  You're gonna like Frankie Heck and her family!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What can God's substitute do for you?

From John Jeske's wonderful book, "Connecting Sinai to Calvary:"

Because in our place our substitute lived a life of perfect obedience to the holy law of God, God considers us to be people who have given Him the perfect obedience He demands.  Because in our place our substitute died innocently under God's curse, God considers us to have been punished for our sins.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Whatcha reading?

Last year I read 31 books.  Since I was on renewal last summer, I had plenty of time to read and I took advantage of the time.  So far this year I've read about a dozen books.  This has been a very busy year of ministry and I find that often, by the time I get home from the church, I'm just too mentally exhausted to open a book and read.  I've got to do something about that but I'm not exactly sure what.

Here's what I'm working on right now:

Daily devotional - The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.  I have several devotional book that I enjoy but I seem to always come back to the Divine Hours.  There are readings for morning, afternoon and evening plus a reading for the close of the day.  Tickle makes great use of the Psalms and I find such comfort and peace by reading and praying the Psalms.

Daily Bible study - Light for the Way by Frank Starr.  This is an out of print daily Bible reading guide that was published by CPH back in the mid 80's.  There are two series - four books for the Old Testament and the same for the New Testament.  Pastor Starr does a fine job of establishing the theme for each reading and offering enlightenment as to what God is doing in the text.  He also provides a prayer starter.  This is probably my fourth time utilizing these books but they offer such a structured approach for daily Bible reading that I find them invaluable for me.

I'm reading two other books at the moment:

Grace by Max Lucado.  Actually, I'm just getting started with this book.  It was given to me as a birthday present.  I've admired Lucado's writing style for many years.  Whether you embrace his theology or not, he really knows how to connect with his readers and few writers turn a phrase better than Lucado.

West by West - My Charmed, Tormented Life by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman.  When I was a kid pounding a basketball on cement school courts, I admired Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers and tried to emulate him.  West had a very successful career both as a player and general manager.  West describes what his life was like growing up in a family where his father was very abusive and his mother seemed incapable of offering nurturing love and affection.  West also describes the challenges of dealing with pampered, self-seeking professional athletes.  This is a candid and revealing book about the life of a basketball icon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who is the Greatest?

It was Muhammad Ali who once proclaimed himself as the "greatest."  But long before Ali coined the phrase, Jesus' disciples argued about which of them was the greatest.  How did Jesus settle the argument? Join us this week at Life in Christ to find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) at 9:15 am.  We'd love to greet you this week at LICL!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Defining temptation

I think Pastor Richard Lauersdorf does a pretty good job of it in his book, "As Luther Taught the Word of Truth."

Playing around with temptation is like trying to run down a mountainside.  There comes a time when your legs get away from you and you can no longer stop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Remembering Jim Peterson

Watching the ASU-Missouri football game on TV last Saturday caused Sherri and I to remember a chance meeting with our good friend, Jim Peterson, at another ASU-Missouri game over 20 years ago.

Jim and I had become friends while working together in radio.  When he walked through the front door of the station, I immediately recognized him.  Jim had been a star pitcher for the ASU Sun Devils baseball team.  He left after his junior season and signed a contract with the Dodgers organization.  Arm problems forced Jim to retire so he returned to ASU to finish his degree in Mass Communications.  He came to our station looking for a job and our manager hired him.  Soon Jim and I were working together every day.

After a time I realized that Jim wasn't the person I thought he would be.  He was not an ex-jock full of himself.  Jim didn't brag about his accomplishments.  He was a humble person who was more interested in talking about Christ Jesus instead of himself.

I learned a lot about Jim during the time we worked together.  Jim knew the Scriptures.  He relied on them for direction for daily living.  He was passionate about telling others that faith in Jesus was the only way to heaven.  He was a good apologist for the faith and easily shared the story of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection with anyone willing to listen.  Jim was a person I very much wanted to emulate.

Eventually, Jim got a job hosting a sports talk program on a Phoenix station and then moved into television.  We lost track of one another for awhile.  Then, out of the blue, Jim called me from New Jersey.  He had moved there with his wife and had become a member of an LCMS congregation.  We touched base every few months until he called one day with shocking news.  He had been diagnosed with throat cancer.

Jim went through several surgeries along with chemo and radiation therapy.  But the cancer was aggressive and I couldn't believe it when he wife called one morning to say that Jim had passed away.

I traveled to California for Jim's funeral service.  As I opened the church bulletin, I read a message that Jim had asked to be printed.  It read, "Don't talk about about Jesus Christ."  It was pure Jim Peterson.

Give thanks to the Lord today for the people who have made a difference in your life.  I'll do the same, beginning with my good friend and brother in the faith - Jim Peterson.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why Study God's Word?

Bible study in its purest form deals with our lives on the most basic level, our relationship with God and the life of service that must inevitably follow.  It deals with God's love for us in its richest, most beautiful and most edifying form.

Robert J. Koester
"Gospel Motivation"
page 162

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lord, loosen his tongue!

I haven't been able to forget the Gospel lesson from two weeks ago - Mark 7:31-37.  You might remember it - the healing of a deaf and mute man.  Some of the man's friends brought the fellow to Jesus and asked for the Lord's help.  Jesus responded in a way we've haven't seen from Him in the Gospels.  Verse 33 reads: After He took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put His fingers into the man's ears.  Then He spit and touched the man's tongue.  Sometimes Jesus heals with a simple touch and sometimes just by speaking a word.  In this case, what better way to communicate to a deaf and mute man what the Lord intended to do for him?

Next, Jesus sighs deeply and then speaks one word, Ephphatha, which means, "Be opened!"  The good news in verse 35 reads: At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. 

This text is important to me and my family because my oldest grandson needed his tongue to be loosened.  At a time when toddlers begin to form words, my grandson was mute.  Fortunately, my daughter and her husband quickly sought help and finally found a learned doctor who diagnosed my grandson with apraxia.  In layman's terms, those with apraxia know in their brain that they want to communicate with words but, for some reason, the brain and tongue don't seem to work together.  The best my grandson could do was to grunt and groan a bit.

Night after night, my family and I would pray, "Lord, loosen his tongue! Help him to speak!"  And the Lord answered our prayer.

Not as dramatically as the story of the deaf and mute man but miraculous none the less.  With the help of a caring and patient speech therapist, my grandson slowly began to form words.  The difficult consonants became easier to speak.  Certain letter that he couldn't pronounce suddenly became easier.  The progress was slow but still remarkable.

Now, at age four, my grandson talks up a storm.  He has no trouble communicating with his parents, family, teachers, friends and total strangers! He often sits on my lap during children's messages and a newer member of our church was surprised to learn that he had apraxia.  "He talks so well and so clearly," she said.  "I think there have been a few times when he was going to take over for you and do the message himself."

After all my grandson has been through, I wouldn't mind at all.

Thank you, Jesus, for answering our prayer!

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Can You Do But Pray

Philippians 4:19 reminds us that my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  A wonderful Bible verse for sure but does God really mean it? This Sunday I'll share how our family discovered that God's Word does what it says and how we can trust that God keeps the promises He makes to His people.  Join us at Life in Christ for worship at 8 am and 10:45 am with classes for all ages during Christian LIFE Hour (Learning Is For Everyone) at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Straight Talk" by Pastor Mark Jeske

I had some time to do a little reading yesterday so I was glad to work my way through the new book by my friend, Pastor Mark Jeske of the "Time of Grace" television program.  He has written a new book entitled "Straight Talk - Answers from God's Word," publishing by Concordia Publishing House.

Turns out his many viewers are an inquiring bunch.  Over the years Pastor Jeske has received hundreds of questions about Bible verses or chapters, Christian doctrine and how a believer deals with the challenges of every day life.  The book arranges these questions in seven different categories.  There are a couple of helpful indexes in the back of the book as well.

Two things I really liked about "Straight Talk."  First, Pastor Jeske isn't afraid to tackle the hard questions.  Some of the questions he dealt with were, "Why did God create a world that He knew would fall into sin?" "How should I respond to my friends who think living together before marriage is a good way to 'try out' marriage to see if it will work for them?" "The Lord's Supper confuses me. How can we receive anything spiritual from a small glass of wine and a little wafer?" And then there was this interesting question: "I love to eat.  Heaven to me will include food.  What do you think?"

The other thing I liked about the book is that all the answers Pastor Jeske gives are based not on his opinion but on the Word of God.  It's God's Word that gives us confidence when we are unsure about how we are to live with the Lord and with others.  The Word provides reassurance of our Father's care and peace and love.  Pastor Jeske's shepherd's heart shine through in the answers he offers, based on the solid and unchanging Word of God.

Add this book to your library at home.  I'll bet you'll find questions others have asked you.  You might find some questions you've had as well.  You too will appreciate the "Straight Talk" that Pastor Jeske offers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where do we know God?

True knowledge of God's will does not start with the Law but with the Gospel, for the Gospel alone renews our minds, enables us to love, and gives the Holy Spirit free reign in our hearts to produce the fruit of faith.

"Gospel Motivation" by Robert J. Koester, Northwestern Publishing House, page 63

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I don't mean to brag, but...

I've lost 17 pounds since the first of July.  My dear, sweet wife and I really enjoyed our vacation and when we weighed in, well, speaking for myself, I was shocked.  Immediately, I stepped down from the bathroom scale and went to the computer where I joined Weight Watchers Online...again.

What was disappointing was that I had gained back all the weight I had lost the year before.  Faced with having to do it all over again was something I wasn't looking forward to doing.

This time I am more determined to keep the pounds off.  I'm learning that I don't need to stuff my face with a bag of chips or order the largest hamburger and french fries off the menu.  Small portions can be satisfying (how about that!).  And the walking I've been doing to strengthen my back obviously helps.

They say that the best diet is the one you'll stick with.  Discipline is not much fun and is hard work.  But friendly blog readers - if I can do this and lose the weight, so can you! If you're dieting, keep at it.  Pray to the Lord for strength and help. Find an accountability partner who will encourage you and keep you on track.  Don't give up! You can do it...really!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Give God Two!

Is the theme we developed for our Rally Day kickoff of new Sunday school and Bible classes at Life in Christ.  Yesterday we rejoiced that when we tallied up the numbers, our total number of participants in Christian LIFE Hour was 160 - a new record for our church.

Our Christian Ed. building was bursting at the seems...both first and second year confirmation classes were filled...the Adult class had 70 in seemed that every space in the facility was being used.  PTL!

Our Sunday school is emphasizing basic Bible stories this fall and the kids really seem to be getting into it.  Several parents yesterday told me they appreciated the new focus on memorization of Bible verses.  We continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will keep on working through the Word of God to strengthen our faith and confidence in our Lord and Savior.  To God be the glory!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Who Makes the Difference in Your Life?

Professional sports teams seek one player who can make the difference between an average year and a successful year, between a good season and a great one.  But it's not just sports teams that need such a person.  We all can use someone who can make a difference in our lives, especially when life gets tough.  Join us on Sunday as a deaf and mute man points the way for us all.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am and Christian L.I.F.E. (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour begins at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

You Might Be a Preacher If...

Is the title of a book that my oldest daughter gave me for my birthday my first year in the ministry.  I happened to stumble upon it while looking for some Bible study material in my office and some of the entries gave me a chuckle.  Let's see what you think...

You might be a preacher if:

You use the word "holy" more than Batman and Robin

Everybody stops talking when you enter the room

Your office is "prayer conditioned"

You've ever suffered an anxiety attack while playing Bible Trivial Pursuit

You've thought of offering Starbucks Coffee to attract new members

You've ever been asked what it's like to work only one day a week

You know what a "narthex" is

You've ever received a phone call at 4 am and the caller asks, "Did I wake you?"

You've got a fabulous sermon on humility

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How do you pray?

Jeremiah stood before God to pray for his people (Jer. 18:20)

Peter knelt to pray (Acts 9:40)

Nehemiah sat down when he prayed (Neh. 1:4)

Abraham prostrated himself while praying (Gen. 17:3)

Ezekiel prayed in a loud voice (Ezek. 11:13)

Hannah prayed silently to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:13)

Paul prayed and sang in the spirit (1 Cor. 14:15)

David prayed in the morning (Ps. 5:3)

Isaac prayed out in his field in the evening (Gen. 24:63)

Daniel prayed in his house three times a day (Dan. 6:10)

Anna prayed night and day in the temple (Luke 2:37)

What does this prove?

Just that there are lots of ways to pray.

So, pray!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Who says pastors only work on Sunday?

I went over my schedule for this week and found that I have time to accomplish everything I need to do...barely.

I have to prepare and write a funeral service and sermon...prepare and write Sunday service and sermon...prepare for a pre-marital counseling session...prepare to lead a committee meeting on the third service we are planning to start...schedule a meeting for our 10th anniversary committee...follow up on the visitors who worshiped at LICL this past Sunday...prepare Confirmation class...write a radio devotional...write our weekly Bible reading and devotional, "Treasuring God's Word"...make a hospital visit...keep several in-office appointments...and last but not least - see my dentist (ugh).

May God give me energy and endurance for the week.  May the peace that the Lord gave to me when He pronounced absolution for my sins in worship help me deal with the stress I'm bound to experience this week.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Off to a great start!

With our 8th grade confirmation class.  Because the 7th and 8th grade classes together number somewhere between 16-18, Connie and I decided to split the class up into two groups.  I'm working with the 2nd year class and was very impressed with how well the kids participated yesterday.

We starting reviewing the books of the Bible and will have all 66 memorized in a few weeks.  We reviewed the two great messages of the Bible - Law and Gospel and read various verses to determine whether they were Law or Gospel.  We analyzed the hymn, "Thy Strong Word."  We did the first lesson in our workbook which went into some depth in understanding the Law/Gospel dynamic.

I continually marvel at how the Lord has grown our church.  My first confirmation class seven years ago consisted of one student.  What a joy it is for Connie and I to be able to teach the Word of God to these young adults.  Pray with us that the Lord would bless with a great year of study.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How well do you use your sword?

If you're of a certain generation like me, you can remember the TV show, "Zorro," featuring actor Guy Williams.  He was a dashing Zorro, in his mask and cape.  And he knew how to use his sword.  How about you? Are you an excellent swordsman? Have no idea what I'm getting at? Then join us for worship tomorrow.  LICL has services at 8 am and 10:45 am with Bible classes for everyone at 9:15 am.  Be here at Life in Christ and learn how to swing your sword at Satan!