Friday, November 30, 2012

5 Mondays - 5 Radio Programs

That's right - in the month of December, my little radio program, Wake Up With The Word, will be heard five times, Monday morning at 8:25 am on 1280 AM radio.  If you miss the program or live outside of the Phoenix area, go to our home page and see the column on the left hand side to find the current program.

12/3 - "We Saw Your Smoke Signal" - a reminder that God can turn disaster into something that works for our good.

12/10 - "Waiting for that Glorious Moment" - a visit to a labor and delivery room provided a reminder of how much things have changed in 2000 years.

12/17 - "Something Bigger Than Phil" - the comedy routine, "The 2000 Year Old Man," helps to illustrate that our God is a big God!

12/24 - "Are We There Yet?" - Do you suppose Mary asked this question of Joseph as they made their way to Bethlehem?

12/31 - "The Story of Teddy Stallard" - a heartwarming story of how one teacher's heart was changed by a hard-to-love little boy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are you willing to take "the road less traveled?"

Last summer I began my time of renewal by taking a personal retreat and spending a few intense days working through Kurt Senske's great book, "The Calling - Live a Life of Significance."  One of the most important points Senske makes in his book (maybe the most important and most fundamental) is that God must be at the center of our lives if we wish to live a life of real significance.  He also emphasizes how difficult this is.  The devil, the world we live in and our own sinful flesh wants to pull us in a different direction than the one the Holy Spirit is leading us to take. 

God wants us to love our neighbor.  We are often (daily!) pulled in a different direction - to love and serve and satisfy ourselves.  We must decrease in order to give God first place in our lives.  The temptation is to want to take that place for our own enjoyment.

So the journey is not easy but the blessings are greater than you can imagine.  Senske writes: By taking the road less traveled, we, in effect, turn the post-modern world, with its elusive, and ultimately unfulfilling, values, on its head.  No longer do we ask, "What's in it for me? How can I get ahead?" Instead, we ask, "How can I be the hands and feet of Christ in this world?"  In this way we reflect who we truly are, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God..."  (1 Peter 2:9)

To whom can you be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Luther tells the Law to "Shut Up!"

From Pieper's Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 375

Therefore, when the Law comes and accuses you of not having kept it, bid it go to Christ.  Say, "There is the Man who has kept it; to Him I cling.  He fulfilled it for me and gave His fulfillment to me."  Thus, the Law is silenced.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sermon Illustrations

A fellow I used to work with years ago is always sending me stories and jokes that he thinks would make good sermon illustrations.  But I haven't found any that I thought would be suitable.  Here's an example:

An elderly man was dying in his bed.  In death's agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs.

He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself up out of bed.  He slowly made his way out of the bedroom and down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands.  With labored breath he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen.

Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: there, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.  Was it heaven or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left his world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture.

He reached out to the edge of the table and took one of the cookies, bursting with dozens of chocolate chips.  A glass of cold milk would have made this would have made this moment perfect, but the old man couldn't wait.  His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth, seemingly bringing him back to life.  The aged and withered hand was bringing the cooking to his mouth when suddenly it was smacked with a spatula by his wife.

"Stay out of those," she said, "they're for the funeral!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everyone in this church is going to die!

Another story from Mitch Albom, "Have a Little Faith."

The pastor of the little country church began his sermon with a stirring reminder: "Everyone in this church is going to die!" The minister looked around and he noticed a man in the front row with a huge smile on his face.  The minister asked, "Why are you so amused?"  The man answered, "I'm not from this parish.  I'm just visiting my sister for the weekend."

Page 231

Saturday, November 24, 2012


As we come to the last Sunday of the church year, it seems that we come full circle.  The theme of Advent is "watch!" That's the Word Jesus gives to us in the Gospel lesson from Mark, chapter 13.  Come and receive God's gifts with us at worship tomorrow.  We'll have a baptism and our outstanding Choir will sing.  Services are at 8 and 10:45 am.  Christian LIFE Hour offers classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  And even though some people say donuts are bad for you, ours are amazingly good! Join us this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Max Lucado on Black Friday

God is on the cross.  The creator of the universe is being executed.

Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks and His lips are cracked and swollen.

Thorns rip His scalp.  His lungs scream with pain.  His legs knot with cramps...

And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing Himself. 

It is no normal six is no normal Friday.

From His book, "Six Hours One Friday"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A timely Luther quote

Not sure where I found this quote from Dr. Luther.  I failed to cite the source in my journal when I wrote it down.  Love it anyway!

Thankfulness is the virtue of real Christians; it is the worship of God at its best.

A blessed Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Join the Resistance...No Shopping Thursday!

This just makes no sense to me - Black Friday shopping on Thursday?

Is it really necessary that stores like Target and WalMart have to tempt shoppers to leave their families and friends just to get an earlier start on bargain shopping? What am going to be able to buy on Thursday evening that I can't buy on Friday?

And how about all the folks who will have to cut their holiday short so that they can ring those cash registers?

We Americans sometimes wonder why so many people around the world dislike us so much.  We, who have more than about 90% of the people living today, just can't seem to get enough (or so it appears).

Remember when Thanksgiving was a day to switch gears.  It was a day we looked forward to.  It was an opportunity to spend deep, quality time with family and friends.  We caught up with each other.  We sat back and enjoyed a good meal.  Cousins got to see and play with each other.  Some fell asleep on the couch while watching Detroit play somebody in football.  And it seemed that saying "goodbye" on Thanksgiving could take forever.

Everything tasted better on Thanksgiving.  Turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy and noodles (my Mom's noodles were the best!).  And the pies - wow! Nothing beats pie on Thanksgiving. 

So let's join the resistance - no shopping this Thursday.  Let's use the day for what it was intended - to give thanks to God for His loving kindness and tender mercies.  Give thanks for your blessings.  Express gratitude for help given during times of sickness and pain.  Celebrate the relationships you have with others.  Offer praises for the forgiveness and salvation that God has given you through Christ Jesus.

Let's take Thanksgiving back from Target and WalMart and the other greedy merchants who worship at the altar of the $$$sign. 

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

LIsten with your eyes!

It's not enough to just hear someone speak, as this story from Mitch Albom's book, "Have a Little Faith," illustrates.

A little girl came home from school with a drawing she'd made in class.  She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner.  "Mom, guess what?" she squealed, waving the drawing.  Her mother never looked up.  "What?" the mother said, tending to the pots on the stove.  The little girl asked again but Mom continued to fuss with the pots.  The little girl then said, "Mom, you're not listening.  I want you to listen with your eyes."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Welcome to our world, Emily Faith!

Dear Emily,
Once I was able to snuggle you up in my arms yesterday, I just could not put you down.  You are so precious and beautiful.  You were a long time in coming, but - Praise the Lord - you finally came! You have given to your mother and father and your entire family an indescribable joy.

Welcome to our world.

But this world today is not a happy one.

Everything Jesus said is coming to pass.  Wars and rumours of wars.  Pain and suffering all over the world.  We are taught that all these things will happen before Jesus comes again. Amen, come Lord Jesus!

In the meantime, I'm glad to know that you have such great parents.  They will love you and care for you and do everything within their power to give you the very best life possible.

They are people of faith and so I'm glad that you will hear the love of Jesus on their lips and see the love of Jesus in what they say and do.  No, they are not perfect.  They will mess up just like all parents do.  But I have every confidence that you'll receive the best they have to offer.

I'm praising God today for the gift of life.  I praise God for the life He has given to you.  And soon, you will receive God's gift of new life in Christ Jesus when you come to our baptismal font at church.  You will receive the washing of water with the Word.  God will put His sign on you - the sign of the cross - which marks you as one of His very own children.  I'll probably weep - I always seem to do so whenever a baptism takes place at our church.  The power of God is very overwhelming.

This is the first but not the last word you'll hear from me.  I look forward to holding you more...baptizing you...having you sit in my lap during the children's message...looking at all the papers you have to show me from Sunday school...and on and on it will go.

May God keep on watching you with His eyes of love and compassion.

Your Papa

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Pep Talk

Some of my favorite sports movies include inspiring pep talks.  There's Norman Dale exhorting the Hickory Huskers on their run to the Indiana State High School Basketball Championship.  Remember Herb Brooks firery speech before the young US Hockey team took on the mighty Russians at the 1980 Winter Olympics? A good pep talk renews our purpose and inspires us to keep on striving toward our goal, whatever it might be.

Do you need a pep talk? Could you use a little lifting up? The writer to the Hebrews has just what you need.  Come and receive a pep talk at our services this Sunday.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

John Kleinig on baptism

In His baptism, Jesus takes on our sin and guilt, our death and damnation; in our baptism, Jesus gives us His place with Gdo the Father and His status as the only Son of the Father.  He gives us all that He is and has to us.  We get a new self and life from Him.

From Grace Upon Grace, page 169

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Somebody did it for me!

Bodie Thoene, a best-selling writer of Christian fiction, once worked as a script writer for "The Duke," John Wayne.  In "Today's Christian Woman" magazine she explained how the opportunity came about.

By the time I was 19, I was commuting to Los Angeles and doing feature articles on different stunt men and other film personalities for magazines.  Four years later, an article I co-wrote with John Wayne's stuntman won the attention of the Duke himself.  One day he called and invited my husband, Brock, and me to come to his house.  He talked to us as if we were friends, showing keen interest in us as individuals.  From that day on, I began writing for his film company.  Brock helped me with the historical research.

We were awestruck.  Here was this man who had been in film for 50 years and he takes a young couple with small children under his wing! Once I asked him, "Why are you doing this? You are so good to us!"

John Wayne replied, "Because somebody did it for me."

Interesting, isn't it, that the famous actor didn't take credit for extending a kindness to another person? His motivation, instead, came from a kindness that had been shown to him at another time and occasion.

So it is with the love that we give to others.  We cannot take credit for demonstrating love to family, friends and church family.  We love because we were first loved by God (1 John 4:19).  Indeed, we wouldn't even know what love looks like except that we have seen the love of God in His Son, Christ Jesus.  Touched by the sacrificial love of the Savior, we want to reach out and love our family members and good friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and people with whom we've had little or no contact.

Who is your world needs a touch of God's love today?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A prayer for patience

Anyone else out there finding their patience tested today? Here's a good prayer from the Lutheran Service Book, page 312:

O God, by the patient endurance of Your only-begotten Son You beat down the pride of the old enemy.  Help us to treasure rightly in our hearts what our Lord has borne for our sakes that, after His example, we may bear with patience those things that are adverse to us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

We did not run out of grace yesterday

I have always loved the story of God's grace to the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17.  Her situation is so desperate that she tells Elijah that she can't fix him even a small loaf of bread; she has just enough for herself and her son.  It is their "last supper," so to speak.  But then, the Word of the Lord comes to her and God promises: The jar of flour shall not be spent and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.

The widow trusted God's Word and promise; she did as she was asked.  And until the drought ended and the rain again fell on the land, the widow had all she needed for herself and her son and Elijah, too.

As I started studying the text early last week, one of the questions that I mused on was, "What's it like to have such a promise made and miracle happen in the life of a person, a desperate person like the widow?" But then I realized that I know what it's like.

Every Sunday in worship the church gathers and God blesses us with His grace.  He promises to come and abundantly bless us and He does.  Never have we run out of the Word of God.  Never have we run out of God's absolution and forgiveness.  Never have we run out of the Lord's body and blood in the sacrament.  God blesses us generously and then we come back the following Sunday and He gives even more!

Sometimes I feel like the widow.  I, too, am desperate.  I come with an impoverished soul.  I need to hear that God forgives all the stuff that I feel so badly about - my disobedience, my selfishness, my cold heart.  I need to hear God's promises and be reminded that if I were the only person in the world, He'd still keep those promises - for me.  I need to hear that in the Holy Meal I meet my Lord and Savior is the most amazing way this side of heaven.  When I leave worship I am filled, forgiven and refreshed.

And then, there's next week.  There will be even more - grace upon grace.  You, me and the widow - richly blessed and cared for by a gracious and generous God. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther!

Luther Statue, Wittenburg, Germany, summer 2011.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The oil and flour will never run out?

Yes, that's the promise the Lord made to the widow of Zarephath.  Would she take the Lord at His Word? Would she step out in faith and rely on the Lord? And wouldn't you like a promise like that one from God Himself? Come learn how the Lord God provided for the widow and how He provides for you! Join us for worship at 8 am and 10:45 am on Sunday.  Bible classes for all ages begin at 9:15 am. 

Also, for those of you in the Valley of the Sun, our Men's Ministry has an exciting morning planned.  They continue their study of the book of Revelation at 10 am; at 11 am, Jeremy Price, Men's Volleyball Coach at Grand Canyon University will be their guest speaker and then a BBQ follows at 11:30 am.  It should be a very inspiring morning of study and fellowship and food (don't forget the food!).  Come see us this weekend at Life in Christ!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Something bigger than Phil!

I'm using the following in an upcoming radio devotion but thought I'd share it with you now...good for a laugh!

Remember the 2000 Year Old Man comedy routine that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did so many years ago? During one of the routines, Reiner asked the old man, "Did you always believe in the Lord?"

Brooks replied, "No.  We had a guy in our village named Phil and for a time we worshipped him." 
Reiner asked, "You worshipped a guy named Phil? Why?"  Brooks responded, "Because he was big and mean and he could break you in two with his bare hands!"

Reiner went on, "Did you have prayers?" Brooks answered, "Yes, would you like to hear one? O Phil, please don't be mean or hurt us or break us in two with your bare hands.  Amen."

Reiner went on to ask, "So when did you start worshipping the Lord?" Brooks, as the 2000 Year Old Man, explained it like this: "Well, one day a big thunderstorm came up, and a lightening bolt hit Phil.  We gathered around and saw that he was dead.  Then we said to one another, "There's something bigger than Phil!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We saw your smoke signal!

Did you hear the story about the only survivor of a shipwreck? He was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.  He prayed feverishly for God to rescue Him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed to be coming.

Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the weather and to store his possessions.  But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke drifting up to the sky.  The worst had happened; everything was lost.  The survivor was stunned with grief and anger.  "God, how could you do such a thing to me?"

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island.  It had come to rescue him.  "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man.  "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad.  But we shouldn't lose heart because even in the midst of pain and suffering, God is at work in our lives.  Remember, the next time your little hut is burning to the ground, it just may serve as a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

And God is gracious! We say, "It's impossible!" God says, "All things are possible."  (Luke 18:27) We say, "Nobody loves me!" God says, "I love you."  (John 3:16) We say, "I can't forgive myself."  God says, "I forgive you."  (1 John 1:8) We say, "I'm always worried and frustrated."  God says, "Cast all your cares on me."  (1 Peter 5:7)

Know anyone whose hut is about ready to catch on fire? Encourage them with the Word of God!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The sun will come up tomorrow!

Finally, we've come to the end of another election cycle (Maybe?).  There's lots of trepidation about where our country will go depending on who wins the presidential election.  And I'd agree that there are numerous reasons for all Americans to be concerned.

But as I was doing sermon study this morning on 1 Kings 17:7-16, I was comforted.  God tested both Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.  Both were given the opportunity to step out in faith.  In both cases, God provided both physical and spiritual blessings.  The gracious and generous God provided; He was in control.

Neither candidate is our best chance or our last hope for having the kind of life we desire for ourselves, our kids and grandkids.  God is our hope.  He is more powerful than political parties or the news media.  God's will cannot be thwarted.  His promises are certain and sure.  No matter what challenges we face - whether individual or as a nation - our hope is in the Lord.  (Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 1:3; Psalm 39:7)

So be sure to vote today.  And no matter the outcome, the sun will come up tomorrow.  And tomorrow will be one more day for you and me to put our hope and trust in God's one and only Son - the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our hope.  He is our salvation.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Unanswerable Question

"Why are some saved and not others?" This was one of the questions that I dealt with last Saturday at the "Basics" class I taught for folks interested in becoming part of the Life in Christ church family.  This is a question for which we have no good answer but Frank Starr, in one of his "Light for the Way," devotional booklets, offered an important insight:

Whatever the reason, God's Word (irresistible in some quarters) can be resisted by people - not because we are more powerful than God, but because He will not force Himself on us.  He desires to be loved.  And love must be given.  It cannot be forced.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

For All The Saints...

This Sunday we remember all those from our church family who found their rest in Jesus in the past 12 months.  And we'll learn what Jesus means when He says that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).  If you're in our area, please join us.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour (classes for everyone!) at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Talking about Jesus...making new friends

I'm very excited about tomorrow.  I'll be conducting our "Basics of the Christian Faith" class for 8 people.  These are folks who want to join our church and who want to know more about what our church believes and confesses.  In another part of the campus, Pastor Vern Trahms will be leading an "Explorers Class."  This group is made up of Lutherans who are also interested in joining our church family and want to know more about living the new life in Christ.  For me it will be a long but very fruitful day.  Praise the Lord for continuing to grow our church!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

At Home with Jesus

On this All Saints Day, my heart was warmed and encouraged by these words from Gerald Oosterveen's book, "Too Early Frost."

Parents are not supposed to bury their children.  The old are not supposed to stand beside the graves of the young.  It is unnatural.  One is not prepared for it.  The death of a child tears apart a family like the uprooting of one plant out of a cluster that have been allowed to grow together in one pot.  It cannot be done.  All those roots become so intertwined over the years that nothing short of violence can separate them.  And it leaves all the plants stunted...

Oh yes, we mourn...But we have hope - bright hope for tomorrow, when all who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior will move beyond pain and grief forever because we shall be forever with the Lord.  And it is not just some pipe dream, some opium to stupefy and mislead hurting people.  It is real, because Christ is real, because in our past there is a blood-stained cross on which the Prince of Glory died.  Because of that bloody, pain-filled past we have hope when all things are made new and death shall be no more, nor grief, nor crying.

In a little cemetery in a small out-of-the-way town there is a tiny marker.  It bears only three lines:
"At Home with Jesus"

Of the three lines, the last line is the only one that really matters.

"At Home with Jesus."  When I think of my Mother and Father, when I think of good friends like Jim Peterson, when I think of the people who I've had the opportunity to serve as pastor and shepherd, the only line that really matters and the only line that can comfort sorrowing hearts is that they are at home with Jesus.

Let that line, that thought, be your comfort today as you think about and give thanks for those you loved who were loved by Jesus even more and now rest in His gentle and nail-scarred hands.