Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Vacation!

This has been a long and very rewarding week of work.  God richly blessed our worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  All who came were encouraged by God's love in the sending of His Son, Christ our Lord.  The Father received our praises and prayers and gifts.  The candles that lit up our sanctuary might have been like the stars that shown on that first Christmas Eve.  It's an awesome thought that we really did celebrate the birth of the One who does bring peace on earth through the forgiveness of sins that Christ earned through His perfect life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. 

I'm going to take a little break from the blog.  I'll check in again on Monday, December 6.  In the meantime, you can check out the video of the sermon from December 22.  Our webmaster, Dan Seabreeze, records the sermons from time to time and it especially gives folks who are thinking about visiting our church a bit of a flavor of our worship.  Also, if you are looking for a daily devotional and prayer guide, check out Treasuring God's Word.  Hit the tab in the right column and you'll find a daily reading and a prayer starter.  Busy people find Treasuring God's Word to be a helpful tool.

Worship this weekend takes place on Saturday at 5 pm with a Communion Service.  On Sunday, we meet at 8 and 10:45 am and Bible classes for all ages begins at 9:20 am.  Also, worship on New Year's Eve will be held on Dec. 31 at 7 pm and Communion will be included. 

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog this year.  Continue to enjoy the Christmas season and have a blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

You have Christ in your neighbor

From a sermon by Martin Luther on the Nativity of the Christ:

Many in this congregation think to themselves, "If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby! I would have washed His linen.  How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!

Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem.  Childish and silly thoughts are these!

Why don't you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbor.  You ought to serve him, for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ Himself.

Taken from "Hear I Stand," page 354

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The Lord blessed us with a wonderful night of worship at LICL. 

Our Sunday school children told the story of the birth of Jesus so well.  Kudos to our teachers and leaders for their hard work in getting the children ready to go.

So many volunteers helped to make the three services go off without a hitch.  Life in Christ is really blessed with so many people who want to serve the Lord.

The music from our Choir, Bells and soloists was beautiful and it was a joy to have Nicole Lingenfelter sing for us.  She's not in the Valley very often so to have her bless us with her musical talent was really special.

It was great to have Pat Herman play organ for us.  Last year at this time she was struggling with her health.  It meant everything to her to be able to play.

It's awesome when the lights go down, the candles are lit and the entire congregation join their voices together to sing "Silent Night."  As Chuck Haynes would say, "It gave me goose bumps."

Holding the 3 services at 5, 7 and 9 pm helped to alleviate some of our parking problems and helped us achieve our largest attendance ever for Christmas Eve - 677.

My son, Eric, praying with me before worship.  The best Christmas gift I could ever receive.

Having all my kids and grand kids there for worship.  Sherri and I are so blessed to have our family nearby.  We know that's not always possible for everyone.

Being reminded to "treasure" the things that Mary treasured on that first Christmas Eve - the blessed news that God sent His Son to you to be your Savior from sin, death and evil.

Have a blessed Christmas Day!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Worship on Christmas Eve

I'm not sure why but Christmas snuck up on me.  Even when I thought I was ahead of the calendar, I was way behind.  But we're ready to worship and we invite you to join us.

Our Family service featuring the children of our Sunday school takes place at 5 pm.  The kids will present the Christmas story in word and song and my message is entitled, "The Baby That Takes Care of You."  We have a great staff of teachers and leaders and they have worked hard to get our kids ready for tonight's service.

Then at 7 and 9 pm our traditional Candlelight Service takes place.  Special music will be offered by Nicole Lingenfelter, Connie Baker, Pat Herman, Susan Keedy, the LICL Adult Choir and the LICL Bell Choir.  My sermon is entitled, "Treasure the Story!"

Last year it seemed that half of Peoria turned out for our 7 pm service so you best get there early.  Or, if you can, you might just wait until 9 pm where seating and parking might be just a little bit easier.  In any event I pray that you will join us tonight (and tomorrow morning at 10 am) as we celebrate God's gift to us - Christ the Lord!

Monday, December 23, 2013

It happened!

From a Christmas sermon from Norman Nagel (1975)

The angel's message is simply what happened - a birth - and the identification of the one born - "a Savior who is Christ the Lord."  Impossible? No, it has happened.  God did not have to wait for clearance from us whether it is possible or not.  It happened.  A Savior born, Christ the Lord.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Twas the weekend before Christmas

and all through our community many folks were preparing to worship at Life in Christ Lutheran Church.  Today we'll offer a Vespers Service at 5 pm and tomorrow you're invited to attend worship at either 8 or 10:45 am.  Classes for all ages - toddler to adult - are held at 9:20 am.  Our Sunday school children will rehearse following the second service as they prepare to tell the Christmas story at our 5 pm Christmas Eve Family service.  Tired of the shopping, the traffic and the crowds? Come and see us this weekend and ready your heart to receive God's gift to you - the Christ child!

Friday, December 20, 2013

2 Great Women!

My dear, sweet wife in the courtyard at Lutherhaus next to the statue of Martin Luther's beloved wife, Katie, who died on this day from injuries suffered in an accident.  This is one of many pictures we took during our 2011 European trip.  It may sound strange but spending time in Wittenberg was like traveling to the Holy Land.  For Lutherans, maybe it is!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Cards?

For a moment I had no idea what was being talked about.  My dear, sweet wife and I were watching Tuesday's episode of "NCIS-LA."  The show opened with a discussion about displaying "Holiday Cards" that you receive from family and friends this time of year. 

After this went on for a minute or so I finally realized that they were talking about Christmas Cards!

This is so ridiculous.  Do the show's producers really feel that they're going to offend a segment of their audience by using the words, Christmas Cards? Come on, really?

This is the Christmas season.  We send out Christmas cards.  We give Christmas gifts.  We celebrate the birth of Christ

Let's not let our post-Christian culture empty the season of its meaning.  Wish everyone you meet a Merry Christmas.  Ask your friends and co-workers if they been receiving Christmas Cards.  Invite a friend to your church's Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.  And most of all, use the season to give witness of your faith in Christ Jesus!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What's in a name?

What's so special about the names Liam and Emma? According to one source, they were the top names for baby boys and girls born in 2013 in the USA.

How were you named? After a parent or grandparent? In honor of a family friend or close acquaintance? Were your parents looking for a unique or one-of-a-kind name? Was it because of the special meaning behind your name?

When it came to their first born, Mary and Joseph did not have any input into the choice of the name.  God the Father had already chosen a name.  An angel informed Joseph that the baby conceived in Mary would be named Jesus, "because He will save His people from their sins."

The name Jesus means the Lord saves.  Our Savior God lives up to His name.  The apostle Peter said as much when he proclaimed: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  Salvation was the mission of the tiny baby whose birth we will soon celebrate.  Like the Samaritans we, too, exclaim: We know that this man is really the Savior of the world.  That's what makes the name Jesus special to us.  The Lord saves you!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thanks for visiting the blog!

I started writing this little blog about two and a half years ago.  Yesterday we went over the 20,000 visitor mark.  That's pretty amazing to me.  I never thought that I'd have that many hits.  I'm going to have to work harder at catching the typos before I hit "publish."

Worship begins this weekend at LICL with the Saturday service at 5 pm.  Holy Communion will be celebrated and Pat's group will provide the music.  Sunday services take place at the usual time - 8 and 10:45 am with Bible classes for all ages being held at 9:20 am.  And, as a reminder, our final mid-week Advent service will be held on Wednesday at 7 pm.  Come and join us this weekend for worship at Life in Christ!

Friday, December 13, 2013

I had a black dog, his name was depression

Do you suffer from depression? Do you know someone who does?

The World Health Organization is offering a video entitled, "I had a black dog, his name was depression."  My dear, sweet wife had me watch the video last night.  One of her students had shown the video earlier in class.

The writer/produced gets it.  His description of the "black dog" is spot on in my opinion.

He captures so well what it feels like to be depressed.  And he also offers some very helpful suggestion on how a person might deal with the "black dog."

The video offered much hope and encouragement.  Could you use a little of that today?

Check out the video by going to www.youtube.com/who.  The "black dog" video should be on the home page under popular videos.  If the black dog has moved into your home or is bugging you constantly at work or follows you wherever you go, take four minutes and watch the video.  We all can use a little encouragement and help, right?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sentence of the Year

I don't know if there is such a thing as "Sentence of the Year."  If there is I'd like to submit this:

I can't even do the nose thingy-muh-bobber-sober.  Tom Chambers

According to the local paper Chambers was arrested Saturday in Scottsdale on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Chambers apparently told police that he'd had a few beers while attending the Pac-12 Championship game at ASU.  They also found a couple of nearly empty beer bottles rolling around in Chambers pick up truck.

Obviously, the story made the paper because Chambers is a local celebrity.  He was a star player with the Phoenix Suns and works in television as an analyst of their games.

I was very proud of my son last Saturday evening.  He and a bunch of friends went to Sun Devil Stadium to tailgate before attending the game.  Eric served as the designated driver which meant that he was not imbibing along with the rest of his friends.

I guess this is standard procedure when he and his friends get together.  As Eric explains it, they just don't want to take the chance that someone might have too much to drink and then foolishly get behind the wheel of their car.

I'm hoping that Tom Chambers will start doing the same.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What can Christ do for you?

Christ opens our hearts to love, opens our hands to give, opens our mouths to witness.

Frank Starr

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God's Joyous Exchange...in baptism

Many years ago I attended an Evangelism seminar where a pastor demonstrated one way to share the Gospel of Jesus.  His presentation was built around 2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  His Law/Gospel way of telling the good news of Jesus' salvation by grace through faith was so clear and compelling that I made the presentation my own and have shared it many times.

Last night I finished reading "Martin Luther - Preacher of the Cross," by Professor John T. Pless.  I was excited to read a passage Pless shared which showed how Luther connected this joyous exchange to baptism. 

Luther preached: Is not this a beautiful, glorious exchange, by which Christ, who is wholly innocent and holy, not only takes upon Himself another's sin, that is my sin and guilt, but also clothes and adorns me, who am nothing but sin, with His own innocence and purity? And then besides died the shameful death of the Cross for the sake of my sins, through which I have deserved death and condemnation, and grants me His righteousness, in order that I may live with Him eternally in glorious and unspeakable joy.  Through this blessed exchange, in which Christ changes places us with (something the heart can only grasp in faith) and through nothing else, are we freed from sin and death and given His righteousness and life as our own.  (page 126)

What glorious Gospel! In our baptism we receive the blessings of the Cross of Christ Jesus! "Christ changes places with us."  He takes our place at the cross and we are spared.  Instead, our blessed Lord "clothes and adorns us" with His righteousness so that we might "live with Him eternally in glorious and unspeakable joy."

Live today in this baptismal grace.  Remember your baptism when you are beset by guilt or overwhelmed by sorrow.  Although you sin, you are forgiven in Christ.  Although you have not earned it, Christ has made you holy, covering you in His righteousness and purity.  Although you do not deserve it, Jesus, in His ascension, has readied a place for you in the kingdom of heaven.  All because of His joyous exchange which began in your baptism!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Of all the prayers we teach our children and grandchildren, this one (next to the Lord's Prayer) may be the most beloved:

Come, Lord Jesus
be our guest.
And let these gifts
to us be blessed.
Amen.
 
Not only does this little prayer invite Jesus to be our unseen guest as we give thanks and partake of the gifts He gives for our nourishment, "Come, Lord Jesus" also reminds us that:
 
     Jesus will come again on the Last Day with great power and glory
 
     Jesus will come to judge, as we say in the Creed, "the living and the dead"
 
     Jesus will come at a time when we least expect Him
 
     Jesus will come and we, His people, will be filled with overflowing hope and joy
 
When we became adults, sometimes we set aside the prayers we prayed as a child.  Not so with this one.  Its words express the longing of every believing heart.  And so we pray, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!


 

 
 

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's warm in the church!

"Baby, it's cold outside!" And so it is right here in the Valley of the Sun where our high today will be only in the mid 50's.  Yes, I know - we're wimps! But you've got to understand - when it's 115 degrees in July, 55 degrees will feel really cold! So you sympathize with us now? No? OK.

In any event, God's house will be warm this weekend.  Saturday Matins worship takes place at 5 pm.  Sunday services will be held at 8 and 10:45 am - the sermon theme is "Peace on Earth?"  Classes for Sr. High, Jr. High and kids of all ages meet at 9:20 am.  Our December voters meeting will be held at 9:15 am and the 2014 budget will be presented for approval.  If you're not connected to a church, try connecting with us.  We enjoy making new friends at LICL!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Does your work drive you nuts?

Did you answer the question with a resounding "YES!" Then you might find this viewpoint on work from Robert Updegraff helpful:

You ought to be glad for the troubles on your job because they provide about half your income.  If it were not for the things that go wrong, the difficult people with whom you deal, and the problems of your working day, someone would be found to handle your job for half of what you are being paid.  So start looking for more troubles, learn to handle them cheerfully and with good judgment, as opportunities rather than irritations, and you will find yourself getting ahead at a surprising rate.  For there are plenty of big jobs waiting for people who are not afraid of troubles.

Yes, our work will always present us with challenges and the more responsibility you've been charged with, the greater the challenge.  If your work days are filled with pressure, you might pray this prayer, written by Donald Deffner:

It looks like another day of stress Lord
Work piled up that never seems to end
Pressures from those who seek to control me
Unreasonable demands
even from those who love me
Responsibilities which sometimes seem beyond me
What do I do Lord?
Let me begin this day
by thanking You first of all
for life itself
My life
which you have given me
     It is He who has made us and not we ourselves
Then let me
by the power of Your Holy Spirit
affirm my baptism
There you made me Your child
and brought me into Your family
and into eternal life
which I am in now
     Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called You by name, You are mine.  Behold, I have graven you on the palms of My hands.
Now Lord
move those blessed assurances
from my head into my heart
Empower me to act today
as Your child
no matter what stressful situations
confront me
As others attempt to put pressure on me
move me to react
as Your gentle loving servant
May I be a "little Christ"
when others confront me
throughout the day
O Lord
as I face what lies ahead of me
be my strength
my guard
my guide in everything I do
Keep me cool
when things heat up
Keep me tender
when I am inclined to be hard
Keep me resilient
when under pressure
Keep me faithful to You
in all things
In the strong Name of Jesus Christ
Amen.

Prayer from "Prayers for People Under Pressure" (Northwestern Publishing House)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In the devil's kingdom

Words of warning from Dr. Luther:

Let me tell you this, even though you know God's Word perfectly and are already a master in all things, you are daily in the devil's kingdom.  He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments and all the commandments.  Therefore, you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips and in your ears.  But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware.

From the Large Catechism, 3rd Commandment, paragraph 100

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

God is with us!

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son,
and will call Him Immanuel
 
The lights were dimmed and the candles gave off a warm and welcoming glow.  My fellow students and I were positioned on the steps leading to the chancel and altar of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Tucson, AZ., telling in word and song the story of the birth of the Christ child.  We sang with all the faith and joy our hearts could muster.
 
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend on us we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
 
On that night I remember concentrating really hard on all the words to the songs  and Scripture we would sing and say.  Today, however, it really knocks me over - we were telling our little part of the world that God is with us! We need not be afraid - God is with us! We can live each day with courage - God is with us! We can trust even in the face of adversity - God is with us! Let this truth plant its roots deep in your heart this Advent - God is with you!
 
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel
 
lyrics from "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Church New Year!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of the new church year which marks the beginning of Advent.  "Advent" means "coming."  The color for this season in many churches is blue.  I have a blue stole that I wear over my alb that shows the three "comings" of Jesus.  The stole shows Christ's first coming as a tiny babe whose first bed was a manger...He comes to us today as He is truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar...He will come again on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead and to gather those who are His to bring us into His heavenly kingdom.  Our worship will prepare us to celebrate the Lord's birth at Christmas but also remind us again to be watchful and ready for His coming.

Today, worship takes place at 5 pm.  Deacon Danny Baker will lead worship and music will be offered by Pat Herman and her group.  On Sunday, we worship at our usual times, 8 and 10:45 am.  The sermon theme is "Walking in the Light."  The Worship Ensemble has an original arrangement, written by Jon and Tim Gray, of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," which they will offer, an appropriate selection for the beginning of this new church year.  And Bible study classes for all age groups will be held at 9:20 pm.  Many are finding Pastor John Pope's study of the book of James to be very informative and helpful.

God be with you this weekend! Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, November 29, 2013

White Friday?

No Black Friday around here.  Staying away from all the shopping establishments, the mad crowds, the crazy drivers, the picked over merchandise, the disgruntled cashiers, all of it!

It's White Friday at our house.  My dear, sweet wife has "White Christmas" and other classics playing on the stereo and four 500 pound boxes of Christmas decorations sit in the middle of the living room floor (OK, the boxes didn't weigh 500 pound each - but when you accumulate Christmas "stuff" for 41 years, those boxes are heavy!).  By the time I get home from work today, it will look a lot like Christmas.

Ah yes, work.  Yesterday, following Thanksgiving worship (has anyone yet found that loose turkey?), we traveled to Moon Valley to meet up with Sherri's extended family.  It's the one time of the year when most of the clan is able to gather and we have such a wonderful time catching up with each other, eating way too much good food, holding the annual touch football game (almost an exciting as any pro game on TV) and finishing up the day with the best pie this side of Camelback Mountain.  It seems that Thanksgiving Day ends much too quickly.

Thursday is the day that I get most of my Sunday stuff done - write my sermon, prepare prayers, get my Confirmation lesson ready.  So I'll do that today on White Friday.

But it's not such a happy, White Friday for some folks.  Yesterday, a family gathered around a loved one as he breathed his last and went to rest in the arms of Jesus.  They recognize that it was a blessing that their husband, father and grandfather fell asleep in Jesus.  They are comforted by the words they confess in the Creed: "...the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." 

If there is anything that can turn a dark day into a White Friday, it surely is God's Holy Word.  I am the resurrection and the life.  He that believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  (John 11:25-26)  Because I live, you also will live.  (John 14:19)  Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Holding onto God's promises helps us through all our dark days.  If your White Friday is not so white or happy, turn to God's Word for the comfort and help you can use when your days are filled with darkness.  Let the "Light of the World" shine His light of love on you. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I am thankful for

Jesus showed that He would rather go to Hell for you than to go to Heaven without you.

John Jeske, "From Sinai to Calvary," page 164.

Have a blessed thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What happens when you hear God's Word?

If you take two C tuning forks, tap on and simply hold it next to the other, the one that wasn't tapped will begin to resonate.  It's like that with our hearts as well.  Sometimes when we hear God's Word, something inside our hearts starts to resonate.  That's because we were created to hear His word.

Dr. William Lane, quoted in "The Walk," by Michael Card, page 22

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Good and Wet for Worship

They call it "rain."  We don't see much of it here in the Valley of the Sun so when it comes we rejoice.  But the rain won't keep us from God's House to worship this weekend.  Pastor John Pope leads the Saturday service at 5 pm.  The last Sunday of the church year reminds us that as we continue on our pilgrim way, we know how the story will end on the Last Day.  The living and victorious Jesus will gather up those who are His and take the faithful to paradise.  Come and hear more! Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am and classes for all ages meet at 9:20 am.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL.  We promise you warm and dry conditions inside!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you on Nov. 22, 1963

I was on the playground of Redeemer Lutheran School in Tucson, Arizona.  Our class had finished eating lunch and some of us were out shooting baskets on a sunny afternoon.

One of our fellow students shouted out from a classroom door, "The President has been shot!"  We rushed back to class where each room had a small black and white television.  Our teacher led us in a prayer.  I remember praying real hard that President Kennedy would be OK.  Then we heard the announcement from broadcaster Walter Cronkite that the President was dead.

My 11 year old mind couldn't believe it.  Who would want to kill the President? He was young and good looking.  He had a pretty wife.  I'd heard that he was athletic.  I figured he'd make a great dad.  Why would anyone want to hurt him?

Like most Americans, my family and I spent that weekend glued to the television.  We watched the events as they played out in Washington.  I remember seeing a Mass for Kennedy and wondering why it was so different from our church service at Redeemer on Sunday morning.  I wished I could have been in that line that slowly walked through the Capitol rotunda so I could pay my respects.  And I watched Kennedy's funeral.  I'll never forget the look of profound sadness on Mrs. Kennedy's face and I felt sad for Caroline and John who had lost their father.

I also remember being afraid.  If something like this could happen to the President, then what about me or my family?

When my dear, sweet wife and I lived in South Carolina, our next door neighbor had been a long time friend of the Kennedy family and served the President during his 1000 days in the White House.  My friend was absolutely convinced that had the Kennedy presidency continued, there would have been no Vietnam War.  "My lives would have been saved," he said, "had Kennedy lived."

I guess now we'll never know.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Ocean of Forgetfulness

I've been spending too much time this week on something that is doing me no good.  I been reflecting on several situations from the past where my words and actions helped to ruin some relationships and friendships.  Now I find myself fill with regret.  I'm frustrated with myself and have used myself as a punching bag.  It's a terrible way to live.

That's why I want to share these words with you from Bo Giertz' devotional, "To Live With Christ."  Here are words of hope that have lifted my spirits.  Maybe they'll do something for yours too.

Still, we're struggling to reach the goal.  We have to forget what lies behind us, all our failures, all the things we shamefully admit in our confessions.  We have to throw it off and leave it by the wayside.  We don't have to drag it with us.  We can forget it because God Himself forgets it and lowers it into the ocean of forgetfulness where everything is swallowed up by His inexhaustible forgiveness.  (page 617)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Mr. Irrelevant" you're not!

Each spring the National Football League holds a draft of all college players eligible to play in the NFL.  255 players are chosen but the last player, number 255, receives a special designation.  He is called "Mr. Irrelevant."  Being chosen as the last player in the draft is only slightly better than not being picked at all.  Football experts figure that as the last player in the draft, you have only two chances of making an NFL team - slim and none.  Hence, the tag, "Mr. Irrelevant."

Maybe you've had the same experience as "Mr. Irrelevant."  Perhaps you were chosen last for the team, the last one asked to the dance, the last one picked for the assignment.  Maybe you've felt like your name was "Mr. Irrelevant" or "Ms. Afterthought."

The apostle John reminds believers that you also carry a special description - "Child of God."  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)  And this is no honorary title - God has adopted you into His family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  In fact, you might say that your baptismal certificate also serves as your adoption papers! You are neither irrelevant nor an afterthought to God.  You are important to the Father - important enough that He sent His only Son to be your Savior.  Rest securely in the knowledge that you are a child of God!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Say "Cheese!"

Last Sunday afternoon the Spicer clan met with a photographer to try and get a family picture.  While waiting to get started I decided to get some snaps of my kids and grandkids.  Here's son, Eric, with his wife, Christina, and their daughter, Emily (who turned 1 year old on Monday).
My four beautiful grandchildren (l-r) Emily, Drew, Luke & Ethan
Daughter Stephanie with her husband, Geoff & (below) daughter Katie with her husband, Josh.  Beautiful kids and grandkids, one and all!

Monday, November 18, 2013

My collect for the beginning of the week

Maybe this works for you as well...

Loving Heavenly Father, creator of body and soul, giver of wisdom and intelligence, grant me the wisdom to know Your will and the desire to carry it out so that I might serve Your people well and bring glory to Your name, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Collect for this Sunday

Blessed Lord, who caused 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, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It pays to be cheap!

Yes, I can be tight with a buck.  I suppose I got that trait from my parents.  They both lived through the depression and neither of their families had much.  So they learned to be content with just a little.  I remember they always did up Christmas in a big way for my sister and me.  But we didn't enjoy regular trips to Dairy Queen or JC Penney's or any place like that.  Every dollar was precious.

I have always loved to read and I got hooked on music the first time I heard the Beatles on the radio.  So, to this day, I'm always looking for an interesting book or finding the sounds from my earlier days.  The best source? For me it's Goodwill or Savers.

I've walked out of those stores a couple of times with over a $100 worth of books for less than $10.  Books that I wanted to buy when released I finally purchased after being patient and continually checking the racks in the stores.  A couple of my more interesting finds are:

"Death in Holy Orders" by P.D. James.  She writes British Detective fiction and created an exciting series of books around Detective Adam Dalgliesh.  Most of the stories are set in London but not all of them.  For me, reading her books is like taking at trip to Great Britain and I am usually sad when I get to the last page of her books.  I was in Savers when I spied "Death in Holy Orders" on a shelf.  What caught my eye was that this particular book was from her British and not her American publisher.  I took the book of the shelf and saw the little sticker on the front cover: "Signed by the Author."  I quickly open the book to the title page and, sure enough, there was James' signature.  I don't know if it makes the book more valuable; I just like having a signed copy of a book by a favorite author.

"Last Night in Hamburg" by The Beatles.  This CD was also purchased at a Savers store.  Anyone who has seriously followed the Beatles knows that it was in Hamburg, Germany that they really polished their chops as musicians.  They made three trips to the German city to play in some of the seediest clubs you could ever imagine.  But on their third visit the Beatles played in what was a proper theatre, The Star Club.  As I understand it, a fellow musician by the name of King Size Taylor set up a tape recorder at the end of the stage and recorded the Beatles as they entertained one evening.  After Beatlemania exploded all over the world, Taylor tried to release the concert but the Beatles continually objected and tried to keep the tapes from ever seeing the light of day, so to speak.  I guess a few albums and CD got released and I couldn't believe I'd found one.  Among the 28 songs are a number of selections that were never recorded properly by the Beatles so I'm pretty chuffed to have found this CD.

So anyway, now you know - I'm a cheapskate.  I like a bargain.  So, if you happen to be shopping at Goodwill or Savers you might run into me.  I'm the guy saying, "You gonna buy that?" 

Friday, November 15, 2013

How lovely is Your dwelling place

Do you seek the Lord? Want to be near Him? Then go to the place where He can be found - to the place where His Word is proclaimed and His sacrament are given.  You can encounter the Lord at the baptismal font where He calls You by name, cleanses you of your unrighteousness and adopts you into His family.  You can hear the Lord speak to You and you speak back to Him His very Word in the liturgy.  You can respond to His invitation to come to His table and receive His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of all your sins.  It is a lovely place where the Lord dwells with His gifts of grace and peace.

Join us at Life in Christ and receive what the Lord has for you.  Worship takes place this Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages begin at 9:20 in the morning.  Our wonderful Bell Choir plays at the Sunday services.  They fill our sanctuary with musical joy.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Open mouth...insert foot...seek forgiveness

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is a time to remain silent and there is a time to speak.  Praise God that He forgives us in Christ for those times we have said too much.  And praise Him, too, that He pardons those times we've been too timid, those times we've side-stepped our responsibilities to speak "the truth in love" to a son or daughter or to a brother or sister in the faith.

A Jane Fryer devotion from "Today's Light Bible," page 57.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fancy Dive

There's no one quite like Shel Silverstein...

The fanciest dive that was ever dove
 Was done by Melissa of Coconut Grove
She bounced on the board and flew into the air
 With a twist of her head and a twirl of her hair
She did 34 jackknives, back flipped and spun
 Quadruple gainered and reached for the sun
And then somersaulted 9 times and a quarter
 And looked down and saw
              The pool had no water.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A blessing from Martin Luther

May our dear Lord Jesus Christ show you His hands and His side and gladden your heart with His love, and may you behold and hear Him until you find your joy in Him.

From "Martin Luther - Preacher of the Cross," page 57

Friday, November 8, 2013

Worship this weekend at LICL

Last weekend we saw the largest attendance total in the history of our ten year old church - 413 for the three services.  Praise the Lord for the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to so many.  And our Christian LIFE Hour had an overall attendance of 149 which was also a record breaker for us.  I know it's important not to get too caught up in statistics.  But I can't help but thank the Lord for the work He is doing in our church through His Word and Sacraments. 

This Saturday's 5 pm worship service will be led by Pastor Dave Darling and music will be provided by Pat Herman and her group.  Sunday morning's worship is held at 8 and 10:45 am and classes and discussion groups for all ages will take place at 9:20 am (following coffee and donuts out on the patio).  Join us this weekend and receive the gifts God offers in worship at LICL!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Engraved on His hands

One of my first confirmation students used to write a lot of notes to herself.  She would make note of assignments for school, telephone numbers of people to call, jobs her mother wanted her to do and so on.  But my young student didn't use a notepad or a notebook.  She'd take her ballpoint pen and make these notes on her hands and arms.  One day she came into class looking like she had visited a deranged tattoo artist! Her hands and arms were covered in black, blue and red ink.  I asked her, "Tell me, why do you write all over yourself like that?"  She smiled and replied, "All of these notes are important and I don't want to forget a single one of them.  This is the way I remember what I'm supposed to do."

In the same way, the Bible tells us over and over again of an important truth - you are important to God.  Your salvation was so important to the Father that He did not leave that up to you.  That would have been a no-win proposition.  Instead, the Father sent His Son to make payment for your sin and to deliver you up to the Father, robed in His righteousness and holiness.  Because you are so important to the Lord, He says to you: See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.  (Isaiah 49:16)

Think of it - you are remembered by God! Actually, the Lord has done much better than writing your name on His hand - you and all who belong to Him are engraved on His palms.  This engraving is permanent.  It matches the steadfast love that God has for each of His children.  So trust in God's promise.  Believe that He is with you and watches over you.  With eyes of faith, look at His hands!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

God's Joyous Exchange

During last Sunday's service I shared with our congregation what Martin Luther called, "The Joyous Exchange."  This is what the apostle Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might receive the righteousness of God.

Imagine yourself bundled up in a jacket that you've owned for years.  The lining has come out, the fabric is worn out and it looks like it was run over by a herd of buffaloes.  A stranger walks up to you, wearing a brand new coat and says, "Hey, let's make a trade.  I'll take your coat and you can have mine.  My coat is perfect, flawless.  You'll look like a million dollars wearing this coat.  Come on, what do you say?  Let's trade!"

A far fetched scenario? I suppose.  But that's how rich the grace of God is for people like you and me, clothed in the unrighteousness of our sin.  God the Father sent the Son to make that very exchange.  That exchange was the solution to our sin problem.  Now, all those clothed in the perfect, flawless righteousness of Jesus can stand before God, confident that there is a place for us in paradise.  All because of the Joyous Exchange.

Johann Gerhard, in Sacred Meditations, picks up this theme so well: Wonderful, indeed, is the exchange You make; our sins You take upon Yourself, and Your righteousness You impute to us; the death due us for our transgressions You Yourself suffer, and in turn You bestow eternal life upon us.  Therefore, I can no longer doubt Your grace or despair on account of my sins.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We're on a roll!

With our football picks, that is! A friend of mine, Michele, and I are in a football pool at her work.  I am her expert "picker."  Michele asked me to participate with her a few years ago.  She explained that she used to make her picks and did it in a very unusual way.  She said, "I would look at the two teams, decide which city I would like to travel to and make my pick!"  Needless to say, that wasn't really a winning formula.

The first year I picked with her we won twice and that got my competitive juices flowing.  Soon I was checking a bunch of different websites to read what the experts were thinking about the weekly schedule of games.  Then I realized that I was spending too much time on making the picks and when we didn't win, I'd really get upset. 

I no longer consult the experts in making our picks.  My thinking on this is pretty simple.  I focus on the team's record, winning or losing streak and who the home is.

Though I don't have the stats to back it up, I think the home field does provide an advantage.  That probably caries more weight with me than just about anything else. 

So far this year we were almost winners in two different weeks until the our picks in the Monday night game were misses.  But now we've won two weeks in a row.  So I'm sticking with my strategy.  And I like it when we win.  It gives Michele bragging rights around her office which is good for her.

You think Vegas might come calling, asking me to share with them my special gifts for picking winners?

Nah!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Preach, preach and preach some more!

At Life in Christ we're in the process of crafting a job description for an associate pastor.  One of our Elders asked me what it was that I really wanted to do and what responsibilities would I see an associate pastor focusing on.  I pondered that question a few days and then came across the following in one of my journals.  I did not note who wrote it or where I found the quote.  But it summed up quite neatly my desire for ministry:

Preach; let others govern.  Preach; let other men organize.  Preach; let others raise funds...make a straight path between your pulpit and your study, on which the grass will never grow.

Nothing gives me more joy than preaching about Jesus.  The world needs to hear about His sacrificial love and His perfect redemption.  A truly blessed pastor is one in which his congregation doesn't expect him to lead the church council or to head a building project or organize a capital fund drive.  Preach Jesus, administer the sacraments, comfort the hurting and seek the lost - that's the calling of a pastor.  And that's enough.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A word of thanks

to all of you who take the time to read this blog.  Since I don't have the time to monitor comments I'm not in a position to receive feedback.  But, on average, 40 people check things out each day that I post something.  I hope you've found an encouraging or helpful word from time to time.  That's the main purpose of this blog - offering up some of the things that have helped to get me through a rough day or lifted up my spirits at just the right time.  So, again, thanks for spending a little time with me each day!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Saturday service returns!

And so it will be a busy weekend at LICL.  Our Saturday service, which went on hiatus for the summer, is back and will take place at 5 pm.  We'll follow the usual Sunday service schedule with worship at 8 and 10:45 am and Bible classes for all ages at 9:20 am.  This is All Saints weekend and so we will remember all those from our church family who now rest in Jesus.  Are you connected to a church? Interested in getting to know some friendly people? And, most importantly, do you need to hear a word of hope and peace? Join us this weekend for worship at Life in Christ!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Man and Me!

On this Reformation Day I find myself looking at the pictures of our trip to Wittenberg back in 2011.  I'm in the town square standing next to the statue of the great man, Martin Luther.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What do you stand for?

Really appreciate this petition from a prayer by the late Presbyterian pastor, Peter Marshall:

Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for - because unless we stand for something, we will fall for anything.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What sin does to us.

Prior to this act (Adam and Eve) followed God like sheep follow their shepherd.  He spoke; they listened.  He gave assignments; they fulfilled them.  They were naked but unashamed, transparent and unafraid.  Yet as one drop of ink clouds a glass of water, the stubborn deed darkened their souls.  Everything changed.  God's presence stirred panic, not peace.  (my emphasis)  Adam ran like a kid caught raiding the pantry.

From "3:16 - The Numbers of Hope" by Max Lucado, page 119.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Depressed? Laugh and sing!

A prayer from the pen of Donald Deffner:

Lord give me the courage

the heavenly medicine

to sing

when I am in the prison

of depression

as the apostles did

in jail

To laugh

at the demons within me

knowing You

reign supreme

in the throne room

of my heart

To be thankful

at all times

knowing You

are in control

Christ in me.

From his book, "Prayers for People Under Pressure," published by Northwestern Publishing House

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A blessed Reformation to you!

In Dr. Martin Luther's lectures on Romans 1:17, there is a passage which explores the doctrine of "The Lord, our Righteousness."

In human teachings the righteousness of men is revealed and taught, that is, we are taught who is righteous and in what way he is righteous and becomes righteous before himself and before men.  Only in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, that is, we are taught who is righteous and in what way he is righteous and becomes righteous before God, namely, solely by faith, by which the Word of God is believed.  Thus the last chapter of Mark says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."  For the righteousness of God is the cause of celebration.  And here again the "righteousness of God" must not be accepted as that by which He Himself is righteous in Himself but that by which we are justified in Him, which is done by faith in the Gospel.

Again, writing on Romans 1:17, Luther penned these words: As intensely as I had formerly hated the expression, "righteousness of God," I now loved and praised it as the sweetest of concepts; and so this passage of Paul was actually the portal of Paradise to me.

A blessed Reformation to you all!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reformation Sunday

Tomorrow we celebrate Reformation Sunday at LICL.  Naturally, the focus of the sermon will be about...well, you'll just have to come and find out! Worship at 8 and 10:45 am and our Adult Choir sings at both services.  Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour starts at 9:20 am.  The Az. Cardinals don't play until 1 pm so you locals have no excuse - join us for worship this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Salvation - not "do" but "done"

It was the question of the rich, young ruler of Matthew, chapter 19.  It was the question I was asked by a visitor to our worship last Sunday.  "What good thing must I do to be saved?"

The apostle Paul's answer is not what most people expect to read or hear.  Paul writes to the Ephesians that our salvation is not a matter of do but done.

Take another look at Ephesians 2:8-9.  Note that we are saved by:

 
Grace alone through
 
Faith alone in
 
Jesus Christ alone without any
 
Works of my own
 
 
 
Even the good works we might do in order to try and impress God are not our own.  Paul writes that God prepared those good works in advance for us to do.  Such works flow from a heart filled with gratitude for God's free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus.
 
 
This is good news! Eternity is not dependent on heeding the advice from Oprah's latest self-help guru or doing an extreme makeover upon yourself so that you meet the expectations of our post-Christian world.  Trust Christ Jesus for forgiveness and salvation.  He offers His gift without strings attached.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.  Good news indeed!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cardinals in 7!

Or 6...or 5...or 4.  It doesn't matter as long as the Cardinals win the 2013 World Series.

Trouble is, they are facing a really good team in the Boston Red Sox.

My family and I lived in the St. Louis area for 13 years and it's hard not to become part of Cardinals Nation.  St. Louis is often cited as the best baseball town in the country .  81 times a year the team plays to sell out to near sell out crowd.  Everyone dresses in the color red.  Good plays by the opposing team are recognized.  Great plays by the home team are rewarded with standing ovations and curtain calls.  If you were a baseball player, I don't think you could ask for a better place to play than St. Louis.

I like the Cardinals chances to take the series.  But Boston didn't win 97 games by luck.  They have an outstanding line up of hitters and their bullpen has been lights out.  And the Red Sox are grinders.  Their games often run 3 and 1/2 to 4 hours long.  Give Boston a chance to beat you and they will.

I like our starting pitching.  And getting Allen Craig back is huge.  Hopefully, he shaken off the rust, so to speak, and is ready to be an RBI machine like he was in the regular season.

The game doesn't start for 10 hours and I'm already getting nervous.  I stopped chewing my fingernails years ago.  Is this the day I fall off the wagon? Oh my! Go Cardinals!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mountain moving faith

I still remember well the day (many years ago) when an evangelist told me that to pray "Lord, let Your will be done in my life," demonstrated a lack of faith in God.  I pointed out to him that Jesus Himself, in the 3rd Petition to the Lord's Prayer, encouraged such a request.  But the evangelist was undeterred.  A Christian with a strong faith tells God what he or she wants Him to do, so I learned, and God will honor the request and answer the prayer accordingly.  Where was John Kleinig when I needed him?

The faith that moves mountains does not come from our confidence in making demands on God but on our self-effacing reliance on His grace in prayer.

John Kleinig, "Grace Upon Grace," pages 196-97

Monday, October 21, 2013

What to do today? Nothing!

Today is my day off and I've decided to be as productive as my two cats.  Which is to say, not productive at all.

The upcoming week is already filled up.  Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are already spoken for and I'm out of town on Wednesday and Saturday.  Then there's Sunday which is a busy and full day.

What to do today? I've done my morning prayers.  I do need to go to the back yard and pick up the citrus from off the ground.  Our good neighbor warned us that roof rats have visited a few homes in our area.  I have a Ruth Rendell mystery that I'm working my way through and I want to get back to the book about Pieter Bruegel, the artist, that my dear, sweet wife gave me for my birthday.  And I suspect that a nap is going to be enjoyed some time during the day.

Well, time to stop.  Writing this blog seems too much like work.  Today is my day off.  I wonder where the cats are hanging out?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Let's try it again!

About this time last week I was laying on the floor with my legs pinned under the table in the living room.  A back spasm sent me to my knees and then to bed.  I missed a Sunday service due to illness for just the third time in 16 years - not too bad.  This has been a better week as I've kept to my vow of not picking up or trying to move any more heavy televisions.  Looking forward to worshipping with the flock tomorrow at LICL.  Services are at 8 and 10:45 am and our Bells Choir will play for us at both services.  Study classes for all age groups are held at 9:20 am.  Come and join us tomorrow at Life in Christ!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Want to see where the Beatles wrote a hit song?

It doesn't look like much but behind those bars and glass was Margaret Asher's music room.  And it was there that Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote "I Want To Hold Your Hand."
This is the Asher home.  Following Beatlemania, McCartney was invited by Margaret Asher to take up residence in a small room at the very top of the house.  McCartney lived with the Asher family for a number of years (he was dating Jane Asher at the time) until he purchased his own home in St. John Wood.

I still remember the first time I heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand."  It was a Saturday morning in Dec. 1963 and my family and I were in the car and on our way to the grocery store - which my Mom did every Saturday morning.  Suddenly, on KTKT 990 radio in Tucson, the DJ announced that at the top and bottom of every hour the station would be playing a Beatles song.  Then, I heard those chugging guitars and the energy in those voices as the sang, "O yeah, I...tell you something, I think you'll understand...."

My dear, sweet wife and I saw the Asher home during a Beatles walking trip in London a couple of years ago.  We visited a whole bunch of Beatles sites and ended up at the Abbey Road studios, walking across the crosswalk.  And, yes, I walked across barefooted, a la McCartney.

It was 50 years ago this week that Paul and John wrote 'I Want To Hold Your Hand."  They were hoping for a top 40 hit.  They got a whole lot more.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's OK to read Leviticus!

I was talking to a member of the flock last week who told me that they had bought a one year Bible and were powering their way through Genesis.  "Right now the reading is fun," the person told me.  But in a few weeks I'll be starting Leviticus.  Ugh!"

Well, yes.  After reading the high jinks of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Moses, and being impressed by the unending mercy and grace of God toward a sinful and disobedient people, Leviticus can be a challenge to work through.  But skip over the third book of the Bible? Author Kathleen Norris would advise against it:

In this light, the apparently ludicrous attention to detail in Leviticus, where God is involved in the minutiae of daily life, right down to cooking and cleaning, might be seen instead as the love of a God who desires to be present to us in everything we do.

From "Acedia and Me," page 192.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Poor, poor Ruth

Who would blame her if she just followed her mother in law's advice and gave up and went back to her home.  But she doesn't do that.  Why? That's what we'll explore this Sunday during worship at Life in Christ.  Tomorrow, our annual Oktoberfest takes place at 3 pm.  There will be food, fun, fellowship and polka dancing (but not necessarily in that order).  Sunday worship is held at 8 and 10:45 am and study classes for all ages take place at 9:20 am.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What is the focus of the Bible?

I like Tullian Tchividjian take on the question:

The focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thinking about worship

We are preparing to restart our Saturday worship service next month.  It will probably start at a different time (most likely 5 pm) and will follow the same format that we use for our Sunday service, while utilizing some of the best of the newer songs and hymns being written along with the great hymns of the church. 

Lutheran Worship is "top down."  In most churches, worship is something that "we do for God," or "bottom up."  In our church we recognize that worship starts with "God serving us."  The introduction to "Lutheran Worship" put it like this: The rhythm of our worship is from Him to us, and then from us back to Him.   God gets the first Word is worship: Our Lord speaks and we listen.  Worship is not so much what we have to say to God but it has everything to do with what He says to us.  So we eagerly listen as He speaks His Word of forgiveness to us...as He speaks life and peace to us in the reading of the Scriptures...as He speaks a word of invitation to come to His table and receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Then, as the introduction puts it: Saying back to Him what He has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure.

A WELS professor and pastor puts it all in perspective: Lutheran worship recognizes that although God is our truest friend, He is not our "buddy."  He is a holy God, who is to be feared.  John F. Brug, quoted in "We Believe...Therefore, We Speak," page 191, Northwestern Publishing House.

Quotes in italics in second paragraph from "Lutheran Worship," Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Gratitude Can Do For You

Loved this bit of writing from Max Lucado's new book, "You'll Get Through This"

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff.  To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God's accomplishments.  To rehearse God's accomplishments is to discover His heart.  To discover His heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver.  Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread.

page 97

Monday, October 7, 2013

Go fishing this week!

I wonder if Jack Cooper is still working as an ophthalmologist in Dallas, Texas?

I read about him a number of years ago.  His story got my attention because it was said of him that he took very seriously Jesus' call for His followers to be "fishers of men."

As I read about it, if you went into Cooper's office for a standard eye exam, he would ask you to read, without the aid of glasses, as sentence printed on the wall of the examining room.  If you needed your glasses to read, then you were encouraged to put them on.

The sentence read: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."

Cooper said that occasionally people would see the sentence on the wall and exclaim how excited they were that they could see it clearly.  Others would read the sentence and then ask, "What does that mean?"  At that point Cooper would joyfully explain God's plan for salvation through faith in Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection.  Each time this happened, Cooper would come home and tell his wife, "I had a pretty good day at the fishin' hole."

This is an approach that probably wouldn't fly in every work setting.  And yet, besides our homes where do most of us spend most of our time? You got it - at work! Maybe there is a way that you can go fishing at your place of employment.  In fact, today might be a great day for fishing.

What question do many folks ask on Monday? "Whatcha do this weekend?"  That gives you a perfect opportunity to mention that among the things you did, you went to church and Bible class on Sunday morning.  You could tell about the interesting sermon you heard or the insight you received during Bible study hour.  Or you could talk about the friendly people of your church (assuming that they are friendly).  By showing excitement about that part of your life, you just might find yourself answering more questions about your church and you might even find the right moment to invite that co-worker to join you some Sunday morning.

Even better, you might get the chance to tell your co-worker about Jesus.  Think about it: your bait is God's Word, the message of sin and grace.  Your hook is the love of God that is found only in Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior.  Now, more than ever, people need to know that there is hope for living and that there is help for dealing with the tough stuff of life.  We believers know where hope and help can be found.  So be ready - you just might get the chance to go fishing this week!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Do your duty!

Policemen, firefighters, and those who serve in our military like to say that they "do their duty."  What is the duty of a disciple of Christ? Jesus addresses that topic in this Sunday's Gospel lesson from Luke, chapter 17.  Join us and learn more.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with study classes for all ages beginning at 9:20 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, October 4, 2013

What a day!

It was a busy but a productive day filled with blessings.

Finished my sermon for Sunday.

Attended our District Pastor's Conference.

Ran into Mark Jeske, speaker of the great "Time of Grace" television program (on at 7 am every Sunday on channel 61).

Met with a pastor from Yuma who will be participating in a group for new pastors that I'll be leading.

Heard a missionary from Houston who provided some good ideas for outreach and witness in our own area.

Visited with my buddy, Padre Dave.

Helped my long time friend, Jerry, work on a sermon he will be delivering at another congregation in a week.

Talked with a young man in our congregation who has decided to become a pastor.  It got rather emotional at times for me.

Enjoyed a lovely evening on the patio with my dear, sweet wife, my youngest daughter and my grandson.

Attended a screening of the movie, "Unstoppable," featuring Kirk Cameron (a former TV star who has become quite an apologist for the Christian faith).

No wonder I slept so well last night!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Today is sermon writing day

And as I begin, I will try to heed this advice from Martin Luther:

This is the gist of your preaching: Behold your God! Promote God alone, His mercy and grace.  Preach Me (God) alone!

From Luther's Works, Vol. 17, page 14

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Just visiting!

I love this story...

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!"

From Mitch Albom's "Have a Little Faith," page 231

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

This is going to be a dumb day.

The funny papers don't seem to be so funny anymore.  But I can always count on "Peanuts" to give me a good chuckle.  Here's one that for some reason resonated with me.

Charlie Brown: This is going to be a dumb day.  This is going to be one of those dumb days when I say dumb things and do dumb things and everyone tells me I'm dumb.

Linus: Maybe you should go back home and go to bed.

Charlie Brown: I never do anything that smart on a dumb day.

This is a busy day for me.  I'm attending our District's Pastor's Conference.  I'll also be meeting with some folks about a campus ministry project I'm working on.  And I need to connect with a couple of new, just-out-of-the-seminary pastors about a program I'm involved in. 

It could also be a dumb day too.  I have a tendency to be Charlie Brown like, saying and doing dumb stuff, disappointing myself and others. 

Fortunately, we Christians can practice repentance and faith.  I can confess my dumb stuff to the Lord and trust His Word that He will not hold my dumb stuff against me but, instead, show me mercy and forgiveness - the very things I need when dumbness strikes.

And I can practice the same with those I offend with my dumb stuff.  I can seek out those with whom I said a thoughtless word or did something unkind and say those six words that are hard to speak but can bring healing to relationships - "I was wrong...please forgive me."

That's the way to take some of the dumbness out of a dumb day. 

Here goes nothing! Hope you have a blessed day in the Lord!

Monday, September 30, 2013

How does God work?

The Word, the Word, the Word."  That is how Martin Luther responded when asked how God works.  He forgives sin by His Word.  He creates faith by His Word.  He sustains faith by His Word.  He heals through His Word.  He raises the dead by His Word and He will raise the dead through His Word.

From "What They Need to Hear" by Klemut Preus, page 152

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Give God Two

That is, 2 hours of your time tomorrow.  Worship and Bible study go together like peanut butter and jelly, Lennon and McCartney, NCIS & NCIS LA, etc., etc.  We meet for worship at 8 and 10:45 am; I'm looking forward to joining Dan and Connie to provide the music for the service.  Classes for all ages meet at 9:20 am with a new adult class starting with Pastor Darling in the sanctuary and the Women's class continuing their study of the book, "Every Day Deserves a Chance" in room one.  So TIVO the Cardinals game, give God two hours of your time and then you've got the rest of the day to yourself.  Hope to see you tomorrow at LICL!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Maker of the Universe

The Maker of the universe, As Man, for man was made a curse
The claims of Law which He had made, Unto the uttermost He paid

His holy fingers made the bough, Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow
The nails that pierced His hands were mined, In secret places He designed

He made the forest whence there sprung, The tree on which His body hung
He died upon a cross of wood, Yet made the hill on which it stood

The sky that darkened o'er His head, by Him above the earth was spread
The sun from Him that hid its face, by His decree was poised in space

The spear which spilled His precious blood, was tempered in the fires of God
The grave in which His form was laid, Was hewn in rocks His hands had made

The throne on which He now appears, Was His from everlasting years
But a new glory crowns His brow, and every knee to Him shall bow

The Maker of the universe

Words by F.W. Pit
Hear Phil Keaggy's arrangement as he sings "The Maker of the Universe" on his album/cd, "Way Back Home"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The best words I hear on TV?

And they are, "Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode," spoken by Mark Harmon, star of CBS's "NCIS."

My dear, sweet wife and I have watched the show from the very first episode.  I watch because Harmon seems like a "man's man" and Sherri watches because he is a really good looking guy.  It's the perfect combination!

The new season, the show's 11th, began last night.  It solved last spring's cliff hanger ending and set the stage for a key cast member's departure.  During its run, NCIS has had supporting cast come and go but rating continue to climb.  And although the show gets no love whatsoever from the awards programs, it was last year's highest rated program not named "Sunday Night Football."

Why? Well, here's my theory.  In NCIS, good always prevails over evil.  Jethro Gibbs, Harmon's character, always gets the bad guy, always solves the crime.  And I think people like that a lot.

That's how we expect life to work.  But it doesn't.  Good, hard working people are victimized.  Evil, selfish people often  comes out ahead.  Our society seems to be in a state of disequilibrium.  It can leave us confused, disappointed and unsure about our future.

So, it's comforting when the bad guys get justice served on their heads.  And although NCIS is just a television program - make believe - it's nice to see wrongs righted and justice served.  And in 60 minutes! (Even less if you have TIVO). 

NCIS is coming up against some strong competition this fall.  And "American Idol" is always a threat to cut into the audience.  As for me and Sherri, we'll be sitting onto the edge of our seats for another year of NCIS.  And waiting to hear those favorite words at the end of each episode.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Missionary's Prayer

Actually, it's a prayer any of us could pray.

Lord, here are my eyes.  I give them to You.  I want to see only the things You want me to see.  Help me to look at the things You want me to look at and avoid the things You do not want me to look at.  Here are my hands.  Work through my hands to do what You want me to do.  Here are my feet.  Guide them to go where You want them to go.  I give You the Lordship of my life.

Bill Tisdale

Monday, September 23, 2013

I guarentee it!

It's been a good friend for about 15 years.  It's traveled from Missouri to South Carolina to Arizona.  It's suffered coffee spills and been marked with pen and pencil.  It's been dropped a few times and is being held together by more than one strip of strapping tape.  In spite of its looks, it will have my undying loyalty.  It's my Today's Light Bible.

The Today's Light Bible is like most devotional Bibles on the market today.  By following the daily reading guide, a person can go from Genesis to Revelation in just over two years.  Most reading can be done in 15 minutes or less, offering a person an easy opportunity to spend time hearing God speak through His Word and then responding with prayers and petitions back to the Lord.

But the best feature of the Today's Light Bible are the devotional comments by author Jane Fryer.  Fryer gets Law and Gospel.  Because this is so, she never fails to encourage me with the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ for me and the whole world.

Here's just one example, from page 1241: Read the promise of Hosea 13:14.  The death that was ours, is ours no longer.  The grave that belonged to us, belongs to us no more.  That death became Christ's death.  That grave became His grave.  And His life is now - right now - alive in us by His grace.

Christian bookstores are awash in all kinds of devotional books, Bibles and other materials.  If you're looking for an aid that will help you be in God's Word consistently, check out the Today's Light Bible.  If you're looking for an author who will help you rejoice in your new life in Christ Jesus, you'll be blessed by Jane Fryer's devotional thoughts.  To borrow George Zimmer's phrase: I guarantee it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Job One

Back in the 80's the Ford Motor Company said building quality cars for their customers was "Job One."  In the Epistle lesson we explore tomorrow at worship, it seems that the Apostle Paul is calling prayer "Job One" for every Christian.  Join us tomorrow and learn more.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with classes for all age groups meeting at 9:20 am.  Come and worship the Lord this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, September 20, 2013

They say it's your birthday

So happy birthday to all of you who share this birth date with me!

Not sure why but this morning I woke up trying to answer the question, "What was your most memorable birthday?" Number 16 is the winner.

It somehow worked out that I would be able to take the driving test on my birthday in order to get my license.  After school my Dad took me down to the Motor Vehicle office and I took the test.  I used my turn signals correctly, maintained the proper distance while following another car, kept my hands on the stirring wheel at 10 and 2 and after 10 minutes or so, I was told that I passed.  Inwardly I did some cartwheels.  I got my picture taken, was handed a slip of paper and told that my official license would be coming in the mail.  We headed back home with me in the driver's seat, huge smile plastered on my face.

We had cake and ice cream and I opened a couple of presents.  When we had finished, my Dad asked, "Isn't there anything you want to say?"  I thought I'd already said "Thank you" for the gifts so I was stumped.  He said, "Don't you want to ask, 'Can I have the car?'"  Then, with a smile on his face, he tossed me the car keys and said, "Be back by sundown."

Wow! Had aliens taken over my Dad's body? He was not normally that generous.  I went out to the car, started the engine and wondered, "Where am I going to go?"  I hadn't expected this gift! So I drove over to see a couple of friends, bragged about how easy the driving test was and had the car back home before sundown, just as I was instructed.

I'm working today so I don't know how much time I'll have to reflect back on these years that the Lord has given me.  I'm thankful for my dear, sweet wife, my kids and grandkids, the many friends I've made through the years and the work that I've been privileged to do. 

And in a few weeks I'll celebrate another birthday - my baptismal birthday.  That's the day the Lord called me by name, placed his sign on my forehead and heart and adopted me into his family.  There won't be a cake to eat or presents to open.  But prayers of thanksgiving will be offered to the God who loved me enough to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atoning sacrifice for my sins and the sins of the whole world.  How special is that?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The headline in the paper is wrong. Jesus saved Brian Welch!

That's what Brian Welch says!

All of you who are fans of the band, Korn, know the name.  Didn't know the band or who Brian Welch was.  But the headline in our local paper read, "Simpsons helped Korn guitarist get clean."

Welch told the reporter, "I was living for myself, just living for the pleasure, doing stuff you know you have no business doing, where your heart is saying, 'No' - cocaine and pills just every night and not having a grip on your drinking, just drenching your liver with alcohol every day.  It ruined everything.  My creativity.  It took my happiness away.  I was just a slave to the high.  So I wanted to turn my life around."

Sound like the story found in every autobiography of nearly every rock performer I've ever read. 

But then something unusual happened to Welch.  He started watching the Simpsons.

His eye was not on Bart or Homer but on next door neighbor, Ned Flanders.

Flanders is portrayed as a Christian man and usually the butt of every joke on the show.

Welch liked the fact that Flanders was always happy.  He wanted his "happy" back.

Welch says, "So I went to church.  And everything came back to life after a few years of going through some soul cleansing...everything - my happiness, my music and my creativity."

Welch actually left the band for a time.  He released a statement saying that he'd "chosen Jesus Christ as his Savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end."

So, as it turns out, the headline in the paper was all wrong.

It wasn't the Simpsons that changed Brian Welch's life.  It was Jesus Christ.

Going to church made the difference.  It usually does.  In worship, God comes and serves all those who come to His house.  He gives gifts of forgiveness and peace.  He speaks His Word and the Holy Spirit works through that Word to create faith so that all who come can embrace Jesus as their Savior and start living the new life in Christ.

Not to quibble but I'd suggest the Welch that he didn't choose Jesus so much as Jesus chose him - see John 15:16.  Still, I get what he's saying.  Welch chose to follow Jesus and to leave the lifestyle of the rich and unhappy behind.

As for Korn, well, I just checked out some of their music at the iTunes store.  Think I'll stick to "I Want To Hold Your Hand!"  But good for Brian Welch just the same.  I hope he keeps going to church, worshipping the Lord, and giving testimony to the power of God's love whenever he gets the chance.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Luther prays!



Dear Lord, I have Your Word and I am in the station that pleases You.  This much I know.  You see all my inadequacies, and I know no help except in You.  Help, therefore, because You have commanded that we should ask, seek, knock and have said that then we shall surely receive, find and have what we need.

From his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How are you doing?

Many years ago I sat through a rant by a pastor who said he was sick of the question, "How are you doing?"

"Why do people ask that question? Do they really care? Do they really care how I'm doing? What if I tell them how I'm really doing? What if I tell them that I'm depressed or angry or unhappy? Do they really want to hear how I'm doing or are they just being polite?"

After his rant, I resolved to never ask him how he was doing.

I'm working my way through Max Lucado's new book, "You'll Get Through This."  Lucado seems to release a new book every year about the time of my birthday and my in-laws are always so kind to give me his books as gifts. 

As I got to page 30, I was a bit surprised to read a personal story about Lucado's wife, Denalyn.  Seems that there was a time when she was dealing with depression.  It was a very difficult time in her life and going to church was challenging because most everyone wants to ask the pastor's wife, "How are you doing?"  Lucado writes: ...she armed herself with honesty and went to church.  If people ask me how I am doing, I'm going to tell them.  She answered each...with a candid, "Not well.  I'm depressed.  Will you pray for me?"

Causal chats became long conversations.  Brief hellos became heartfelt moments of ministry.  By the time she left the worship service, she had enlisted dozens of people to hold up her arms in the battle of prayer.  She traces the healing of her depression to that Sunday morning service.  She found God's presence amid God's people.

There is no doubt that some folks ask, "How are you doing?" without much thought.  They're just making chit-chat.  And there are some people who have such difficult or pressing problems of their own that you probably don't want to share with them a particular problem you're dealing with. 

But I've learned that most of the time, when someone asks me, "How are you today?" they're asking because they're concerned.  They want to know.  They're interested.  And I'll bet if I answered, "Just between you and me, I'm really frustrated today.  Would you mind praying for me? I need the Lord's help getting through this service," that person would pray with me and for me. 

And it's comforting to know that people are praying for us, isn't it? It's a blessing to know that we are loved and that others care for us.  It seems to me that it's worth the risk - at the right time and with the right person to answer with honesty the question, "How are you doing?"

Monday, September 16, 2013

What to do when you're anxious

I found this instruction helpful when I first read it in Kurt Senske's book, "The Calling," two years ago.  I find myself going back to it's instruction again and again.  Thought I share it with any of you anxious types.

We may allow stress, doubt, and anxiety to block out God's still, small voice.  When this happens and it will, do the following:
first, close your eyes and take a deep, cleansing breath to clear your mind.

second, say a quick prayer, perhaps something like, "God, please help me discern how, in this moment, to live the life You intend.

third, focus on the here and now.  Where are you? What is happening? How will you deal with what is presented to you?

1) Take a deep breath

2) Say a prayer

3) Focus on serving someone at this very moment

Friday, September 13, 2013

Consider Yourself Rescued

In looking at Jesus' parable of the Shepherd and the Lost Sheep, I found a parallel with the story Steven Spielberg told in the movie, "Saving Private Ryan."  Why did Private Ryan need to be rescued? Why did you and I need to be rescued? Learn more this Sunday at LICL.  Worship is held at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible classes for all ages taking place at 9:20 am.  Also, our Women's and Men's Ministries kick off their new seasons of study and service tomorrow at 9 am on our campus.  Come and join us! See you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jesus - no hype, just hope

On Tuesday, in the local newspaper, a story touted the record revenue the Arizona Lottery had realized in its just completed fiscal year.  Lots of reason were given for why so many people were buying lottery tickets.  But one shop owner said something that really got my attention:

People have a lot of pressure on their jobs, they are stressed.  They come in (to the store), they buy a lottery ticket, they think maybe they will be able to quit work.  That's probably why the Lottery has been high.  It gives people hope.

I have no doubt the shop owner is correct.  Folks see a million dollar powerball jackpot and begin to imagine living a new life, with all their problems solved and all their hopes and dreams fulfilled.

The hope that a $2 lottery ticket can give...it's kind of unbelievable to me.

I read on a website one day that a person has a better chance of being hit by lighting...of being struck by a car...of catching a foul ball at a baseball game than winning the lottery.

There's another place to shop for hope.  This hope is sure and certain.  And it's free.

Titus 2:13 - while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ...

1 Peter 1:3 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...

Hebrews 6:19 - We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Hope for this life and the life to come is rooted in the resurrected Jesus.  The promise of eternity, made possible for you and me through faith in our great God and Savior, serves as an anchor for our soul.  This hope is not built on a longshot, but rests on the merits of Jesus Christ - His suffering for our sins, His victory over sin, death and the devil, and His promise that all who believe in Him will live, even though they die.

There is no problem free life.  Everyone I know is stressed about something - a child's health, a teenager's attitude, a retirement nest egg that has dried up, the loss of a spouse.  And there are endless stories of those who won a lottery jackpot and found that all that money does not solve all of life's problems.

The apostle Paul got it right when he wrote to the Colossians: the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you.

Jesus - no hype, just hope.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

42

Most, if not all major league baseball stadiums have on display the numbers of players that have been retired.  Because the Arizona Diamondbacks are a relatively young team they have only one retired number, that of Luis Gonzales.  When you walk in the stadium and look above the right field fence you'll see Gonzo's #20 prominently displayed.

But there is one more number on display - 42.  Major League baseball retired that number in 1997.  That's the uniform number of Jackie Robinson.

I will never look at that number in quite the same way ever again.

My dear, sweet wife and I watched the movie, "42," last weekend.  It is an amazing story, expertly told.

Robinson played a little before my time.  I didn't really start following baseball until about the time Robinson retired.  I knew he broke the color barrier for baseball and helped to make it possible for other black athletes to play in something other than the Negro baseball leagues.

But I didn't fully appreciate or even understand the kind of abuse he suffered - from the general public, from baseball fans, from other players (including his own teammates) and from managers of other teams.

"42" is not so much a movie about baseball as it is about pride and perseverance.  The determination of Robinson to go out and do his job in the face of such prejudice and hatred was inspirational.  The same goes for Branch Rickey, who would not bend in his belief that all players, no matter their color, should be given the same opportunities to play the game.

If you haven't seen "42" yet, check it out.  It is an amazing story.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Asleep in Jesus

What does it mean to be "asleep in Jesus?" We'll explore that theme tomorrow at the Memorial Service for Pastor Maynard Schneider.  The service begins at 11 am and a reception for family and friends will follow.  On Sunday we'll follow our usual schedule with worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour at 9:20 am.  Join us this weekend at Life in Christ! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What good is Christ?

A minister is a slave for Christ.  He should be ruled by his Lord, (moved) by the Holy Spirit and filled with a great passion to serve His cause.  And that means also to be filled with a passion to serve and help the people for whom the Redeemer laid down His life.  Christ is a real Redeemer for real sinners.

Bo Giertz

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Prove It!

"Prove it!" They're words heard on the playground, in the courtroom or in the laboratory.  It's the demand we make of anyone who states a fact of which we are more than a little skeptical.

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul is writing to people who are new to the Christian faith.  They are exploring the truths of God's Word.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit they are growing in faith and love - for God and for one another.  But becoming followers of Jesus Christ has not made their lives easier.  Faith in Christ has not insulated them from suffering for persecution.

In chapter five, Paul make it clear that God uses life's trials and troubles for our benefit: "...suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."  Then Paul goes on to explain why we can trust God to do this work in us.

"But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  You see, God has already been at work for us, securing our salvation in Christ's sacrificial suffering, death and resurrection.  He has proven His love by offering His only begotten Son to pay the penalty we've earned for our disobedience.  Knowing God's great "Prove It!" helps us to trust Him every day of our lives.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Laboring on Labor Day

I got inspired to start something I've been wanting to do for a long time - write my own Basics of the Christian Faith materials.

The Basics class is one I teach to those who come to Life in Christ with an interest of joining our church or wanting to know what we believe and teach.

Most of the folks who come to the class have little to no church background.  For some, a Bible verse like John 3:16 is a revelation.

For the Basics class I've been using a book that I was introduced to during my Vicarage year.  It has worked well.  But the book is a bit dated and I've found over time other Bible verses and examples that teach the faith we believe and confess pretty well. 

It will take a little time to finish this project.  But teaching the Basics class is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my call.  I love to watch people as they begin to grasp and know God's love for them in Jesus Christ.  PTL!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

God paints a masterpiece!

Door County, Wisconsin, summer 2011

Friday, August 30, 2013

But Now I See

Is it possible for a person with perfectly good eyesight to be blind, unable to see the obvious? Absolutely! Come and learn more this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour and study opportunities for everyone beginning at 9:20 am.  See you Sunday at LICL!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm having a baby!

Today is sermon writing day.  Of everything I do, this is the hardest task, without a doubt.  I love preaching and I'm growing more confident in my ability to write.  Still, sermon writing is a daunting task.  So it's no wonder that the following comment from one of Jan Karon's "Mitford" books really resonated with me, 

(Father Tim) had just written and delivered a sermon and now it was time to write another.  A priest whose name he couldn't remember had nailed it: "It's like having a baby on Sunday and waking up pregnant on Monday."

From "In This Mountain," chapter 16.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Scooter Kanzler - Comfort Dog

Our Administrative Assistant, Connie, brings her dog, Scooter, to work with her most days each week.

It's kind of unusual to find a dog inside a working office.  But the area where we work is not easily seen from 75th Avenue so it seemed appropriate to let Connie bring Scooter with her.  There are times when there aren't a lot of people around and, when a stranger appears at the door, Scooter lets them know he's not to be messed with.

But it finally dawned on me yesterday that Scooter plays a more important role in our office.  He provides comfort for people.

I see lots of people every week.  Many of them are hurting.  Hurting over a broken relationship...the loss of a loved one...a cutback a work and a loss of income...a struggle with depression. 

They come into our office with long, sad faces and heavy hearts.  And then Scooter greets them.

Basically, Scooter goes nuts.  He welcomes every person like they are his new best friend.  He barks.  He jumps.  He wiggles around like he's doing the rumba.  To be greeted by our comfort dog is to be made to feel very important.

Sad faces grow smiles.  Folks rub Scooter's head and scratch his back.  He responds with kisses and his famous, "Oooooooh!" greeting (that means you're a real friend).

By the time these folks get to my office, some of the tension has been lifted.  We talk and read Scripture and pray.  People leave with the hope and peace of Christ planted in their hearts through the Holy Spirit's effective work.  And Scooter has helped to pave the way.

I was over at Phoenix Children's Hospital earlier in the week and I ran into a couple of comfort dogs.  They were just coming out of a room.  I peaked inside and saw what was probably an 8 year old, no hair, perhaps suffering from cancer.

The little girl had a big smile on her face.  Her Mom said, "When you get home, we're going to get you your own dog."

Man's best friend does have the ability to lift the spirits of hurting people like no other.  I'm glad that I finally figured out what Scooter's role is at our church.  He is not the "head of security," as I have jokingly said.  He is our comfort dog.