Thursday, February 28, 2013

Let David's prayer be your prayer

Creation is God's Word.  This is what we confess in the First Article of the Apostles' Creed - I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

But God's creating work is not limited to this world we live in.  His handy work does not end with fields of beautiful flowers or majestic sunsets.  God is doing His best work in each of us.  He has given us life and everything we need to sustain this life.  He gives us the help and protection we need to keep the old evil foe at bay.  He treats us as a loving father who cares for and nurtures His dear children.

As His children we recognize that we disappoint our heavenly Father.  We sin against Him in our thought life, the words we speak and the things we do.  In repentance and faith we come to our Father and express our sorrow over our sins.  We claim the forgiveness won for us by Christ at Calvary.  We ask the Lord to help us live holy and pleasing lives.  This is the prayer of the psalmist David in 51:10: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Prof. John Burg writes: David is praying for a miraculous act that can be performed by God alone.  His prayer can be answered only through the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone can work repentance, faith and a willing spirit...Because this renewal is never perfect in this life, David prays that the Spirit will keep him he will not fall again.  Let David's prayer be your prayer today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What is contentment?

Here's the answer from one of my favorite authors, Rev. Richard Lauersdorf:

Contentment is not a human production.  It's God's work in us as He keeps our eyes fastened on Jesus.

From As Luther Taught the Word of Truth, page 129

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Still trying to write a Nielsen sermon

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of seeing my favorite seminary professor, Rev. Dr. Glenn Nielsen.  He was in the Valley to check on a couple of vicars he is supervising and he and his wife, Sue, who came along, decided to spend a few extra days soaking up our sunny weather.  They joined us for worship on Sunday and then my dear, sweet wife and I got to take the Nielsens out to lunch.

I was first year seminarian when I took my first Homiletics class.  Glenn was the instructor.  I didn't know him well at all but his class fit well into my schedule.  Mostly I was just excited to finally take a class in which I would learn how to be a preacher.

We seminarians had lots of questions.  Glenn was ready for every one of them.  We would ask how to preach on a certain text or how to find the gospel in a law passage or how to use an illustration.  Glenn would listen, think for a moment, and they give the answer by composing a sermon (or part of one) on the spot.  How could he do such a thing! His ability and his gift just amazed me.

I also loved how all his sermons pointed to Jesus.  Now, you would think this would be a no-brainer.  But it's amazing how often preacher don't preach about Jesus - His forgiveness, salvation and love.  Jesus was front and center in Glenn's sermon.  Jesus predominated any preaching of the law.  This preaching gave me joy and something to aspire to.

I was ordained in 1997 and for all this time I been trying to write a Nielsen sermon.  I'm still working at it.  But is was sure good to be able to spend a little time with the man who inspires me to this day.  And I've got to write two more sermons this week.  Two more opportunities to point people to Jesus and His wondrous love.  Can't wait to get started!

Monday, February 25, 2013

All this church wants is my money...NOT!

It's a refrain that has been heard through the church ever since there has been a church: all this church is interested in is my money! I don't doubt that there are some churches whose main concern is the almighty dollar.  But that's not the case with many churches and is certainly not the case at the church where I serve.  Not too long ago I came across the following from the great C.S. Lewis.  Read carefully:

The Christian way is different: harder and easier.  Christ says, "Give me all (of you).  I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work - I want you.  No half-measures are any good.  I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree..."

The Lord doesn't want only your money.  That would be too easy.  You could write a check, make a big contribution to the church and be on your way.  No, the Lord wants you! And it's only right that He should feel that way.

Who suffered the punishment for your sins? Who humbled Himself so that you might be saved? Who has removed the shame of your sin and the fear of your death? Who has prepared a place for you in heaven? You know the answer - Jesus!

Jesus wants your heart and your head, your time and attention, your worship and your praise.  When He has you in that way, supporting the ministry of the church will never be a problem...ever.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

a weekend of worship

Our campus will be busy this weekend.  Today at 12 Noon we celebrate the life of Bill Raysor, a man who was a steadfast witness for Jesus Christ.  Bill will be missed by his family and friends and the church.  Later, at 4:32 pm, our Saturday service takes place; we will receive the body and blood of the Lord in Holy Communion.

Sunday services take place at 8 and 10:45 am and Christian LIFE Hour features a class for every age group.  We invite you to join us this weekend for worship and study at LICL!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

God's Great Exchange

Do you remember these words to one of the great hymns of the church?

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress
With these before my God I'll stand
When I shall reach the heavenly land

The hymn writer expresses well the great truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Apart from faith in Christ, the only righteousness we can offer before God the Father is our own righteousness and goodness.  But according to Scripture, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" before God.  Our good works are not "good enough" to please God.

Where you and I are powerless to save ourselves, God provides the perfect remedy in His Son, our Savior.  Jesus died on the cross, paying the wages of sin in our place.  In exchange, God has credited the perfect life of Jesus and His death to sin to our account.  This is what 2 Corinthians teaches us - God great exchange!  This is God's free, unmerited grace given to us as a gift.  This is what Jesus was willing to do so that you might "be His own and live under Him in His kingdom."  Praise God for the wonderful things He does just for you!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The 20 minutes in your day that could change your life

William Bouknight's four step recovery of the power of Holy Scripture:

First, as you prepare to open the Bible, pray for a few moments for God's inspiration and for understanding.

Second, read at least 5 verses.  Start with the New Testament...

Third, after you read, ask yourself if there is a truth in what you have read that God wants you to receive and live by.

Fourth, thank God for that truth and proceed into a time of prayer.

These 20 minutes a day can revolutionize your life.

From The Sermon Maker by Calvin Miller, page 120

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is the source of true joy?

I like how Matt Harrison answers the question in his book, "A Little Book on Joy."

Here's the secret: if we can seek joy for its own sake, we will not find it.  If we seek Jesus, we shall be engulfed and inundated by joy, and quite by surprise.

Page 9

Monday, February 18, 2013

We remember Martin Luther

It was on this day in 1546 that Martin Luther was called home to rest in the arms of his Lord and Savior.  In the last prayer that he ever prayed, Luther steadfastly confessed his believe in Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite writings of Luther comes from his exposition on Psalm 147: Work and let Him (God) give the fruits thereof! Rule, and let Him prosper it! Battle, and let Him give victory! Preach, and let Him make hearts devout! Marry, and let Him give you children! Eat and drink, and let Him give you health and strength.  Then it will follow that, whatever we do, He will effect everything through us; and to Him alone shall be the glory.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A True Friend?

That's how Satan presented himself to Adam and Eve.  He and not God was the one who had our first parents best interests at heart.  Will the devil have the same success with hungry, tired Jesus in the desert? Be with us this Saturday at 4:32 pm or Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am to learn how to identify a true friend.  On Sunday, our Christian LIFE Hour offers classes for all ages groups and starts at 9:15 am.  See you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The secret for a long, happy life?

A woman was walking down a residential street and saw a frail, wizened old man rocking contentedly in a chair on his porch.  She called out to him as she passed by, "Hello there! I couldn't help but notice how happy you look.  Tell me," she said, "what's your secret for a long, happy life?"

"I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day," he replied.  "I drink a case of whisky a week, eat nothing but fast food, and never, ever do any exercise."

"Wow!" said the woman, "that is amazing.  That must really make you happy! And just how old are you?"

"Twenty-six," he replied.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Something to meditate on during Lent

No other religion - not Judaism, not Hinduism, not Buddhism, or Islam - offers this unique contribution of an all-powerful God who willingly takes on the limitations and suffering of His creation.

Philip Yancey,  Where is God When It Hurts, page 225

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What is repentance?

From Daniel Deutschlander and his book, "The Theology of the Cross."

For repentance is not only the heartfelt grief over sin and sinfulness; it is also the new man's trust and confidence that the sin is forgiven, blotted out, removed as far as the east is from the west."

Join us today at Life in Christ to hear the good news of Christ's forgiveness and love for all people.  Worship takes place today at 12 noon and 7 pm.  We will celebrate Holy Communion and the Imposition of Ashes will be offered.  A blessed day to you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It was 50 years ago today...

Yes, 50 years ago today, according to the Liverpool Echo newspaper, the Beatles scored their first number one with "Please, Please Me."  I'm standing next to the John Lennon statue on Matthew Street, directly across from the Cavern, which is where they were playing when they got the good news.

Monday, February 11, 2013

You can trust God!

A comforting reminder from John Jeske: God is a compassionate God, who can be trusted.  If He chooses not to remove evil from our lives, He will make it serve our good.

From Sinai to Calvary, page 163, Northwestern Publishing House

Saturday, February 9, 2013

10 Years of God's Grace

Tomorrow we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first worship service of what became Life in Christ Lutheran Church.  According to a time line that one of our members put together, the first service took place at Everest College.  Somewhere between 25-30 people gathered to be blessed by the Lord.

Surely those folks had no idea what God had in mind for this church.  Could any of them imagined the "Church with the Heart" located on 75th Avenue? Would any of them dreamed of the kind of busy church campus we have, not only on Sunday morning but also throughout the week? Who would have predicted such things?

What we know today is that for 10 years people have come together to receive the gifts of God - forgiveness for their sins, peace for their hearts, and the assurance of eternal life in heaven.  They've come to grow in faith through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel and by receiving the Sacraments.  They've discovered community and a place where warm and friendly people come together to study and pray and serve the Lord, each other, the valley of the sun and the world.

During the Board of Ministry Directors meeting last month we stopped in the middle of what we were doing to pray and give thanks to God for seeing us through another year and for having blessed us in so many creative but unexpected ways.  The BMD sat in awe as it talked about the love and power of the Lord. 

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day.  At 3 pm we will have a special worship service of thanksgiving to the Lord for 10 great years of His grace.  Pastor Vern Trahms, who helped to shepherd the group that first met at Everest College will be our guest speaker.  Special music has been planned.  A video has been prepared to offer a retrospective of the Lord's work here at LICL.  We'll cap off the day with a reception on the patio, featuring lots of delicious hors d'oeuvres and an opportunity for fellowship.

What will the next 10 years look like? Who knows? The Lord knows! As we have done, let us continue to trust that God will lead and bless our ministry as we faithfully proclaim the wonderful salvation that Jesus Christ offers the world.  We know how the Gospel has changed our lives.  Let's keep on telling that good news to our community and world so that more lives are changed and come to know and trust in Jesus as the only Savior and Lord!

Looking forward to homecoming

I thank You that my mortal day of death is my heavenly birthday, when I will come home and meet You and see You as You are.

part of a prayer from "To Live With Christ," by Bo Giertz, page 612, CPH.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Celebrating an Anniversary!

Our church, that is.  Life in Christ gives thanks to God for 10 years of His grace this weekend.  The highlight will be a special worship service to held on Sunday at 3 pm.  Lots of special music is planned.  Rev. Vern Trahms, one of the pastors who helped to shepherd the group that planted LICL, will be our guest speaker.  A number of our founding members will help tell the story of our church and offer their reflections on all that God has done in the place over the past 10 years.  A couple of videos have also been prepared (I've seen them and they are great!). 

The weekend begins with our Women's and Men's Ministries meeting on the campus at 9 am.  Our Saturday worship service takes place at 4:32 pm.  Sunday morning service are at 8 and 10:45 and classes for all ages take place at 9:15 am.  We're looking forward to a wonderful day of celebration and thanksgiving.  Join us!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Top 10 Things Never To Say When Stopped By a Policeman

I was paging through some old Homiletics magazines, looking for an illustration for a radio devotion, when I discovered this helpful bit of information.  I doubt that anyone reading this would ever need this kind of advice but, well, you never know.  So here goes...

1) I can't reach my license unless you hold my beer.

2) Sorry, Officer, I didn't realize my radar detector wasn't plugged in.

3) Hey, you must have been doin' about 125 mph to keep up with me.  Good job!

4) Are you Andy or Barney?

5) I thought you had to be in relatively good condition to be a police officer.

6) You're not gonna check the trunk, are you?

7) Gee, Officer! That's terrific.  The last officer only gave me a warning, too!

8) Do you know why you pulled me over? Okay, just so one of us does.

9) I was trying to keep up with traffic.  Yes, I know there were no other cars around.  That's how far ahead of me they are.

10) When the officer says, "Gee, Son...Your eyes look red, have you been drinking?" you probably shouldn't respond with, "Gee, Officer, your eyes look glazed, have you been eating donuts?"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Treasuring God's Word

Not only do we want to make our website informative and fun to read, we also try to provide some resources that can help and encourage you in your new life in Christ.

That's why we post each Sunday's sermon for your listening (and coming soon - viewing!) pleasure.  And we do our best to get the Monday "Wake Up With the Word" radio broadcast available too.

There is something else we offer that might work for you.  It's called "Treasuring God's Word."  Each day we offer a Scripture reading for you to dig into, a short commentary or observation about the text, and then provide a "prayer starter," a thought or idea that might help launch you into your time of prayer. 

"Treasuring God's Word" is a little devotional piece I've been writing for years now.  Lots of folks in our church find it very helpful.  It might be a blessing to you as well.  If you're interested, go back to the home page, scroll down and look for the "Treasuring God's Word" tab on the left side of the page.  Check it out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why read and study the Scriptures daily?

We should ask that through the same Spirit and His grace, by means of the daily exercise of reading and doing God's Word, He would preserve in us faith and His heavenly gifts, strengthen us from day to day, and keep us to the end.  For unless God Himself is our schoolmaster, we can study and learn nothing that is acceptable to Him and helpful to ourselves and others.

Book of Concord
Formula, Solid Declaration
Art. III - Free Will
page 553, para. 16
Concordia - The Lutheran Confessions, CPH

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Reflections

Best Commercial: The Ram Truck - "So God made a farmer" commercial.  After some of the stupidity from Budweiser and GoDaddy, it was wonderful to get something with substance and that also provided a reminder of the values which our country used to embrace and cherish.  The commercial left you feeling like you had dirt on your fingers and mud on your shoes.  It reminded you of the virtues of hard work and being a person whose word was bond.  The pictures and Paul Harvey's narration could not have better complimented one another.

And it was so good to hear Paul Harvey's voice again.  As a broadcaster, Harvey was in a class by himself; no one today comes close to capturing the perfect pacing and delivery of Paul Harvey. 

Most Exciting Play: For me it was the run back of the kickoff by the Ravens to begin the second half.  It took only 13 seconds for Jacoby Jones to run 108 yards - he was touched by only one 49'er.  At that point it appeared that the Ravens were in complete control of the game. And then...

Most Embarrassing Moment: The lights went out in the Superdome.  If nothing else, the 35 minute delay gave the 49'ers a chance to regroup.  And did they ever! It only took about four minutes or so for San Fran to put 17 points on the scoreboard and make it a game.

Best No Call by the Officials: The fourth down pass to Crabtree in the end zone.  Yes, I know, there was lots of tugging and holding on the play by both players.  However, the no-call was consistent with the way the game was called.  Only seven penalties total.  The Officiating Crew let the players play and there was lots of contact throughout the whole game.  And none of what I've said will make a 49'ers fan feel better.  I understand.

Class Act: John Harbaugh, who spent part of his post game press conference speaking about the love and respect he holds for his brother.  He's the kind of guy I would want my kid to play for.

Classless Act: Jim Harbaugh.  He had a few of his usual meltdowns on the sidelines which always makes for good television.  But during his press conference He spent the majority of his time complaining about the officiating.  What I would like to know is why he seemingly left his game plan and had his quarterback passing the ball from the 5 yard line? Do you think the Ravens could have stopped Colin Kaepernick and the 49'ers running game? The Raven defence was spent.  I think the game was lost when Harbaugh abandoned the running game with Kaepernick and Gore.

Wishful Thinking: Do you think we'll see our Arizona Cardinals anytime soon in the Super Bowl.  The 49'ers look to be set to dominate for many years and the Seahawks are right behind them.  St. Louis continues to remain confident that Jeff Fisher will restore the Rams and lead them back to the playoffs.  Bruce Arians, our new coach and newly crowed Coach of the Year has his work cut out for him.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A busy weekend of worship

takes place this week at LICL.  At our new 4:32 service today we'll look at the "amazing" power and authority of Jesus - that's how St. Luke calls it.  On Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am we'll learn why God needed Jeremiah's voice and how the Lord equipped the reluctant prophet.  And everyone can study the Scriptures at Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour at 9:15 am.  Hope you can join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Christianity 7 Days a Week with Kurt Warner

I caught Kurt Warner yesterday on the Dan Patrick morning sports talk show.  Sports Illustrated had posed the question: Does God care who wins the Super Bowl? His answer was good - God isn't so much concerned about the outcome of the game as He is about those who call on His name.  Warner opined that it was more important that Christians players, on and off the field, play the game and live their lives in such a way that the give glory and praise to God and are faithful to Him in all the times of their lives.

Warner went on to say that after he won his first Super Bowl. he thought his teams would win even more.  What better way for Warner to continue to testify about the goodness of God.  Instead, his team (the Rams) lost the second Super Bowl game they played in; Warner got hurt and was eventually picked up by the NY Giants; he became the starter but ended up on the bench behind Eli Manning; came to Arizona, started but then found himself on the bench again, backing up Matt Leinhart. 

Through those tough and disappointing experiences that Warner learn that he could still be a positive witness for Jesus Christ.  Because he handled adversity with unwavering faith, Warner heard from folks that his example had helped and inspired them.  Because Warner gave his all to his teams, even when he was not playing, other were encouraged to do the same.  And all the while, his testimony did not change.  It was clear to teammates, coaches, broadcasters and others that Christianity was a 7 day a week thing for Kurt Warner, not something he rolled out occasionally when times were easy and good.

I really appreciated Warner's testimony and it was obvious that Dan Patrick respected Warner for his honesty and his winsome style of speaking on behalf of Christ Jesus.  Christianity is not something we do on Sunday and then sit on a shelf for the the next six days.  Being a follower of Jesus is a 7 day a week thing.  It's remembering that we are His full time representatives.  And it's not a burden being so.  We are in partnership with the God who considered our salvation so important that He gave His one and only Son to be our Savior from sin, death and the devil.  God bless your witness as you share the love of Jesus with others this weekend!