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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

True Believer

In my first career I spent 17 years in the radio broadcasting business.  I began as a part-time weekend announcer and ultimately became an owner in a partnership that acquired a group of stations. 

My radio career did not go as I had envisioned.  I thought for sure I was headed for stardom as a rock n roll disc jockey.  Instead, I spent the entire time in religious broadcasting.  Some of our speakers were folks like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and a whole bunch of people that I'd just rather forget.  When I started out our stations played Southern Gospel music and featured the Blackwood Brothers, The Cathedrals and The Hinsons, just to name a few.

We received from time to time promotional copies of albums from the newer contemporary artists and that's how I was introduced to Phil Keaggy.  His first solo album, "What a Day," was like a breath of fresh air.  He had a slightly McCartneyesque sound and his guitar playing was simply amazing.  I became a huge fan and have followed Keaggy ever since.

1995's "True Believer" was his first release for Sparrow Records.  At that time Sparrow was probably the dominate label in Contemporary Christian Music so I was hopeful that the new partnership would give Keaggy's career a real boost. 

I don't think that "True Believer" achieved the level of success that Sparrow was looking for and Keaggy did not remain with the label for very long.  But I remember liking the CD a lot and while driving around yesterday, I pulled "True Believer" off the rack for another listen.  I'm glad I did.

"The True Believers" opened the CD, a song Keaggy still performs regularly in his concerts.  Keaggy sings the song like a true believer and his guitar playing sets the tone for the entire CD.  "Salvation Army Band" features one of the best vocals that Keaggy has ever turned in.  Also featured is a rocking version of "Be Thou My Vision" and a blues infused rocker called, "Have Mercy Lord." 

I was two years into Seminary when "True Believer" was released.  Listening to the CD yesterday reminded me of how hard those years were.  I worked pretty much six and a half days a week.  My only time off was Friday afternoon & evening.  During that little block of time, I dug out the music and let it blast away.  "True Believer" kept finding its way onto my CD player every week.  It encouraged me and made me feel good.  It's cool when your favorite musical artist is a true believer.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Many thanks!

Many thanks to our Fellowship Committee for hosting such a fun event on Saturday evening.  An  extra special blessing was discovering a new volunteer to assist with our senior high ministry.  PTL!

Many thanks to our Greeters who also do such a great job of welcoming both guests and members of the church family to worship each Sunday.  People appreciate the spirit of friendliness they find at LICL.

Many thanks to our Sunday School and Senior High teachers and leaders.  We began a new year of study yesterday and our kids are being taught by the cream of the crop, in my humble opinion:-).

Many thanks to our Nurturing Committee who made the day truly special for the 33 new members we received yesterday.  A highlight was the huge reception that was held following the second service.  A delicious meal was served and folks heard from a number of our ministry leaders. 

Many thanks to our gracious God who blessed us with His gifts of forgiveness, peace and hope during worship yesterday.  The Lord gives us just what we need each time we gather in His house.  We left worship yesterday with the powerful name of the Lord on our heads, His peace the perfect cure for anxious hearts.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Life on the Mountain

Our recent visit to the White Mountains caused me to wonder, "What would life be like on the mountain?" This Sunday at LICL we'll ponder that question as we look at the text in Hebrews 12:18-24.  Sunday will also be a day of celebration as we receive another group of new members who will become a part of our church family.  Sunday school classes resume and a new two part study on the life of Joseph is on tap for our Adult class.  Come and join us for worship and study at LICL.  Services take place at 8 and 10:45 am and Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) begins at 9:15 am. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Prayer of the Selfish Child

Now I lay me down to sleep
 I pray the Lord my soul to keep
And if I die before I wake
 I pray the Lord my toys to break
So none of the other kids can have them!

Shel Silverstein from "A Light in the Attic"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don't listen to the devil

A couple of years ago I read Prof. John Jeske's great book, "From Sinai to Calvary."  I made so many notes from his book into my journal that I've lost count of them all.  Since I preached on Genesis, chapter 3 last week, I found this note from Jeske to be spot on.  I wish I'd included it in the sermon!

When Adam and Eve listened to Satan's filthy whispering - worse yet, when they believed it - their lives changed for the worse.  Page 146

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I need Your help.

O Lord,

Another work week is fast approaching.  I've worked out my schedule, made a list of my tasks and responsibilities, and have plugged a variety of appointments into my calendar.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.  I need Your help.

Help me to rely on Your strength and wisdom.  You know how often I fail when I try to go it alone.

Help me to not be afraid to but always trust that You are with me, even when I can't see Your footprints nearby.

Help me to remember the many, too numerous to count, times when You guided me through a challenging problem, put the right words in my mouth, or totally took the steam out of a hot situation.

Help me when the pressure becomes too great to have the presence of mind to stop, take a couple of deep breaths, and to pray for your peace to flood my heart and mind.

Thank You, in advance, for Your help.  You've never let me down.  Your Holy Word assures me of Your goodness and care for those who are marked with the cross of Christ in Baptism.

Praise You for Your precious promises to forgive, to save and to bless.

In the name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can you define the word "redemption?"

Pastor David Valesky does a pretty good job of it: (on Romans 3:24) The word translated "redemption" comes from a Greek verb that has the idea of "to let one go free on receiving the price."  The noun means, "a releasing effected by payment of ransom."  In Christ "we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."  (Colossians 1:14)  The releasing effected by the payment of a ransom is the releasing, the being set free, from sin.

From his book, "We Believe - Therefore We Speak"

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Blame Game

Would it surprise you that the first game ever invented was by Adam and Eve? It's true! Learn all about it this week at LICL.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with Holy Communion celebrated at the early service.  This Sunday is Rally Day at LICL and another new year of Christian education begins.  Our Sunday school will host an Open House for kids and their parents.  Classes for youth and adults begin as well at 9:15 am.  Give God Two - 2 hours of your time this Sunday by receiving God's precious gifts in worship and pouring over His Holy Word in study.  Hope to see you this Sunday at Life in Christ.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Luke's Second First Day at School

Today my grandson, Luke, goes to school for the first time.  Yes, I know I wrote about his first day at school last week.  He's doing it over again.  And I'm glad.

Last Wednesday, Steff and Geoff sent Luke off on the school bus, just as the school asked them to do.  The school's request was that students who might be riding the bus during the year should ride on the first day so they would be aware of what the experience is like.  The parents were assured that there would be people waiting at the school to help the younger children get to their classrooms.

Steff and Geoff then went on to school to see Luke in his classroom for the first time.  But when they arrived, there was no Luke.  Shifting into panic mode, the asked the teacher about their son.  The teacher told them to check the playground and other areas of the school.  Otherwise, the teacher showed little concern for Luke's well being.

Steff and Geoff began to hurriedly search the school campus.  Frightening thoughts began to run through their minds.  What if Luke didn't get off the bus? What if he somehow walked off campus?

Finally, Geoff found Luke walking down a hall, trying to find his classroom.  Luke wasn't panicked or afraid.  He was just trying to find his classroom.  A five year old trying to do for himself what the school had promised they would do for him!

Two very relieved parents brought their son to his classroom.  The teacher hardly acknowledged Luke's presence.  Steff and Geoff were stunned that there wasn't more concern from the teacher about Luke's safety.

Steff then spoke to the principal.  She was very apologetic.  She showed sympathy.  But then she said, "We have 900 students and your son was the only one missing."

Unbelievable! How do you think that made my daughter feel?  When it comes to the safety and care of kids, 899 out of 900 is not good enough! We don't expect our schools to be perfect.  But when it comes to safety and protection of our kids and grandkids, perfection is necessary and expected - no other standard will do.

Luke spent the day at that school.  He did not go back.  Instead, he begins his second first day of school at a Christian day school where the administration and teacher has assured Steff and Geoff that they will do everything possible to love and teach and care for their son.  I know the school and its track record and I'm confident that there will not be a repeat of Luke's first "first" day at school.

By the way, thank for reading along.  I try not to use this blog as a soap box to rant on and on about stuff that bugs me.  But Luke's my first grandson.  Like all of my grandkids, he's special.  I thank and praise the Lord for watching over Luke and keeping him safe during those frightening minutes at the other school last week.  And I thank the Lord for opening this new door of opportunity for him.  PTL!

Ok, I'm done.  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What is the Lord's forgiveness like?

The Lord's forgiveness and restoration is like the air we breathe, and breathing this air inspires us to share forgiveness and restoration with those around us.

Frank Starr, Light from the Word, Book 1, page 72

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Make this promise to yourself

Here's one way to deal with worry:

Promise yourself you won't worry about: what might happen tomorrow...what happened years ago...what others think of you...things you can't do anything about...whether you're going to fail...what everybody else does.

Kevin Leman, Why Your Best is Good Enough, page 214

Saturday, August 10, 2013

That airplane is not getting of the ground!

On vacation with some of my kids and grandkids - grandson, Luke; daughter in law, Christina; granddaughter, Emily; and son, Eric, in Greer, AZ.

Friday, August 9, 2013

No need for Plan B

At least that's what Abram learned when he proposed his plan B to Almighty God.

Our busy weekend begin with a bunch of prospective new members attending my "Basics Class" or Pastor Vern Trahms "Explorers Class."  Call our church office at 623.773.1234 for more information.

Then on Sunday we worship at 8 am and 10:45 am with classes for all ages taking place at 9:15 am.  Come and learn how God's Plan A trumps our plan B every time!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In praise of Pete Varvaris

Yesterday I had the opportunity to catch up with my buddy, Pete Varvaris.

He and I were classmates at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.  My dear, sweet wife and I had met Pete and his wife, Cathy, on a visitation weekend when we were both considering coming to the Sem in the fall of 1993.  We reconnected the week before classes started and were excited to find that our class schedules for the fall quarter were almost identical.  I saw Pete every day and my admiration for him quickly grew.

Pete had a winning personality and a keen intellect.  I learned that he was a graduate of the Navel Academy and before coming to the Sem had worked for IBM.  What a resume! I was pretty amazed that a guy with those kind of credentials would even be willing to hang out with a guy like me!

Work at the Sem was grueling and the expectations were very high.  After we completed our first year there was no summer vacation for us. Hebrew was waiting.

I had done well studying Greek but I was apprehensive as our summer study began.  I discovered that I learn best by repetition.  I'm not one of those guys who reads or hears something one time and then has got it.  With Greek, I would spend most every evening going over again and again verb forms, vocab and the like to make sure I had it down cold.  The pace for summer Hebrew did not allow me to do that.  We were basically learning a weeks worth of material every day.  I really struggled to keep up.

As the end of our eight weeks of study was coming to an end I wasn't at all confident that I would pass the qualifying exam.  If I failed, I would have to take Hebrew during my second year and fall behind the rest of the first year group.  I shared my concerns about failing the exam with Pete and he looked me in the eye and calmly said, "We're not going to let that happen.  You will pass that test."

So in the remaining days of classes, I would call Pete each evening.  He would be in the basement office in his home (I believe that office was called "the hole.")  For a couple of hours or more Pete and I would go over what we learned in class that day.  He patiently led me through the material and managed not to beat his head against the wall when I just wasn't getting something.  Pete never complained once about giving up some of his own study time to help me.  Never once did he say, "Hey, I need some time to myself to study! Figure it out on your own!"  He always took my calls and always had time to work with me.

The day of the qualifier came and I was extremely anxious.  I'd only slept a couple of hours that night I was pretty much exhausted before the test began.  When it was all done, we graded the test right there in class.  AND I PASSED!  60% was a passing score.  I scored 67%.  The result wasn't great.  The Sem hands out no awards for 67%.  But I passed.  And I had Pete to thank for it.

From Pete I learned what true friendship looks like.  A true friend makes sacrifices for others.  A true friend looks out for the best interests of others.  A true friend demonstrates the qualities of 1 Corinthians 13 - patience and kindness, always protecting, always hoping, always trusting, and always persevering.

Pete and I hadn't had a chance to talk in a while.  It was really good to catch up with him.  As we talked, I was reminded of how his friendship and faithfulness had impacted my life.  Praise the Lord for the people he brings into our lives.

I hope you have a friend like Pete Varvaris.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Happy first day at school, Luke!

My grandson, Luke, heads off this morning for his first day of school.  He's officially registered and his parents did the "meet and greet" with his teacher yesterday.  I'm wondering the same thing his parents probably are: how did we get here so fast?

It seems like only yesterday that I and a bunch of family members were waiting to hear the good news of Luke's birth.  He was a beautiful boy (aren't all grandchildren!).  We looked for every opportunity we could - and we even invented a few - to come and see Luke and hold him and just gush all over him.

As he began to grow his parents and Sherri and I noticed that Luke was not making the normal noises that most toddlers make.  He wasn't learning to speak words like other little ones of his age.  His parents took him to a number of doctors and speech therapists for diagnosis.  Meanwhile, our family began to offer one particular petition to the Lord every time we prayed: "Lord, loosen his tongue!"

Finally, Luke was diagnosis with apraxia and he began to receive therapy from a caring and compassionate speech therapist.  Over many months Luke worked very hard.  He began to form words...then sentences...his speech becoming clearer with each passing week. 

God answered our prayers.  Boy, did He ever! Luke's tongue was loosened.  There are times now when we wish he would be a little more quiet.  But, really, Luke's speech is like music to our ears.  And it is another reminder of God's amazing grace, for which we give our heartfelt thanks and praise.

Have a great day, Luke!  Nana and Papa love you! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Run, Devil, Run

Sound advice from Martin Luther: The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music about as much as before the Word of God. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

We are on the way

This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of being godly; not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.  We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way.  The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on.  This is not the goal but it is the right road.  At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.

Martin Luther, AE - 32:24

Friday, August 2, 2013

Baby, You're a Rich Man

Is the title of one of my favorite Beatles songs.  Being rich and having lots of wealth and stuff is often thought to be the key to having a happy and fulfilling life.  But is that really true? Jesus tells about a rich man in Luke 12 who thought he had it all.  Then, when an uninvited guest pays a visit, the rich man's true condition is revealed - he's actually very, very poor.  What can you and I learn from this story? Come and join us on Sunday and find out.  Life in Christ worships at 8 and 10:45 am with Sunday school and classes for all ages starting at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at LICL!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The one thing needful, according to Luther

One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness and freedom.  That one thing is the most Holy Word of God (see John 11:25; John 8:36; Matthew 4:4).  Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul.

Martin Luther, from Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 220