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 He speaks life and peace to us in the reading of the 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!