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 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?


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!