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  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 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.
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

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"