Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Going to bed last night I laid my head on the pillow and replayed our Christmas Eve Candlelight service in my mind.

"All is well, all is well.  Let there be peace on earth.  Christ is born, go and tell, that He is in the manger.  Alleluia!"

"For born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

"Silent night, holy night.  All is calm, all is bright."

"The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace."

What a wonderful way to go to sleep.

Today, LICL has a 10 am Christmas service.  Pastor John Pope will preach.  There will be lots of great Christmas hymns to sing.  Come and join us.

Starting today I'm going to take a Christmas blog break.  I'm a little pooped out after a very busy Advent and Christmas season.  So I'll be back on January 6th which is Epiphany.  Until then, have a blessed Christmas season and a very happy and healthy New Year!

Pastor George Spicer

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All is well

Reading the newspaper this morning, a person could come away thinking that there's not a lot of hope for our world.

One expert in Middle East affairs is pessimistic that anything can be done to stop ISIS.

Even though our economy is improving there are still too many people with nothing to eat and no place to live - except on the street.

One more shooting of a young black man takes place in Missouri and the protesters are aflame with anger.

But all is well.

That's our message tonight at Life in Christ - All Is Well.

All is well because God kept His promise to undo the damage our first parents caused when they despised God's Word and plunged the world into sin.

All is well because God's Christmas gift to us will live up to His name - Jesus, "the Lord saves."

All is well because God is with us.  He knows our hurts and disappointments and struggles.  He is our refuge and strength.

All is well because the Baby in Bethlehem's manger will bring peace to the place where we need it the most - our hearts.

Our world is deeply troubled.  And it would be so easy to fill up with despair over all we see and hear.

But tonight we have God's good reminder that all is well.  Jesus comes and deals with our biggest problem - our sin.  Jesus comes and meets our greatest need - peace of heart and mind.

We pray you'll come and join us tonight.  At 5 pm our Family Christmas Eve service will take place, featuring our children from Sunday school.  Our Associate Pastor, Marcus Breitbarth will deliver the message.

At 7 and 9 pm we'll hold Candlelight Christmas Eve services.  Our Adult Choir, Bell Choir and several singers and musicians will offer special selections that will enhance our worship.  I will have the joy and privilege to speak of the Savior's birth and what it means to us in all the moments of our lives.

We hope to see you tonight at Life in Christ!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What happened to my well organized life?

A couple of weeks ago I revealed to the kids (and the congregation) here at church that I thought there were two weeks left until Christmas when, actually, there were only 10 days remaining.

I've been running behind ever since.

On Monday, I wrote my Christmas Eve sermon and got the services for 12/28 and 12/31 ready to go.

I left the office last night thinking that I was right on schedule and had two more days to finish up my work.

What was I thinking anyway?

I come in this morning and Connie wants to know where the Saturday service is.

Oops!

She also needs "Treasuring God's Word" for the coming week so it can be included in Sunday's bulletin.

Double Oops!

Suddenly I realized that I was behind and keeping people from getting their work done.

We scrambled and with some creative maneuvering I think we've got things covered.

I consider myself as rather organized person.  But this year I feel like I'm running a four lap race and I gave the field a one lap head start.

I can see the finish line and I'm gonna make it.  But it sure has been a struggle.

Praise God that I can stop running on Christmas Eve.  What a joy it will be at the Candlelight services when the lights go down, the candles are lit and we sing softly "Silent night, holy night.  All is calm, all is bright."

My heart's racing right now.  But a sense of calm will settle over me and the rest of our worshipers as we think and rejoice over that glorious moment when the angels proclaim, "For this day in the city of David a Savior has been born to you - He is Christ the Lord!"

Jesus...the One who can calm every restless heart.  Jesus...the One who can bring comfort in the midst of chaos.  He can't come quickly enough.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The countdown continues!

5 days before Christmas and I don't even want to think about all the work I have to do.  So, instead, I'll tell you about the weekend's schedule at Life in Christ.

Worship this afternoon takes place at 5 pm with Deacon Gale Cynova offering the message and Pat Herman and her group will offer the music.  Tomorrow, you can join us for worship at either 8 or 10:45 am (Sunday school and Bible classes for all ages meets at 9:20 am).

Sunday afternoon our middle school and high school youth are sponsoring a Christmas gift wrapping event.  From 4 to 7 pm you can bring your Christmas gifts to the Ed. Building and they'll do the wrapping for you.  It should be a fun event.

Looking for a friendly church? Come and see us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wise words from a wise man

In the Bible a sign often means something that contains and conveys what God is doing and giving. At the same time a sign hides under what appears to be its opposite.  The disclosure of a sign is by a word of God, which requires hearing and receiving faith.  God's dealing with us in this way reduces us to the point at which we are nothing but receivers.  The shepherds received the words of the angel and embraced the Baby in the manger as the Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Norman Nagel
Selected Sermons, page 33

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How well are you investing the stuff you have?

Read this recently in the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  This is a wonderfully simple but profound statement by the great man, Martin Luther.

O Lord Jesus, come to me, enjoy my bread, wine, silver and gold.  How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The 52" is coming!

In 2006, a group of us went on a one week mission trip to work with the Servant's Heart ministry, based in Guatemala City, Guatemala.  While we were there we had the chance to make visits to the Shanty Town that was a short walk from ministry headquarters.

Shanty Town was where the poorest of the poor of the city lived.  Walls of homes were pieces of plywood with sheets of metal serving as the roof.  There was no electricity.  Lamps and candles provided light at night.  Furnishings were sparse.  A bed (that often slept many), a chair and a table, and a cabinet for storing a few things was all that we saw in many of the homes.

We'd never seen poverty like this.  What can you give to a person who lives in such horrible conditions? The young Guatemalans showed us the way.  You give people God's Word.

As people shared their stories and talked about their needs, the Guatemalans kept pointing people to Christ for help and hope.  And although they did not carry Bibles with them, they had memorized God's Word and the Holy Spirit gave them the words to say to the people we were meeting with.  Our group was both amazed and impressed by how well these young people knew the Scriptures.

When we came back from our trip we resolved that we would make that same commitment to knowing and treasuring God's Word.  We started providing little cards that had a Bible verse that people could pick up and keep handy for memorization.  And we did this for the better part of a year.

For the past couple of months I've been thinking of ways to encourage our church family to better treasure God's Word.  We know that God's Word has the power to speak forgiveness as we confess our sins; it has the power to comfort us when we mourn loss or separation; it has the power to give us hope when life feels hopeless; God's Word points us to Christ Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

So starting on January 4, 2015, we will introduce "The 52" at LICL.  It's pretty simple, really.  Each week we will invite our church family to memorize a Bible verse.  We'll be looking for ways to get our children and youth involved as well.  Periodically, we'll review the verses during the Sunday Adult Bible study and learn how people have applied the verses to their lives.  And there will be other things we'll do throughout the year to encourage everyone to better treasure God's Word.

I'm excited about this opportunity and I hope our members will grow in excitement during the coming year.  What could be better than to have God's Word on the top of your head and hidden deep in your heart? That's what "The 52" will do for you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The number is 220!

As in 220 pounds of coats and jackets and sweaters - all donated by LICL members and given yesterday to the Phoenix Rescue Mission!

My dear, sweet wife made the delivery during her lunch hour.  Thank goodness for the invention of side view mirrors on automobiles.  Our Toyota SUV was completely filled! Couldn't see a thing out of the back.  (Should I be admitting that here?)

Our junior high and high school youth helped Sherri load "Mt. Coatmore" into our car on Sunday. We knew we had lots of coats.  But once the kids had stuffed the car with all those coats, we could see so clearly the generosity of our people who were willing to do "one little thing" for the least of those brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus.

The folks at the Rescue Mission were overwhelmed by the number of coast they unloaded.  Beside giving them away on site, the people there told Sherri that they have a van that takes nightly runs through Phoenix, looking for folks living on the streets who need help.  Many of those unwanted and unused coats will bless some unfortunate people with warmth and love.

One thing our church has learned through this coat drive is that it doesn't take months of planning and organization to get some things done.  Identify a need and then ask God's people to respond.  Then identify another need and see what you can do.  In this way many lives are touched with God's love by simply doing "one little thing."  I can't wait to see where the Lord next leads our church!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Joy on a Sunday Evening

Last night at Life in Christ, Mel and Ruth Donaho presented their second play, based on the Christmas story from St. Matthew and St. Luke.

A good crowd of 170 people came for the performance.  Many of our members played different characters.  Our choir and other musicians were involved.  A large crew was assembled who helped with the stage, lighting and sound.  It was a multi-generational effort.  Adults, teens and children all participated.  And everyone had a great time.

There has been much for me to marvel during my almost 10 years at LICL.  I praise the Lord today for providing our congregation with so many gifted people.  I couldn't produce a play like the one held last night if I had a 100 years to make it happen.  I'm terrible at organizing big events.  And since I fear rejection I would find it almost impossible to ask so many people to take on various tasks.

But Mel and Ruth made it happen.  They found folks who wanted to work behind the scenes.  They recruited people, nearly all without any acting experience, and trained and worked with them to play their characters with conviction and joy.  Without a doubt, what we presented last night was more worthwhile than anything that was on television.

Long, heartfelt applause was offered to cast and crew after last night's performance.  We all left LICL having experienced joy on a Sunday evening.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's the pink candle!

Acolyte instructions for the third Sunday in Advent are simple...2 purple candles and the pink candle!

Actually, the color of the candle, I'm told, is rose (but I'm colored blind so all I really know is that there is one candle that is a little lighter than the others so that's the pick one).  While the purple candles symbolize the penitential attitude of the season, the pink candle symbolizes joy.  We receive joy as we prepare the celebrate the Father's gift to us of His Son and we also meditate on the eternal joy we will have when the Son, who has made all believers right with the Father, comes to gather us up and take us to the kingdom of heaven.

Worship at Life in Christ takes place on Saturday at 5 pm and on Sunday at 8 am and 10:45 am.  Classes for all age groups - from pre-school to adults - meets at 9:20 am.  Also, on Sunday evening LICL will present a special Christmas program featuring a cast of 100's of adults and kids (OK, I'm exaggerating but the cast and singers is large!).  It begins at 6 pm and seating is limited so be sure to arrive early.

The Lord bless and be with you this weekend.  Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Flipping through old pictures

A crucifix - found in the Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany, summer 2011.  This was the church for which Bach composed some of his greatest music.  We were there one afternoon and was treated to an impromptu concert when one of the church organists came in to practice.  All of us who were milling around the church sat in the pews and listened as the great organ filled the church with beautiful sounds.  It was one of a dozen or more unplanned treats we experienced while on our travels through Austria, Germany and England.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Climbing "Mt. Coatmore"

Well, it seems that I am having trouble posting pictures of "Mt. Coatmore."

And that's a shame because I wanted to show you how generous some people in our congregation can be.

A few weeks ago, in the Gospel reading at church, Jesus reminded us that if we want to serve Him we can help the hungry and thirsty, reach out to strangers and the sick, clothe the naked and remember those imprisoned.

Since then, generous folks at Life in Christ have given hundreds of pounds of food and water to food banks.  People have called the church office to get phone numbers and addresses of those in our church who are ill.  Last night one person told me that she is keeping one dollar bills handy in her car to give away to people standing on street corners.  She said, "They're strangers to me.  What they do with the money is up to them.  I'm just happy to provide a little help."

Our members have also been writing Christmas cards to the young women imprisoned at the juvenile center.  The chaplain there told us that we needed to collect 40 cards to ensure that each young woman got one card.  Our folks have done much better than that.

I also suggested that we could collect old, unused coats for those living on the streets.  My dear, sweet wife has made some good contacts at the Phoenix Rescue Mission who said, "We'll take the coats.  Bring 'em on down!"

Are they going to be surprised!

It seems that many of our members have been cleaning out their closets.  Piled up on a table in our narthex is a huge stack of coats.  All kinds of coats.  For men, women and children.  Light jackets and heavy outerwear.  Two more huge piles are begin kept in our office work area.  Our little effort ends on Sunday so I expect more coats will be brought in this weekend.

Since arriving at Life in Christ almost 10 years ago I have always marveled at the generosity of so many of our members.

But it's the Word of God that fuels their generosity.  Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me."

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us the opportunity to serve You! Thank you for the opportunity to serve those You love!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Epiphany in Caperanum

While reading Matthew 4:12-25, I had these thoughts...

4:16 - Matthew quotes Isaiah to connect the prophecy and its fulfillment in Christ.  "The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light...on them a light has dawned."

4:20, 22 - Notice how each verse begins? "Immediately."  No thought, no hesitation from Peter and Andrew, James and John.  They answer the call of Jesus.  Oh, that it could be said that I, too, respond, in trusting and steadfast faith, to Jesus as He calls and teaches me in His Word!

4:23 - This is the first mention in Matthew of Christ doing miracles.  It won't be the last.

Prayer: Father, You said, "Let there be light," and there was light.  Help us to turn our faces toward You so that we might live and rejoice in the light of Your love.  Enable us to reflect that light to those caught up in the darkness of temptation and sin.  We ask this through Christ our Lord, the Light of the world.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Learning how to wait

Last Sunday I preached on 2 Peter, chapter 3 and learned what a blessing it is that God is patient.  I also reflected on how impatient I can be.  Perhaps this prayer will help me (and maybe you too).

This time
I want to act
to make a decision
But the Spirit 
in Your Word
tells me to wait
on You first
to hear Your counsel
For if I don't wait
I won't have
my strength renewed
Purge me of impatience
O God
Instead of a rash temperament
give me wisdom
Show me Your plan
and not my own
Move me to seek
that peace of mind
which comes not
of my own design
but Yours
that Your peace
which passes
all understanding
may fill my heart 
and mind.

See also Psalm 27:14 & 69:13; Philippians 4:7

From "Prayers for People Under Pressure" by Donald L. Deffner

Monday, December 8, 2014

What to write about on a Monday?

Should I write about the good feeling I had when the time and preparation during the week led to a good proclamation of God's Word? (Based on the feedback I received).

Should I write about the bad feeling I had when our Voters Meeting erupted into chaos at the end?

Should I write about the joy of watching the Arizona Cardinals hold on to beat Kansas City yesterday?

Should I write about the sorrow of having picked Kansas City in the weekly football pool? (Sorry Michele!)

Should I write about the happiness I felt as I read Louis Zamperini's amazing and courageous story in "Unbroken?"

Should I write about the sorrow I felt as I read the last page of "Unbroken?" It's sad when a great book comes to an end.

Obviously, I need to give this more thought.  I'll get back to you.

But if I don't, have a blessed day!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

God is Patient!

This is what the apostle Peter teaches us in his second letter to the church.  This Sunday we'll learn why God's patience with us is so important and how His patience motivates us to get out the good news about Jesus' coming into the world.  Join us for worship at 8 and 10:45 am and for Sunday school and Bible classes at 9:20 in the morning.

We also have a Saturday Vespers service and it take place ant 5 o'clock.  Deacon  Jerry Klink will offer the message.  We hope you can join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The posture of Advent

I loved this bit of writing from Pastor Richard Lauersdorf:

This Advent season it's time to kneel a little closer to Jesus' crib and beneath His cross...There I'll hear the best news ever of how God sent Jesus to bring double payment for my sins.

From "Together with Jesus," December 3rd devotional

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's just old sentimental me

Yesterday did not start off very well for me.

I woke up with a migraine headache.  Tried to shake it with some over the counter medication and loads of coffee.  Went to the office for a few hours but my head felt like it was a bass drum being pounded by an overly enthusiastic marching band drummer.

I came home, took some heavy duty medicine,fell asleep.  By 4 pm I was starting to feel like my normal self again.

That was good because I really wanted to see my oldest grandson's Christmas program at his school.

I missed last year's program because I was home - with a migraine.  I really didn't want to miss his performance again.

The sanctuary at Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix was standing room only when the kids walked in.  As they began to sing "Away in a Manger," it happened.

I began to weep.  I tried to hide the tears but they just kept coming.  At one point my dear, sweet wife nudged me - she offered me her little packet of Kleenex.

It was embarrassing.  I didn't see anyone else bawling their eyes out.

But here's what got to me.  Much of the world is afraid of Jesus.  In many parts of the world Jesus is hated as much as He was 2000 years ago by the religious elites of His day.

Much of our culture hates Jesus and what He stands for.  Things are said of Jesus in the media that would never be said of other religious men.

And here in a packed church, kindergarten and first grade children were singing their hearts out for Jesus.

They recited the Christmas story from Luke, chapter two.  Their voices filled the sanctuary as they joyfully sang, "Therefore I'll say again, God loves me dearly, God loves me dearly, loves even me!"

Their heartfelt confession of faith moved me to tears.

I pray that the excitement that Luke had as he and his class witnessed Christ to a packed group of parents, grandparents and friends continues to grow and grow and grow.  Amen, amen, yes, yes, it shall be so!

And I'll keep the Kleenex handy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Luke's Christmas Program brings back memories

Tonight my dear, sweet wife and I will venture over to Phoenix to attend my grandson's Christmas program.  I missed last year's presentation due to illness so I'm really looking forward to seeing and hearing Luke and his class tell the Christmas story.

Thinking about this reminded me of the first time that my sister and I participated in a children's Christmas program.  I wonder if my sister remembers this? It's surprising that it wasn't the last Christmas program we ever participated in.

We were very excited to be assigned speaking parts.  When we informed my Dad he had one bit of advice - "Speak loudly.  People will want to hear you."

So we practiced speaking loudly.  After a few minutes my Dad said, "That's good.  You can stop now."  I remember him saying something to my Mom about having a headache.  He must have had a bad day at work.

Finally, the big day came.  The church basement was packed.  I couldn't remember seeing that many people in church on Sunday.  Then we heard the music for "O Come All Ye Faithful."  We marched up onto the stage and took our places.  Then, the Spicer kids made the Christmas program memorable.

When it was my turn to speak I walked to the front of the stage with my Dad's advice ringing in my ears - "Speak loudly."  So I did - I spoke loudly into the microphone!

By the time I had finished reciting my Bible verse my voice was ringing in everyone's ears!  My Mom was the picture of embarrassment and I think my Dad had steam coming from his ears - a regular occurrence.  After the sound of my voice stopped reverberating throughout the basement, some folks began to laugh.  Then I became the picture of embarrassment.

A little later it was my sister's turn to speak.  She was smaller than the previous speakers so she tried to lower the microphone.

But she pulled down so hard on the mic stand that the whole thing came tumbling down, hitting the stage with a loud BOOM!  You would have thought that a bomb had been set off in the basement!

It scared my sister so much that she ran back to where her class was sitting, bawling her eyes out.

I think it was at that point that the Pastor went to his office to sign the letter of transfer for the Spicer family to attend another church...any church!

The car ride home that night was pretty quiet.  I expected to get an earful from my Dad but he said nothing.  Perhaps my Mom had said to him, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  So he said nothing.  And I was kind of glad about that.

Having been a Pastor for awhile now I've seen all kinds of humorous things take place during children's Christmas programs.  But, interestingly, I can't remember the details of any of them.

It's not the mistakes that are memorable.  It's watching and listening to kids and grandkids tell the story of the birth of the Christ child.  It's their confession of faith, that childlike faith that trusts Jesus completely.  It's the joy they show as they sing about a silent night in Bethlehem.  It's a story that we never get tired of hearing and the story sounds so sweet to our ears when we hear it told by the ones we love the most.

So I'm looking forward to Luke's program tonight.  And I will offer him absolutely no advice about speaking loudly!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Music without Christ?

I have a pet peeve.  Give me a moment to unburden myself, OK?

We have a radio station in town that promotes itself as the "Christmas Station."  Before Thanksgiving took place, this station began playing Christmas music and will do so throughout the holiday.

Driving my daughter, son in law and youngest grandson to the airport in east, east, east Mesa gave us the opportunity to listen to Christmas music.

But don't you think that Christmas music should be about Christ?  Shouldn't the birth of Jesus be mentioned in at least some of the songs played?

Seems reasonable to me.  But in the hour I listened, I heard one traditional Christmas song - by that I mean a song that had Christ Jesus at its focus.

I heard about Frosty the Snowman.  We rocked around the Christmas tree.  We listened as Gene Autry sang about Santy Claus.

But we heard only about Christ when a version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" was played.

Why is the world so afraid of Christ Jesus? Why avoid the mention of His name? Why refrain from recognizing that He is "the reason for the season?"

This morning I dug out our Christmas CD's.  Fooey on the "Christmas Station."

Let the Christmas season be about Christ.  His conception by the Holy Spirit.  His birth in Bethlehem by the Virgin Mary.  His reason for coming into our world - to save the world from sin.

From that point of view, maybe it's right to say that "we" are the reason for the season.

Our need for forgiveness and to be reconciled to God the Father is why Jesus was given to us.

Christ - for our greatest need...surely our greatest gift.

Christ should be in our Christmas music.

CD's are picked out and in my car.  Today, as I drive around I'll listen to Christmas music.

OK, I'm done.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Surprises

The Thanksgiving holiday season brought with it several surprises.

For starters, I was probably the only person in America who hadn't watched the film, "Frozen."  I'd heard of kids who'd watched the movie dozens of times.  I guess "Frozen" birthday parties were all the rage this summer.  I know many adults who said things like, "It's one of the best movies I've ever seen."  Well, "Frozen" isn't going to make my top 10 list but now I get what all the buzz was about.  A great story and the singing by the two lead characters was just wonderful.  I might even watch "Frozen" again sometime.

I did the Saturday service and was pleasantly surprised by several worshipers who brought coats for us to give to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.  One family donated three coats - one that had been dry cleaned and was still on the hanger.  I was inspired by Matthew 25:31-46 to ask the congregation to consider doing one of the "little things" Jesus talks about - like feeding the hungry or giving someone something to drink, reaching out to strangers and the sick, or caring for the naked and the imprisoned. I've seen our folks respond to this plea although I shouldn't have been surprised.  Our congregation has always been generous and never fails to respond to those who have needs.

I was pleased to have the Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly and his wife, Debbie, join us for worship yesterday. Pastor Mirly was my supervisor during my vicarage or internship year while I was studying at Concordia Seminary.  At that time he was senior pastor at Immanuel Lutheran in Olivette, Mo.  I learned much from Pastor Mirly and the entire congregation during my year there.  He and the congregation were extremely kind to my dear, sweet wife and kids.  Pastor Mirly put me in charge of the Visitation Ministry of the church.  Every Monday night a dozen people (including myself) paired up and went out to call on those who had visited the church for worship the day before.  We all grew in confidence as we talked with strangers about the forgiveness and love of Jesus.  That year was a blessing for me and my family and I will always be indebted to Pastor Mirly for his interest, direction and confidence in me.

Of course, there were things that happened around our house  that were of no surprise - I ate too much, the Christmas decorations went up on Black Friday (a much better way to spend the day IMHO), and my kids and grandkids brought Sherri and me great, great joy.  I hope your Thanksgiving holiday did the same for you!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Happy Church New Year!

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent and a new church year.  Advent is a word that means "coming."  During this time of the church year we prepare to celebrate Jesus' first coming as the babe of Bethlehem.  But we also use this time for repentance and reflection as we look for Jesus' second advent as the coming King of Glory who will judge the living and the dead.

Worship takes place on Saturday at 5 pm and on Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages are held on Sunday at 9:20 am.  Our sermon theme is "An Advent Letter of Encouragement."  Some would not call Paul's first letter to the Corinthians a letter of encouragement.  Paul deals with a number of important issues and uses the power of the Law to convict the Corinthians and call them to repentance.  But there is encouragement in the letter too and we'll discover how Paul's words can encourage us as we wait for the coming Jesus.

Also, our mid-week Advent worship begins this Wednesday evening at 7 pm.  Prior to the service our Fellowship Team will organize a "Quick Supper" that begins at 5:30 pm.  Be come to come and worship with us this weekend and on Wednesday.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thank you, P.D. James

Back in 2004, my dear, sweet wife and I had the joy of spending 10 days in London, England.  This happened because a member of my church in Hilton Head Island, SC had been a high ranking executive for Kodak and maintained a flat near Harrods.  He said, "If you want to use the flat, it's yours!"  So we went and had a wonderful time.  We loved traveling on the Underground every day to a different part of the city.  We did the stuff all the tourists do and we traveled off the beaten path as well.  It was a wonderful getaway for us.

Sometime later I was lamenting to a friend about how much I missed being in London.  His advice? "Read P.D. James.  It will be like taking a trip to London."  I took my friend's advice and I'm glad I did so.

James wrote detective fiction, as she called it.  But her books read like novels.  Most of her books featured detective Adam Dalgliesh, a formal, reserved, and clever solver of crimes.  James wrote 14 Dalgliesh stories and I eagerly devoured every one of them.  And my friend was right - reading James' book was like taking a trip to London, or England for that matter.

Early Thanksgiving morning, P.D. James died peacefully at her home in Oxford, England.  She was 94 years old.  I never met her but I found a signed copy of one of her books as I searched the shelves at our local Savers store. I, along with scores of readers, will miss her very much. Thanks, P.D. James - you were a wonderful traveling companion!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A blessed thanksgiving to you!

Open for me the gates of righteousness;
  I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
  through which the righteous may enter.
I will give You thanks, for You answered me;
  You have become my salvation.
You are my God, and I will give You thanks;
  You are my God, and I will exalt You.

From Psalm 118

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful for ...Hostess Cup Cakes

I first learned to barter in the 6th grade.  Myself and four or five other guys would all gather around Larry Jones' desk.

Every day Larry's mother would include a pack of Hostess Cup Cakes in his lunch.  We thought that Larry had the greatest mom in the world.

Interestingly, Larry didn't much care for chocolate.  We knew this.  So when Larry pulled the Cup Cakes from his lunch bag, the frenzy would begin.  After a while I think Larry would just say, "OK, what have you got?"

Unlike Larry, I loved chocolate.  Loved, loved, loved chocolate.  I could eat those Cup Cakes every day.

I quickly realized that my chances for success were dependent on what my mom packed in my lunch.  So I had a challenge - I needed to get my mom to pack really good stuff every day without her knowing that I was trading away part of my lunch to get one more heavenly bite of those Cup Cakes.

Over time I learned that Larry had some weak spots.  He liked Red Delicious Apples.  He really liked Fritos.  And, for some reason, he liked Oreos.  That one puzzled me - Oreos were chocolate which Larry said he didn't like.  Then I figured it out.  Larry would open all four corners of his milk container and then he would dunk the cookies.  Isn't that how most of us eat Oreos?

My mom was good about getting the Oreos and the Fritos because my dad liked them too.  Of course, that posed another problem.  Going to the pantry and finding the the chips and cookies gone because dad had devoured them.  When something terrible like that happened, I knew that someone else was going to be enjoying my Cup Cakes.

I'm waxing nostalgic today because last night I did a bit of shopping before I went home.  As I stood at the check out counter, I saw them.  I was less that a foot a way from them - Hostess Cup Cakes! It was just a couple of years ago that Hostess shut down.  About a year later Cup Cakes were back on the shelves.  And this morning, while having coffee I enjoyed bite after bite of my Cup Cakes.  I tried to eat them slowly so that I could savor every single bite.

Just like the good old days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Tuesday

Our Synodical President, Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison has designated today as "Giving Tuesday," an "online effort to encourage people around the world to make a difference through charitable giving on a single day."

You can learn more about this effort at lcms.org/give/GivingTuesday.

On Sunday at Life in Christ we learned that the Lord is filled with great joy when His people do the "little things," like giving food and water to a hungry, thirsty person, reaching out to a stranger, providing clothing for those without, and visiting and caring for the sick and those in prison.

I asked our worshippers if they would consider doing one little thing this week that would bless another person and demonstrate love for Jesus.  I noticed that we've starting receiving a nice food offering and that there are several coats in one of our offices.  Hopefully, that pile grows so we can donate them to Phoenix Rescue Mission who will pass them along to those who don't have coats.

The events that took place in Ferguson, Missouri last night remind us that we indeed live in a broken and sinful world.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  What good, simple thing can you do today for someone? Jesus says, "Whatever you have done to the least of these, my brothers, you have done unto Me."

God be with you on giving Tuesday.  May the Lord inspire you to do one little thing for another person today.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Consternation in Cardinals Nation

Prior to yesterday's game with Seattle, we in Cardinals Nation were feeling pretty good.

Yes, we'd lost our starting quarterback again to an injury.  Carson Palmer is out for the season with a knee injury.  But our backup, Drew Stanton, has played like a quarterback ready for prime time.  He filled in admirably the first time around and even came in to throw the winning touchdown pass to beat Detroit two weeks ago.

But yesterday Stanton played very much like a backup, someone who'd seen action in something like 8 games in 8 years.  It's not his fault that the Cardinals lost.  Seattle is tough to beat on their home field.

The reality in the NFL is that you've got to have a really good to great quarterback to be a winner.  Carson Palmer is one of those guys.  Now, we'll find out if Stanton is one of those guys too.

In the meantime the Cardinals have a two game lead in their division.  If they only won their two remaining home games that would give them an 11-5 season - good enough for the playoff.

But it might not be good enough to gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs and the Cardinals football team plays best when in front of Cardinals Nation.

So what do we do now?

First, calm down.  It was just one loss.  Our defense played very well yesterday.  We can certainly expect our guys to make some plays in our last five games.

Second, trust in BA.  Bruce Arians has pushed all the right buttons, so to speak, this season.  And his guys like to play for him.  I think it's safe to say that the Cardinals still have plenty of good football left in them this season.

Finally, go have breakfast, drink some coffee, get ready for work.  In other words, do your usual stuff.  The sun will come up this morning.  One loss is not the end of the world for Cardinals Nation.  There's still lots of football to get all worked up about!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking for the little things

A pastor once asked me, "What great thing are you going to do for God?" And that really got me thinking, "What great thing can I do as a pastor?"  But now I'm convinced that God isn't looking for any of us to do great, big, impressive things for Him.  Why am I so sure? Come and find out this Sunday at LICL.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with classes for all ages held at 9:20 am.

Or if Saturday evening is a better option, worship with us at 5 pm.  Pastor John Pope will preach and Holy Communion will be celebrated.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Singing with the Saints at Lifestream

Seven years ago one of our sweet, older members asked if I would keep up a tradition that had started many years before and lead a sing along at a long term care center.

This sweet, older member is someone that you don't say "no" to so I said, "yes!"

I'm glad I did.

Connie and I spend an hour or so one Friday a month and sing with the saints who live at Lifestream, located directly east of Thunderbird Hospital.

The facility was originally called "Baptist Village."  So guess which hymnal we use?

Being a life long Lutheran boy (and Connie a life long Lutheran girl) I wasn't familiar with a lot of the song in their hymnbook.

The challenge was even greater for Connie.  She has to play songs she's never heard before and do it on the spot.

Fortunately, the Chaplin there (now retired) Craig Avrill, takes Connie through the more difficult or unfamiliar ones.  We have appreciated his help so much over the years.  He has become a good friend of ours.

The real joy is spending time with the residents.  Connie and I have gotten to know some of the folks really well.  We know where they're going to sit and what songs they're going to request: "Yes, Ruthie, we'll do 'Never Alone' for the 4792 time!"

The residents bless us with their confession of faith.  They truly enjoy singing those great old Baptist hymns.  For 45 minutes we join our voices together and present God with an offering of praise and thanksgiving.

We have fun too.

I've got a bunch of stuff on the schedule today - a couple of meetings, a visit to make, a class to prepare for and a wedding to get ready for.

But in the middle of the morning it will be nice to drive over to Lifestream for some singing with the saints!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Here's a little Latin for you

Benedictus Deus in omnibus donis sues!

"Blessed be God in all His gifts."

This is a prayer a pastor prays at the beginning of his day.  And it's very appropriate.

According to Martin Luther's explanation of the First Article of the Creed God blesses us with gifts abundantly.

God has given us life.  God gives us all the stuff with which we need to live.  God gives us a multitude of relationships.  He meets our needs.  He gives us protection from the evil one.

And, according to Luther, "All this (God) does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.  For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true."

Blessed be God in all His gifts!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Birthday greetings to Glenn

Every seminarian has a favorite professor, one in whom he finds much inspiration, wisdom and admiration.

While a student at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, that professor for me was Rev. Dr. Glenn Nielsen.

It was in my first homiletics class that I felt a connection with Dr. Nielsen.  An important part of pastoral ministry is the preaching task.  We all wanted to learn how to write a good sermon.  We had lots of questions.  Dr. Nielsen was more than up to the task of answering them.

Actually, he provided more than answers to our questions.  He often gave us examples.

A question would be asked about how to approach a particular text and Dr. Nielsen would think for a moment and then compose a mini-sermon on the spot, showing one way to proclaim a particular truth in God's Word.  I sat there, slack-jawed, amazed, that anyone could formulate a response, in mere moments, like that.

I soon began to scour all the issues of the Concordia Journal to read Dr. Nielsen's sermons.  I was continually amazed to see all the various ways he approached different texts.  All his sermons had a freshness that's I'd not seen before.  Law and Gospel were correctly divided.  And the Gospel he preached would just make your heart soar with gratitude and joy for the forgiveness and salvation given through faith in Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection.

Even today, I'm still trying to write a "Nielsen sermon."  Maybe one day I'll get there.

My ordination day was very special for many reasons.  Lots of family, traveling from different parts of the country came.  The pastors at our home church in Edwardsville, Illinois participated in the service.  My best friends from seminary were there with their wives.  Members from my vicarage congregation in Olivette, Missouri drove down for the service.  It was a day filled with many blessings.

Dr. Nielsen gave the sermon.  A "Nielsen sermon" just for me.  His advice was simple - "Preach the Word!"

Thanks, Glenn, for that encouragement.  I love preaching the Word of God.  I learned to love doing this from your fine instruction and example.  Hope you're birthday was a blessing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A benediction for today

May Christ give to you at this time and for always

His peace in your soul

His presence in your heart

His power in your life.

From my dear, sweet wife's Prayer Board

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Good Stuff from Yesterday

Every Sunday brings with it lots of good stuff.  God never fails to deliver His gifts of grace in worship.  Forgiveness for our sins, power for daily living as the Holy Spirit works through Word and Sacraments and the joy of fellowship with people who share something in common - faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior needed for salvation and eternal life.

Good stuff - LICL received a large group of new members yesterday.  These men, women and children stretched from one side of the altar rail to the other.  Some found us through the internet while others were brought by a friend.  Some admitted that they were "church shopping," but stopped shopping after worshiping with us.  One common theme - all were attracted by the warmth of the people of our congregation. This has to be a secret of growing churches - make people feel welcomed.  A warm greeting will enable a visitor to relax and help them be much more ready to hear the good news of Jesus' life, death and resurrection for the salvation of the world.

Our Nurturing Team hosted a New Member Luncheon following the late service.  We had a wonderful time of fellowship and many connections were made by the new folks joining our church family.  I just can't thank our Nurturing Team enough for the the joy and care they bring to all of these gatherings.

Good stuff - the curse does not strike the Arizona Cardinals! On Friday I wrote of my fear that something bad was going to happen to the Cardinals because they had landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  It seems that any time a favorite team or player ends up being featured on SI's cover a loss or injury is just around the corner.  The Cardinals defense was awesome and the offense did just enough to outscore Detroit.  9-1...who saw this coming for the Cardinals?  Next up - Seattle.  The Seahawks are tough to beat on their home field but Arizona just may have the right stuff to bring home a road victory.

Today provides an opportunity to kick back and take a short break before the "busy-ness" begins all over again.  It's nice to enjoy these moments when life slows down, noise is replaced by quiet and praise and thanksgiving can be offered to a loving and gracious God for all the "good stuff" that happens in our lives.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Welcome Deacon Cynova!

Today at our 5 pm service we will install Gale Cynova to serve as a Deacon at Life in Christ.  He joins Jerry Klink and Danny Baker who also serve our church.  Jerry will also deliver the message during the service.

Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am Associate Pastor Marcus Breitbarth will proclaim God's Word to us.  Sunday School and Bible classes are held at 9:20 am.  Come and join us this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, November 14, 2014

First, the Cover! Is the Curse Next?

Got home from church Thursday night and saw it on the kitchen counter - my copy of Sports Illustrated magazine.  I've been reading SI since a teenager and the magazine has arrived in my mailbox, with just a few interruptions, ever since.

This week's cover is a thing of beauty - stretched out, air born, hauling in a 48 yard touchdown pass is Cardinals rookie wide receiver, John Brown.  Brown's touchdown catch on a ball thrown by backup quarterback, Drew Stanton, put the Cardinals in the lead to stay as they went on to beat the St. Louis Rams.

I stood there for a moment, admiring the picture, when suddenly I became filled with a feeling of absolute dread.

The curse! The curse of the SI cover! THE CARDINALS HAVE BEEN CURSED BY THE SI COVER!

You think I'm going a little overboard about this?

Over the years it seems that the week a sports team or individual athlete is featured on SI's cover, they suffer a horrible loss of some kind during the following week.

For whatever reason, being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated often brings some kind of disaster for a team or an individual player.  Maybe the research guys at FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.com could crunch the number and see if there really is a curse connected to being on the cover of SI.  The results might surprise us all.

In any event, I'm not too worried.  If anyone can break the curse of the Sports Illustrated cover, it's Cardinals coach, Bruce Arians.

Arians is a no-nonsense football lifer.  He coached with the legendary Bear Bryant of Alabama and adheres to Bryant's coaching philosophy, "Coach 'em hard and love 'em later."  He's a plain speaker in the manner of President Harry Truman.  Women and young children are advised not to attend Arians' press conferences.  To steal a line from the late broadcast icon, Howard Cosell, Arians is not afraid to "tell it like it is."

That's why I'm not worried about the curse.  I'm sure Arians doesn't believe in it and isn't concerned about it.  I'll bet if he were asked, Arians would say "@#$%&* the curse!"

Sunday's checklist for the Cardinals is as follows: 1) Beat the Lions - this is going to be a tough game.  2) Kill the curse!  In that order.

Go Cardinals!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thinking about Luther

What with celebrating the Reformation and Luther's Birthday in the past few weeks, it got me to thinking about the trip my dear, sweet wife and I took in the summer of 2011.  One of our stops was Wittenburg Germany.  It felt like we had arrived in the Holy Land - at least the Holy Land for Lutherans.  In the first picture is the altar of the church; the second photo is of the pulpit and the third picture is the outside of the church.  We had a wonderful time there and I hope someday to return to Wittenburg.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Being born twice

From "Together with Jesus," by Richard E. Lauersdorf, November 11 devotional:

Birth is something that happens to me.  I was not born the first time because I wanted to but because my parents wanted me.  I was born the second time, not because I wanted to but because God wanted me.  Thank God for His grace in making me born twice.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

God paints another masterpiece

Carlsbad, California, December 31, 2013.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Keep those torches burning

This Sunday we'll look at Matthew 25 and the story of the 10 virgins.  We'll also learned the importance of being prepared.  Come and join us at either 8 or 10:45 am.

This afternoon at 5 pm, Holy Communion will be celebrated and Pastor Dave Darling will proclaim God's Word.  Hope you'll join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Down on the Farm

Two of my grandchildren, Emily (left) and Drew having fun at a farm located about 30 minutes from Green Bay, Wisconsin.  They had a great time with the pigs, cows, horses, chickens and sheep.  They took a hay ride and fed lots of animals.  As our day came to an end, I just had to take one more picture.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blessed by the Today's Light Bible

For years I've used CPH's "Today's Light Bible," with devotions by Jane Fryer as my resource for daily Bible reading and meditation.  Fryer's devotions are worth the price of the book.  I was greatly encouraged by this devotion as Fryer wrote about Abraham and Sarah.  In part, she wrote:

How like us - to think that somehow God can't or won't keep His Word, especially when we don't see Him fulfill His promises right away.  How like God - to come to us, not with words of rebuke but of grace.

God asserts a remarkable truth to Abram and Sarai by changing their names.  These desert nomads with dust in their sandals were, in reality, His royal children.  Kings would come from Abraham.  Sarai was now Sarah - "princess."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The importance of being simple

Some people love to play God.

God doesn't understand what marriage is all about.  Let's change it.  God doesn't get that it's my body and I can do what I want.  Let's abort it.  God doesn't realize that when I have a terminal illness then I be able to die with dignity.  Let's end it.

We live in a post-modern culture where my truth is just as good as your truth and as long as I'm not hurting you I should be able to do whatever I want.

The problem is that the new normal about marriage hurts me.  The problem with the new normal about life and death hurts me.

What to do? Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a suggestion.

To be simple is to fix one's eyes solely on the simple truth of God at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted and turned upside down.

We can take our cues from the world or we can take them from the Word.

Know the simple truth of God's Word that makes so much sense in a world that seems more confused every day.  Trust in the power and authority of that Word.  It gives peace in the midst of chaos and leads to eternal life.

Remember the KISS principle? Keep It Simple and...well, you know the rest.

Bonhoeffer reminds us that our hope is in the simple and solid truth of God's Word.  Let it be your soul's anchor, today and forever.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord

The temptation to play God is awfully great.

We want to be in control.  We want to call the shots, so to speak.

We didn't choose our parents.  Had no control over that.  But as soon as we can, we try and wrestle control and authority away from those who God had given it to - parents, teachers, pastors,coaches, those who protect us and care for us.

Our sinful human nature strives for this.  We believe that we know what's best for ourselves, our life and our death.

Death on our terms.  That's how a person dies with dignity.

I've sat by the bedside of the dying.  I've looked on as spouses and children and friends spent last moments together - laughing, crying, singing, supporting one another.

I've marveled at the sick and suffering, those who would have never thought about ending their own life.  Instead, they lived until the very end, trusting that the God who gave them life and then also gave them eternal life through faith in Jesus would be with them until they fell asleep.

Some would say, "It's easy for you to write these words - you aren't suffering from a terminal disease.  You're not facing death."

No, I'm not suffering from cancer or heart disease or ALS or any of those things.  Thank God for His grace and mercy.  As of today, I am pretty healthy and enjoy a pretty good life.

But I'm facing death.  And so are you.

In my case, I don't know when my death will come.

But it's coming.  So I trust God with my life and my death.

I trust God because He has something better in store for me.  Jesus said, "In this life you will have trouble."  Like everything else Jesus said, He's right.

But the faithful God has seen me through every trouble and every trial.  Who knows how much He has spared me from that which I'm not even aware of.

And God gave me a Savior who has defeated death.  That's what Easter Sunday is all about.  Death couldn't keep Jesus in the grave.  His victory over death is my victory.  Because He lives I too will live.

Death is our enemy.  It was never God's plan for death to be a part of His creation.

But because Adam and Eve decided that they wanted to be God, they disobeyed the Word of God and ushered sin and death into the world.

Jesus dealt with the death question.

So I will let him deal with my death whenever it comes.

This past Sunday was All Saints Sunday.  It's the day we remember those in our church family who fell asleep in Jesus during the past year.

We were also reminded of what God thinks of those who die trusting in Him until the end: Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" from now on.

Such a wonderful Word of comfort for those who grieve.

It's a promise that we all can hang on to.

I don't want to die with dignity, acting like God, planning the details of my death.

I want to "die in the Lord," trusting in His promises, believing that my Redeemer lives and that in eternity I will see God - forever.

Monday, November 3, 2014

We have a Savior who can sympathize with us!

In rereading a familiar text - John 11:17-37 - this morning, I made the following observations:

In verse 20, there is a role reversal - it's Martha who is with Jesus instead of Mary.

But in verse 28, Jesus calls for Mary.

In verse 32 it's Mary who has the complaint (remember when Jesus visited Martha and Mary? Martha complained about her sister who wasn't helping her).  But notice Mary's posture - she kneels in worship.  And her complaint expresses her faith in Jesus - "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died."  (Yes, Martha expressed the same complaint - but also in faith).

I was also struck by Martha's faith:
verse 22 - I know that whatever you ask from God...
verse 24 - I know that (my brother) will rise again in the resurrection...
verse 27 - I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God...

I know...I know...I believe.

But I was also struck by Christ's compassion.  He did not wait on Mary to come to Him; He called for her.  He was moved by those who were mourning Lazarus' passing.  He wept.

We do have a Savior who can sympathize with us! And because He is the resurrection and the life, what He did for Lazarus, He will do for us.  On the Last Day all the dead will be raised and those who trusted in Jesus for forgiveness, new life, and salvation will be gathered by the Lord and ushered into heaven.

This is good news for a Monday!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints Sunday

This is that Sunday in the church year where we remember all those who were called home to rest in Jesus.  They have joined that great host of saints who await the Last Day when Jesus shall return in all His power and glory.  Until then we wait patiently for the Lord.

Come and join us for worship this Sunday at 8 am and 10:45 am.  Classes for all ages will meet at 9:20 am.  Or be here this afternoon for our Saturday worship at 5 o'clock.  We'll see you at LICL!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Advice to Displaced Youths

Place your hope, joy and love in something that will be available whether you have everything you ever wanted or nothing at all.  Nothing can give you that fulfillment except for faith in Jesus Christ.

Silas Nacita, a football player from Baylor University, who was homeless for three years.  Slept on friends couches, in a park, and in a hotel lobby.  He was interviewed for Sports Illustrated's article, "Young, Gifted and Homeless."  (October 20, 2014 issue).  His advice is spot on for all people of all ages no matter what kind of circumstances - good or bad- are being faced.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The secret to a happy marriage

This quote has been attributed to Martin Luther.  I don't know if the great reformer actually said this but the statement contains great truth: Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CS Lewis on Christianity

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's so great about having to keep on praying?

Do not be distressed if you do not at once receive from God what you ask.  He wishes to give you something better - to make you persevere in your prayer.  For what is better than to enjoy the love of God and to be in communion with Him?

From the book, "Tell It Slant," by Eugene Peterson, page 132

Monday, October 27, 2014

Couldn't do it without Dan and Steve

We are Life in Christ are blessed to have so many talented and gifted people who serve our church.  Our children and youth ministry, our music ministry, our serving ministry (to name a few) produce much fruit because of the faithful service of folks who express their love for their Lord and Savior by serving others.

Among those who bless our church so richly are Dan and Steve.

Dan is the maestro of this website.  He serves on our Board.  He leads our IT committee.  He plays a large role in our music ministry.  

There are few people more talented than Dan.  I don't think he even realizes how much he has blessed the ministry of our church (and me).

Steve is one of those quiet guys who often go unrecognized in the church.  But he faithfully runs the sound nearly every Saturday evening and Sunday morning at church.  We've had some trouble recruiting folks to help us with this important task.  But Steve always shows up, always ready to help out.

It's risky singling out a couple of people who serve us so well at Life in Christ.  I could use this blog space for the next several months, writing every day about folks who bless our church with their service.  

It just seemed wise today to make sure that Dan and Steve know that we do not take their service for granted.  

Who do you know in your church that are the "unsung" servants?  Let them know how much they are appreciated.  Sing their praises this week! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

If you could ask God one question?

What question would you ask God? There are many you could pose but there is only one really essential question.  Come tomorrow and see if you know the one most important question to ask God.  Hint: it's a question that Martin Luther would have asked.  Sunday worship is held at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour set at 9:20 in the morning.

Or, if Saturday evening works better for you, check out our service today at 5 pm.  Pastor Dave Darling will be preaching and Kevin Svec and his group will provide the music.  Either way, we hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A trip down memory lane with Pistol Pete

Yesterday, on the Sports Illustrated website, I spent an enjoyable time reading about my second sports hero, "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

I say "second" because as a young baseball player I was all about Yankee great, Mickey Mantle.

It was in high school that Pistol Pete captivated me.  His look, with the long hair and the floppy socks was just so cool and so much different than every other college or pro basketball player.

Think of all the great basketball players of the last 35 years or so - Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James.  None of these guys can compare with Pistol Pete.

Maravich is college basketball's all time leading scorer.  In three years he averaged almost 45 points a game (and this is without the three point line that basketball players enjoy today).  Anytime Maravich crossed the half-court line, he was in shooting range.  His ability to get off a shot at any place and at any angle on the court was amazing.

He was also maybe the greatest ball handler in the history of the game.  His teammates had to be ready at all times on the court because Maravich could pass the ball behind his back, through his legs, or without looking at the one he was passing to - it was just amazing.

His pro career was mostly frustrating.  He was saddled with expectations that no other player (with the exception of LeBron) had ever faced.  His teams usually didn't win and Maravich usually received the blame.  He was accused of hogging the ball, being selfish, only interested in scoring points and nothing else.

It was a sad day for me when Pistol Pete retired from the NBA.

Whenever his teams came to Phoenix I was sure to have a ticket to watch him play.

Once, when the New Orleans Jazz came to town, five of his teammates were hurt in an auto accident.  The Jazz played with only seven players that night.  Everyone thought the Suns would take down a short handed team.

Maravich played the entire game, scored 50 points (yes, that's 5-0, 50) and the Jazz beat the Suns.  It was so exciting to see my hero play such a fantastic game.

After his retirement, word came that Maravich had become a Christian.  He became quite vocal about trusting in Jesus for salvation and eternal life.  Maravich would go anywhere and speak to anyone about the difference Jesus had made in his life.

In fact, Maravich had gone to Southern California in January 1988 to make an appearance on the "Focus on the Family" radio program.  The host, Dr. James Dobson, had invited Maravich to join him and some others in a pick-up basketball game prior to going to the recording studio to tape the program.  And to their surprise, Maravich said "yes" to the invitation.

They had just finished a game when Dobson asked Maravich, "How are you feeling?"  Maravich responded, "I feel great!"  Moment later, Maravich fell in a heap onto the floor.  While one person performed CPR, another called 911 and the rest of the players began praying.  Maravich never regained consciousness.

Oh, by the way, on the day that Maravich died, he was wearing a t-shirt.  It said, "Looking unto Jesus" (from Hebrews, chapter 12).  One day I expect to meet Maravich - in heaven.  It's a wonderful thought -  to be looking unto Jesus with Pistol Pete Maravich, worshipping "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Thanks for the memories, Pistol Pete!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Talking the talk & walking the walk

Maggie Karner is a marvel.

For 10 years she has been head of LCMS Life and Health Ministries.  In that position she has led our Synod in sanctity of life issues.  She has encouraged congregations to stand firm on Scriptural teachings that show that all life is important and valued by God.  She's been involved in the mercy ministry of the Synod and has helped to establish women's pregnancy centers in Russia and Malaysia.

Maggie Karner has cancer.  She suffers from an aggressive brain tumor for which there isn't a cure.

With such a diagnosis it would be tempting to consider looking at ways of ending her life and stopping the suffering that has come.  A lot of press is being given to a woman named Brittany Maynard who suffers from the same cancer.  She has moved to Oregon and plans to take her own life soon.

Many have labeled Maynard as a courageous person.

To me, Karner is the courageous one.  She has chosen not to see her diagnosis as a death sentence but instead as an opportunity to live each day in the grace and mercy of God.

Karner writes, "As a Christian with a Savior who loves me dearly and who has redeemed me from a dying world, I have a higher calling.  God wants me to be comfortable in my dependence on Him and others, to live with Him in peace and comfort no matter what comes my way."

In fact, Karner sees her situation as a learning experience - for her three daughters.  "I want my girls to learn servanthood and selflessness as they care for me.  And I also want them to know that, for Christians, our death is not the end...Christ's resurrection from that borrowed grave confirms that death could not hold Him, and it cannot hold me either - a baptized child of God!"

I encourage you to read about Maggie Karner on the Synod's website.  Go to www.lcms.org, scroll down to "top stories," and look for "Karner responds to terminally ill woman's suicide plan."

You'll be inspired by Karner's confident faith.  You'll want to pray for her.  And for Brittany Maynard too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Prayer Board

My dear, sweet wife has this thing hanging on her wall and it's pretty cool.

She can also probably describe it with one word.  Unfortunately, I can't think of that one word.

What it is? A piece of wood that is covered by a nice piece of fabric.  Then there are five buttons strategically place with strips of ribbon that criss-crosses the board.

The idea is that you can slide pictures or notes or whatever under the pieces of ribbon.  No need for pins or any other sharp objects to hold your stuff to the board.

Have you got the picture? I should take a picture and post it for you but I (alas) don't have time.

Anyway, Sherri has placed pictures of family and friends on this...thing.

I asked her about it one day and she told me it was her Prayer Board.

When she does her daily devotions she looks at the all the pictures on the board and then prays for those people.

Sometimes when we sit down to pray, some of us might have trouble getting started.  We have so many important things to pray about - where to begin?

The Prayer Board provides a starting point.

Not only could you post pictures of family and friends but you could also place pictures of the place where you work...pictures of your church building...pictures of the team you play on the the group you practice (fill in the blank) with...well, the list is endless, isn't it?

Anyway, I offer this suggestion for those of you who might find a Prayer Board helpful.

And, if you need a picture of me, just let me know.  I need all the help I can get!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Something to look forward to

IMAGINE...
stepping onto a shore and finding it heaven

IMAGINE...
taking hold of a hand and finding it God's hand

IMAGINE...
breathing new air and finding it celestial air

IMAGINE...
feeling invigorated and finding it immortality

IMAGINE...
passing from storm and tempest to an unknown calm

IMAGINE...
waking and finding it home

Michael Podesta
from "The Walk" by Michael Card, Discovery House Publishers

Monday, October 20, 2014

Table Tennis Anyone?

During my recent visit to Wisconsin I had a chance to play table tennis with my grandson, Drew. And, yes, we are playing table tennis - on the kitchen table.  Mini-net, mini-paddles and regulation ball.  For two years old, Drew is quite good (with Mom's help!)

Mid-game Drew noticed that the net was in need of repair.  He loves, loves, loves his tool bench and puts in endless hours working on many important projects.  Fortunately, with the help of a hammer and screwdriver, Drew was able to make the necessary repairs and the game went on!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A double header!

Deacon Jerry Klink has been my friend for a long time now.  We were friends when we weighed a lot less and could throw up jump shots all day and all night.  Now, Jerry is providing faithful and joyful service to the Lord's church at Life in Christ.  Today, his two youngest grandsons are being baptized at our 5 pm Saturday service.  I will have the privilege to do the baptism and Jerry will proclaim the Word of God based on a message regarding the power of bringing water and Word together to cleanse a person of all unrighteousness.  Kevin Svec and his group will provide the music for us.

On Sunday, worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am and Associate Pastor Marcus Brietbarth will proclaim God's Word to us.  Classes for all ages meet at 9:20 am.  Also, come out and join us for our annual Fall Festival which takes place at 2 pm on our campus.  The Cardinals should have the Oakland game well under control by that time so you won't miss anything! Have a blessed weekend! Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Call upon it in every trouble"

So last Sunday I told everyone at church I was cutting up my platinum card to the Worry Store.  And I did.

But that, in and of itself, doesn't help a person deal with worry or anxiety.

Thankfully, Martin Luther gave me some very good advice.

In his explanation to the Second Commandment in the Small Catechism, Luther teaches that we should not misuse the name of the Lord your God but "call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks."

So that's what I've been doing this week.  And it works!

Understand, I'm not surprised that calling on the name of the Lord when anxiety or worry begins to attack is an important thing to do.  I'm surprised that I've not been doing the very thing God invites me to do!

Psalm 50:15 - Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.

That's what the 10 lepers did when they saw Jesus coming their way.

That's what a desperate mother did when she sought healing for her daughter.

That's what a fearful father did when multiple demons had completely taken over his son's life.

So each morning this week during my devotions I've been calling upon the name of the Lord, pouring out my every concern, asking for help and faith and peace.

Each day, whenever I've been tempted to worry about a meeting or a contact or getting something prepared, I've called on the name of the Lord.

Praise God! I've received a sense of peace, peace that the Lord gives.  The Holy Spirit has brought comforting Words from Holy Scripture to my mind, reminding me that the Lord is near and that in my weakness, His strength will empower me to trust and believe.

It's been a wonderful week.  I thought I prayed a lot.  But I haven't prayed as much as I have this week.

And that's good.  I've been reminded again of just how much I need the Lord - His help and power and strength.

Even now, I'm starting to feel anxious.  But there will be no trip to the Worry Store for me today.

Time to retreat to my quiet place, grab God's Word and call on the name of the Lord.

If you're trying to become an ex-Worry Store shopper, try this.  Call on the name of the Lord.  Tell God about your troubles.  Ask Him for just what you need.  Praise Him for His power and compassion.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good for His mercy endures forever!

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The 80's are coming

In the Valley of the Sun, Fall doesn't begin when the calendar says it should begin.

Fall usually starts about now, in the middle of the month of October.  This is the time when we know that those 100 degree days are behind us and temps are soon to fall into the 80's each day.

This is good news for me.

A few years ago, when I was suffering from some back issues, I found the best therapy for me was walking.  So I took a t-shirt, shorts and my Nike's to work and at noontime I quickly changed clothes and walked up and down the road to the south of the church.

Since Life in Christ is located on a county island (surrounded by the city of Peoria) the homes on Banff Street are built on one and two acre lots.  A number of folks have horses.  Others have goats, chickens and one homeowner has a pot-bellied pig.  And there are dogs - lots of dogs!

It makes for an interesting walk.  And it's an opportunity for good exercise.

I'm on Weight Watchers and I've been watching the numbers on the bathroom scale fall.

Walking will help to keep that weight off.  And walking by myself gives me time to think and pray and give thanks to God for family and work and for the many blessings I've received from His gracious hand.  And I can especially give thanks for Jesus, my patient and loving Lord and Savior.

Sometimes people are led to believe that unless they have some kind of gym membership, they really aren't serious about exercise and fitness.

But that's not true.  I keep reading more and more how a 30 minute walk, three times a week, has all kinds of positive benefits for good health.

Go for it! And maybe I'll see you on the street!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A humble superstar

I read a nice story this morning in the local paper about ASU football player, D.J. Foster.  Anytime he gets his hands on the ball good things can happen.  Whether he's operating as a running back or as a receiver, Foster is explosive and he can make life miserable for defenses that have to stop him.  He will be expected to have a big game against Stanford, a team with one of the best defenses in the PAC 12.

Foster is one of the leaders on the team.  His teammates look up to him and admire him.  And in an age when some collage footballers are seemingly set on promoting themselves (ever heard of Johnny Football?), Foster seems quite unique - a humble superstar.

A friend said of Foster: "D.J. may be the most talented person I know, and when we sat down at a restaurant and I brought up football, I could tell he didn't want any part of it.  He appeased me - knowing I'm a huge sports fan - but everything he said was about his teammates, and there wasn't a single mention of his own accomplishments or accolades.  Not even a humble brag."

When I was growing up I remember my pastor once telling me, "George, when you do things well, you don't have to brag or boast about them.  The people who see your accomplishments and achievements, the people who see you helping others or being nice to people will speak up for you.  Let them do so.  You don't have to toot your own horn.  You've got a whole orchestra playing behind you."

I don't know how or when Foster learned something about being a humble person, focusing not on your his accomplishments but looking for ways to help others.  But I can see a whole orchestra lining up behind him.  I hope he keeps setting this good example for his teammates...and for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This week's daily prayer

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
Amen

From "Prayers for People Under Pressure"
by Donald L. Deffner, Northwestern Publishing House

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sunday was a good day

The day started with worship.  The choir sang well, the children were engaged during our time together, God's Word offered an equation for dealing with worry and we were fed at the Lord's Table with food that gives the forgiveness of sins.

The Sunday morning Bible class went well.  We are slowly becoming "Trahms-atized," and growing in our desire to witness Christ to the people around us.

Sherri's enchiladas were great and it was wonderful to have the Olohans and Spicers with us.

I was blessed by Ron and LaVonna who gave me a beautiful roll top desk.

I was further blessed by Kirk and his boys who helped me pick up the desk and deliver it to our house.

And I was blessed even more by Kirk and my son, Eric, who had to do major surgery to a bedroom door just to get the desk where we wanted it.

The evening brought with it a time of relaxation - NOT! The St. Louis Cardinals waited until the bottom of the 9th to finely close out a win over the SF Giants.  Can't take too many more nail-biters like that.

The evening ended with Luther's Evening Prayer and a silently sung "Doxology."  Indeed, praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Some math that makes sense

Do you worry sometimes...all the time? Does worry ruin a meal...disturb your sleep...dominate your thoughts? This Sunday the apostle Paul offers all of us worriers some good help.  Can't say more right now but I do invite you to join us for worship.  Sunday services take place at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) beginning at 9:20 am.

Or, if you prefer a Saturday service, be here at LICL at 5 pm.  Pastor John Pope will be preaching and Holy Communion will be celebrated.  Make worship a part of your weekend activities.  Hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Something to remember as I prepare to preach this Sunday

Is much of the fruitlessness of our preaching that we appear in the pulpit and in the congregation with such gloomy faces? Is not this so often a hindrance for the children and young people of our congregation? I trust we give them stout and faithful instruction; but surely much of what we say to them will be forgotten.  Much would be gained if they simply took with them this impression: a young man or an old man stood up before us; what he told us we did not always understand, but there must be something wonderfully lovely about the Gospel is a person can talk about it so joyfully!

Friedrich von Bodelschwengh, 1935

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A blessed pastor

As I get ready to head home after spending time at our annual pastor's conference, I've come to realize once again just how blessed I've been in over 17 years of ministry.

This week I heard how one pastor was run out of his church by a few folks who were wanted the pastor to know who was boss.

Another pastor told of how his church council attempted to remove him because he was making "changes."

There was the pastor who shared that he had to resign from a call because of all the pressure a few leaders place on his wife.  The church thought that they were getting two church workers for one paycheck.  When it didn't work out that way, the leaders made life miserable for the pastor and family.

As for me, the leaders at Life in Christ have been nothing but supportive.

They've been willing to make changes when it seemed that the changes would help our church to better serve our people and community.

They've never expected my dear, sweet wife to be an unpaid employee or to teach Sunday school, lead VBS, organize every pot luck, etc.  They've allowed her to simply find her place in the church and to joyfully serve the Lord where it seemed best for her.

How blessed I am to be able to serve at a church where there is mutual respect and love and a desire to witness Christ to our community and world.  Praise the Lord - I have no horror stories to tell.  Yes, I am a blessed pastor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A holy place no more

I attended a worship service last night at a church in Southern California.

From the outside it was a very nice looking church facility.

But I was so discouraged when I went inside the building.

The chancel, the place where the altar usually resides, had been turned into a stage of sorts.

There were all kinds of guitars, keyboards, drums and at least 3 mic stands for vocalists.

The altar? It was sitting in the front of this area, lost in the midst of all the other stuff.

Now, I'm not against using other musical instruments in worship.  It doesn't have to be an organ or nothing.

But to take an area which in the church serves as a reminder where God comes to us and distributes His precious gifts to us and to turn it into a place for performance was really discouraging.

I pray that such a thing never happens at Life in Christ.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A sentence I wish I'd wrote

Life's value is most apparent when I look at the price God paid for it.

Richard Lauersdorf, "Together with Jesus," September 22 devotion

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trahms-atized!

Have you been Trahms-atized? It's what happens when you are filled with the joy of witnessing Christ Jesus to other people.  Pastor Vernon Trahms, who helped to shepherd the congregation I serve in its early days, has made it a centerpiece of his ministry to help and encourage believers to witness Christ Jesus so that more come to know and trust in the Lord's forgiveness, mercy and salvation.

This Sunday, during our Bible class hour at 9:20 am, I'll lead a series of studies on how to witness Christ in every day life.  Come and check it out.  Sunday school, Confirmation classes and Hi School Youth meet at the very same time.

Also, on Sunday, our new Associate Pastor, Marcus Breitbarth will preach for the first time at LICL.  We are looking forward to his preaching ministry at our church.  Sunday services take place at 8 and 10:45 am so come and worship with us.

Or, if you prefer a Saturday service, join us at LICL at 5 pm for a Matins Service.  Deacon Jerry Klink will be preaching.

Enjoy your weekend! Come and see us at Life in Christ!

Friday, October 3, 2014

When did God think of you?

From eternity, before the universe was formed and there was not even a single angel to give Him praise, God thought of us.

John A. Moldstad, "Predestination," page 27, Northwestern Publishing House

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Heart-felt words

"Oh, what a merciful God! I am saved, my transgression is forgiven, my sin is covered, I have been reconciled to God in Christ, my mediator and redeemer.  Jesus, You are mine forever - heaven is mind!"

From the 1926 devotional, "Daily Bread," by F.E. Pasche

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Don't worry!

Ain't no sense worrying about things you got control over, because if you got over them, ain't no sense worrying.  And there ain't no sense worrying about things you got no control over either, because if you got no control over them, ain't no sense worrying.

Former baseball player, Mickey Rivers 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Word, the Word, the Word!

Martin Luther was once asked, "How does God work?"  His response? "The Word, the Word, the Word."  Pastor Frank Starr captures that truth in his devotional book, "Light for the Way."

God's name is a saving Word among His people.  He reveals Himself to us in grace and provides salvation.  Where His name is not known, salvation is not possible.  (See John 14:6,9)  The saving name becomes our passport to God's kingdom of grace and His kingdom of glory.  We are baptized in God's name, and the saints in glory bear the saving name of God on their foreheads.  (Revelation 14:1)

From Book 1, page 25

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The big weekend!

That's right, it's a big weekend for us at LICL.

This afternoon at 5 pm we'll have worship with Pastor John Pope preaching and communion will be celebrated.

On Sunday morning we'll follow our regular worship schedule with services at 8 and 10:45 am and Sunday school and Bible classes at 9:20 am.

And on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm we'll hold the installation service for our new Associate Pastor, Marcus Breitbarth.  A reception will take place afterward.  This service will be an opportunity to give thanks to God for providing us with a full-time pastor who will help us proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our community and world.

Come and join us this weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Stress from Fear of Others

O God
be not far
from me
when I fear
other people
Remind me
they are all
like I am
as grass
They wither
They die
They come naked
from the womb
and naked 
they return
They all must bow
before You
So unless Your are
on my side
I falter
But I will not fear
You are my stronghold
my refuge
You will deliver me
O Lord
Praised be
the name of the Lord!

From Prayers For People Under Pressure by Donald L. Deffner
Northwestern Publishing House

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wisdom from Phillip Gulley

From his book, "Home to Harmony," page 16.

Sometimes what we think we need isn't what we need at all, and what gets thrown in for good measure is that which fulfills our hearts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good advice from Simon Cowell?

I am not much of a fan of American Idol.  Haven't watched it for years.  But I have to admit that Simon Cowell was curiosity.  He could be brutal in his evaluations of those participating on the program.  During his time on the program, folks either loved or hated him.  There was no middle ground when it came to Simon Cowell.  It was obvious that he knew something about the music business.  But his words to the performers were not seasoned with much grace.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself writing something in my journal that Cowell said.  I was flipping through channels when I came across a program called, "The Big Interview," hosted by news veteran, Dan Rather.  Cowell was his guest.  This was not a program I was going to spend time watching.  I was just about to move on when Rather asked Cowell about his father.

"Something," said Cowell, "my Dad taught me when I was very young...'It's very simple; everybody has a sign on his forehead that says, Make me feel important'."

How true.  How true.

We all want to feel important.  We all want to know we are valued -whether it be by our spouse, kids, employer, co-workers, teammates and so on.

How would it change your day if you made the effort to make everyone you come in contact with feel important and worthwhile? How might they respond to you? Is it possible that you might find them more cooperative, more helpful and more pleasant to you (and maybe others)?

Jesus said in John 15:16 - You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.

The Lord's Words make me feel important.  Before I ever had an inkling that I should be pursuing Jesus, He sought me out, chose me to be His own, and filled me with the desire to bear good fruit - words and works offered in love and to God's glory to those around me.

Like making others feel important.

Who can you make feel important today?

Monday, September 22, 2014

They say it's your birthday!

I celebrated a birthday over the weekend.  It was a pretty low key affair.  I didn't feel much like celebrating.  I was really tired after a very full week.

But my dear, sweet wife made the weekend special.  She worked really hard to make my favorite meal.  And there was plenty of chocolate cake, too.

Most of my family came over and we had a great time watching most of the grand kids (really missed Katie, Josh and Drew).

I received a number of nice cards and gifts from people in the church.  I was blessed greatly by their generosity.

This birthday brought me to the realization that I've lived the majority of my life.  But that's not a depressing thought.

I've got important work to do.  We bring on a new Associate Pastor in a week or so and I look forward to partnering with him to shepherd the flock God has given me (us) to tend to.  Most of all, I continually receive joy from my loving wife and kids and grand kids.

The psalmist wrote, "My times are in Your hands, O Lord."  Help me, O Lord, to be faithful in serving You and others in the time you have given me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Seek and Be Found

Ever play hide and seek with your kids? Didn't you do your best to let them find you? The truth is that we wanted to be found.  The Lord does the same for us.  He calls us to seek Him but then does everything we need so that we can be found.  Isn't that cool? Come and learn more this Sunday at LICL.  Worship is held at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible study and Sunday school at 9:20.  Or, if you prefer to worship on Saturday, check out our 5 pm service.  Deacon Jerry Klink will be preaching and Kevin Svec and his group provide the music.  Hope you'll join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Collect for Friday

Grant me, O Lord, to trust in You with all my heart; for, as You always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so You never forsake those who make their boast of Your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Taken from "The Divine Hours"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

God is with us

Occasionally one of our members will have had the opportunity to attend some kind of "big box" church that features a slick band, lighting worthy of a Broadway show, and glib speaker who is more performer than proclaimer.

After hearing their excitement about all of this, I often think, "Boy, are they going to be disappointed with our worship."

For a church our size I think our music ministry is outstanding.  But we do it primarily with volunteers.  Our church sanctuary has the feel of a church and not an auditorium.  And "glib speaker" is not a term that people are going to hang on me.

I used to get kind of discouraged when one of our folks would come back raving from their experience at the "big box" church.  But then I stumbled upon a quote from author, Art Just, from his book, "Heaven on Earth," that put everything in perspective:

No matter how difficult our hymns, how untrained our organist, how weak our singing, God is present in our liturgy, offering His gifts of salvation.

Worship is our opportunity to be served by God.  Yes, you read that right.  God serves us in worship. He comes to us and speaks a Word of forgiveness to our burdened and anxious hearts.  He feeds our faith as He invites us to come to His table of grace.  He proclaims His Word of hope and love in Christ Jesus so that we might have no doubt that we are His loved children.

And, in worship, we're not passive spectators.  We answer with God's Word when He speaks to us.  We offer our praises in words and songs.  We get to give our tithes and offerings, one way to show our appreciation and love for our Lord.

Just helped me to realize that the point of worship is not to dazzle those who attend.  Having God come and serve us in worship is a greater blessing than anything we can do on our own.

So be in worship with us this Sunday.  The Lord will be there in Word and Sacrament - God is with us.