Friday, January 31, 2014

That's all folks!

This is my last blog post. 

I've had great fun doing this.  I've enjoyed the challenge of coming up with something that I thought folks might like to read.  And I hope I've offered some encouragement along the way.

But this little effort has come to take more time than I can really give to it.  And since I spoke on the subject of "time" in last week's message, I've decided to invest the time I've put into this and invest it in other area of life and ministry.

May God always bless and be with you.

What is joy?

I like the answer Klemut Preus offers:

However, joy, in the Bible, is not a feeling; it is a conviction of well-being in Christ.  People rejoice over Jesus and what He has done for them.

From "What They Need To Know," page 109

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's a "selfie" world

The headline in the paper couldn't help but catch my attention: "Parents learn to raise tots in a 'selfie' world.

Great! Some folks are so taken with themselves that they'll post pictures of themselves in any and every situation.  You can't help but get the feeling that a lot of these pictures are taken with an attitude of "Hey! Look at me! Look at me!"

Now we're encouraging our kids to take selfie's. Toddlers too. The article in the paper told a story about a Mom shooting a video about an upcoming party when suddenly her three year old, the star of the video, lunged for the phone, shouting, "Mom, can I see it!" He could even wait until she had finished with the video.

Some researchers are concerned that taking too many pictures or videos of children and then playing them back instantly might lead to behavior problems in kids. 

Selfie's, it seems to me, teach kids how to be selfish and self-centered.

And, come to think about it, that's something none of us need to be taught.

People are sinful by nature.  Everyone.  We were conceived in sin.  We are naturally selfish and self-centered.

Encouraging such behavior is exactly what Satan would have us do.  When our attention and focus is entirely on ourselves, we'll have no time to think about others and our relationship with the Lord can only suffer.

Seems to me, appealing to Eve's selfish nature was the way that the devil brought sin into the world.  The devil, of course, made it sound like God was the selfish one.  "Did God really say?" the devil asked Eve.  After Eve botched up the Word of God (by adding "and you must not touch it") Satan told the lie of all lies - "Eat it, Eve, and you'll be like God, knowing good and evil!"

God had already taught the first couple the truth about good and evil.  But Satan was too smooth, too glib for Eve.  Her selfish, sinful nature liked the look of the fruit.  She ate.  Adam ate.  Devil won.  Sin entered the world.

Parents, be careful about how much you let your kids use your smart phones and iPads.  Teach them that this world is not all about "me, myself and I."  Teach them, also, to love God and to love their neighbor.  Showing your kids what real love and concern about others is one way, it seems to me, that parents can learn to raise tots in a 'selfie' world.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yes, God can!

It seems that every year one of my confirmation students will ask a question like this one: "Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?"  I like how the website, "Let us Reason," answered the question:

Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it? If He can't lift it then He is not all powerful.  Then the rock has more power than God and whatever is more powerful than God is God.

If God can make it, He can lift it.  If He can create it, He can destroy it.  What He creates is under His jurisdiction, under His control.  It can never have equality.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More on "Time"

Last Sunday I preached on the stewardship of the gift of time, one of God's great gifts to us.  While going through one of my journals today, I discovered some thoughts about time from author, Herb Miller.

God prizes our stewardship of time at least as much as our stewardship of money.

Lost money can be replaced.  Lost time cannot.

We can't save time; we can only decide how to spend it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reflections on Sunday

God did not disappoint us.  He came to us yesterday in His Word and Sacraments and spoke a Word of forgiveness for heavy hearts weighed down by sin; He reminded us that He has all the time in the world for us; He invited us to His table to receive a meal like none other.  Praise God for His grace and mercy.

We celebrated my mother-in-law's 85th birthday yesterday with a lovely meal served out on the patio - just could not stay in the house with such beautiful weather beckoning us outdoors.  Afterwards, my two old grandsons and I walked down to the pond at the 17th hole of our nearby golf course to feed the ducks. We climbed a tree and skipped rocks (OK, tried to skip rocks - none of us were very good).

Watched a portion of the Grammy Awards.  Half the time the sound was on "mute."  Some of the performances were, shall we say, "over the top?"  You know you are officially "old" when the audience is going crazy over something that you just don't get the significance of (like the guys wearing space helmets).  What was up with that?  Order was restored for me a couple of times and that was when Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed.  The former Beatles drummer sang his hit, "Photograph," and then joined Macca to sing McCartney's great song, "Queenie Eye."  With that the TV went off and so did I - to bed!  Praise the Lord for a blessed and beautiful day!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sherman is perplexed?

A well fought playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers was completely overshadowed by one player.  After the game, sideline interviewer, Erin Andrews, tried to get a comment or two from Seahawks defensive back, Richard Sherman.  What happened next was simply shocking.

Sherman went off on an adrenalin fuelled rant against 49er Michael Crabtree.  Don't ask me to try and quote Sherman.  His words burst out of his mouth like a machine gun firing at a target.  Why in the midst of a great victory Sherman would level a personal attack on another player was unbelievable.  After two questions, Andrews was done, probably told to take the microphone away from Sherman before he said something really inappropriate for the national television audience.

In the days following the game, there was a great hue and cry from lots of folks, football fans and otherwise.  Some of the comments took on racial overtones.  Sherman had defenders who appreciated his passion and who decried the description some had leveled against Sherman, that of being a "thug."

Here's my problem with Sherman - why take a personal disagreement and use the forum of a national television audience to castigate another person?

Sherman's defense is that last summer Crabtree was disrespectful of him.  Sherman was hurt and angry by the treatment he said he received from Crabtree.

So why didn't Sherman confront Crabtree then? Why didn't he express his displeasure then? Why didn't he try and resolve a personal matter between the two of them?

I don't know if Sherman is a man of faith.  But Jesus makes it clear that when two people are at odds with one another, there is a way of dealing with the situation.  Matthew 18:15 - "If your brother sins against you, go and show him your fault, just between the two of you."  Jesus' brother, James, wrote, "Brothers, do not slander one another."

Clearly, letting a personal matter fester for a number of months and then using a national television audience to berate another person is not the way that people go about resolving problems. 

That's perplexing.  And just plain wrong.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

He's the Only Bread

I don't know Pastor Richard Lauersdorf.  We've never met.  But he writes lots of devotional stuff for Northwestern Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  Lauersdorf has blessed me again and again with his clear and encouraging presentation of Law and Gospel and of God's mercy and grace.  His book, "Together with Jesus" should be on the bookshelves or nightstand of every Christian.:

When (Jesus) described Himself as the Bread of Life, He had more than flour, shortening, and water in mind.  He meant His perfect life that would fulfill all of God's commands and His precious blood that would be spilt in full payment for all sins.  The soul, famished because of sin, can feast on Jesus' payment and be filled.  The soul, hungry for a perfect life to present to God in the judgment, can reach for Jesus' righteousness and be satisfied.  For the hungry sinner, Jesus is not just good bread.  He's the only Bread.

From the devotion for January 15.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Arouse Christ with your prayers

From Gerhard's Sacred Meditations, pages 154-55:

Finally, in prayer, you have the greatest source of help against your temptations.  As the little vessel of your soul is being overwhelmed with the waves of temptation, arouse Christ with your prayers.  Our visible foes we subdue by striking and slaying them; but this invisible enemy of our souls we conquer by pouring out our prayers to God..

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

He had a "yes" face

Some time ago I read a story about President Thomas Jefferson who went on a horseback ride with some friends.  Their scenic trip was interrupted when they came to a river with a fast moving current.  The swollen river had washed the bridge away leaving each rider with the challenge of fording the river on horseback.  Several riders plunged into the dangerous waters, fighting for their lives against the rapid currents.  One of the riders was afraid and asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river.  Jefferson immediately agreed to do so.  Jefferson expertly navigated the choppy waters and the two of them made it safely to the other side.

When the fellow slid off Jefferson's horse, a number of the other riders quickly asked, "Why did you select of all people the president to ask this favor of?"  The fellow replied, "When I looked I saw on your faces the answer, 'no.'  But when I looked on his face, I saw the answer 'yes'."  He had a "yes" face.

Romans 5:1 reads, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  That is our Lord's "yes" to you!

Through Christ Jesus we have been set free from the guilt of sin and the power of death.  That which would have brought about God's eternal condemnation has been removed by the Lord's sacrificial death and resurrection.  In Christ there is forgiveness and new life.  Live each day in the forgiving gaze of God the Father who says "yes" to you for the sake of His Son, your Savior.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A weekend of worship

starts this afternoon at LICL with our Saturday Vespers service beginning at 5 pm.  On Sunday, we'll gather at 8 and 10:45 am (Holy Communion is celebrated at the early service) and Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour meets at 9:20 am.  Come and join us this weekend for worship at Life in Christ!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is It Friday Already?

Whew! Where has this week gone?

In spite of my vow that I was going to slow down my life in 2014, this week seemed to move at a pace just slightly slower than the speed of light.

OK, an exaggeration for sure.  Still, there were a couple of crisis to deal with on Tuesday.  There were several services, Bible studies, phone calls, appointments and a Board meeting on Wednesday.  There was the long day at the hospital with one of our dearest saints, followed up by a time of listening and prayer with one of our dearest friends on Thursday.

Today? Another hospital visit or two, ministry at a care facility that takes place once a month, a meeting with a person interested in our church, a music practice and somewhere during the day a moment or two to consider a sermon.

Sorry to whine.  In many ways it has been a very good week.  I've had many opportunities to shepherd the flock here in this place.  Prayers have been offered.  The Word of God has been read and heard and received.  Those are, indeed, the best times in ministry for me.

But I haven't had nearly enough time to treasure and ponder God's Word on my own.  I haven't had time to let the Holy Spirit teach me the Word.  I want to draw nearer to the Lord by hearing and reflecting on His Scriptures. 

The house is quiet right now.  Time to quit writing and start reading and pondering God's Word to me for today.

May Lord bless and be with you.  And may you have some time today to spend with the God who loves you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What baptism can do for you

In reflecting on last Sunday's focus on the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of His public ministry, I found this in my journal:

This blessed sacrament of baptism helps you because God allies Himself with you and becomes one with you in a gracious covenant of comfort.  From "Martin Luther: Preacher of the Cross," page 123.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I am blessed

Bible commentators read the Beatitudes and muse over some of the Lord's words.  We get what it's like to mourn.  Disciples of the Lord do hunger and thirst for righteousness.  But what does it mean to be "poor in spirit?"  Or to be "pure in heart?"  There is not always a consensus as to what Jesus was getting at in some of those Beatitudes.

Still, one thing believers can be certain of is that "I am blessed" and can count on:

Being part of God's kingdom right now
Receiving His comfort
Inheriting the earth
Receiving the righteousness of God
Being shown mercy
One day seeing God face to face
Being called a Son or Daughter of God

Yes, we are blessed!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Not Guilty!

The story is told that during the early days of the Civil War a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  He could not prove that the charges were unfounded and was declared guilty and condemned to die as a deserter.  An appeal was made on the soldier's behalf and, as fate would have it, the paperwork landed on President's Lincoln's desk.  The President was moved by the appeal and signed a pardon, freeing the soldier.  Then the man did a most surprising thing.  He reenlisted, returned to service, and fought the entirety of the war on the side of the North.  Tragically, he was killed just as the war was coming to its conclusion.  In looking for some identification, found within the breast pocket of the soldier was the signed pardon of the President.

In Romans 5:1-2, the apostle Paul describes the "not guilty" verdict we have received by being declared "justified by faith."  God's pardon of our sins has given us "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Jesus' victorious battle over sin, death and hell has brought peace for all who trust in the Lord.  We can live life without fear of God's punishment.  We can enlist in the Lord's service as soldiers of the cross.  We can arm ourselves for battle with the sword of the Spirit, God's Holy Word.  We can share the Word with those whose hearts are troubled and confused.  May the rich grace of God move you to faithful service as a soldier of the cross of Jesus Christ!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Options for worship

Life in Christ offers a worship service today at 5 pm.  Holy Communion will be celebrated.  On Sunday we worship at 8 am and at 10:45 am (Communion offered at the later service).  Our focus will be on the baptism of Jesus.  Classes for all ages begins at 9:20 am.  Not connected to a church? Try ours! We like making new friends.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Remember your baptism!

The great hymns of the church often get a bad rap because their too old.  But I've never heard a modern praise song or hymn that captures the rich blessings of baptism as well as Paul Gerhardt's amazing, "All Christians Who Have Been Baptized."

O Christian, firmly hold this gift
  And give God thanks forever!
It gives the power to uplift
  In all that you endeavor.
When nothing else revives your soul
Your Baptism stands and makes you whole
  And then in death completes you.

From the "Lutheran Service Book," #596, verse five

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My 2013 Reading List

I like to read books.  I like the smell of books.  I like to hold them in my hand.  I'm not much for the Kindle or Nook although I'm sure that will change.  Anyway, I like to read.  I probably spend time reading when I should be doing something else, like helping out my dear, sweet wife around the house.  In 2013 here's what I managed to plow through:

"The Sermon Maker" by Calvin Miller
"Who I Am" by Pete Townshend
"The Price of Politics" by Bob Woodward
"The Constantine Codex" by Paul L. Meier
"Say It Well" by Chuck Swindoll
"Wherever I Wind Up" by R.A. Dickey
"Luther's World of Thought" by Heinrich Bornkamm
"The Vault" by Ruth Rendell
"Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
"Jack Kennedy - Elusive Hero" by Chris Matthews
"Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham
"Fiery Fullback" by Clair Bee
"Chasing the Dream" by Filip Bondy
"The Kennedy Detail" by Gerald Blaine
"Commentary on Luther's Catechism - Lord's Prayer" by Albrecht Peters
"You'll Get Through This" by Max Lucado
"Churchill - The Unexpected Hero" by Paul Addison
"What They Need to Hear" by Klemut Preus
"Kissing the Gunner's Daughter" by Ruth Rendell
"The Beatles - Tune In, Vol. 1" by Mark Lewisohn
"Martin Luther - Preacher of the Cross" by John T. Pless

As you can see, I'm all over the place as a reader.  Some of the books were read because of my vocation.  Others because they relate to some kind of interest of mine.  And others were read for fun.  I hope you read a book or two this past year that really enriched your life or gave you much pleasure.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A fisherman talks about hope

According to author Paul Quinnett, you can learn a lot about Christian hope from talking with a fisherman.

Quinnett writes: Fishing is hope experienced.  To be optimistic in a slow bite is to thrive on hope alone.  When asked, "How can you fish all day without a hit?" the true fisherman replies, "Hold it! I think I felt something."  If the line goes slack, he says, "He'll be back!"

When it comes to the human spirit, hope is everything.  Without hope, there is no yearning, no desire for a better tomorrow, and no belief that the next cast will bring the big strike.

Quinnett is right, of course.  It is impossible to live without hope.  Think about the man whom we sometimes call "Father Abraham."  The man had every reason to give up.  He had been promised by God that Sarah would bear for him a child.  Years and years he waited but that happy day never arrived.  Still, Abraham's faith never wavered.  "Against all hope" he trusted God's Word.  The more impossible his situation seemed, the more Abraham believed the Word of promise.

Our hope for daily living, our hope for eternity is rooted in God's precious Word.  Sometime today I hope you have the chance to grab your Bible and your Treasures Notebook (see blog entry for Jan. 6) and take some quiet and unhurried time to dig into the Scriptures.  Read carefully.  Ponder deeply.  God has a Word of hope for you!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Martin Luther on Marriage

Who is there who does not know that marriage was founded and ordained by God, created in Paradise and confirmed and blessed outside of marriage?

From "Martin Luther - Preacher of the Cross," page 74

Monday, January 6, 2014

Treasuring and Pondering

Yes, it looks like an ordinary notebook.  But it's actually my Treasures Notebook.

While on Christmas break I spent a lot of time pondering the verse from Luke, chapter two, that I used as the focus for my Christmas Eve sermon: But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  (verse 19)

The shepherds rushed to Mary and Joseph to tell them all the things they had seen and heard.  They told about the angel's announcement of the birth of the Christ-child and they shared how they heard the heavenly hosts praising God.  Mary took the message and treated it like a jeweler being presented a precious and valuable diamond.  She took the words and put them in the most important place - her heart.  And then she continued to think on all that the shepherds said.  Throughout the feedings and diaper changes and all the things a mother does with her newborn, Mary pondered the message that she heard.  It was confirmation of what she had been told earlier from the angel, Gabriel.  Mary was filled with such awe and amazement that she could not help but reflect upon God's Word to her.  She treasured that Word.

In 2014 I want to spend more time treasuring God's Word.  I don't want to race through my devotions and prayers.  I want to block out a specific amount of time each day to simply sit and read and reflect on what God is saying to me through His Word.  This will take discipline.  I will have to be intentional about this.  It's so easy to get caught up with whatever is happening each day that prayer time gets pushed to the sidelines.  Have you ever put off your morning appointment with God by saying, "I'll get to it at lunchtime!" Then the clock reads 1 pm so you think, "All right, I do my reading just before dinner."  You get home, get involved with something and the reading still doesn't get done.  How easy it is to skip the most important thing you can do - spend time with the Lord.

Do you have the same challenge.  We all know how busy life can be.  So many demands on our time.  So many tasks we need to accomplish.  But if we value our relationship with the Lord, it's worth making time for treasuring and pondering His Word.  Here's one approach.

Start by blocking off a period of time every day to read the Scriptures.  Put it on your calendar just as you would for an appointment.  Find a quiet place to read.  In know in busy homes with small children that can be a challenge.  Morning time, before you get into the heart of the day, seems to be the best time to make your date with the Lord.  Use a devotional that includes a daily Scripture reading.  I'll probably start out with our weekly Treasuring God's Word devotional.  Grab your coffee, your Bible and a notebook of some kind and get started.

Don't be in a rush.  Begin by praying and asking the Holy Spirit to be your teacher and helper.  Read slowly.  Catch those thoughts that really seem to speak to you at that moment.  Look for Law and Gospel.  Write down those things that make you go, "Aha!"  Remember, you're not writing a doctrinal treatise.  A sentence or two or just a short paragraph is sufficient.  Just note what it was in your daily reading that really got your attention.  Write it down.  Think and pray on it.  Treasure God's Word.

Want to join me? Need to slow down your life just a bit? Want to spend quality time hearing the Lord speak to you through His Word? Grab your Bible, find something you can use as a Treasures Notebook and let's get started.  And have a blessed 2014.