Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A morning prayer

In Your Name, O crucified Lord Jesus Christ, I, a poor, miserable sinner, have now arisen.  On the sacred cross, You, the innocent and holy Lamb of sacrifice, did endure for me the most painful death and did redeem me with Your crimson blood from all my sins, from death, Satan and hell.  Govern my heart by Your Holy Spirit, refresh it with the heavenly dew of Your grace, keep me this day in Your divine love, and hide me, body and soul, in Your holy wounds; cleanse me from all my sins, preserve me in all good works, and guide me out of this vale of tears into Your eternal joy and glory, O most faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, my only Comfort, Hope and Life.  Amen.

From "Daily Bread" devotional

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Seeing with our ears

One book that should be on your "must read" list is John Kleinig's "Grace Upon Grace."  As you might glean from the title, the book is all about God's grace for sinful people.  Reading this book will leave you with a greater desire to give thanks to God for His love for you in Jesus Christ. 

Kleinig also uses vivid imagery as he writes and here is one wonderful example: In spiritual warfare, we operate in the dark.  We must learn to see with our ears, for here we depend completely on the unseen presence of Christ and His Word.  (page 220)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Do you "fear" God?

There are two ways of fearing God.  The one is that servile fear which avoids God's presence in order to escape His punishment.  The other is that childlike reverence in which awe is blended with affection.  This fear renders service to God from tender reluctance of offending Him.

From "Daily Bread," originally printed in 1926 from Holy Cross press, page 66

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Confirmation Sunday

Our largest confirmation class will be confirmed tomorrow at the 10:45 am service.  The kids have gone through two years of instruction in Luther's Small Catechism.  It is always a joy to hear the kids confess the faith in which they were baptized.  May they continue to grow in their faith and in their new life in the risen Christ.

Today, we have worship at 5 pm.  Pastor John Pope will preach and communion will be celebrated.  Two service will take place tomorrow - 8 am and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all age groups begin at 9:20 am.  It's the Easter season at LICL so join us as we continue to proclaim, "He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!"

Friday, April 25, 2014

A shout out for Connie and Mary!

Earlier this week we celebrated Administrative Assistants Week and I gave thanks for two people who make my life easier and more enjoyable - Connie and Mary.

Connie and I started working together almost eight years ago.  I was drawn to her infectious laugh and her joyful personality.  I've often wondered why folks like hanging around our office so much - it's because they like spending time with Connie.  She has saved me from making numerous mistakes.

Mary had previously worked as a secretary at another church and helps out several times a week.  Mary is a hard working, detailed kind of person and excels at everything she does.  She also has saved me from making numerous mistakes.

Our church is fortunate to have two talented servants of God working in our office.  God truly blesses our church through Connie and Mary!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Remembering Hope

It was this time about three years ago that our cat, Hope, passed away.  She adopted us at Christmas time in 1998 and, in spite of being a cat, Hope was a loyal and true friend.  She gave us so much joy over the years we had her and she was a real comfort to me in those times when I was bed-bound because of migraine headaches.  I still miss her.

A Facebook friend posted a quote from Martin Luther that I recorded in my journal.  If I remember correctly, the Luther family had lost a dog for whom they had much love.  Luther's words are touching and encouraging:

Be thou comforted, little dog.  Thou too in the resurrection shall have a little golden tail.

I hope this is true.  To be able to cradle Hope in my arms like I used to do would give me great joy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What every heart needs

I really appreciate this quote from Pascal:

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Overcome Evil With Good

A friend of mine had been wronged by another person.  What was surprising to me was how well he was dealing with what had happened to him.  When I asked my friend how he was going to handle the situation he replied, "George, I don't get mad; I get even."

That's often our first response, isn't it, when someone has slandered us or taken advantage of us or has hurt us in some way.  We'd like to pay them back and make them feel the pain that we've suffered.  We'd like for them to know a sleepless night or an upset stomach or a throbbing headache.  We even begin to think that we won't really be happy until we've gotten some kind of revenge. 

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to have his service to the Lord be criticized and condemned.  He know what it was like to suffer punishment for no good reason.  He knew what it was like to be on the run from enemies and their evil plans.  If anyone ever had a reason to "get even" it was Paul.

That's what makes chapter 12 of his letter to the Romans so amazing to me.  He encourages his readers (and that includes you and me) to "bless those who persecute you," and "do not repay evil for evil."  Easily said but how do we manage to suppress our desire to get revenge? Only through the power of the Lord who enables us to set aside worldly patterns and "be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Ask the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming power in Your life so that you might become a "living sacrifice" who continually seeks God's will for your life.

Have a blessed day!

Monday, April 21, 2014

A quick look at good and evil

To return evil for good is devilish.

To return good for good is human.

To return good for evil is divine.

Albert Plummer

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Just as He said!

He Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Behold, the Christ!

An image is the sign of a greater thing standing behind which is signified by the image.  The crucifix signified the Christ who gave His life as a ransom for many.

Scott Murray, "Memorial Moment," November 15, 2013

Thursday, April 17, 2014

God is in the cup

Lauren Winner, writing in her book, "Girl Meets God," recounts the following:

A Sunday school teacher asked some 5 and 6 year olds, "What's in the big goblet?"

One child answered, "Apple Juice."

Another child said, "Wine."

"I think," said a pensive girl with black corkscrew curls circling her face, "that Mister Milind is pouring God into the cup to drink."

This is what Jesus teaches us, isn't it?

The bread is "His Body."  The wine is "His Blood."

Given and shed for the forgiveness of all our sins.

Worship with us at LICL tonight at 7 pm.  Included in our Maundy Thursday service is Holy Communion.  Join us.  You'll find God in the cup.  He comes to you to bless you, forgive you and give you peace.

Hope to see you tonight.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What is the essence of faith?

For that is the essence of faith - that we take Christ at His Word.  We really have been redeemed from sin, death and hell.  We really are called to deny self in response to that good news.  We really are called to follow Christ, carrying willingly, even joyfully, the cross He sends out of love for us.

Daniel Deutschlander, The Theology of the Cross, page 89, Northwestern Publishing House

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Master, How Did We Fail You?

Tonight and tomorrow night Life in Christ presents a dramatic portrayal of DiVinci's "The Last Supper."  Tickets are free and you can get yours by calling 623-773-1234.

The presentation has been months in the making.  Mel Donaho, the director and writer of the play, recruited about 14 men from our congregation to participate.  Most of them had no acting experience.  But Mel has worked patiently with each man, helping them learn their part and building their confidence.  Last week's individual practices went exceptionally well and Mel was very excited to see the play coming together. 

I've seen some pictures of the staging and the set is simply awesome.  Dan Seabreeze worked on the set design and it is as good as anything you'll see in theatre in our area.  In fact, our sanctuary has been transformed into a theatre and our members will really be surprised (in a very good way).

Come and join us for tonight's presentation.  Call 623-773-1234 for ticket information.  Here's a wonderful opportunity to enhance your observance of Holy Week!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hyperbole may not recognize the word but you know it when you hear it.  The word means "an exaggeration or extravagant statement."  As Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the religious leaders looked at the crowd welcoming the teacher from Galilee and exclaimed, "Look, the whole world is going for Him."

Sounds like hyperbole to me, especially in light of what happened to Jesus later on in the week.

Or maybe it wasn't hyperbole after all. 

Come and join us this Sunday and decide for yourself.  Worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages start at 9:20 am.  Or if you're looking for a Saturday service, visit LICL today at 5 pm.  Worship with Holy Communion will take place.

Have a great weekend! Make worship at LICL at part of your weekend.  See you there!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Judas doesn't have to wait for very long

Yesterday's Treasuring God's Word reading (Matthew 26:1-29)  offered a special insight that I had not caught before (actually, a couple of them). 

In 26:14-16, Matthew reveals how the scheming Judas went to the chief priests to sell out Jesus.  He sealed the deal by receiving a small bag of silver.  Then we are told, "From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over."

As Judas walked away I wonder if he began to run through different scenarios, trying to think of just the right time and place when he could betray his Master? Did he think he could achieve his objective in a few hours, a few days or a few weeks?

What is amazing to me is that Jesus Himself provides the betrayer with the opportunity Judas is looking for!

That evening Jesus has His Last Supper with the disciples.  During the meal the Lord announces, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me."

Now I don't know about you but when I hear that someone is plotting and scheming against me, I do whatever it takes to thwart their plan.

Not Jesus.  And so the Lord sets in motion the event that will lead to His arrest and, ultimately, His suffering and death.

And that's the point.  Jesus is so intent in carrying out His Father's plan for our salvation that the Lord leaves nothing to chance.  Judas is looking for an opportunity.  Jesus provides it for him on a silver platter, so to speak.

As I read the text, I couldn't help but think again of what Jesus said in John's Gospel: Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  (15:13)

Sometimes we're led to question God's love for us.  A divorce or job loss or medical crisis or any number of circumstances and troubles provide the devil with the opportunity to plant his nasty seeds of doubt about God's love and care.

The Passion of the Christ shows you and me Jesus is willing to go all the way to be our Redeemer from sin and death and the devil.  Nothing surprises the Lord.  Everything goes according to the script.  Jesus does everything necessary for winning our salvation. 

Even prompting Judas and giving the disciple the opportunity to betray his Teacher.

Oh, by the way, Judas is not the only one who ever looked for an opportunity to take Jesus down.  See Luke 4:13.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Good morning!

An interesting insight from the great C.S. Lewis: The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back, in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

That's why Treasuring God's Word is so important.  Let's face it, everyone lives fast paced lives.  We all have deadlines to meet and goals to reach.  5, 10 or 100 people are depending on us.  That brings stress and pressure to bear down on us. 

But even the best sprinter doesn't start out by arriving at the stadium, ripping off the sweats, setting up in the blocks and then running as fast as possible down the track.  No, the sprinter warms up first.  There are a variety stretching exercises.  There's some light jogging around the track.  There's that moment just before the race when the sprinter stops, gives thought to what is about to happen, gets mentally ready to compete and only then, after all of that, is the runner ready to race.

You and I need that same morning preparation.  Don't jump out of bed and start sprinting through your day.  Warm up by remembering your baptism.  Make the sign of the cross and be comforted that you were baptized in the name of the Triune God - the God who made you, redeemed you and called you to faith.  Stretch yourself by spending time reading and Treasuring God's Word.  Listen to that "other voice," the One that has given you new life.  Journal the insights you discover or record the Word that God speaks to you, a Word you can carry with you throughout the day.  Don't be in a hurry - you're still not ready to race! Then take time to pray, asking the Lord for His help with the challenges and opportunities you will face that day.  Pray for others as well.  Give thanks for all the blessings you will receive from the gracious hand of God.  Then, head out the door, confident that the Lord is with you always.  That's His firm promise (Matthew 28:20).

God's best to you on this good morning!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Big Push Starts!

Less than two weeks to Easter Sunday.  As Vince Lombardi used to say, "Now the big push begins!"

This week I'll write the usual Saturday and Sunday services but I'll also work on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

I'll also write a sermon a day - for this Wednesday, Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Lately, the creative juices have been flowing for me and that's good - I'll need them to get through this intense period of work.

And yet, at the moment as least, I don't feel too stressed.  The Lord will give me what I need at the time I need it to accomplish everything on my list of projects and goals.

Well, back to work!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

It's like a bad math problem!

The fact that when Jesus hears that His friend, Lazarus, is sick.  John, chapter 11, tells us that Jesus waited 2 more days after getting the news. 

This just does not add up! Jesus loves Lazarus.  Lazarus is sick.  Jesus stays away.

What good benefit could come by Jesus staying away? For Lazarus? For you and me?

That's what we'll explore this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Hope you'll come and join us.

Saturday worship is set for 5 pm.  Sunday worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages meet at 9:20 in the morning.

God bless your weekend! Come and see us at Life in Christ!

Friday, April 4, 2014

This is the day the Lord has made!

The Day of the Lord...

A day filled with many blessings from God for His dearly beloved children.

A day in which all our needs will be met and then some.

A day to rejoice in the redemption that is ours by faith in Christ Jesus.

A day for the Holy Spirit to grow and nurture our faith.

This is the day the Lord has made.

Rejoice in it!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It was 50 years ago today!

The USA Today has a piece about the Beatles' domination of the singles chart in which they held the top 5 singles for the week of April 4, 1964.  No other soloist or group has accomplished such a feat.

There will be lots of 50 year remembrances of the Beatles this year.  All of which will cause me to feel really old!

It was 50 years ago that I heard the Beatles for the first time on KTKT, "Color Channel 99," in Tucson, Arizona.  I was riding in the family car when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" came bursting through the tiny speaker.  The music was so new and different.  I'll never forget it.

It was 50 years ago that I began asking my parents for extra ways to earn money by doing stuff around our house so I would be able to go out and buy 45's of the latest Beatles songs.

It was 50 years ago that the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (which then became my favorite television show).  The Beatles launched what was called the "British Invasion."  More singing group came to America and Uncle Ed (as comedian George Carlin called him) had them on his show.

It was 50 years ago that my friends and I argued over who was the most important Beatle. For 50 years I have always favored Paul.

It was 50 years ago that I added, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" to my vocabulary.

Will there ever be anything like the Beatles again? Most music critics seem to say no.  I'm not so sure.  We didn't see the Beatles coming.  Whose to say that it can't happen again.  I'm just glad I was around when the Fab Four started creating one timeless classic after another. 

From the count-in of "I Saw Her Standing There" to the last note of the medley on side two of "Abbey Road," it was a thrill to be lifted up by the music of the Beatles.  Even if it all started to happen 50 years ago today!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Noah was a righteous man...

That's how God saw Noah, says so in Genesis 6:9.  His righteousness did not come from his own works or efforts.  Noah trusted in God, trusted in God's promises.  The world was a corrupt place.  Noah stood out, stood apart from his contemporaries.  So God chose this righteous man for a special assignment.  While God handed out His punishment on this corrupt generation, Noah would build an ark.

But that's not the Noah that you'll find in the splashy new film that stars Russell Crowe.  In the film Crowe's Noah denies that he's a good or righteous man.  He says that God chose him (Noah) because he would get the job done, that he would build the ark. 

This drives me crazy! Why can't filmmakers stick to the script? The "Noah" film is not the only one that ignores the Bible.  The popular "Son of God" included all kinds of scenes that had little resemblance to the actual story.  Just compare John 11 and the raising of Lazarus with what happened in the movie.  Was the movie's deception better than what Jesus actually did? Not even close!  And don't even get me started on "The Bible" television series!

So what are we to do? Stick to the script!  Read and know the Scriptures.  The Bible is the inspired Word of God.  God's Word.  God's Message.  God's Salvation.  Save money on the movie ticket, popcorn and soda and the overpriced "Good and Plenty" box of candy.  Make an appointment with the Lord each day.  Treasure God's Word.  Dive deeply into the Scriptures.  God's Word will excite and thrill you just like a good movie does.  It will also comfort and help you and give you peace and hope.  Buy the "Good and Plenty" at Walgreen's and stick to THE SCRIPT!