Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is God forgetful?

The older I get the more forgetful I've become.  And it's frustrating.  I never used to have to write down anything.  Now I try to write all the important stuff down.  Than I can't remember where I put that important paper!

Is God forgetful? The answer might surprise you.  Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ and learn more.  Sunday worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour (Learning Is For Everyone) at 9:20 am.  Or, if you have Sunday plans, check out our Saturday 5 pm service.  Pastor Dave Darling will be doing the preaching.

Hope you have a blessed Labor Day weekend.  See you at Life in Christ!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why pray?

Indeed, the certainty of my sinfulness makes more clear my need of prayer and its cry for mercy.  It is a counter-intuitive approach to praying.  The more I feel my sin, the more clearly I need to approach my Father in heaven...we are encouraged in this by the promises of God to hear my prayer...He must listen because of my need and His unalterable promise to sinners to hear them.

Rev. Scott Murray
Memorial Moment

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hope in God's Word

All hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

That's how Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles', put it.  He was accompanying Paul on his trip to Rome for Paul's hearing with Caesar.  In chapter 27, he tells how the ship they were sailing on ran into a violent storm and not one action the crew took seemed to lead to safety.  As Luke recounts, they all had given up hope of being saved.

But Paul comes with good news.  An angel, a messenger from God, came to Paul and assured the apostle that he would stand before Caesar and plead his case.  Not only that, Paul learned that not only he would be saved but all on the ship would live to see many more days.

Does Paul put his faith in his safety because an angel appeared to him?  No, Paul's faith is rooted in something much greater than an angelic being. His faith is securely placed in God's Word.

So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.  (Acts 27:25)

Paul teaches us something very important.  We have times in our lives when events or circumstances can make life feel hopeless.  And it's impossible to live without hope.

Where does the Christian turn when a loved one is fighting for life...when financial disaster is impending...when a grandchild is making one bad choice after another...when the love of your life says, "I don't love you anymore."

Hopeless situations call on us to flee to the God of hope.

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.  (Psalm 39:7)

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints...  (Ephesians 1:18)

Through (Christ) you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  (1 Peter 1:21)

What to do when life seems hopeless? Stand on the promises of God's Word.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  He is our mighty fortress to whom we can turn.  He never slumbers nor sleeps but is always watching over us.  He cares for those who belong to Him.  (See Deut. 31:6 - Psalm 46:1 - Psalm 121:4,8 - Psalm 23)

Life is never hopeless when you are standing on God's Word and promises.  Trust in the Lord.  Your hope is in Him!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

You gotta talk about Jesus

Years ago I went to a half day seminar called "Friendship Evangelism."  The emphasis was on the importance of cultivating a good relationship with an unchurched person before talking to them about faith and knowing about Jesus.

One speaker said, "I've been building a friendship with this guy for over two years.  We've been out fishing, have worked on cars and have gone to some football games.  I think I'm real close to bringing up the subject of Jesus."

Two years? That just struck me as a awfully long time.  Was there absolutely no talk about church or faith in those two years? No opportunity to say, "I'd love to go fishing with you on Saturday but Sunday is the day for our family to go to church and Sunday school?"

It seems to me that in building a friendship with another person you reveal who you are to that person.  If you're a person of faith, then that's something you share and even talk about.  You don't have to hit your budding friend over the head with a lot of Jesus talk.  But you don't need to hide the fact that being a follow of Jesus is an important part of your life.

In fact, I've found that new friends don't run screaming out the door when church or faith are mentioned.  It's my experience that most folks are interested in that part of my life and often have questions about God or Jesus or the church.

Professor David Vallesky, in his book, "We Believe - Therefor We Speak," offers some wonderful advice: Getting close to a person is not evangelism.  Telling a person about Jesus is evangelism. 

You'd be surprised at the number of people who would be interested in how Jesus entered the story of your life.  Often, the people to whom you're afraid to speak about Jesus are the very people who want what you have but haven't an idea about connecting with Jesus.  What a blessing it is to be an Andrew and invite a friend to come and learn about Jesus - His love, forgiveness and salvation.

Don't get me wrong.  Building a relationship with people who are not of the family of faith is important.  We want them to have what we have - a connection to Jesus and the hope of eternal life.  Don't be afraid to show and share your faith in Jesus.  You never know when someone might say, "Tell me more."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm dreaming of Gelato!

On our first night in Rome we took an evening walking tour.  Our expert guide promised at one point we would stop and she would treat us with some Gelato.  My dear, sweet wife and I experienced our first Gelato tasting during a trip to Europe 10 years ago and found it to be the most delicious treat we'd ever eaten.

We were not disappointed.  Gelato is the Italian word for "ice cream."  Unlike most American versions, Gelato is soft and rich.  Good Gelato is never frozen.  From this night forward, every evening we would make sure we had Gelato - actually Sherri insisted that we get a cone or a cup, no matter how much we had eaten at dinner.  I was very happy to go along with the plan.

On this particular night you can see from the photo above that we stopped at a place that had more than 31 flavors.  Sherri and our traveling friends, Dan and Janelle, got very creative in mixing flavors.  I loved trying all the different flavors of chocolate.  Mmmmm!

Because of our nightly Gelato run I am back on Weight Watchers.  Do I regret all the Gelato I ate? Is President Obama a Republican? Now you get me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Lord is with you

A number of years ago I flew from South Carolina to the Valley of the Sun to visit my kids.  My oldest daughter, Stephanie, picked me up at the airport and had a big evening planned for me.  But first, she explained, she had a trial in court to attend to and I would be able to accompany her.

I must say, I really enjoyed seeing my daughter, at that time a Maricopa Country Prosecutor, in action.  She looked and sounded so professional.  I was thrilled to be in court.

However, the young man Stephanie was prosecuting was less than thrilled to be there.  "Fear" was written all over his face.  By standing before the judge, I think the young man finally realized just how much trouble he had created for himself.  By the end of the court session, I felt a little sorry for the fellow.  He was so afraid.

In our weekly Treasuring God's Word reading of the Book of Acts we're moving through the apostle Paul's trial before Festus.  Here Paul was an innocent man.  Witness after witness testified against him but none could prove Paul guilty of anything.

Even more important was this - Paul stood before Festus in the knowledge that the Lord was with him.  Even as Paul appealed to Caesar for a hearing, the Lord's will was being done.  The Lord had assured the apostle that Paul would preach the Gospel as he traveled to Rome.  And that is exactly what Paul did.

We can trust God to keep His promises to us.  Paul later wrote to the Romans: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Yes, but of course, we can trust that God will give us freedom from guilt; answer our prayers; give guidance for daily living; assure us of eternal life in heaven and so much more.  God was with His servant, Paul.  You can trust that the Lord will be with you as well.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How does the church grow?

That's the theme we'll explore this weekend at Life in Christ.  The key to church growth is found in chapter 1 in John's Gospel.  Want to know more? Come and worship with us.  The Saturday service begins at 5 pm and Sunday services are held at 8 and 10:45 am.  Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour takes place at 9:20 am and there are classes for every age group.  Join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Let Me Be Thine Forever

More and more I appreciate my hymnal as a source book for prayer.

I've discovered that many of the hymns I love to sing also express the feelings inside my heart.  In this way our hymnody gives voice to the thoughts we want to express to our loving and listening God in prayer.  Here is a favorite (from the 1941 "Red" hymnal):

Let me be Thine forever
  Thou faithful God and Lord
Let me forsake Thee never
  Nor wander from Thy Word
Lord, do not let me waver
  But give me steadfastness
And for such grace forever
  Thy Holy Name I'll bless.

The Lutheran Hymnal - #334, verse 1

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Photos in my locker

I discovered an interesting article in our local paper's sports page.  It told how the football coach over at ASU had encouraged his players to put a picture in their locker of a person who was an inspiration to them.  He hoped that seeing those pictures each day would motivate his players to give their all in honor of that person who had impacted their lives so much.

I got to thinking about this and realized that I wouldn't be able to put just one photo in my locker.  I could cover an entire locker with pictures of people who have helped and inspired me over my life time! But if I were limited in some way, the photos of the following would be on display:

My dear, sweet wife, Sherri.  She's not only my wife but my best friend.  I see Jesus in the sacrificial love and compassion and care that she gives to me, our family, her students and even to total strangers.  Every day is just one more opportunity for me to give thanks to God for blessing me with such a wonderful and loving wife.

My three kids - Stephanie, Eric and Katie (and also their spouses and their kids).  From the moment of their births, these three have given me great, great joy.  They were long-suffering during times when I wasn't the most patient or understanding father.  It is a good day when all the kids and grandkids are here for a visit.  Thanks be to God for giving me such wonderful gifts.

My pastor, Rev. David Schultz.  He is the one who inspired me to want to be a pastor.  Watching him use the Scriptures to save and help and correct others amazed me.  A lot of what I do in ministry I borrowed from Pastor Schultz.  I will never be the Bible teacher or evangelist that he is.  Thanks to God for connecting me to a pastor who really took an interest in me at a time when I needed a strong influence in my life.

How about you? Whose picture or pictures would you hang in your locker? Maybe you can put these pictures up on your refrigerator at home or in some area where you work? Give it a try and see if such photos don't provide inspiration for you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We don't know everything!

Many years ago I began praying very specifically for something to happen in my life.  I prayed this particular petition over and over again.  I bombarded God's throne of grace as persistently as the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.

I believed that I was exercising faith.  I was boldly telling Jesus what I wanted to have happen, the exact way I wanted my prayer to be answered.

Prayers like that are OK as long as, in faith, the prayer is concluded with, "But not my will but Your will be done."

I didn't give God that option.  I knew best.

So God answered my prayer.  I was happy.

That led to a five year period in my life that was miserable and painful, filled with discouragement and depression.

Last month I read something that was said by Pastor Tim Keller.  It really resonated with me.  Especially in light of my previous experience so many years ago.

We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.

We live day by day, moment by moment.  I have no idea what this day holds for me.  I have planned my work out for the day.  I have no idea if I will work my plan or if something else will scuttle those plans.

God sees the big picture.  Because He is divine and all-knowing, nothing will happen that will be a surprise to the Lord.  He knows what I need.

How important it is for us, children of God, to bring our needs to the Lord in prayer each day.  As you do so, ask and seek and knock just as Jesus has directed.  Honest prayers, filled with honest emotions, are never rejected by Jesus.

But as you pray ask for His will and not your will to be done.  Pray for yourself and others and then leave those petitions before God's throne of grace, trusting in His mercy and love for you.

We don't know everything.  But God does.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Eight Ball

When I was growing up I had a friend who had one of those big, black "Eight Balls."  Remember them? You could ask the Eight Ball questions like "Will I hit a home run in the Little League Game?" or "Will my parents increase my allowance?" and then turn the big, black ball over and then wait for its answer.  As kids we never put much stock in the answers of the Eight Ball.  But it was kind of fun to mess around with.

You wouldn't have found an Eight Ball in the apostle Paul's travel bag.  He traveled by faith, trusting in God's presence and power to help him finish the race and complete the task given him by Jesus - "the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace."  (Acts 20:24)

There are times when a reliable Eight Ball would be helpful, wouldn't it? Being able to see into the future and know about our health or finances or of the condition of our children and grandchildren would seem to be a benefit for us.  But there is nothing in this life - no person or thing - that can tell us the future with any certainty.

How shall we then live? Paul offers a fine example for us.  He explained to the Ephesian Christians that he did not know what would happen to him as he traveled from place to place.  But he believed that the Holy
Spirit would direct and help him.  Paul learned that he could trust God no matter where he might travel or whom he might meet.

We can do the same.  God has given us faith to trust in Him for forgiveness, new life and salvation.  We have God's promise that He will provide us with daily bread and help us meet our needs.  The Scriptures assure us that God is faithful.  His Word is sure and certain.  God bless you as you follow Him day by day!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pastor Breitbarth is coming!

Yesterday we learned that Pastor Marcus Breitbarth has accepted our call to serve as our Associate Pastor.  The announcement was received with applause and much joy.  We thank and praise God for blessing us with this pastor, shepherd and servant.

I look forward to working with Pastor Breitbarth.  He is not a lone ranger or a maverick but sees himself very much as a team player.  He demonstrates a compassionate and humble heart.  He will serve without fanfare for himself but will always be pointing people to Jesus.  It will be exciting for us all to watch him grow as a pastor and shepherd and leader.

His family will also be a blessing to our church.  We look forward to better knowing Kimberly and the children and seeing how the Lord might use them to help us in our mission.

At the end of the reading of his acceptance letter we, as a congregation, prayed and sang the Doxology.  And it is certainly true - Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! May Pastor Breitbarth's ministry richly bless us all at Life in Christ!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's gonna be a busy Saturday!

Well, let's see...I need to memorize the sermon that I re-wrote on Friday (hopefully an improvement over what I wrote on Thursday).  I'll head down to church around lunch time to get ready for the Marriage Service of John Keedy Jr. and Angel Ramirez.  Then a short break before heading back to church to play with Connie, Dan and Ron as we lead the music during the Saturday 5 pm service.  Deacon Jerry Klink will do the preaching.

Sunday is the usual - services at 8 and 10:45 am.  During the sermon I'll share why I believe the Canaanite Woman was so persistent in praying to Jesus.  A new year of Sunday school starts tomorrow and that kicks off with an open house at 9:20 am.  After church I'll head home for lunch, possibly a nap and watch my favorite football team, Liverpool, open their new season (it will be TIVOed so please - no spoilers!).  Hope your weekend is blessed and if you don't have a church home, come and see us at LICL!

Friday, August 15, 2014

What I Did On My Blog Vacation

Hello everybody!

When I was in school it seemed that every new school year the first writing assignment was to describe what you did on your summer vacation.

Since I've been on a blog vacation for the past month I guess I'll share what I've been up to.

My blog vacation coincided with my summer vacation from work - clever how I worked that out, eh?  My dear, sweet wife and I traveled with a classmate of mine from seminary and his lovely wife.  For about a year we had been planning a trip to Italy and Germany.  It would be their 25th wedding anniversary and Sherri and I would be going along for the ride.

We had a fabulous trip.  Spent time in Rome, Florence and Venice.  Enjoyed a few days in the wine country of Chianti.  Ate too much great Italian food and drank too much great Italian wine.  (Weight Watchers, here I come!)

We wrapped up our trip with several days in Garmish, Germany.  We loved the beauty of the Alps, the cooler temps, and great German food and beer.

You'll see pictures from our trip from time to time but I'll try not to bore you with all the minutiae - "Ooh! Look at all the pigeons gathered in St. Mark's Square!" (Or maybe you'd find that interesting? Dear me!)

We also got to see Paul McCartney in concert the other night in Phoenix.  At 72 years of age the man is a wonder.  He performed a nearly 3 hour show, sang over 30 Beatles, Wings and solo hits and never took a break and never drank a sip of water.  Amazing!

I've been back to work for over a week now.  Our congregation is awaiting a response from Pastor Marcus Breitbarth to learn if he will be coming to serve as our Associate Pastor.  And we are considering a building expansion project that our congregation will be making a final decision on very soon.

So there you have it.  My blog vacation was great.  I hope your vacation (blog or otherwise) was equally wonderful!