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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interruptions are a part of the job

While on vacation last week I spent some time thinking about how I use my time.  It seems that my schedule is packed pretty much every week and I need to be a good manager of my time.  I still use an old fashioned day planner (glad Staples hasn't stopped carrying these things) and on Monday evening or Tuesday morning I plug my meetings, tasks and projects into the schedule.

Additionally, I've been reading a couple of time management books a friend gave me.  There isn't much there that I haven't already read or tried to practice at one time or another.  What I found particularly helpful was the encouragement to determine your peak times for work, those time segments during the day when you can be your most effective.

For me, it's the morning hours leading up to lunch time.  I feel fresh and most creative when I arrive at the office.  Then, for some reason, I get a second wind sometime between 4-5 pm - when most people are getting ready to leave for home.

With this insight I planned this week to keep the mornings to myself for sermon and Bible study preparation and for working on a few projects I'm responsible for.  After lunch I planned to schedule meetings and take care of the administrative things that are usually fairly easy to manage.

During my sermon preparation time between 9 and noon yesterday I was interrupted three times by people who had to talk with me.  Some folks came by at noon just as I was ready to eat lunch.  Trying to play catch up in the afternoon was difficult because of more folks "just stopping by" or calling on the phone.

I sat at my desk thinking, "I could get some work done if it weren't for all these interruptions!"

But then I took a few minutes to think about all of these interruptions.  In nearly every case these interruptions were actually people who needed their pastor.  Needed my counsel.  Needed my advice.  Needed me to listen as they spoke about their troubles.  Needed someone to pray with them.

A pastor friend once said to me, "George, ministry is a people business."  And he was right.  Ministry is all about people.  Isn't that where we find Jesus? He didn't work out of an office.  He spent His time connecting with people.  Hearing their requests.  Responding to their pleas.  Offering a healing touch.  Giving a Word of hope.

Those few moments of introspection put everything into perspective.  Yes, plan your work and then work your plan.  Use your time wisely and try to get the most you can out of each day.  But don't be surprised by the interruptions.  They're a part of the job.  Maybe the most important part.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If time had a "rewind" button

I'd rewind time to September 9.

Making my way to Green Bay to see my beautiful daughter, son in law and grandson.

I loved seeing the town, visiting the park and the playground and the farm.

I'd forgotten how much I'd missed my old friend, Howie, the dog my daughter rescued.

I was reminded again that Josh makes the best tacos of anyone.

I had my heart warmed by Drew time and time again.  His smile alone does the trick.

Most of all, I was so glad to see Katie.  Almost nothing makes me feel as good as when I hear her call me "Daddy."

But yesterday I had to come back home.

Time moves on relentlessly.

Much to do here.

But if time had a rewind button, well, you know what I'd do.;

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Lambeau Experience

Yesterday, I joined over 78,000 people who have gone ga-ga over the Green Bay Packers.

I've spent the last week in Green Bay visiting my daughter, son-in-law and youngest grandson.  I discovered that the area is a pretty nice place to live...in the summer.  The winter? I'm not so sure about that.

Josh was able to obtain tickets for us in a suite.  Let me just say that I'll never be able to attend another sporting event - unless it's in a suite.  Comfortable seating, beautiful views, free food and drink - it's the only way to watch a sporting event.

77,000 of the fans were wearing some kind of Packers merchandise.  The other 1,000 or so came to support the Jets but were mostly dressed as civilians, which made them stand out anyway.

The staff at the stadium were unbelievably nice and polite.  In fact, my kids say that people in Green Bay are really friendly and down to earth.  Except on game day.  Then everyone - every man, woman, child and dog - goes nuts for the Packers.

I'm told that churches set their worship schedules around Packer games.  My kids go to a church that has a full scale worship service on Wednesday evening for those who would rather spending Sunday morning tailgating.  That's doesn't seem right to me although I didn't mention my concern to any of the 78,000 people who were wearing Packers gear and going crazy over Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers is the quarterback for the Packers and I saw his picture on approximately 78,000 billboards.  It's good to be popular in Green Bay.

As for the game, the Pack dug themselves a big hole early.  Rodgers fumbled the opening snap and that led to a touchdown for the Jets.  It also led to much wailing and mashing of teeth in our suite by the Packer faithful.  But in the end, Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and led the Pack to victory.  

As we left the parking lot I was kind of surprised to see so many folks firing up their grills and breaking out more adult beverages.  I said to Josh, "They tailgate after the game?"  He nodded and replied, "There will be lots of folks calling in sick tomorrow."

But the 78,000 left the stadium happy.  The Packers won and all is well in Green Bay.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Just the facts...

Joe Friday, on the Dragnet TV show from many, many, many years ago, used to say to the folks he was interviewing, "Just the facts, just the facts."

So here's the facts about worship this weekend at LICL:

Worship is held on Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.

Sunday school and Bible Classes take place on Sunday at 9:20 am.

Pastor John Pope will proclaim the Word of God at all three services.

Come to Life in Christ and meet some of the friendliest people in town.

There you go - just the facts.  Now, come and join us for worship this weekend!

Friday, September 12, 2014

One more thing to be thankful for.

Who can remember all of God's blessings? It would be like trying to remember every single thing that happened yesterday...and the day before...and the day before.

The truth is that God's goodness and blessings to us is innumerable.  I'm amazed that God is so good to a poor, miserable sinner like me.  Still, that can't stop me from giving thanks for the fact that my kids are such good friends.

This is something lately for which I'm really rejoicing.  I've had experiences of late where one of our members has passed away, only to find out that one or more of their children are not speaking to each other or have drifted so far apart that they rarely have any contact with each other.  When the kids aren't speaking to each other it makes a difficult situation just that much more complicated.

So I rejoice today that my three kids are such good friends.  They do lots of calling and texting to one another.  "Facetime" gets a workout too.  They keep each other up to date on what's happening with their lives.  They ask each other for prayers.  The love and support they offer each other really warms my heart.

Thank you, Lord, for my children.  May they always love You and love each other.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In a word...be welcoming!

While browsing some of the blogs I read each day I found an article about a woman's experience at visiting a church.  She wrote that if she could have given that church one piece of advice it would have been, "Welcome me.  Help me."

She pointed out the important truth that it take a lot of courage to visit a church you've never been to before.  Where do you park? How do you enter the building? Where do you find the sanctuary...Sunday school...adult Bible classes?

She made the important point that it's nice to have a greeter who says, "Hello," as a guest walks through the door.  But if the guest is trying to manage a couple of small children and looks as if she has her hands full, it is really beneficial if the greeter will ask the question, "How can I help you?"

In short, how a person is welcomed and helped will often make the difference in whether of not that person makes a return visit to that church.

The article caught my attention because I visited with two different families last week who want to become a part of our church family.  Both families mentioned that one of the major reason that they kept coming back to LICL was the welcome they received when they first visited.  Our greeters were friendly and helpful.  They provided information about the church and asked if there were any questions.  When these families came back the second week, the greeters remembered who they were and offered another warm welcome.

I realize how much easier this makes my job.  When our greeter teams are doing their work well, folks form a positive first impression about the church.  More often than not they will be ready to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is why we want them there in the first place.

I'm sure that we can do even better in meeting and greeting guests on Saturday and Sunday.  Still, it makes me feel good when prospective members speak of how much they appreciate all the effort our greeter teams make at making people feel at home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Get "Together with Jesus"

If I were, you know, stranded on a desert island (or on Interstate 10 at 83rd Avenue) I would want to make sure I had at least one book written by Pastor Richard E. Lauersdorf.  He's a WELS clergyman and has written several books that have been published by Northwestern Publishing House.  Lauersdorf's devotional, "Together with Jesus," has become invaluable to me.  It seems that with each devotion I read I find a nugget that I treasure all day long.  Here's a little something from June 5:

Jesus is God's grace in person.  Through Word and Sacrament His Holy Spirit changes my fist of unbelief into the hand of faith.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Wow! I haven't seen rain like this in the Valley of the Sun (?) since...never!

Parts of Interstate 10 are so flooded that stranded automobiles have water up to their roofs.

I wouldn't have been surprised if an Ark had suddenly appeared at the 83rd Avenue on ramp.

I think we've received our entire yearly amount of moisture in ONE DAY! That just doesn't happen here.

Lots of folks are staying home.  Many school have cancelled classes.  I wonder if I can use this as an excuse for skipping my dentist appointment?

Monday is my day off but I had planned to drive to downtown Phoenix this morning to make a couple of hospital visits.  Looks like I'll be working the phones instead.

I hope you're able to stay high and dry.  But should you hear a knock on the door and a man named Noah wants to use your phone, be nice to him.  You wouldn't want the animals to get loose!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Have you ever been lost?

I was, once when I was five years old.  When I saw my Mother searching for me, it gave me a feeling of relief but also of great, great joy.

In the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, Jesus tells a story about a shepherd who goes looking for a lost sheep.  That story can give us great, great joy.  Come and learn more tomorrow.  Worship is held at 8 and 10:45 am and Christian LIFE Hour (Learning Is For Everyone) begins at 9:20 am.  Or, you can worship tonight at our Saturday service which meets at 5 pm.  Deacon Jerry Klink will be preaching.  Join us this weekend for worship at LICL!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Can a God of love also be a God of justice?

I like this explanation from Pastor Frank Starr:

Some Christians maintain that wrath and punishment is inconsistent with a God of love and mercy.  But this view strips God of His holiness, which hates sin and cannot countenance it.  God's grace has made a way for us to escape His wrath by providing Jesus as our substitute.  On our behalf, the Savior on the cross bore the full weight of God's wrath against our sin.

From Light for the Way, Book 4, page 80

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's that time again to pick the winners!

The pro football season begins tonight and so does a quest to dominate a certain football pool.

My friend, Michele, and I work together to pick the winners in her office football pool.  I don't mean to brag but we've done pretty well for ourselves.  So much so that some in her office believe that we are receiving a little "divine" help, seeing how I'm a pastor and all.

But this is not true! I have not developed a "picking the winners prayer to the glory of God!"  God has more important matters than to offer His assistance to help us dominate this year's pool, which is our stated goal (however, we do want to be humble winners as we collect the cash each week).

The interesting thing is that the less time I spend researching the games the more success we have.  One year I spent hours each week comparing schedules, searching the net for stories on injured players, charting winning and losing streaks and then - nothing! All my research to help us get an edge failed to take us to the winner's circle.

Last year I simplified things, gave Michele the picks and we started to win.  It was fun! So I continued with the new approach and we had success.  I like it when Michele can strut around her office, her fellow workers shaking in their boots as the monster of the football pool collects her winnings!

So here we go again.  I'll let you know how it all turned out.  Now who do I like in the Packers vs. the Seahawks....

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

To Know God's Heart

To know the disposition of God's heart, you need only to look at how Christ is disposed toward you.  His mercy is the reflection of the mercy of God.  The sympathy of the Father is reflected in Christ's tears over the misfortune of the sinner.  Christ's blood, which flowed for the atonement of the world, washed away the wrath of God, so He could proclaim, "I am reconciled with men!"

CFW Walther from "God Grant It" (page number not noted in journal)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The ending is still being written

The Acts of the Apostles ends with these words: Boldly and without hindrance he (Paul) preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, to my sensibilities, that doesn't seem like a very good way to bring a story to an end.  So it makes me wonder, why isn't there a 29th chapter to Acts?

The author, Luke, tells us that Paul spent two years under house arrest while waiting for justice to be done.  Not surprisingly, Paul continues to preach and teach about the risen Jesus to anyone and everyone who will listen.

We also know that, while in prison, Paul wrote his epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and a separate letter to his friend, Philemon.  Reading his epistles, we also know that Paul continued his ministry, strengthening the believers in Christ and revisiting churches which he had had a hand in helping to plant.  Still, why doesn't Acts have a more proper ending, indicating some kind of resolution to Paul's troubles?

Ultimately, we don't know why the Holy Spirit led Luke to end Acts as he did.  One thing is certain though - the book of Acts is continuing to be written even today!

If Acts is the story of the beginning of the New Testament church, then those churches who comprise the holy Christian Church on earth are still writing the story.  We continue to preach about the coming kingdom of God.  We continue to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.  We witness and tell others about our Savior's forgiveness, grace and salvation.  We proclaim repentance and faith in Jesus as a person's only hope for eternal life in heaven.  In this way, I believe, the story of Acts continues.  Until the Lord returns to gather up His church on the Last Day, may the Holy Spirit help us to faithfully tell the good news about our Savior God!

Monday, September 1, 2014


Saturday evening my dear, sweet wife and I watched the movie, "Ragamuffin," a biopic about the life of singer & songwriter, Rich Mullins, the man who wrote "Awesome God," "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," and a host of many other wonderful songs.

In my former life in radio broadcasting I met Mullins a couple of times at Gospel Music Week that was held each April in Nashville.  It was four days of meetings, seminars and concerts and other events, mostly sponsored by Christian music companies.

I met Mullins the first time shortly after he released his first self-titled project.  He was at the Reunion Records booth and I happened there when there weren't too many people milling about.  We made eye contact and he greatly me warmly.  He wanted to know where I was from and what my expectations were for the week.  He couldn't have been nicer.  I came away genuinely impressed.  Mullins did not seem to be on an ego trip like many of the other Christian music artists I'd met.  I really became an admirer of him and his music.

It was a few years later that I had another close encounter with Mullins, again at his record company's booth.  But I noticed a difference.  His whole demeanor has changed.  He acted as if it were a chore for him to be there.  His greetings were perfunctory.  The friendly guy with the easy smile seemed sullen and behaved as if he were being punished by having to be there.  It was hard not to wonder, "What happen to this guy?"

Mullins died on September 19, 1997 in an automobile accident.  It seemed that he had been taken away from us much too quickly.  He had just finished a batch of songs that he hoped to record, all of them focused on the life of Jesus.  A cassette recording of Mullins singing the songs on an out-of-tune piano was released posthumously.

"Ragamuffin" was designed to provide a "warts and all" look at Mullins' life.  But Sherri and I came away from the film feeling that all we got to see were the "warts."

A thread running throughout the movie focused on the troubled relationship between Mullins and his father.  If his father were truly as harsh and unloving as depicted in the film, it is easy to understand how Mullins struggled with other relationships, include that of his Heavenly Father.

The film implies that Mullins was conflicted his entire life and it was only at the end, before the accident, when he met author Brennan Manning (who wrote "The Ragamuffin Gospel") that Mullins had any peace in his life.

How was it then, if Mullins was truly as tortured as shown in the movie, that he could write so many moving songs with such incredible depth? How did Mullins manage to compose lyrics that could uplift the hearers in ways that other Christian songs could not?

A sense of balance is missing from this film.  Surely, Mullins must have had many moments in his life when he experienced joy and satisfaction.  I've seen film of some of his concerts and Mullins seemed happy, engaging and striving to connect with the audience, to point them to the one true source of happiness and contentment - a relationship with Jesus Christ.

My hope in watching "Ragamuffin" was to learn about and appreciate a person who often seemed, with his music, to sing about the feelings and emotions that filled my heart.  Sadly, this film only created more questions than providing any answers.