Thursday, April 30, 2015

Support Crossroads Books and Coffee!

Shortly after moving back to the Valley of the Sun in 2005, I discovered a nice little bookstore at 67th Avenue and Peoria.  It was called Crossroads and was owned by Phil Cary and his family.  The store had a nice selection of Bibles, books, gifts, CD's and DVD's.  The staff was always friendly. They made shopping there a nice experience.

Crossroads, which has been serving the community since 1976, moved a few years ago to a new location - 9069 W. Olive - in Peoria.  The store is accessible off the 101 and is located in a shopping center on the southeast corner.  A coffee shop was added to the new location; the products and service certainly compare to your neighborhood Starbucks.

The bookstore business has really struggled in recent years.  We've seen Borders fall by the wayside. Barnes and Noble is a shell of its former self.  Nowadays, folks reason, why get in your car and go to a physical location when you can jump on your computer at home and order books, music, and video and have it delivered to your front door?

Bookstores that have really felt the hurt are the independents - those folks who have often operated stand alone stores.  Such owners usually don't have the deep pockets that chain stores have.  Their facilities are often not as large and don't feature all the product the chains can offer.

But when the independents close up shop and leave the community, their absence is deeply felt.  I sure don't want to see that happen to Crossroads.

If you live on the west side of town, would you go and check out Crossroads Books and Coffee?  If you're looking for a Confirmation or Mother's Day gifts, won't you give Crossroads a try?  If you're a pastor or leader in a church, would you consider throwing some of your business their way? What they don't have they'll order for you.  And you'll meet some really nice people who provide a needed service for folks who are looking for resources designed to enable them to better know and trust in Christ Jesus for forgiveness of sins, power for daily living and the hope of eternal life.

By the way, there's no benefit to me for writing about Crossroads.  Although I've spoken to Phil Cary when I've been in the store, I doubt that he really knows much about me, where I pastor and so forth. I'd just like to have a bookstore nearby that I can visit, maybe purchase a book that has been on my radar, so to speak, and then sit down and have a coffee while starting on the first chapter.  That's my idea of the perfect shopping experience.  If that sounds good to you, consider paying a visit to Crossroads Books and Coffee.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Give us a heart of flesh

Lord, heavenly Father, if we must fall into sin, let us fall into any other sin, but deliver us from a hardening of the heart, and keep us in and with Him You appointed Lord over sin and innocence.  If we do not deny Him or lose sight of Him, all sin, all death and hell will not harm us.  Yes, what is there that might harm us?

Martin Luther, from "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 257

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A true friend is...

About 25 years ago I heard John Maxwell speak at one of his leadership seminars.  He is a dynamic speaker and prolific writer who once was a pastor but now helps people learn how to get more out of themselves and others.  In working through one of his books I came across this definition of a true friend by author Richard Exley:

A true friend is one who hears and understands when you share your deepest feelings.  He supports you when you are struggling; he corrects you gently and with love, when you err, and he forgives you when you fail.  A true friend prods you to personal growth, stretches you to your full potential.  And most amazing of all, he celebrates your successes as if they were his own.

What do you think?

From "Becoming a Person of Influence," page 155

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's a marathon, not a sprint

Ministry, that is.  And it took me a long time to figure that one out.

Coming out of Seminary, I had the mentality of a sprinter.  I would get to my first parish quickly, fire out of the blocks and run as hard as I could toward the finish line.

Then the finish line began to move.

Every time I thought I had drawn near, it moved.  There was the new Stewardship Campaign and the Building Campaign.  Or the emphasis on evangelism or prayer.  Or a concerted effort to contact all the inactives.  Sometimes, the expectation was that all the above would take place at the same time.

I wore myself out.  Burned myself out.  I got a quick start out of the blocks and ran myself into the ground.

A friend from Hilton Head Island, SC helped me to see that ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.  He urged me to simply be faithful to what God had called me to do and then watch what God would accomplish.  Very wise advise, indeed.

Still, it's hard.  As a pastor you want to be there for people.  And you can really manufacture a bucket full of guilt when it seems that you are failing people.

There's phone calls you intended to make but forgot.  The cards you meant to send out but never got to.  The commitment you made to pray only to have gotten involved in something else.

The last few weeks I've worked a ton of hours and I'm tired.  And it's not just being tired physically. Ministry brings with it a lot of stress.  Sometimes I don't handle the stress very well.  And looking at my calendar for this week, I can count at least three stressful situations and I'm already dreading them.

Today is my day off.  I'll lay around here like a slug.  And feel guilty about that.

I need to pray and remind myself:  it's not about's all about the Lord...I can do all things through Him who gives me faithful and let Him deal with the campaigns, the emphasis' and everything else listed in my find my joy and my help in my Lord and Savior who loved me and gave Himself for thank Him for His agape love.

Maybe this week doesn't look so bad after all.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Another weekend, another set of services

Has it been a hard week? Are you ready for a little rest and refreshment? Come to Life in Christ this weekend and let the Lord serve you.

Saturday worship is at 5 pm and Sunday services take place at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages meet at 9:20 in the morning right after a time of fellowship out on our patio.

Jesus said, Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Why not take Jesus up on His offer.  Come and rest and be refreshed by the God who loves you.  Join us!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Not "goodbye" but "see you later"

One of the privileges of being a pastor is the opportunity to become involved in the lives of the people you serve.

To walk with people, especially during times of illness or loss, and to offer them what is needed the most - the Gospel of Jesus Christ - is a very special privilege.

I've had that opportunity the past few weeks, joining the Kanzler/Lingenfelter families as they loved and cared for Virginia - dear mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend.

These families have become very special to me.  They have appreciated my ministry and have offered unconditional love and support to me.

Connie is our Administrative Assistant.  Our church simply would not know what to do without her laughter and genuine concern for every person who walks through our office doors.  Our growing high school youth ministry was planted by Patti, who was willing to help us get a ministry started when no one else would step forward.  Scott, Patti's husband, reminds me of the phrase, "Still waters run deep."  His faithfulness at worship and Bible study is always an encouragement to me.  Scott and Patti's daughter, Nicole, is an amazing singer.  Those who participate on "American Idol" each year can be glad that Nicole hasn't appeared on the show - she would blow them all away.  And Kelcy, the youngest Lingenfelter, lives up to her grandmother's nickname for her - she is all "Sunshine."

Today, at 11 am, we are having a Memorial Service for Virginia.  Because of the hope we have in Jesus, today's service is not "goodbye" but "see you later."  In the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day, the Kanzler/Lingenfelter families will be reunited with Virginia and all of their family members who loved and placed their faith in Jesus.  They will rejoice.  They will hug.  They will laugh.  And together with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven, they will laud and magnify the God of their salvation forever and ever, without end.  What a day that will be.

Until then, see you later, Virginia.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My dear, sweet wife comes through!

The meeting ended at 9 pm and I still had work to do.  I wanted to create a power-point presentation for tomorrow's Memorial Service for Virginia Kanzler.  I've not worked with power-point very much. Okay, I've never done this kind of stuff.  I'm told it's easy.  Still, I figured I'd be up for a while, trying to figure stuff out.

My dear, sweet wife, Sherri, does this kind of thing all the time.  She's a professor in the nursing department at Grand Canyon University and has become very proficient at all things technical.  When I explained to her what I wanted to do, she immediately said, "I'll help.  We can get it done quickly."

And she was right.  With great skill she went to work at creating the slides I needed.  What I thought would be a three or four hour project took about an hour.  And we got to bed before midnight.

Sherri blesses my life in so many ways.  Power-point specialist is just one of them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What happens when you learn to pray

You can't have a story without tension and conflict, without things going wrong.  Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives.  If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static.  We aren't paralyzed by life; we can hope.

Learning to pray doesn't offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart.

Paul C. Miller, "A Praying Life," pages 22, 25

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Remembering Virginia

One of our dear members, Virginia Kanzler, fell asleep in Jesus last Saturday morning.  She blessed our church in so many way.  I won't forget:

Her faithfulness in worship.  She came many Sundays when she didn't feel very well.  But she wanted to be in God's House, with the family she loved so much, to receive the gifts of God.

Her receiving the Lord's Supper.  Because it became hard for her to get to the communion rail we brought communion to her.  The look on her face after receiving the Sacrament told me how grateful she was to have been given a heavenly meal designed to reassure her that all her sins were forgiven by the Father for the sake of the Son.

Her sitting in the sanctuary listing to our little musical group practicing on Friday afternoons.  She was our biggest fan.

Her work with our "Bulletin Bunch."  She and the other ladies sure had a great time while providing a valuable service for our church.

The way she would say to me, "I want to tell you something."  And then, she'd tell me.

I really like orange Tootsie Pops.  Virginia liked the chocolate ones.  So each time she bought a new package she would take out all the orange ones and give them to me.  I have one left.  I'm saving it.

Rest in Jesus, Virginia.  We all loved you so much.,

Monday, April 20, 2015 a light sleep

Read Luke 7:1-17 and then reflect on these words from Martin Luther:

From the Gospel ...and from the son of the widow we should learn to perceive the great power which God, through Christ, will apply to us at the last day when,by a word, He will recall to life all men and give everlasting salvation to believers.  

This will be done in the twinkling of an eye, in order that we may not doubt in the least either the power of our Lord Jesus to do this or His will gladly to do it.

For here we have the example.  The son of the widow is dead; he has lost the gift of hearing and all other senses.  But when Christ speaks to him, he hears.  This is certainly a strange and wonderful incident.  He that does not hear, hears; and he that does not live, lives.  Nothing is done but that Christ opens His mouth and bids him arise.  The single word is so powerful that death has to vanish and life return...

Before the Lord death is not death at all.  For us it is called and is death when we die.  But before God it is a light sleep which could not be any lighter...

From "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 228.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I was glad when they said to me

Let us go to the house of the Lord.  (Psalm 122:1).

Come and be glad with us this weekend at Life in Christ.  Worship opportunities include this afternoon's 5 o'clock service and Sunday services at 8 am and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages meet at 9:20 am (right after coffee and donuts!).

Come to the house of the Lord and worship with us at LICL!

Friday, April 17, 2015

The devil loves it when...

Christians won't offer forgiveness to those who have sinned against them

Christians who won't seek reconciliation with those who they have sinned against

Christians talk behind one another's backs

Christians won't give one another the benefit of the doubt

Christians who refuse to love their neighbor

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Prison of Fear

I've spent some time in prison.  I was there because I put myself there.  It was so stupid I couldn't sleep.  I was anxious and nervous.  My heart was restless.  My stomach was tied up in knots.  It was horrible.

I was being held captive in a prison of fear.  Afraid of an individual.  Afraid of the trouble the person might cause me.  Afraid of the hurt the person might cause me and others.  I didn't want to see the person.  Didn't want to have anything to do with the individual.  I would have been glad if they had just gone away.  But that wasn't going to happen.  And I was going to have to deal with this person.

God had mercy on me, His silly and weak child.  He freed me from the prison of fear.  The key He used to unlock my cell door was His Holy Word.  I read these words: When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Here in these precious words the psalmist was reminding me that faith trumps fear! There was no reason to pull closed the cell door of my self-imposed prison.  God is greater than my fear.  He is more powerful and wise than any of my adversaries.  According to the psalmist, God has my back, so to speak.  I didn't have to be afraid of the troublemaker.  God was with me.  Praise His comforting Word! How grateful I was to my Lord and Savior for springing me from captivity.

Peter writes, Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  Trust God! He does care for you.  Tell Him about your adversaries and your problems.  And don't be afraid.  Walk before God in the light of life.  Psalm 56:13

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Death will not have the last word

Last Saturday, one of our dear members, Sue Schutt, fell asleep in Jesus.  Sue's passing was a reminder that death is awful, an enemy that God never intended for us to contend with.  Easter reminds us that death could not hold down or defeat the Son of God.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, the Scriptures promise that we, too, will rise from the dead.  Death will not have the last word.

Because this is so, Professor Arthur Just, delivers great news for us to consider: Although you will become sick and one day die, in Christ's death and resurrection, to which you have been joined through your Baptism, you now are completely whole and well for your life is now His life.

From "Heaven on Earth," page 89

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A hall of fame kind of guy!

My son, Eric, (pictured at a farm outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin) spent last weekend being inducted into the Hall of Fame of the local chapter of Lambda Kai Alpha fraternity at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

This was a very nice honor for Eric.  He believes in time spent in the fraternity was a growing and learning experience for him.  The involvement of the fraternity in the local community has influenced Eric as he continues to utilize his gifts and skills to make our area a better place to live.

I really admire Eric - faithful husband, loving dad, dedicated follower of Jesus, reliable friend.  He's a hall of fame guy in my book!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A most memorable meal

My dear, sweet wife and I are fans of the Rick Steves' travel programs.  We've traveled all over the world with Rick and from the comfort of our own living room!  While catching up yesterday with some of the past programs I heard an interesting comment from one of Steves' fellow travel guides.

The fellow said, in effect, that if a person has 100 meals, 99 of them might be forgettable.  But it's that 100th meal that should be memorable.

Last summer we had the chance to visit parts of Italy and Germany with our friends, Dan and Janelle. On our last night in Rome we asked the man at the desk at our hotel to point us to a place where we might have a very special meal.  He made reservations for us at Alfredo's.

As it turned out, this is the place where the dish, "Fettuccine Alfredo," was created.  The empty table to the left is where we ate a wonderful, unforgettable meal.

What do you have at Alfredo's?  Silly question.  The dish is made table side.  Our waiter, who had a great sense of humor, did the honors for us.  The food was like no other that I've ever eaten.  In fact, we had to keep reminding ourselves to "slow down and don't eat so fast."  Europeans know how to savor a meal.  They are never in a hurry to eat and run. They enjoy the food and the drink and the company. For this one night we practiced hard to do the same.

Interestingly, I'm a guy that can be pretty happy with the double burger, fries and chocolate shake at Freddy's Steakburger.  But if I had the chance to revisit just one restaurant it would have to be Alfredo's.  It was a most memorable meal.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Say hello to my brother, Thomas

The second Sunday of Easter covers the first two Sunday's of the Lord's resurrection as we take a look at St. John, chapter 20.  We learn that Jesus appeared to the disciples but two were missing. Judas, in the pit of despair, went out and killed himself.  And Thomas, well, we have no idea where he was.  When he rejoined the disciples they joyfully told Thomas that they'd seen Jesus - He had risen from the dead! But Thomas was a kill joy and said, in effect, "I'll believe it when I see Him!"

Come and join us this weekend for the exciting conclusion to this grace-filled story.  Pastor Marcus Breitbarth will be preaching at all services this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  And, on Sunday, Bible classes for all ages meet at 9:20 in the morning.  Looking forward to seeing you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Be Still, My Soul, Before the Lord

Be still, my soul, before the Lord
  For God is always near
Before your mind is moved to pray
  God listens and will hear

You need not multiply your words
  Nor pray with practiced art
Beyond all speech, God understands
  The hunger of your heart

Wait, then, in quiet confidence
  Your anxious thoughts arrest
God knows your needs before you ask
  And works for what is best

Be still, my soul, before the Lord
  On God in patience wait
God's love, unseen, surrounds your life
  God's help will not be late.

Lutheran Service Book, #771

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Luke is in charge

This is my oldest grandson, Luke, showing off his haul of Easter egg candy.  We had almost all of our family with us on Easter, including Sherri's cousin, Betsy, and her family.

When it was time to eat, Sherri told me that we were ready to pray.  I joined everyone in our family room, fully expecting to lead our family in prayer.  After all, I'm a pastor.  I'm expected to pray at all occasions, whether it be something going on at church or in my home.

But I soon discovered that Luke was in charge.  He had everybody gather in a circle.  Then he confidently announced, "I'm going to pray."

And he did.  He thanked God for Easter and Jesus.  He thanked God for his family.  He asked God to bless our food and give us a good day.  And he concluded, "In Jesus' name.  Amen."

On an Easter day full of wonderful highlights and great blessings, Luke's might have been most meaningful to me.  To hear my grandson offer such a beautiful prayer on the day of our Lord's resurrection is something I'll not soon forget.

Luke keeps telling me he wants to be a pastor and spread the love of Jesus around the world.  Not bad for a six year old.  Not bad at all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The difference between a professional and an amateur

Here is some good food for thought as it relates to your work or your hobby or anything that you are pursuing.

"Amateurs practice until they get it right.  Professionals practice until it cannot go wrong."  This is what a voice teacher once said to actress Julie Andrews.

Are you a professional or an amateur?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What did Jesus really accomplish by His death and resurrection?

Let's let author and pastor Harold Senkbeil explain it:

In His death, Jesus Christ swallowed up our death, and rose again triumphantly to take all of the teeth out of the grave.  In the promise of the resurrection, death loses its power.  When we die with Jesus, we really live,

From "Jesus + Nothing = Everything" page 117

Monday, April 6, 2015

Christ is risen!

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.

Christ is risen, and life reigns.

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.  Amen.

John Chrysostom

From "Treasure of Daily Prayer," page 185

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Come and hear the best news in the world!

6:30 am - Sunrise worship with music from the Kevin Svec band

7:30 am - Easter breakfast is served!

8:30 am - Celebration worship with music from our Adult and Bell Choirs

9:30 am - Sunday school Easter egg hunt

10:30 am - Celebration worship with music from our Adult and Bell Choirs

Hey, if you are a member of LICL and are checking this out - would you please consider parking down at the strip mall at Greenway and 75th Avenue? The walk to the church is two tenths of a mile or you can catch a ride up to the church from Dave Berg or Harold Doede.  It would really help with our parking issues and enable guests and visitors to find a place to park on campus.  Thank you!

Also, don't forget the Easter Vigil service taking place tonight at 5 pm.  Pastor Marcus Breitbarth will be leading the service and proclaiming the Word of God.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Darkness came over the whole land

Join us tonight at Life in Christ for the service of darkness - Tenebrae - at 7 pm.  Pastor Marcus Breitbarth will be preaching.  Special music is being planned.  Hope to see you there.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The gifts of God for the people of God

Thy body, given for me, O Savior
  Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed
These are my life and strength forever
  By them my hungry soul is fed
Lord, may Thy body and Thy Blood
  Be for my soul the highest good!     (LSB 619-v. 1)

Join us tonight at 7 pm for Maundy Thursday worship at Life in Christ.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There are lots of ways to witness Christ to others

I saw one of them last night.

For the second year, Life in Christ presented during Holy Week the play, "Master, Did We Fail You?", written and directed by Mel and Ruth Donaho.

Our sanctuary was transformed into a theatre.  The set was a spot on reproduction of the painting of "The Last Supper."  The sound and lighting was very good.  The music complemented the presentation.

But it was the performances by those who portrayed the disciples and da Vinci that left me amazed.

The vast majority of the performers had no previous acting experience.  But they all came prepared and ready to perform.

If they were nervous, they didn't show it.  They performed their parts with passion and feeling.  I guess you might say that those men "owned their characters."

I joked with our new associate pastor, Marcus Breitbarth, "I guess you missed the part on your call document about becoming an actor!" His performance was just one of many that was very well done.

What I loved most was how each actor witnessed his love for his Lord and Savior.  The time they spent in rehersal and the effort they gave during the performances simply demonstrated how deeply their hearts have been touched by Jesus' sacrificial death and victorious resurrection.  When you've been loved as Jesus has loved, you become eager to serve your Lord in any way you can.

Even by acting in a church play.