Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Where do we go from here?

My friend, Pastor Mark Jeske, host of the "Time of Grace" television program recently offered some thoughts about last week's Supreme Court decision.  Let me share some of what Pastor Jeske wrote:

In my pastoral opinion, the best thing straight Christians can do to protect "one man, one woman" marriage is to take better care of their own marriages.  Marriage is like a car - if you just drive it and drive it and never refuel or do maintenance, the car will die by the side of the road.

Christians should stop expecting that their government will be the teacher of national morality...Our nation's laws are based not on the Bible but on what the people want.  That's the downside risk.  But there is an upside - the darker and bleaker our world gets, the better and more desirable our Christian communities will appear.  Where God's Word and Spirit are disappearing, Satan moves in.  In Satan's wake are always pain, conflict, hatred, selfishness, and cruelty.

Opposition to the LGBT agenda and lifestyle is not "homophobia."  That very word is a made up mishmash - "phobos" is the Greek word for "fear."  We are not "afraid" of gay people. We are simply convinced by the clear words of Scripture.  Neither are we haters.  Christians whose harsh words make them look like haters only make the Biblical position look backward and distasteful.

People with same sex desires are people too, people loved unconditionally by the Lord, sinners just like you and me in desperate need of the blood of the Lamb.  People who feel shunned by their families and churches are often intensely lonely and can find acceptance and support only in the gay world. We need to find a way to make people with gay desires feel valued and loved even while discouraging living their lifestyle. We must find a way to welcome people even when not sanctioning parts of their lifestyle.  Gay people need to be in church.  Gay people need Jesus.

LGBT advocates argue that the very presence of gay desires legitimizes those desires.  Their Christian allies will say things like, "This is how God made me."  Biblical Christians do not have to yield on this point. The presence of a desire in someone's mind and heart does not make it right.  A persistent subset of the population fantasizes about sex with children.  That does not make it right.

You can read the complete presentation by Pastor Jeske at the Time of Grace website.  May the days ahead lead us all to a concerted time of prayer and Scripture reading as we reflect on how believers in Christ can show and share His love to all people while standing firm on the clear teachings of the Bible, teaching that are designed to keep us safe and enable us to live out our new life in Christ.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The last time I checked...

Almighty God is still in control.

Almighty God is wiser and more powerful than Anthony Kennedy and the 4 Supremes.

We are still children of God.

We are still loved by the Father.

We are redeemed by the blood of the Son.

We are being made holy by the Spirit.

We will love one another.

We will stand on the truth of Holy Word alone.

We will confidently trust that the Lord will hold us up and lead us through any persecution the church might face in the future (just as He always has).

We will continue to pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."

LICL has worship services on Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Come and receive the gifts of God, given just for you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor Enjoyed Vacation Just a Little Too Much

10) Has ushers greet all worshippers with complementary leis

9) Suggests that the apostle Paul's missionary journeys would have been so much easier with the right "maps app"

8) Encourages the congregation to tithe their frequent flyer miles

7) Wears a different souvenir t-shirt over his alb every week

6) Wants to include a can of mosquito repellent in every visitor gift bag

5) Has congregation file into the sanctuary as if boarding a flight on Southwest Airlines: "Now seating A 1-30 only"

4) Orders clergy shirts from Tommy Bahama

3) Replaces office furniture with beach chairs

2) Stops work at 4 pm each day for a Pina Colada

And the number one sign that your pastor enjoyed vacation just a little too much:

1) Keeps reminding you that is was 65 degrees where he vacationed

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Book Reading List

Here's what I'm working through this summer:

"Motivation for Ministry" by Nathan R. Pope.  This book was written in the early 1990's by a veteran pastor who believes that a pastor's motivation for ministry to God's people is simple: all things are done to the glory of God. I'm about half way through the book and have been greatly encouraged by this author's pen.

"A Short Guide to a Happy Life" by Anna Quindlen. This book was recommended to me by a friend.  It's 50 pages long so I'm guessing that it can be read in one sitting.  Quindlen writes "Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us because unless you know the clock is ticking, it is so easy to waste our days, our lives."

"A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin.  This is book three in the series from which "Game of Thrones" is based.  I don't get HBO but I've found the books to be a captivating read.  They need to be since each book runs a good 1000 pages.

"Beatles vs. Stones" by John McMillian.  The author is not a pop music writer but a college professor.  He dives into the various ways the two bands were marketed in the UK and the USA.  I'm gathering that while members of the Beatles and Rolling Stones were friends, there was also a serious competition between the two groups.  I've looked at only a couple of pages of the introduction and have already picked up a couple of insights that I hadn't known.

I hope you're taking some time to read a book or two this summer.  I prefer paper and print but that's just me.  However you get it, find something good to read.  It will be time well spent (and don't we want to spend our time well?).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I'm glad God is more forgiving than the USGA

Watching the US Open last weekend was painful.

It seemed to me that the gold course had been set up in such a way that unless golfers hit the perfect shot they were going to be in trouble.

Again and again, one pro after another would hit an iron onto the green only to watch it slide off into a sand trap or roll backward 20 or 40 or 100 yards or more from the pin.

It must have been frustrating for the best golfers in the world to hit a great shot and get nothing or even be penalized for it.

At the US Open the participants had to be perfect.

I'm glad God doesn't expect such perfection.

It was our imperfection, our sin, that caused God the Father to send His only begotten Son to save us.

The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all...For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."  (10:10,14)

Jesus' one time, perfect sacrifice paid the penalty for all our sins.  But by that one sacrifice Christ has made us perfect, those being sanctified or made holy by the work of the Spirit.

What we are unable to accomplish, our gracious God does for us.

Rather than demanding perfection, the Father clothes us in the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

I'm glad God is more forgiving, more gracious than the USGA.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A prayer for the beginning of the week

This week we may be given
 challenges instead of ease
  courage instead of contentment
   opportunities instead of rest

But we have a Savior who brings
 strength out of service
  faith out of struggle
   and victory out of defeat

Go, then, fearful of nothing
 sure that in everything
  we are held secure
   in the Master's steadfast love.  Amen.

E. Lee Phillips

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A prayer for Saturday

O Lord, the source of eternal light: shed forth your unending day upon us who watch for You, that our lips may praise You, our lives may bless You, and our worship tomorrow give You glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the "Book of Common Prayer"

Join us for worship at Life in Christ this weekend.  Saturday's service is held at 5 pm; Sunday services take place at 8 and 10:45 am.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Top Ten Signs Your Church IS All About Money

Critics often say that "all the church is concerned about is money!"  Watch for these signs:

10) Trustees install pay toilets

9) Worshippers must purchase bulletins.  $1 for Advent and Lenten bulletins; $5 for Sunday bulletins "because they're larger."

8) God's grace is free - donuts are a dollar!

7) Pastor tells Stewardship Committee, "I want you to try every idea - good or bad - to raise money for the church.  Bad idea - committee member is arrested trying to hold up a convenience market.

6) In church narthex hang two portraits - Martin Luther and Dave Ramsey

5) Must purchase a personal seat license to have place to sit in sanctuary

4) Church potlucks have $20 cover charge

3) Pastor tells congregation, "If you're not giving generously, you need a check up from the neck up!"

2) Church council installs parking meters in parking lot

And the number one sign that your church IS all about money:

1) EVERY Sunday is Stewardship Sunday

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Prayer for the Morning

O heavenly Father
I praise and thank You
for the peace of the night.
I praise and thank You for this new day.
I praise and thankYou all Your goodness and
faithfulness throughout my life.
You have granted me many blessings;
Now let me also accept what is hard
from Your hand.
You will lay on me no more than I can bear.
You make all things work together for good for
Your children.  Amen.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

We're going to build together

Last Sunday our congregation voted overwhelmingly to embark on a new building project. Our original home will be demolished, probably at the beginning of 2016, to be replaced with an Education Building and Fellowship Hall.

All last week I prayed that no matter how the decision went, I asked the Lord to use our decision to bring us together, united to carry out our mission to Live and Grow in Christ ~ Encourage and Reach Others. 

I was cheered by some who told me on Sunday that even though they did not support the decision to build, they would supportive and walk along with the rest of the congregation.  For the good of the church, I was most encouraged by these precious saints.

Much planning will need to be done in the coming months.  When the old house is torn down we'll need to utilize our space to the max in order to accommodate regular Sunday ministry activities as well as dealing with classes and other activities that take place during the week. It will be a big undertaking but with the Lord's help we can do it.

Just as we've done so many other things in the past 10 years...with the Lord's help.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's the weekend...now what?

Well, at Life in Christ our LWML group holds its final meeting of the year at 9 am.  Lots of unfinished business will be taken care of, like the revealing of the "Secret Sisters."  Our LWML contributes much to the mission of our church and we are grateful for their participation.

Saturday worship takes place at 5 pm and Sunday services meet at 8 and 10:45 am.  We hope you'll come and join us this week at LICL!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor Is Watching too Much Television

Did your pastor recently have carpel tunnel surgery because of constant overuse of the TV remote? Look for these signs:

10) Only visits those members whose homes have DirecTV

9) Accidentally asks the congregation to turn to the gospel of Mark Harmon

8) Cites as his three ministry mentors - Martin Luther, CFW Walther & Regis Philbin

7) Names his first son Espn

6) Suggests new building project be led by the Property Brothers

5) Has confirmation students watch "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" to count the number of commandments broken in each episode (hint: ALL OF THEM!)

4) Wants to shop for chancel furniture at Pawn Stars

3) Has trouble remembering names of parishioners  but can name every character from "Game of Thrones"

2) Replaces donuts at the coffee hour with recipes from the Barefoot Contessa

And the number one sign that your pastor is watching too much television:

1) New Bible study series - "The Real Housewives of Sodom and Gomorrah"

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Love Comes Sideways

When the logs from our eyes have been removed through Calvary, we see.  We see Jesus on the cross supplied by us, for us.  We see ourselves as forgiven sinners.  Then, when we bump into another sinner, we are able to help for love comes sideways.  Dr. Norman Nagel.

The Bible teaches that we love others because Jesus first loved us.  There is our motivation, our reason for reaching out in love to the people on either side of us.  Jesus came down from heaven, lived the perfect life, offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, has given us his perfect righteousness that makes us perfectly acceptable to our Father in heaven.

Now we are able to show love sideways.  One sinner to another.  Not necessarily planned.  Often taking place as people enter our lives from stage right or stage left.  Read through the Gospels.  Much of Jesus' work simply happened as He traveled from village to village proclaiming the kingdom of God.  Today, throughout your travels to work or school or as you run errands or keep appointments, be on the lookout for the person who could use a touch of Jesus' love today.  Reach out to that person. Let your love come sideways, to the glory of God!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It was a good walk after all

Mark Twain once famously said of playing golf that "it was a good walk spoiled."  Maybe it just depends on your company.

I've been playing on Mondays with one of our Deacons, Danny Baker.  We've been meeting a a nine hole course in Glendale.  We both have troublesome backs so nine holes played in about an hour and a half or so works great.

I took up golf to have a hobby, something to offer some relief from the daily stress of ministry.  We lived on a golf course in Hilton Head Island so I had the chance to play a lot of golf.  It just added to my frustration.

At the end of a round, I would often come home about as up tight as a cornered raccoon.  I'd replay in my mind all my bad shots - those I could remember.  And the guys I played with were very competitive.  They would treat every round as if we were playing on the PGA tour.  Not much fun.

When we moved to Peoria, I put the clubs away, only occasionally taking them out for a round or two.  But this spring I got the itch to play again and so did Danny.  He had been seriously ill last summer and the Lord has blessed him in his recovery.  So Danny wanted to get out and knock the ball around a little bit.  We seemed like a good match.

And we are.  Our skill level is about the same; we mix in some very good shots with some we'd rather not talk about.  Our rounds are not about competition.  We want to relax.  We want to have fun.  And we do.

We've both got some commitments this summer so we probably aren't going to be able to play regularly.  But I look forward to Mondays and playing golf with Danny.  At the end of each round I say to myself, "It was a good walk after all."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Who is the ideal pastor?

We all, of course, recognize Christ as the ideal minister.  We also identify His attitude as the one forming the essence of pastoral compentency: He became less than He was to serve others.

Nathan R. Pope, "Motivation for Ministry," page 18, published by Northwestern Publishing House

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Welcome to the family, Ava!

This afternoon at 5 pm our worship service at LICL will include a baptism.  Ava Nicole will be welcomed into the family of God, a time to celebrate God's grace and love.  Deacon Jerry Klink will preach and the band led by Kevin Svec will provide the music.

Tomorrow you're invited to join us for worship at either 8 or 10:45 am.  My sermon theme is, "Jesus will forgive you!"  Holy Communion is celebrated at the early service.

Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Top 10 Things You Should Never Say to a First Time Guest

10) "How would you like to work in the nursery today?"

9) "That's my seat."

8) "We just come for the donuts."

7) "Good news! The person who serves the donuts doesn't have hepatitis A!"

6) "We don't get as many visitors since we replaced our organist with an accordion player."

5) "Our pastor's sermons are long but don't worry - there's an intermission."

4) "We're looking for a few new members who can contribute $20,000 to our Building Fund."

3) "Our organist studied at the nationally known 'Eat My Dust Driving School'."

2) "You're 50 years? Want to join our Seniors Group?"

And the number one thing you should never say to a first time guest to your church?

1) "Here are your offering envelopes."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A precious promise

Last Sunday at Life in Christ we held a Confirmation service for six kids who had completed their two year studies.  During my sermon I shared with them an observation that I've made over the years.

I told the kids that every year I ask our Confirmands, "Now that you've finished, how many of you will be here next Sunday and the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that?"

"Everyone raises their hand.  But you want to know how many of our kids really keep coming to church? Less than half."

Than I said, "I'm praying that your class will be different.  I'm praying that you won't see this service as a graduation of sorts.  I'm praying that you'll be faithful to your Lord and Savior and that worship and Bible study will always be an important part of your life."

Following the service two of the kids came up to me and said, "We'll be away most of the summer so we won't be here next Sunday.  But we will be in church as soon as we come back home."

If nothing else, their comments let me know that they were listening.

Then, in yesterday's mail I received a thank you note from one of the kids.  She wrote, in part, "Thank you for guiding me on the right path.  And I promise I'll go to church every Sunday.

A precious promise, indeed!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Outta my league

43 years ago today I got someone who is way out of my league to marry me.

Sherri said "yes" and I've been a happy and blessed man ever since that day.

Happy anniversary, love!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Get Over Yourself

Proverbs 16:5 says, "The Lord despises pride."  So get over yourself. 

An elementary school boy came home from tryouts for the school play.  "Mommy. Mommy, I got a part.  I've been chosen to sit in the audience to clap and cheer"  

When you have a chance to clap and cheer, do you take it? If you do, your head is starting to fit your hat size.

Max Lucado, from the 5/25/15 edition of his weekday email.  Excerpt from the book "Traveling Light."