Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas is...CHRIST!

Our local paper's editorial for today is "Christmas in an Onion."

There are many layers to an onion, right? In the same way, Christmas is like an onion.  Keep pealing the layers away and more of Christmas is revealed in all its beauty and charm.

Well, OK.

But, really, that editorial misses the point.

Christmas is...

A newly married couple making a long trip and arriving just in the nick of time.

The lowest of the low - shepherds - who get the privilege of hearing the greatest news delivered on high by a heavenly army.

A little town that is oblivious to the great thing that is taking place right under their collective noses.

A word from one of God's messengers: "Born to you in the city of David a Savior - He is Christ the Lord!"

The baby in the manger.

The name, Jesus, which means, "The Lord saves."

To be sure Christmas is about family and friends and peace and understanding and love.

But who delivers these things?

The God who sent His Son in the world to be Savior.

Jesus lives up to His name.

We who were separated by sin have been reconciled to almighty God.

It could have only happened if a perfect sacrifice could be offer that would pay for our imperfect lives.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.  And on the third day He rose again - the perfect payment for you and me.

Now, we have been justified by grace through faith in the Christ child.

We are at peace with God.

We are free to live as God's dearly loved people.  We  are free to love God and to love and serve each other.

That's why we celebrate this day.  That's why we celebrate and give thanks every day.




Have a very Merry Christmas!

BTW, I'm taking my annual Christmas blog vacation - I'll be back on January 6th.  Thanks to all of you who check in from time to time to see what's going on with me and my family and our church.

God be with you.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Do you hear what I hear?

Tonight at Life in Christ you'll hear...

Our children tell and show the CHRISTmas story.

Beautiful music performed by our Adult Choir, Bell Choir, Soloists and Instrumentalists.

People greeting one another with hugs and a hearty "Merry Christmas!"

The Word of God read and proclaimed with the good news of God's promise fulfilled - Christ the Lord has come!

Paul wrote to the Romans: "If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?"

God has graciously given us: believe and trust in Jesus alone for forgiveness and eternal life. live each day in confidence that our Father has adopted us into His kingdom through baptism and treats us as His dearly loved children. look beyond present circumstances or problems while knowing that if we have Jesus we have all we need - today and tomorrow and for eternity.

Join us at Life in Christ as we celebrate and give thanks for the gift God has given to us - His Son.

Our Children's Service begins at 5 pm while our Candlelight Services take place at 7 and 9 pm.

Merry Christmas and God bless you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It happened!

The angel's message is simply what happened - a birth - and the identification of the one born - "a Savior who is Christ the Lord." Impossible? No, it has happened.  God did not have to wait for clearance from us whether it is possible or not.  It happened.  A Savior born, Christ the Lord.

A re-post from the Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel, Christmas 1975.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Steve Harvey Award Gaffes

You know about the Miss Universe contest.  Here are some others that have gone unreported.

10) The National Mother of the Year Award winner - Kim Kardashian!

9) The Fortune Magazine Business Person of the Year award - the owners of Chipotle Restaurants!

8) The Boxer of the Year is...Rhonda Rousey!

7) The winner of the Barack Obama Courage in Leadership Award goes to - Barack Obama.

6) The Center of Public Integrity Person of the Year Award - Hillary Clinton!

5) Introducing the President of the United States - Bernie Sanders!

4) The Winner of Dancing with the Stars - Paula Deem!

3) Your Super Bowl Champions - The Dallas Cowboys!

2) The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to - Donald Trump!

And the number one Steve Harvey Award Gaffe:

The New President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod - George Spicer!

Why Advent?

I wish I had posted this earlier.  Again, something that I wrote in one of my journals.

This Advent Season it's time to kneel a little closer to Jesus' crib and beneath His cross...there I'll hear the best news ever of how God sent Jesus to bring double payment for my sins.

"Together with Jesus" by Richard E. Lauersdorf, December 3 devotional, Northwestern Publishing House

Monday, December 21, 2015

On the Nativity of Christ

I've posted the following before - it comes from the biography, "Here I Stand." (page 354)

Many in the congregation think to themselves, "I only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby! I would have washed His linen.  How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!

Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem.  Childish and silly thoughts are these!

Why don't you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbor.  You ought to serve him, for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ Himself.

Martin Luther

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Live and Grow in Christ - Worship!

How does one live and grow in Christ.  For starters, being in worship every weekend is priority number one.  God serves us in worship.  Isn't that interesting? Worship is not something we do for God.  Worship is the time and place where God gives us His gifts of mercy and grace.  We hear that God forgives our sins.  We receive peace with God through that precious message of absolution.  We hear God speak to us through His Word.  Faith is strengthened and hearts are comforted.  We come to His Holy Supper and receive a foretaste of what life will be like in heaven.  And yes, in worship we respond to God's grace and mercy.  We sing our praises.  We give our tithes and offerings.  We seek God's help as we pray our petitions for ourselves and others.  Renewed and refreshed, we go back out into the world, looking to love others as Jesus has loved us.

Join us this weekend at LICL.  Saturday worship takes place at 5 pm; Sunday services are held at 8 and 10:45 am and Bible classes for all ages are held at 9:20 in the morning. 

Hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars!

Our friends called us one afternoon in May 1977 and asked if we wanted to go with them to see a film that they had seen the night before.

"A movie so good you want to see it again, right way?" I asked.  "What's the name of this film?"

"Star Wars!" our friends enthusiastically replied.

They said, "We'll go to the 9 o'clock showing.  Pick you up at 6 pm."

"What? Why are we going so early?" I asked.

I learned that we would be standing in line during the 7 pm show so we could get in at 9 o'clock.

I remember my last comment: "This had better be good."

It was.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd had so much fun at a film.  I could relate the the frustrations of Luke Skywalker.  He didn't want to be a farmer.  He wanted to be a fighter pilot.

I loved the humor and sarcasm of Han Solo.  I wanted to be that guy in high school.  But I didn't have an ounce of Han's DNA in my body.

And Princess Leia - well, it didn't hurt your eyes to look at her.  And she was not to be messed around with.

Now, Luke, Han and Leia are back with a new cast of characters.  And "The Force Awakens" is receiving rave reviews.  It looks like the word, "blockbuster" can be applied to this film.

My dear, sweet wife and I are taking a week off following Christmas Day services.

What will we do? Star Wars has shot to the top of the to-do list.

But I'll be looking to find the film running multiple times at some mega-theatre complex.

I'm too old to sit in a line for several hours just to see a movie.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Come and see

Nathanael said to Philip, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip answers, "Come and see."  (John 1:46)

Nathanael's question still lingers, even two thousand years later.  Is the life of the young Nazarene really worth considering?

The answer of Philip still suffices.  "Come and see."

Come and see the rock that has withstood the winds of time.  Here his voice...the truth undaunted...grace unspotted...loyalty undeterred.

Come and see the flame that tyrants and despots have not extinguished.

Come and see the passion that oppression has not squelched.

Come and see the hospitals and orphanages rising beside the crumbling ruins of humanism and atheism.  Come and see what Christ has done.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see.  Come and see the changed lives: the alcoholic now dry...the embittered now joyful...the shame now forgiven.

Come and see the marriages rebuilt, the orphans embraced, the imprisoned inspired.

Journey into the jungles and hear the drums beating in praise.  Sneak into the corners of communism and find believers worshiping under the threat of death.

Walk on death row and witness the prisoner condemned by man yet liberated by God. 

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Come and see the pierced hand of God touch the most common heart, wipe the tears from the wrinkled face, and forgive the ugliest sin.

Come and see.  He avoids no seeker.  He ignores no probe.  He fears no search. 

Come and see.  Nathanael came.  And Nathanael saw.  And Nathanael discovered: "Teacher, You are the Son of God; You are the king of Israel."

From "The Gift For All People," by Max Lucado, pages 49-51, published by Multnomah

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Repent and rejoice and repeat

This is the constant cycle and life of the Christian whether it is Advent or Christmas, Lent or Easter, a wedding or a funeral.  Repent and rejoice and repeat.  Love your neighbor and fail and be loved by Christ and then love your neighbor and fail and be loved by Christ and again and again and again.  The only hope for us, the only way we will be saved, is if Christ Himself has kept the Law for us and puts Himself on us.  Thanks be to God, that is exactly what He has done in His death and resurrection, and He has bestowed it upon us in Holy Baptism.  To put on the Lord Jesus Christ is to be baptized and to commune and to be absolved.

David H. Petersen, "God With Us" page 22, Emmanuel Press

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We light the "joy" candle

It's the third Sunday in Advent so we light the pink or "joy" candle on our Advent wreath.  The Scripture readings speak of the joy we have in Jesus.  Come and learn more at...

Our 5 pm service today or our 8 and 10:45 am services tomorrow.  We'd love to see you at LICL!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Top 10 Signs That You're At A Bad Wedding

10) When just before the service the groom asks to go to the bathroom...and never comes back.

9) When instead of saying, "You may kiss the bride," the pastor says, "Get 'er done!"

8) When the groom and the bride's father get into a fist fight as the bride is given away.

7) When the photographer is asking people, "Anybody got some Kodak film?"

6) When the bride is escorted down the aisle to the tune of "Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted."

5) When the invitation indicates that the reception is being held at the Golden Corral.

4) When the music at the reception is being provided by "Al Jones and his Happy Accordian."

3) When the pastor asks the groom for the license and the groom replies, "Hunting or fishing?"

2) When the service stops just before the vows are said because the bride goes into labor.

And the number one sign that you're at a bad wedding:

1) When the service begins late because the groom couldn't make bail!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Going to the game!

I prefer to watch football from the comfort of my couch.

I can see every play (and maybe see it three or four times).  There are no lines to stand in.  I can easily get to the fridge for refreshments and I don't have to pay 10 bucks for a little popcorn.

But tonight I'm going to the Cardinals and Vikings game.

My friend, Dan, is a long time, very passionate Vikings fan.  When he spotted this game on the Cardinals schedule he began making plans to visit.

Thanks to my son in law, Josh, we got a couple of lower bowl tickets for free.  We might be sitting near the section where Cardinals coaches and players wives and girlfriends will be located.

I guess we'll be able to identify them from "the bling."

Obviously, Dan and I will be rooting against each other.

Hopefully, it will be a happy drive home...for me.

Go Cardinals!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Maybe this should happen more often

Last Thursday evening I started to come down with a cold. I stayed home Friday and rested.  Felt better on Saturday.  Taught a membership class session, took care of some things I would have done on Friday and went home.

Then, quite suddenly, something happened that I had not planned for.

I started losing my voice.

I wasn't too concerned.  I figured with a good night's rest I'd be in strong voice by morning.

Boy, was I wrong.

I could barely croak.  Fingernails on chalkboards would have been a more pleasant sound.

I thought, "This is really going to be a disaster.  Who in the world is going to get anything out of my sermon?"

Turns out, lots of people did.  In fact, the feedback for the sermon was as positive as any I've given in 10 years at Life in Christ.

Turns out that because my voice was so weak and scratchy people really had to listen to what I was saying.

With people dialed in, God's message of bad news and good news, of Law and Gospel, was heard.

The Law condemns. The Gospel saves.

And as long as the two great messages of the Bible are proclaimed, in just that order, listeners will hear and rejoice in God's great love for them in Christ Jesus.

Even if the speaker has no voice at all.

And maybe that's very good.

Then, the people will hear the voice that really counts - God's voice as heard through His Holy Word.

Monday, December 7, 2015

And all through the house

Our cat, Glory, loves to hang out under the Christmas tree.  She wouldn't mind if we kept the tree up all year.

Our other cat, Tiddy, has staked out a hiding place in the deepest recesses of our bedroom closet.  He doesn't like the little ones who are staying with us this month.

My youngest daughter, Katie, and her youngest son, Duke (6 months old) are hunkered down on one of the Lazy-Boy recliners.  Duke loves nothing more than to sleep on his Momma's chest.

Katie's other son, Drew (3 years old) is sitting in front of the tv watching "Handy Manny" on the Disney Channel.  He also has his own set of Handy Manny tools.  Katie found them at a yard sale and bought them for a pittance.  On line these tools are really expensive - they must cost as much as real tools!

Sherri is in the kitchen making cookies for the Bible class she teaches to nursing students at GCU.  It is probably the best part of the day.

Me? Getting ready to get in the shower and go to work.  Caught the cold bug that Drew and Duke brought from Wisconsin.  Barely able to squeak out the sermon yesterday.  Another busy week is set with meetings to plan for, a sermon to write and friends coming into town for the Cardinals/Vikings football game (go Cardinals!).

God bless your week (and your house)!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What does new life look like?

How might we keep the Law and love one another without fail, without holding back? Setting our will to do it or making promises or resolutions has never worked before, and it won't work now.  How might we keep the Law which we've never yet kept before? But putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is it.  It is the only way.  It is in being loved, being forgiven, being fed the Holy Supper that not only is sin forgiven but faith is also strengthened.  In that  - those things that God has given for His church, for her faith and life - the Holy Spirit takes up residence and works do follow.  The only way for sinners like us to keep the Law is to have the Law kept for us.

From "God With Us, Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Sermons" by David H. Petersen.  Page 22.

Worship at Life in Christ this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm & Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages take place at 9:20 am.

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, December 4, 2015

God could fix this mess

The New York tabloid headline screams out: "God Isn't Fixing This."  This in response to the last mass murder that took place earlier this week in California.

It almost seems accusatory - God's isn't fixing this situation and He is powerless to do so.  So, wise people that we are, we should take matter into our own hands.

It seems to me that the very problem is that society has taken matters into its own hands and has left God on the sidelines.

Our society want to do things its own way.  Society doesn't want God's help or direction.

This is society's attitude in spite of the fact that God is the author of life.

Jeremiah 1:5 - "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."

Psalm 139:16 - "Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."

God cares for His created beings.  All of us.  But God's compassion and care has been rejected by a society that acts as if it knows better.

I believe the slide began when abortion became a legal thing.

In that moment we said, "Life is just not that important anymore."

This was followed by physician assisted suicide.

And we said, "Life is just not that important anymore."

And if life isn't important, something to be valued, then doesn't it just stand to reason that some will think less and less about taking a life?

God could fix this mess we're in.  He's been changing the hearts and minds of people since creation.

But society doesn't really want God's help.

Still, what can we do but pray, "Lord, have mercy.  Lord, help us.  Lord, save us."

Come, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wisdom from CS Lewis

When you argue against Him (God) you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting of the branch you are sitting on.

From "Mere Christianity"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

God and sinners reconciled!

What a joy to watch the 50th anniversary of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" last night on ABC.  One television critic called the program one that "never gets old."  Perhaps it's a timeless program because it features a timeless message.

Yes, the message.  Charlie Brown wants to know what is the meaning of Christmas.  He can't believe Christmas is all about glitz and glitter, about the fake and the artificial.  It can't be about aluminum Christmas trees and prizes for the best decorated house (or dog house!), Charlie reasons.

Linus has the answer Charlie Brown is seeking.  And in a day and time in which the world seems determined to bury the answer, Linus proclaims it with all confidence.  "For born to you this day in the city of David is a Savior; He is Christ the Lord."

Following that good news message the program ends with Charlie and his friends singing, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."  Although I've sung the hymn more times than I can remember, this time around I was struck by the line, "God and sinners reconciled."

This is the reason for the birth of Bethlehem's child.  Sin separates people from God.  Since all people are sinners, all need to be reconciled to our Maker and Creator.  We needed to be reconciled to God. The problem - we can't do it ourselves.

Who is the person who works to help bring people back together? A counselor.  A counselor helps people work out their differences.

That's Jesus.  Remember Isaiah's prophecy in chapter nine?  "And He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Jesus reconciles a perfect God with perfectly imperfect sinners.  Our situation was hopeless.  Jesus brings hope.  Like Adam and Eve we were the cast-out ones.  Now we can approach God.  He calls us His own.  We belong to His kingdom.  All because of the forgiveness and new life that Jesus has worked for us.

I pray that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" goes on for another 50 years.  In a world filled with bad news this is one program that delivers the good news that we can use.  We are reconciled to God! Amen!