Saturday, December 24, 2016

Unto you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord!

It is the eternal power and divine eloquence of this simple yet tremendously important message which has perpetuated Christmas and which still electrifies the hearts of Christmas whenever the glad tidings are repeated. Unto you is born a Savior!

Unto you, you who were born in sin, you whose life is a record of transgression and iniquity and are therefore under the wrath of an offended God; unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, a Redeemer, an Emancipator, which is Christ the Lord, the promised Messiah, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us, the Mighty God!

Surely, no matter what our circumstances may be on this most holy day, we have every reason to lift our hearts in fervent prayer and say:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray
 Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell
 O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel

Herman W. Gockel, "Daily Walk with God," December 24 devotional

Friends, join us tonight for worship at Life in Christ.  The Family Service, featuring our Sunday School children, takes place at 5 pm.  The Candlelight Service, featuring music from our Choir, Bells, and other singers will be held at 7 pm and 9 pm.  Come and celebrate the birth of Jesus with us.

Finally, it's time for my annual Christmas Blog Vacation.  I'll be back next year, January 6th to be exact.  Have a blessed Christmas season!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Way in a Manger

(Can be sung to the tune, "Away in a Manger"

The Way in a manger, Christ Jesus His name
 Forgiveness He brought us, for sinners He came
 For He is the Way and the Truth and the Life
 And joy He will bring us amidst worldly strife

The Way in a manger, we give Him our praise
 For life so abundant, our voices we raise
 And heaven will be ours, by faith in the Way
 With joy let us live, for eternal our days

The Way in a manger, our lives let us give
 For born was this Child to die so we'll live
 Now lead us, dear Jesus, each step of the way
 Through life and through death near Your heart 
 we will stay

By Tim Wesemann, for "Seasons Under the Son" page 37

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The greatest sentence in the English language

Suppose you were to nominate "the greatest sentence in the English language." What words would you pick? A passage from Shakespeare? A line from your favorite poem? Or would you suggest a sentence like one of these:

You won!

Welcome home!

I love you!

If you thought more about it, you might choose the angel's words in Matthew 1:21:

...give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

He will save - rescue, deliver. The word includes so much. Primarily it speaks of release, freedom in Jesus, we receive freedom from the guilt of sin and freedom from slavery to sin. We need no long live in shame over who we are or over what we've said or done. We can lay that burden down, trusting that Jesus carried it to His cross where it was destroyed forever.

We need no longer slave for sin either. By the power of the new life at work in us through our Baptism, we can show the love we now want to show our Lord and the people around us.

Where does sin have you loaded down with guilt or trapped in slavery today? Talk to Jesus about it as you meditate on Matthew 1:21.

Jane Fryer, "Today's Light Bible," page 1327

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Morning Prayer

We wanted to give You this morning, Lord

 We wanted to give You this day

Thanks for the Son

 And His light in our hearts

There are so many things we need to say

As we look to a new day to spend with You

 It's exciting to think what it means

That You would choose us

 And use us

And call us Your own

 That You love us and give us a new song to sing

In order to give You the whole of the day

 We must give You this first special part

The sun as it rises reminds us of You

 A day without You is

Like a day in the dark

We wanted to give You this morning, Lord

 We wanted to give You this day

Michael Card, from "Come to the Cradle," page 24

Saturday, December 17, 2016

When is it appropriate to be a skeptic?

That's the question I'll deal with during Sunday worship at Life in Christ.  I hope you'll come and join us at either 8 or 11 am.  Or, if worshiping on Saturday suits your fancy, we have a 5 pm service today. Either way, join us as we light all four candles on our Advent wreath, signifying that we are getting ever close to celebrating the nativity of the Christ child.  Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, December 16, 2016

It is Christ who matters

Ponder your achievements less; ponder Christ's more.  Spend less time on your throne and more at His cross.  Brag on His work, not yours. You are valuable, but you aren't invaluable. It is Christ who matters, not us.

Max Lucado, "Because of Bethlehem," page 89

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

...let's embrace the time and place in which our God has put us.  Christians in this country have never been as valuable as we are right now, because in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, we are lift with the only answer that matters: Jesus.  He is our hope.

Rev. Zachary Zehender, from "It's not Starbucks Job to Tell People 'Merry Christman'."  The Lutheran Witness, page 17

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Does God care?

I know of only one way to answer the question, "Does God care?" and for me it has proved decisive: Jesus is the answer.  Jesus never attempted a philosophical answer to the problem of pain, yet He did give an existential answer.  Although I cannot learn from Him why a particular bad thing occurs. I can learn how God feels about it.  Jesus gives God a face. and that face is marked with tears.

We may not get the answer to the problem of pain that we want from Jesus.  We get instead the mysterious confirmation that God suffers with us.  We are not alone. Jesus bodily reconstructs trust in God. Because of Jesus, I can trust that God truly understands my condition.  I can trust that I matter to God, and that God cares, regardless of how things look at the time.  When I begin to doubt, I turn again to the face of Jesus, and there I see the compassionate love of a God well acquainted with grief.

Philip Yancey, "The Bible Jesus Read," pages 208-211

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Congrats Eric!

My son, Eric, pictured with his wife, Christina, has earned a Masters Degree in Non-Profit studies from Arizona State University.  Tonight, he'll walk across the stage and receive his degree.  My dear, sweet wife and I are so proud of him.  He's a husband, father, and holds down an important development position with the ASU college of nursing.  It took three years of hard work, one class at a time, and he completed his degree with a 4.0 GPA.  Way to go, Eric!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Worship opportunities this weekend

This weekend we light the "joy" candle on our Advent wreath.  We invite you to worship with us on:

Saturday at 5 pm or Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  I'll be preaching at all three services and the title of my message is "There's Only Jesus."

Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, December 9, 2016

A reflection on Revelation 3:20

From the pen of Joni Eareckson Tada...

I love the painting of Jesus standing at a door with a lamp in one hand and gently knocking with the other. When you look closely, you see there is no doorknob.  The suggestion is that the door can only be opened from the inside, placing the responsibility of salvation on the person behind the door. It's a lovely painting inspired by Revelation 3:20 (which is actually an invitation of fellowship to believers, not an invitation of salvation to unbelievers).

The true picture of salvation is that we are utterly dead in our sin. We are spiritually deaf and cannot even hear Jesus knocking. A more accurate picture might be Jesus rapping on the door, climbing over it, and then placing our lifeless hand on the inside doorknob! Jesus is the One who gives us faith to believe (Romans 12:3). He unplugs our ears, opens our eyes, touches our hearts, illumines our thinking, and places within us the saving faith to say, "I believe!"

"Pearls of Great Price," December 18 devotional

Thursday, December 8, 2016

This is the mercy of God

This is the mercy of God.  

He does not abandon you, period.

You are His child...and nothing can change that.

Todd Peperkorn, "I Trust When Dark My Road," page 78

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today's Underlined Bible Verse

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 32:7

Monday, December 5, 2016

Understanding God?

If we could understand Him, He would no longer be God.

Bo Giertz, "Treasury Of Daily Prayer," page 417

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Moving through Advent

This weekend two purple candles will be lit on our Advent wreath as we continue on in this season of repentance and faith, preparation and anticipation.  Deacon Jerry Klink preaches tonight at our 5 pm service and I'll be preaching at our 8 and 11 am services.  Also, we'll continue with the study, "Because of Bethlehem," at our adult Bible class which meets at 9:30 in the morning.  Stop by, check out our new Christian Life Center, and stay for worship and Bible study.  Have a great day!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The answer to suffering

Dr. Peter Kreeft, taken from "The Case for Christ Study Bible," page 1618.

The answer to suffering is not an answer at all, for no simple answer can tell you what you need to know.  The hope is in the Answerer.  It's Jesus Himself. It's not a bunch of words; it's the Word. It's not a tightly woven philosophical argument; it's a person.  The person.  The answer to suffering cannot just be an abstract idea, because suffering isn't an abstract issue; it's a personal issue. It requires a personal response.  The answer must be someone, not just something, because the issue involves someone - God, where are you?

Jesus is there, sitting beside us in the lowest places of our lives.  Are we broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are we despised? He was despised and rejected of men.  Do we cry out that we can't take it anymore? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Do people betray us? He was sold out Himself. Are our most tender relationships broken? He too loved and was rejected. Do people turn from us? They hid their faces from Him as from a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. 

From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote: "No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still." He not only rose from the dead, He changed the meaning of death and therefore the meaning of all the little deaths - the sufferings that anticipate death and make up parts of it. He is gassed in Auschwitz. He is sneered at in Soweto. He is mocked in Northern Ireland. He is enslaved in the Sudan. He's the one we love to hate, yet to us He has chosen to return love. Every tear we shed becomes His tear. He may not wipe them away yet, but He will.

On 1 John 1:8-9

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

Oh, the sweet certainty of these words.  "He will cleanse us." Not he might, could, would or has been known to.  He will cleanse you.  Tell God what you did.  Again, it's not that He doesn't already know, but the two of you need to agree (my emphasis).  Spend as much time as you need.  Share all the details you can.  Then let the pure water of grace flow over your mistakes.

Max Lucado, "God is With You Every Day," November 30 devotional

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On Galatians 5:25

To walk in the Spirit means to move upon one's way to heaven, to grow in faith, to abound yet more and more in love, to do those things that the Spirit urges us to do.

Daily Bread, 1926 devotional

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What are blessings?

No matter how much we might be tempted to read into Holy Scripture, blessings are not a reflection of how well we are doing in this life.  Blessings are not about us; rather, blessings are about God who gives them.  Blessings are exactly what King David asked for: a sign of God's merciful favor.

Mary J. Moerbe, "Blessed - God's Gift of Love," page 18

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Fountain Overflowing

keep me from being
a masochist
or a martyr
demonstrating my distress
parading my pain
proud of my patience
before others
Let me rather be
poured out
spilled over
a fountain overflowing
the Christ in me
that others may see
and not myself
All glory 
be to You
O Lord

1 John 2:6     2 Corinthians 4:8-11

From "Prayers for People Under Pressure" by Donald L Deffner, page 47

Monday, November 28, 2016

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Jesus, thou art all compassion
 Pure unbounded love thou art
Visit is with thy salvation
 Enter every trembling heart

from verse one (b)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's a new church year!

That's right, the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new church year.  We'll spend this next four weeks "adventing" that is, preparing to celebrate Christ's first arrival in Bethlehem while looking forward to His second arrival on Judgment Day.

I'll be preaching at both the Saturday and Sunday services on the theme, "Expect the Unexpected." Join us this afternoon at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8 and 11 am.  Hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Have you heard the one about the dog and the pilot?

"What's going to be in the cockpit of the future?"

"A dog and a pilot."

"A dog? Why a dog?"

"Well, the dog is there to keep the pilot from touching anything."

"Ummm...why have the pilot then?"

"Well, someone has to feed the dog!"

Thursday, November 24, 2016

God Grant Us Gratitude

God grant that we follow His Word to praise and thank our dear Lord for His precious blood, which He so freely offered for us.  And may God keep us from the terrible vice of ingratitude and the forgetfulness of His blessings.  Amen.

From "Luther's Works"

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughts from a fearless leader

Do I want to be feared or loved? Um...easy, both.  I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

Michael Scott from "The Office"

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sit still!

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away your ticket.  You sit still and trust the engineer.  Corrie ten Boom

Going through a dark time in your life? Sit still and trust God.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Today's underlined Bible verse

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 32:7 - NIV

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Last Sunday of the Church Year

Yes, that's right - next Sunday marks the beginning of Advent and the start of a new church year.  So, join us for worship.  The Saturday service begins at 5 pm and features music from the Kevin Svec group.  Tomorrow I'll be preaching at both services - 8 and 11 am - and leading a new Bible class, "Because of Bethlehem," which starts at 9:30 in the morning.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Abide with me

Abide with me, abide with me

 Don't let me fall and don't let go

Walk with me and never leave

 Ever close, God abide with me

Oh, love that will not ever let me go

 Love that will not ever let me go

You never let me go

 Love that will not ever let me go

And up ahead, eternity

 Weep no more, sing for joy


Thank you, Matt Maher, and others, for a song of comfort and hope.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Can't live without hope

It's been said that a person can live 40 days without food, five days without water, four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope.

John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan, "Becoming a Person of Influence," (page not noted)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Charlie Brown Philosophy

I have developed a new philosophy - I only dread one day at a time.

Quoted in "Homiletics" Magazine

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

From Christmas to Easter

During my struggle
O God
grant that I may
go to Bethlehem
and there enfold
my Savior
in the manger
of my faith
During my struggle
O God
grant that I may
go to dark Gethsemane
and Calvary's mournful
mountain climb
and share in 
His sufferings 
for my transgressions
During my struggle
O God
grant that I may 
go to the garden
see the empty tomb
and through faith
in my resurrected
and ascended Lord
rise above
my passing trial
and at last
win the victory
through Christ
my Lord

From "Prayers for People Under Pressure," page 38

Monday, November 14, 2016

Psalm 94:19

When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

St. Cyprian says "go to church"

He  can no longer have God for his father who has not the church for his mother;...he who gathers elsewhere than in the church scatters the church of Christ.

So, join us at church this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  See you then!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Life coaching from Luther

Seek yourself only in Christ and not in yourself and you will find yourself in Him eternally.

Martin Luther, "Luther's Works," Vol. 42, page 106

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Faith does not go on vacation

For faith does not rest and declare a holiday; it bursts into action, speaks and preaches of this promise and grace of God, so that other people may also come up and partake of it.

Martin Luther, "Luther's Works," Vol. 15, page 273

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

  How long will You hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

  How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in heath;

  my enemy will say, "I have over come him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall."

But I trust in Your unfailing love;

  my heart rejoices in Your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

  for He has been good to me.


Monday, November 7, 2016

I must tell Jesus!

Once when I was talking on the phone with a Christian woman who was in the last stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, I found myself groping for words to comfort her.  Finally I realized the best thing I could offer was simply the comfort of Jesus, so I sang for her a favorite hymn:

I must tell Jesus all my trials
  I cannot bear these burdens alone
In my distress He kindly will help me
  He ever loves and cares for His own
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
  I cannot bear my burdens alone
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
  Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

The problem of suffering is not about some thing but Someone.  It follows that the answer must not be some thing but Someone.  Besides, answers are for the head.  They don't always reach the problem where it hurts - in the gut and in the heart. Jesus reaches us where we hurt.

If someone is struggling through a disease or a divorce or the death of a loved one, point them to the Savior, whether through your testimony, your words of encouragement, a shared memory, a poem, a Scripture passage or a hymn.  The answer to our deepest longings when we hurt is...Jesus.

Joni Eareckson Tada, "More Precious Than Silver," November 11 devotional reading

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I trust when dark my road

In God, my faithful God, I trust when dark my road
Great woes may over take me, Yet He will not forsake me
My troubles He can alter; His hand lets nothing falter

My sins fill me with care, Yet I will not despair
I build on Christ who loves me; From this rock nothing moves me
To Him I will surrender, To Him, my soul's defender

If death my portion be, It brings great gain to me
It speeds my life's endeavor, To live with Christ forever
He gives me joy in sorrow, Come death now or tomorrow

O Jesus Christ, my Lord, So meek in word and deed
You suffered death to save us, Because Your love would have us
Be heirs of heavenly gladness, When ends this life of sadness

"So be it," then I say, With all my heart each day
Dear Lord, we all adore You, We sing for joy before You
Guide us while here we wander, Until we praise You yonder

Join us this weekend for worship at Life in Christ.  Saturday worship at 5 pm; Sunday worship at 8 and 11 am.  I'll be preaching and Holy Communion is celebrated at the early service.  Hope to see you!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Connected to Christ

Because Christ is the head of the church and we are His body, what happens to Him is what happens to us.

Scott Murray, "Memorial Moment," 4/24/13

Thursday, November 3, 2016

What makes for a good prayer?

God's Word and promise makes your prayer good, not your devotion.

Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther's Catechism - Lord's Prayer, page 15

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How do you want to meet God?

Whoever refuses to meet God as the Savior had better get ready to meet Him as judge.

John Jeske, "From Sinai to Calvary," page 153

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What we really need

We all need God above us and others beside us.

Pastor Frank Starr

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Law never satisfies

Woe to Christian preachers if they have nothing to preach but the Law. Their hearers will become hungry by it, but not satisfied.

CFW Walther, "God Grant It," page 678

Saturday, October 29, 2016

This weekend...

This morning - ALS Walk with Team Mary at Scottsdale Stadium, activities begin at 8 am.

This afternoon - Saturday worship at 5 pm.

Tomorrow morning - Sunday worship at 8 and 11 am, observance of the Reformation.

Join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, October 28, 2016

You'll Get Through This

You'll get through this.

It won't be painless.

It won't be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don't be foolish or naïve.

But don't despair either.

With God's help, you'll get through this.

Max Lucado

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Listen to the text

Whenever an awestruck student would ask Dr. (William) Lane how he approached Scripture, he would answer, "I listen to the text."

Michael Card, "The Walk," page 69

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Where the devil likes to fish

Satan loves to fish in the troubled waters of a discontented heart.

Thomas Watson

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What do you think? Will this prediction come true?

I predict that (the Bible) will in the future be read, as it always has been read, almost exclusively by Christians.

CS Lewis

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Has it been a crazy, hectic week.  Looking for a place to relax? You could hang out at Lake Pleasant. You could visit a library.  You could participate in a yoga class.

Or, you could join us for worship this weekend.

Visit us on Saturday at 5 pm or Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  Hear the good news about Jesus' love for the world.  Rejoice in the forgiveness of sins.  Listen as God speaks His Word of comfort and hope for you. Leave refreshed and ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of another week.

Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Funny Tees!

My dear, sweet wife received something called "Catalog Favorites" in the mail earlier this week. It included a variety of different items but what caught our eye was the t-shirts.  Some of the sayings were laugh-out-loud funny.  Here's a sample:

Nurses - We Can't Fix Stupid But We Can Sedate It!

Wait! I do not snore! I dream I'm a motorcycle!

Exercise? I Thought You Said EXTRA FRIES!

Sometimes When I Open My Mouth My Mother Comes Out...

Every Time I Think Things Can't Get Worse THERE'S AN ELECTION

NOVINOPHOBIA: The fear of running out of wine

Sometimes I laugh so hard tears run down my leg

Never Laugh At Your Wife's Choices - You Are One Of Them

I Just Did A Week's Worth Of Cardio After Walking Into A Spider Web

And my favorite...

You're Never Too Old For NAP TIME!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Debts - paid in full!

This comes from a devotional book we found in my Mom's home while we were cleaning up after she fell asleep in Jesus.  The book is in my office and I believe was published in the early 20th century (although I don't remember the exact date).

Is there anything more precious and joyous than to know that debts which would have rendered us forever unhappy have been paid? In the payment of these awful debts consist the great glory of God's kingdom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Before and after

(Jesus) appeared common and ordinary.  But ordinary He was not.  He lived before His incarnation, before heaven and earth, before plants, animals and mankind.  He is curator of all things, the Second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God.  Jesus is after Adam but Adam's maker, after David but David's Lord, after Mary but Mary's Savior, after John but John's predecessor.  He is before all things and will remain after all things pass away.

Gere Pool, "Portals of Prayer," Jan-March 2014, 2/11/14

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

He would know!

"Wherever two or three (Christians) are gathered together, problems develop.

Eugene Peterson, "The Contemplative Pastor" page 63

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Worship this weekend at Life in Christ

This Saturday at 5 pm.

This Sunday at 8 and 11 am.

Sunday school and adult Bible class at 9:30 am.

My Sunday sermon title is "No Time to Give Up."

God bless your weekend!

Friday, October 14, 2016

How does it go? Let go and let God?

Pray, and let God take care of you.

Martin Luther, "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 1035

Thursday, October 13, 2016

God's Autobiography

Reread Exodus 34:6-7.  In 50 words or less, this is God's "autobiography;" these are things for which He will be remembered forever.

Jane Fryer, "Today's Light Bible," page 132

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Search the Scriptures!

Search the Scriptures like a miner digging for gold.  Once you find a nugget, grasp it.  Trust it.  Take it to the bank.  There is no greater treasure.

Max Lucado, "God is With You Every Day," October 6

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seek yourself only in Christ

In the "Today's Light Bible," Jane Fryer writes, "How do you see your God today? Is He the 'God who is strong enough' to help in all times of need? And do you see yourself as the 'royal priesthood?' He has declared you to be in Christ?"

Seek yourself only in Christ and not in yourself and you find yourself in Him eternally.

Martin Luther, "Luther's Works" - Vol. 42, page 106

Monday, October 10, 2016

Through the Word...

Through the Word, then, the individual is brought into a personal and saving relationship with Christ; through the Word he is brought into personal union with Christ; through the Word he is built up and more and more perfected in Christ; and through the Word the whole body of believers, the church, is gathered, edified, and kept unto the end.

"The Lutheran Pastor," page 24

Friday, October 7, 2016

Mark Twain wisdom

The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose, but the fly comes close!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Walther's Task

CFW Walther was the first president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, first president of Concordia Seminary and a parish pastor to boot! His book, "Law and Gospel" is a classic and one of the first books read by every seminarian.

"Law and Gospel" is comprised of a series of lectures.  Right at the outset, Walther shares his goal with his students:

I wish to talk the Christian doctrine into your very hearts...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The in-between time

Sorry, but I did not note where I found the following...

You live in the in-between time, waiting for the completion, for Easter promise and beginning to come full.  Now you suffer.  Your loved ones die.  Your pets die.  Your plants die.  Cars rust.  Paint chips. Wood rots.  All things are coming undone.  And we carry too many biers out to the cemetery.  But Jesus died, and Jesus lives, and Jesus loves you and will bring you home.  Your day will come...Your children will not be taken from you forever.  Your sorrow will end.  Because our judgment is coming, but Jesus lives.

David Petersen

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fit for prayer?

"Struggling in the midst of conflict or of temptation, therefore, we ought to resist Satan with trust in the Intercessor and say: 'If I am a sinner,' what then? God is merciful.  If I am unfit for prayer because of my sins, well and good.  I do not want to become more fit.  For, woe is me.  I am more than fit for prayer,  because I am an exceedingly great sinner.

Martin Luther
from Scott Murray's "Memorial Moment"

Friday, September 30, 2016

Another Friday Funny

An oldie but a goldie...

An elderly woman was weeping as she bade good-bye to the man who had been pastor of her church for several years.

"My dear lady," consoled the departing pastor, "don't get so upset.  The bishop surely will send a much better pastor to replace me here."

Through her sobs the woman wailed, "That's what they said the last time!"

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pastors, take note!

A good sermon may be long, but rarely is a long sermon good.

Ryan Hugeley

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Don't go for all the gusto you can get

We do not try to get everything we can out of this life, lest we forfeit our eternal inheritance to transient gains and pleasures.

Carelton Toppe, "The People's Bible - 1st Corinthians," page 72

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The theology of the cross

By about 1515 (Luther) had evolved the essential outlines of his theology.  He termed it "a theology of the cross."  For only at the cross of Christ do we experience God in a manner that stands the test of reality.  God must send us into darkness and into trials and temptations to free us of ourselves and to prepare us for the reception of His grace, which faith, contrary to all expectations, finds solely at the cross.

"Luther's World of Thought"
Heinrich Bornkamm, pages 3-4

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What I'm Reading

I am just about to finish "The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert" by Rosaria Butterfield.  She is the former college professor who was loved to Christ Jesus by a pastor and his wife.  Butterfield was involved in a lesbian relationship at the time and was highly distrustful of evangelical Christians.  She was simply encouraged to read the Bible and in it she found a God that could be trusted and who loved her through Jesus.  Butterfield has married and is the mother of four adopted children.  This is a "can't put it down" kind of book.  She provides a blue-print for the church on how to witness Christ to those in same-sex relationships.  Definitely worth the time to read.

I received "Because of Bethlehem," the latest from Max Lucado, for my birthday so I'll tackle that one next.  I'm also working through Stephen King's "11-22-63."  It is a book about traveling back in time and is quite fascinating.  I must be one of the few people in America that has not read a book by King but I was hooked by this book within just a few pages.  The book runs over 1000 pages so I'll be at it awhile.  But I think it will be worth the time.

This is the last weekend of our current worship schedule.  Saturday service, as usual, takes place at 5 pm.  Sunday services at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible classes for all ages at 9:20 am.  Some parts of the schedule will change next week but we won't concern ourselves with that until next week.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another Friday Funny

It was the new pastor's first Sunday at the church.  While greeting people as they left the service most were very complimentary of his sermon.  But then one man walked up to the new pastor and said, "That was a very dull and boring sermon, Pastor."

The pastor continued to greet worshipers but a minute later the same man appeared in line.  He said, "Pastor, I don't think you did any preparation for your message."

A minute or so later the man walked up to the pastor and told him, "Pastor, you really blew it.  You didn't have a thing to say."

Finally, the pastor could stand it no longer.  He called over one of the elders of the church and asked about this very critical man.

The elder replied, "Oh, don't let that guy bother you.  That's not what he really thinks.  All he does is go around repeating whatever he hears other people say!"

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why is prayer so hard?

Yet, when you understand what God says in His Word, begin to live according to it, and teach it to others, then you'll face many temptations and frequent opposition.  Your corrupt human nature is an enemy of prayer. It quickly becomes bored, careless, and indifferent to what God says and the good life He gives.  For this reason, you will never have as much wisdom, knowledge of God's Word, faith, love, or patience as you should.  Every day your corrupt nature hangs around your neck and drags you away from prayer.  The world is also an enemy of prayer.  It's so envious that you have faith and God's precious Word that it refuses to put up with any of it, no matter how weak you may be.  The world condemns you, tries to take away what you have, and gives you no peace.

These are the two enemies of prayer: our corrupt nature and the world.  On the inside, they try to decrease our desire to pray, and on the outside, they try to chase us away from prayer.  All we can do is to continue crying out to God.  We should pray for strength and better understanding of His Word.

Martin Luther, "By Faith Alone," September 21

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

They are God's gifts

Well, life goes on, even when you turn 64! I have been greatly blessed by so many who remembered my birthday yesterday with a card or gift or phone call or even a Facebook post! This outpouring of respect and affection reminded me of something I'd written down in my journal:

I walk through life together with others, and those others are people whom Christ has placed in my life.  They are His gifts.

Bruce Hartung, "Holding Up the Prophet's Hand," page 154

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When I'm 64

I first heard that famous Beatles song in the summer of 1967.  My dad drove me to a record store in downtown Tucson so I could purchase "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."  I remember listening through the album and feeling totally amazed.  In four years the Beatles had traveled eons musically.  Songs about Sgt. Pepper and Lucy and Rita played over and over again in my head.  What had been started on Revolver had continued on the new release - voices altered, tapes played backward, songs built around a single chord.  Remember the moment when the Wizard of Oz switches from black and white to color? That what listening to Sgt. Pepper felt like.  The palette of colors was like nothing I'd ever seen or heard or felt.

"When I'm 64" would normally seem out of place on a pop music record.  Except that is fit perfectly on Pepper.  It's placed in the perfect spot on the album, following "Within You, Without You."  As the story goes, Paul McCartney wrote the tune when he was a teenager.  The words came later and captured perfectly the lament of those who have reached a certain age.  "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" That's how it is as we age.  Will our wisdom be wanted? Will our experience, earned through the mistakes and missteps we've made and taken, be worth anything for those we love and care for? When I listened to Pepper, over and over and over again in the summer of '67, I couldn't have imagined what life would be like for me when I reached the ripe old age of 64.

How could I have known that a year later my family would move from Tucson to Mesa? Or that I would meet my future wife, the beautiful Sherri Landis? How could I have known that our journeys would take us from Mesa to St. Louis to Hilton Head Island, SC and back to the Valley of the Sun. Or that I would realize both of my career aspirations - to work in radio broadcasting and to work in the church.  How could I have known that Sherri and I would be blessed with three wonderful children and six grandchildren?  Or that Sherri's nursing career would lead her to touch lives with compassionate care to teaching future nurses how to offer compassionate care? How could I have known that God would bless me with the opportunity to serve such a wonderful group of people at Life in Christ?

Since the Beatles have provided the musical soundtrack to my life, it is only fitting, I guess, that this weekend has been all about the Fab Four.  Friday, the film, "Eight Days a Week" was given its premiere in London.  Paul and Ringo Starr were there.  The next day the film was released in the States and on Hulu, a video streaming service.

Sherri and I saw the film last night.  We were not disappointed.  Although most of the audience were baby boomers, there were some younger folks there too which made me happy.  Ron Howard's decision to focus on the touring years was pivotal.  While the story of Beatlemania has been told many, many times, Howard brings you as close to the mania as you can get.  One can really see how the exuberance of touring in 1963-64 had completely lost its luster in 65-66.  When the Beatles had completed their last concert in San Francisco, they were all ready to put that part of their career behind them.

I loved the film and really enjoyed watching the Shea Stadium concert footage that followed "Eight Days a Week."  It is often mentioned that John Lennon kind of freaked out during that show.  His manic playing of the organ on "I'm Down" was wild! And yet, McCartney seems almost hyper during the entire performance.  One can see the absolute joy McCartney receives while performing live. It's one of the reasons that at 74 he's still performing - he loves it!

This weekend our little group played at both the Saturday and Sunday services.  The group - Dan, Connie, Ron and Pete surprised me at the end of the services by singing "Birthday" and "When I'm 64," albeit with revised lyrics, courtesy of Dan.  Totally unexpected and gratefully received!

I've got some running around to do today so I think I'm going to grab the Sgt. Pepper cd and give it a play or two.  If you see some guy driving around and seemingly singing at the top of his lungs, it's probably me.  Don't worry - it's something you get to do when you're 64!  

Saturday, September 17, 2016


You might recognize the number - 24601 - as being that of the prisoner Jean Valjean from the play, Les Miserables.  Last night, my dear, sweet wife and I saw the student version of the play at Theater Works of Peoria.  We love the play having seen it the first time on the stage in London in 2004.  But our main reason for attending last night was to see one of our young LICL members, Jack Miller.

Jack is in 11th grade at Centennial High School.  He was bit with the acting bug a couple of years ago and had participated in a couple of school plays.  In Les Miz he was part of the ensemble cast and he did an outstanding job.

In some ways it must be fun to be part of the ensemble.  Throughout the two and a half hours Jack played a variety of characters and had a number of costume changes.  He seemed quite at ease on the stage.  I can see him doing more work and honing his craft.  Bravo, Jack, for a job well done!

Join us this weekend for worship.  My little group will provide the music for both the 5 pm Saturday service and both services on Sunday (8 am and 10:45 am).  I'll also preach on Sunday - my sermon title, "Let It Fly."  Come and join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Friday Funny has gone to the dogs!

Did you hear the one about...

One Sunday a pastor delivered a very short sermon.  He explained to the congregation, "My dog got into my office and chewed up my manuscript."

After the service, as the pastor was greeting worshipers a visitor asked, "Say, if your dog ever has puppies, please let my pastor have one of them."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What about this being born again?

Birth is something that happens to me.  I was not born the first time because I wanted to but because my parents wanted me.  I was born the second time not because I wanted to but because God wanted me.  Thank God for His grace in making me be born twice.

Richard E. Lauersdorf
"Together with Jesus" - November 11 devotional

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Who builds the church?

Just so we are clear about this...

It is not we who build.  (Christ) builds the church.  No man builds the church but Christ alone.

We must confess - He builds.  We must proclaim - He builds.  We must pray to Him - He builds.

Church - stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from His grace alone can you live as you are.  Christ builds.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 841

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

They want me???

A couple of weeks ago I'm going though my email when I find something from Victory Church UK. The church is located in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, UK (never heard of it). "Why is anyone from the UK contacting me," I wondered. Except for spending a week with the pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England I know no one "across the pond."  So I read on.

"We are writing to invite you to be our guest speaker at our upcoming conference tagged "PASSION CONFERENCE" coming up from the 4th through 6th of Nov 2016."


In the ocean of Christian church throughout the world, I am the smallest minnow you can find.  I doubt that only a handful of local pastors in the LCMS know who I am.  I doubt that my name would draw confused looks were it to be mentioned at our Synodical headquarters in St. Louis.  Really, I'm not on anyone's radar.

So I reread the email from Victory Church and I'm wondering, "Is this some kind of joke?"

It was worse, much worse.  It was a scam.

I did a little investigating and discovered that I was not the only pastor to receive such an email from the Victory Church.  One pastor, who also has a speaking ministry, explained that once the Victory Church has convinced you that they want you to come and speak they make a request for money. Specifically, they ask that you send them funds to cover obtaining a work permit.  The pastor sent the necessary funds.  Then a second email was sent, this time informing the pastor that a "bond" of $2500 pounds was need, fully refundable.  All totaled, the pastor has shelled out $4500 American dollars to the Victory Church.

And he got nothing for the money he sent.  No conference.  No nothing.

I guess that if the church can get you to go along with their scam, they must consider it a victory!

By the time I finished my research, I hit the "delete" button and dispatched the email from the Victory Church to the neather reaches of my computer.  I'm glad I didn't fall for this scam.  I've got better places to invest my money.

Like the Samsung Galaxy smart phone.  I hear you can buy that stock cheap right now.  Better look into it!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Mouse Trap

My dear, sweet wife and I love to go to the theater.  We can't think of a better date night by eating at a favorite restaurant, followed by seeing a show. doesn't matter as long as it is entertaining and fun.

Last night we ate at 49 Grill, located at the renovated hotel just off the 17 and Camelback Road.  It was purchased and redone by Grand Canyon University, part of the make over the University is doing in the neighborhood.  If you've not traveled that vicinity for a while, do it soon.  The construction that is taking place at GCU is nothing short of amazing.  The neighbors and Phoenix political leaders all give kudos to CEO Brian Mueller and the University about all they've done to improve the quality of life in had been a rundown and neglected area.

49 Grill had a nice menu of basically what I would call "pub food."  We each tried the tacos - the shrimp tacos were delicious; chicken was dry; the pork was spicy and quite tasty.  The restaurant was dominated by students and there was quite a fun atmosphere going on.  We enjoyed it very much.

"The Mouse Trap" is an Agatha Christy who-done-it which featured an outstanding cast.  The set and costuming was well done and the student actors seemed to have great fun with their parts.  Easily one of the best presentations we've seen at GCU.

We do have worship this weekend - Saturday ant 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  I'll be preaching on the theme, "The Welcoming Church." Come and join us this weekend!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Everything is Possible

The cover of the book first captures your attention.  You see an attractive young woman doing a handstand.  Looks good and then...where are her legs?  Her legs seem to have been airbrushed out of the picture.

But they haven't.  Jen Bricker was born without legs.  "Everything is Possible,"  co-written by Sheryl Berk and published by Baker Books, is the amazing story of how Bricker overcame her handicap to lead a full and fruitful life as an gymnast, aerialist, model and motivational speaker.  Read this book and you'll certainly think twice about sending out "pity party" invitations the next time you're feeling a little down or discouraged.

Like most healthy people I often take my body for granted.  I use my legs without even thinking about them.  Bricker has not let the loss of her legs from living life to the fullest.  Her adoptive parents lovingly encouraged her to try everything.  She found joy on the trampoline. She was a natural as a gymnast (more about that in a moment).  And she has found great success as an aerialist, performing in the Brittany Spears' "Circus" tour in 2009.

Bricker was put up for adoption just minutes after her birth. Her search to learn more about her natural parents led her to make an amazing discovery.  Her sister was Dominique Moceanu, the great Olympic gymnast.  Bricker also met her natural mother who, she discovered, had lived with much guilt and shame in the years following Bricker's birth. Their new relationship is one that continues to grow even to this day.

At times the book reads like one of Bricker's motivational speeches.  There is a sense of "you can do anything if you just put your mind to it and believe it."  While that attitude has worked for Bricker, life simply isn't that easy.  Still, one can't help admire how Bricker has not let her handicap keep her from living a full and inspiring life.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Now where did I put my crystal ball?

I need it - now! Michele and I have jumped back into the football pool!

How's the water? I'll let you know at the end of the year! I've lost track of the number of years that I've been Michele's football picks expert.  The only thing I've proven up to this point is that I'm no expert!

We've had some success.  I'm pretty sure that we've won at least once each year.  We've had a few years where we've done better than that.  It makes me happy when Michele has bragging rights at work.  "Lord it over them," I say to Michele.

At first I think Michele got some flack from her co-workers.  "Your pastor is making your picks? That's not fair! God will grant him favor over the rest of us."  The years have shown that God isn't playing any favorites in this pool.  I haven't received a divine revelation on how to pick a troubling game.  It would help but apparently God has more important matters on His mind.

Nor have I developed a special system for making the picks.  I used to study like mad the records of each team, including their home and away records.  I went through the paper every day trying to pick up on injuries regarding key players.  I searched the internet for the picks of those who lived, ate and slept football.  You'd think that all that work would have resulted in weekly success.  Instead, it just caused weekly frustration after someone else won that week's pool.

If there is any one factor that I pay attention to it is this - which team is the home team.  I read a book a few years ago called "Scorecasting," that detailed how the home field does provide a distinct advantage, and not just in football but in most sports.  So if two teams seems to be evenly matched, I look to see who is hosting the game and go from there.

Wow! I wonder if I should have shared my secret?

Anyway, it's time for me to send my picks to Michele.  We've got a Thursday night game, a rematch between Carolina and Denver.  Will Denver prevail again or will Carolina exact a measure of revenge after last year's Super Bowl loss.  I don't really know so if you have any ideas email them to

Have your suggestions to me by noon.  Happy picking!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dealing with conflict

The great Michael Card wrote a book entitled, "The Walk."  It was patterned after "Tuesdays with Morie" and focused on his relationship with his mentor, Dr. William Lane.  Card describes how his friendship with Lane began and the impact that this pastor and professor of theology had on Card. I made numerous notes in my journal regarding the things said by Lane and I really appreciated this quote:

It makes an e-e-enormous amount of difference if you face conflict in your own strength - or if you face it with Jesus.

Whatever you face this day, do it with Jesus at your side.  Treasure His Word.  Reflect on what He has taught you.  Pray at the first sign of stress or trouble.

The Lord is with you.  Count on Him to be your help and guide.  Don't fight.  Don't flee.  Trust Jesus.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What is the Church?

A week or so ago a new issue of the "British Lutheran" landed in my mail box.  The magazine is kind of like our "Lutheran Witness" magazine, and published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England.  In the summer five years ago I spent a week with the pastors of the ELCE for their summer study get together.  The pastors talked about the joys and challenges of doing church in a country where so many people see no need to be received by the God who created them and loved them so much He gave His Son, Christ Jesus, to be their Savior.  I came away with a feeling of thanksgiving for their faithfulness in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus in spite of so many turning a deaf ear to their witness.

Rev. Jon Elhers is the Chairman of the ELCE.  He writes an article in each edition of the "British Lutheran."  In this most recent edition he wrote about the importance of regular attendance at worship and he concluded his article with some thoughts about what the church actually is:

But the church IS the place where each week God's Word is read and proclaimed.  The Church IS the place where absolution is pronounced over us assuring us that God, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior, has forgiven us our damnable sin.  The Church IS the place where Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion to forgive us, unite us, and strengthen us.  The Church IS the place where God gives to us His gifts of life, salvation, and forgiveness, so why would we want to separate ourselves from the Church?

Yes, why would we, indeed!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

God's good idea

Long before their was a holiday like Labor Day, God designed a non-Labor Day for all people.  It was the Sabbath Day, a day of rest from labor, a day to worship and give thanks to God for His creation and life and all good things.

Join us this weekend as we worship the Lord.  Saturday service is held at 5 pm and Sunday services take place at 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school and Bible classes meet at 9:20 am.

Be sure to include worship in your Labor Day activities.  Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, September 2, 2016

The ball broke what?

Today's Friday Funny is taken from the pages of Sports Illustrated.  These are not funny stories but they are things that made me laugh.  Hopefully, you'll get a chuckle as well.

First, how was it that Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte, "over exaggerated" (his words) the story he told about being held up at gun point during a night on the town in Rio.  How did he put it? "It was hours later, so I was still intoxicated."  That explanation didn't hold up under scrutiny and has cost Lochte his reputation and many endorsement deals.  Not so much funny as just plain sad.

And then this: Sign Of The Apocalypse - Brandon Thomas, an outfielder for the independent Gateway Grizzlies, hit a grand slam during at 17-6 win over the Joliet Slammers on August 21, only to discover that the ball broke the windshield of his truck!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How do good works work?

Martin Luther, in his Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, explains it all....

It is a living, busy, working, weighty thing, so that it is impossible that it should not always do some good.  It does not ask whether good works will have to be done; but before the question is put, it has done them and is continually doing them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One clever way to display the coins

A few weeks ago one of our members, Christy, stopped by the office with something she wanted me to see.  Over the summer our Encouragement Team had commemorative coins made for interested members.  One side of the coin had our LICL logo (heart/flame/cross) and the other side was the artist rendering of our new, expanded facility.

Christy took her coins and a small drawing of the new facility to a place like Hobby Lobby and had the picture and coins framed.  My picture (above) really doesn't do this little piece of artwork justice. Christy told me that she paid more money than she wanted to (custom framing is expensive!) but she felt it was worth having something that would "remind her of her church and it's efforts to serve its members and reach our community."

As Christy left I thought, "Couldn't have said it better myself!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My buddy, Howie

I remember the first time I met Howie.  My youngest daughter, Katie, and her husband, Josh, had been thinking about getting a dog.  Katie wanted to get a rescue dog and located a shelter to visit. While working at church one afternoon I got a call from Katie.  She wanted to know if I'd like to meet the new addition to her family. How could I say no?

The dog was filthy and very afraid, shaking.  I wondered if it had been abused in some way.  We asked Katie what kind of breed the dog was.  She said the shelter thought he had some chow in him. Connie speculated that there might be some terrier in the mix.  I asked, "Do you have a name?" Katie did.  "His name is Howie."

Every Sunday after church the family would gather at our house for dinner.  Howie came along.  He soon became very comfortable around our house.  We were comfortable with him, all of us except our cat, Hope.  Hope was not crazy about other animals taking up residence on her property.  But after awhile even Hope learned to tolerate Howie.

When the Cardinals played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, like most Americans, we had a party.  The game was nerve-wracking and to break the tension, I decided to teach Howie how to sit up. What dog doesn't sit up? Every time Howie made a good effort he got a dog bone.  By the third quarter he was sitting up like a champion.  Straight back.  Paw out to shake hands.  He ate most of the bowl of dog treats that day.  The Cardinals lost but Howie won!

Two years ago my daughter's family moved to Wisconsin.  I miss them all - including Howie.  So visiting there on vacation is a real treat.  Howie and I go for long walks.  He can count on me for a dog treat (or three!).  The picture above is one of my favorites.  Howie seems really pleased to see me again.

I know I was.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Remembering Joyce

This morning at 10 am we will gather at LICL to remember our sister in Christ, Joyce Haynes.  Joyce fell asleep in Jesus about a month ago; at that time the family held a grave side committal service and elected to wait until now to hold a memorial service.  Joyce was faithful in worship and Bible study attendance.  She loved to receive the Lord's Supper and was glad to receive Jesus' reassurance that all her sins were forgiven.  A reception will be held for the family following the service.

Later this afternoon worship takes place at 5 pm.  I will be preaching at all services this weekend and the title for the sermon is "A Case of the Fat Head."  You want to know more, don't you? Come and join us.

Sunday morning we follow the usual schedule - worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible classes at 9:20 am.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, August 26, 2016

How high is high enough?

While he waited for the great flood to begin, Noah had to house the various animals.  He built a special eight foot high fenced enclosure for the two kangaroos, but during the first night in the fence, they escaped.  Noah found them hopping around outside the following morning.  So he increased the height to 15 feet, but the kangaroos escaped again.

Exasperated, he added another 15 feet to the enclosure.  The kangaroos still escaped.  After Noah put the 'roos back inside the fence, they were approached by one of the giraffes.  "How high do you think Noah will build the fence this time?" the giraffe asked.

"I don't know," answered the female kangaroo.  "But he might eventually get it to 1,000 feet if he keeps leaving the gate unlocked!"

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Who is our mission?

Author Ken Callahan offers a very good answer:

In the mission growth movement, the compelling question is, "Who is our mission?" That is, "Who is God inviting us to serve in mission?" God invites us to a theology of service, not a theology of survival.  God invites us to a theology of mission, not a theology of maintenance.  God plants around us people with whom we can constructively be in mission.

From "A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations"
page 12

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Kiss of Death

I have bad news today for Arizona Cardinals fans.

We're not going to win the Super Bowl.

We may not even play for the NFC Championship.

In fact, this could be a most disappointing year for the Cardinals.

Why am I so sure of all of this?

Because Sports Illustrated magazine has picked the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl.

Even worse, the Cardinals will be on the cover of the magazine (one of four regional covers to be published).

You see, many sports fans believe that to be on the cover of SI is like having a curse placed on your favorite player or team.

There is no scientific proof of this.  I don't believe that anyone has actually researched the cursed effect of being an SI pick.

What I do believe is that it isn't very helpful for your team to get so much positive press before a single pass has been thrown in the regular season.

Yes, the Cardinals should have a Super Bowl contending team.  All their offensive skill players are back and they've made some key additions on the defensive side of the ball.

All of this should encourage us as the NFL kicks off another season next month.

But I'm still remembering the stink bomb the Cardinals fired off as they got destroyed by Seattle at the end of the season.  I'm remembering how Arizona got by Green Bay only through the magnificent play of future Hall of Fame receiver, Larry Fitzgerald.  And I'm remembering how the Cardinals were thoroughly dismantled by Carolina in the NFC Championship game.

Some might say, "Ancient History! Don't live in the past!"

I lived in Missouri for 13 years.  Missouri is called "the show me state."

So I guess I'm waiting for the regular season to get underway for the Cardinals to show me that they really are a Super Bowl contender.

If Sports Illustrated hasn't already ruined everything with the curse!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not impressed at all

My grandson, Drew (holding something he caught in his back yard), is totally into policemen and firemen.  He has full uniforms and the stuff that goes with them.  He watches videos of those who serve and protect us over and over again and never tires of them.  If you want Drew's undivided attention just say something like, "Look over there - a fire truck!" No matter what Drew is doing - playing with toys, annoying his little brother - he will stop and check it out.  And then he'll describe what you're seeing.  He knows his stuff!

Drew and his family live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the mecca for professional football.  At this time of year, every thing in the city shifts to the Packers.  His Mom, Katie, says the first news store on the local stations each night is about the Packers.  Also, the second, third, forth and fifth.  Sometimes, the top stories reported on every other news outlet in the world aren't mentioned at all.  Instead, reporters will talk breathlessly about Aaron Rogers' vegan diet or the seventh round draft pick (who no one has ever heard of) who has a great chance to make the team.  Of course, the weather gets a mention in every newscast - just so everyone knows what conditions will be like for the next day's team practice.

Katie, told me over the weekend that after church the family went to a local restaurant to get some lunch.  As they walked in, Drew spotted two policemen who had taken a break to eat.  Drew was enthralled!  He couldn't even eat his lunch.  He couldn't take his eyes off the men in blue.

A few minutes later a Packers football player entered the restaurant.  For everyone in the restaurant, it seemed as if time had stopped.  "Look! It's Eddie Lacy!" Lacy is the star running back for the Pack. He's not as popular as Aaron Rogers but he's still a pretty big deal.  Everyone in the restaurant had their eyes on Eddie Lacy.

Except one.  Drew.

Drew could have cared less.  He wouldn't have been impressed if the entire Packer roster had had come in to eat.  No one could compare with those two police officers.

All this proves one thing - Drew has not yet been inflicted with Packers fever.

His mother feels really good about that.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ice Bucket Challenge Today!

Join us this morning at 9 am at Life in Christ, 14802 N. 75th Avenue in Peoria for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

We have no idea how many folks will show up.  Ministry teams have been challenged.  Pet owners have challenged other pet owners.  Special songs have been written.  It's going to be unlike anything we've ever done at Life in Christ.

And we're doing it all for Mary Croushore, our beloved sister in Christ, dear friend, and fellow worker in God's kingdom.  Mary has shown us wonderful faith and courage in these past weeks.  If you have a prayer list, please add Mary's name, won't you?

So the water starts flying at 9 am.  Contributions to ALS can be made today as well.  We hope you will come!

This afternoon we'll worship at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8 and 10:45 am.  My sermon is entitled, "Declare His Glory ~ Tell His Story."  Also, we kick off a new season of Sunday school at 9:20 am.  Our kids will sing at the later service, teachers will be installed and we recognize our outgoing superintendent for her faithful service.

Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, August 19, 2016

We're Lutherans!

Today's Friday Funny...

A Mom was discussing with her young son the events of Holy Week, including Palm Sunday and how the events of the week led to Jesus' crucifixion and the crowds jeering Him.  I also explained how we, as Christians, all take part in Jesus' death.

The boy thought for a moment and said, "But Mom, we're not Christians.  We're Lutherans!"

Adapted from "Laughing with Lutherans," page 87

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dependency - on What or on Whom?

A prayer from Donald Deffner...

When I feel
the necessity
to eat more
to take another drink
or another pill
divert my craving
O Lord
to a greater need
for You
Take my suffering
deterioration and helplessness
and make my 
"bottoms up"
"one more for the road"
but rather a
hitting bottom
which results in my
total dependence
on You
that by the power
of Your Spirit alone
I may experience
Christ's resurrection
in my life
and look not 
but always see You
face to face

From "Prayers For People Under Pressure" page 33

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our helper

The Luther statue inside the Castle Church, Wittenburg, Germany, 2011

Yesterday's "Faith Alone" devotional offered some insights from Luther on the Holy Spirit.  See if you don't find his words helpful:

The name "helper" shows us how we should think of the Holy Spirit.  A helper is not a lawgiver or someone like Moses, who frightens us with the devil, death and hell.  No, a helper fills a troubled heart with joy towards God.  A helper encourages us to be happy that our sins have been forgiven, death has been conquered, heaven has been opened, and God is smiling upon us.

Whoever understands what it means for the Spirit to be our helper will have already won the battle. That person will find nothing but pure comfort and joy in heaven and on earth.  Because the Father is the one who send this helper, and because Christ is the one who asks Him to do so, this is certainly not done out of anger.  Instead, this flows from a fatherly, heartfelt love.  So Christians should remind themselves of this name and title for the Holy Spirit.  He is the helper, and we are the troubled and timid ones whom He helps.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Over 50,000 served!

Readers, that it.

Over the weekend, the counter on my blog noted that we have gone over the 50,000 mark.

When I started this blog 5 years ago last May, I had no idea that we'd still be going at it today.

The blog began as a way of keeping a record of what I did during a three month renewal trip in 2011.

I was going to shut it down a few months after I got back to work but discovered that there were those who were reading it every day and wanted it to continue.

I decided to keep going but established one rule for myself.

I limit myself to spending 20 minutes making the daily entry.

I did this to try and ensure that the blog wouldn't become a full time job.

This may explain the quality of writing that you get.  Sorry about that!

I've noticed that most blogs have some kind of focus or theme which is carried out each day.

I'm all over the place.  You may get something on sports one day, the Beatles the next, my grandkids the third day or some devotion or sermon I've recently written.

So, again, I'm very surprised that the counter continues to roll.

Well, my 20 minutes is just about up.  Let me just send out my thanks to all of you who check out the blog either daily or just from time to time.

Time is precious and I appreciate yours!

Monday, August 15, 2016

They say it's Dan's birthday!

My friend, Dan Seabreeze is celebrating a birthday today.  According to Connie Kanzler, Office Administrator Extraordinaire, Dan turned "double nickels" today.  For the rest of us, Dan is 55 years old - the youngest looking 55 year old man in the country.

The Lord has used Dan to bless our church in ways too numerous to count.  His contributions to our music ministry have been invaluable.  His experience in running his own advertising/marketing business has helped LICL extend its reach into the community and has helped us better serve our own members.  Dan has been a willing servant of Christ and his witness has encouraged us all.

This picture was taken at our Small Group Christmas Party.  I'm not sure what Dan is doing here. Perhaps, he's proving that even at "double nickels" he can still be the life of the party.

Happy birthday, Dan!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Getting ready for #doitformary

This morning I'll be meeting with some talented and helpful people to organize next week's Ice Bucket Challenge to support and encourage Mary Croushore and raise funds for ALS research. I can occasionally come up with a good idea - implementation is not my strong suite.  So I really appreciate those who are willing to help get things ready so we can have a successful event.  You'll be hearing more about our plans throughout the week here at the blog.

This afternoon, my little group (sans Connie) will provide the music at the 5 pm worship service. Tomorrow, you can join us at LICL at 8 or 10:45 am for worship with classes for all ages at 9:20 am. Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, August 12, 2016

An easy solution!

Today's Friday Funny....

A frustrated dad of a teenager was complaining to his church's youth pastor.  "I try to discipline Scott by sending him to his room right after super," he said, "but he has his own high-def TV, a killer sound system, a state-of-the-art computer, his own phone and a mini-fridge.  I should be so lucky."

"You know what you need to do?" the youth pastor advised.


"Next time, send Scott to your room!"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is there such a thing as Olympics fatigue?

My dear, sweet wife is not much for watching sports.  She finds baseball rather boring.  She'll only watch the last two minutes of basketball or football games (and then complain about how long it takes to play those two minutes!).

But she does enjoy watching the Olympics.  She appreciates the competition between countries and finds some of the human interest stories rather inspiring.

But last night's coverage on NBC did her in.

You would have thought that the only Olympic sport was swimming.  Race after race after race was shown.

And because all of the races had already taken place, the outcomes were already settled.  Takes a bit of the drama out of the events.

Finally, Sherri had seen enough.  "Is there anything else but swimming to watch?"

I began looking at some of the other NBC channels and found a fencing match.

I don't know much about fencing.  But as a boy I really thought Zorro was cool!

We found the match quite exciting.  The Italian competitor had fallen well behind in the match but, with time running out, began to make a thrilling comeback.  We were on the edge of our seats, cheering the Italian on to victory.

Unfortunately, time ran out and our favorite lost the match.

But it was refreshing to have watched something different.

Then we switched back to NBC to see yet another swimming race taking place.

With that, the TV went off and Sherri and I grabbed the books we're reading.

I checked the TV schedule for tonight's prime time coverage and guess what - more swimming!

But with some gymnastics thrown in.

I wonder what books we'll read tonight?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

His life in now alive in us!

I've written before of my admiration for author Jane Fryer.  Her devotional comments in CPH's "Today's Light Bible" are worth the price of the book.  Writing on Hosea, chapter 13, Fryer penned these words: The death that was ours, is ours no longer.  The grave that belonged to us, belongs to us no more.  That death became Christ's death.  That grave became His grave.  And His life is now - right now - alive in us by grace.

Page 1241

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top 10 Reasons for Celebrating Connie's 10 Years at LICL

Our Office Administrator, Connie Kanzler, celebrated her 10th anniversary of working with us at Life in Christ this weekend.  For about my first 18 months as pastor I did the secretarial work around the office.  In the beginning there wasn't that much to do.  But as I moved into my second year of ministry, the work began to pick up, there were more members to serve and our Board of Ministry Directors decided that we could afford to pay someone to work in the office.  I had spoken with Connie and learned that she had just retired from teaching school and was wanting to work and serve in the church.  She came in and without much help from me, figured out what the job entailed and dived right into the deep end of the pool, so to speak.  She has been amazing to work with and her service has been such a blessing to our church.  So, here are the top 10 reasons to celebrate Connie's 10th anniversary:

10) She helps to create a joyful atmosphere in which to work

9) Her dog, Scooter, is the perfect "comfort dog" for our members

8) She laughs easily at her mistakes

7) She laughs easily at my poor attempts at humor

6) She makes time for everyone who needs her

5) She always seems to have something good to eat hidden away in her desk

4) She demands a high level of excellence from herself

3) She always points troubled people to Jesus

2) She loves to use her gift of music as a way of giving glory to God

And the number one reason for celebrating Connie's 10 years at LICL?

1) She shines the light of Jesus' love to everyone who walks through our office doors!

Here's to you, Connie! God's best to you today!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Crossing one of the most famous roads in the world!

On August 8, 1969, John, Paul, George and Ringo walked across this crosswalk to create the iconic Abbey Road album cover.  On June 25, 2011, George and Sherri did the same.  I am wearing the Beatles t-shirt that Mike Schutt gave to me and I remembered to talk off my shoes, just like Paul.  It was a Saturday and there were dozens of people there at Abbey Road.  Some groups literally held up traffic as they tried to get their own replica of Abbey Road album cover.  Valuing our lives, we waited until traffic let us cross the street legally.  Our photo was taken by a 20 something American who was spending the summer taking classes in London.  She was like so many others we met on our trip - not even born when Beatlemania took the world by storm and yet totally into the music and creativity of the Beatles.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

There was ice, water and a bucket

Yesterday, Dan Seabreeze and I filmed a short video to use in the announcements for this weekend's worship.  Dan, as usual, produced a wonderful video which includes music and other effects.  He always takes my simple ideas and makes something pretty cool out of them.

To see the video, join us for worship.  Today's service takes place at 5 pm with Kevin Svec's group providing the music.  Tomorrow, we worship at the usual times - 8 am and 10:45 am (Bible classes for all ages meets at 9:20 am).  I'll be preaching on the topic of worry.  Since I am an expert on the topic I feel well qualified to tackle the subject.  If you are prone to worry you'll want to receive the encouragement and help God's Word offers for those of us with charge cards to the Worry Store.

Hope you have a blessed weekend!

Friday, August 5, 2016

What do you think, son?

Here's today's Friday Funny, taken from "Laughing with Lutherans."

Sunday mornings I would get up early to review my sermon and prepare for worship.  When my son, Jeremy, was 5, he wandered into my study one Sunday and asked what I was doing.  When I told him I was practicing my sermon, he asked if he could listen.  I proceeded to read through it as Jeremy listened attentively.

When I finished he asked, "Is that it?"

"Yes," I replied.  "What did you think of it?"

Without hesitation he answered, "Long enough."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hang on!

Going through a challenging time in your life? Frustrated with certain people or situations? Ready to give up on your marriage or job or future.  Martin Luther has a message for you:

Hang on.  God will remain faithful.  Don't despair.  Cling to the truth the psalmist proclaims: "Wait with hope for the Lord.  Be strong, and let your heart be courageous." (Psalm 27:14).  The Lord won't extinguish a smoking wick but instead will make it glow brightly.  He won't break the damaged cattail but instead will strengthen it (Isaiah 42:3).

From "Faith Alone," August 3 devotional reading

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What impresses God

Last Sunday in the sermon I made a reference to the television program, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."  That caused me to remember a journal entry I made from a number of years ago.

God isn't impressed by the consumption lifestyle of the rich and famous. God is pleased with the mission lifestyles of the repentant and faithful.

Leonard Sweet, from "Soul Salsa," page 176

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Thinking about Loren

In 1988 I moved my family from Mesa to Edwardsville, Illinois.  I had become a partner in a radio broadcast group and uprooted my family from the Valley of the Sun to what would be our headquarters in St. Louis.

It was a difficult move.  We left family, the church and pastor who had fed us with God's Word and sacraments, lots of great friends, a nice home and neighborhood.

As we embarked on this new adventure my dear, sweet wife and I decided we could do one thing to make the transition easier - quickly find a new church home.  We did so at Trinity Lutheran in Edwardsville.

The church also had a day school so all three of the kids were enrolled.  We quickly got to know lots of other parents who warmly welcomed us, although many asked, "Why in the world did you move here? People from here move to Arizona!"

During our five years at Trinity we met lots of nice people and made some friendship that have lasted to this day.  One of those friends was a retired gentleman named Loren Ligon.

Loren was a faithful worshipper and loved attending Bible classes.  He took a shine to our family and always had a piece of candy in his pocket for our youngest daughter.  Unfortunately, sometimes the candy didn't always have the wrapper on it.  Katie remembered a time when Loren handed her a piece of candy covered with lint.  She politely took the candy and then waited until Loren had moved on. The candy went in the garbage can.

After living in Edwardsville for five years I decided to leave the radio business and attend Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  Loren was delighted with this decision and after we moved we would receive a small gift from him each month.  It wasn't much but he wanted to show his support as best he could. Then, one day, he gave me the surprise of my life.

He called and asked if I could meet him at a certain place on a Saturday morning.  I don't remember the name of the place now.  But he said he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee.  I thought we were meeting at a restaurant.  But when I pulled up at the address Loren had given me, I was parked in front of a men's clothing store.

I walked in and found Loren with a couple of well dressed men.  He announced, "Here is a future pastor and we've got to make sure he looks his best!" I said, "Loren, I thought we were meeting for a cup of coffee?"  Loren replied, "We are - but first I have to buy you a suit of clothing!"

I protested.  I told him he didn't need to do any such thing.  I told him I had plenty of clothes.  I said "no!"

Loren didn't take "no" for an answer.  Before we were done, he had purchased for me a double-breasted black suit, a sport coat to match my black slacks, three pairs of black socks and a new pair of shoes.  I don't know how much Loren spent that day (he wouldn't tell me) but it was a lot more than you'd spend on a cup of coffee.

Later, at a diner, I asked Loren about his generosity.  "Why did you do this, Loren?"

"Because I can and because I want to."  Loren, I learned,  had helped support other seminarians through the years.  He felt like he had a personal connection to me and my family so he saw his small monthly gifts and the suit of clothing as one way he could encourage us all.

Loren's support and interest in our family continued through my first two years at Seminary.  Before my second year we met at the clothing store again.  This time he bought a blue blazer, "An essential part of any man's wardrobe"), a couple of pairs of slacks and another pair of shoes.  He also brought a big bag of hard candy that I was to give to Katie.  Loren hadn't forgotten her love of sweets.

Our years at the seminary were exciting but also challenging.  We had downsized and were living in a house less than half the size of the home we had owned.  I received a small paycheck from the radio group (a generous offer on their part); otherwise, we lived on Sherri's paycheck.  At times Sherri was a single parent, while my nose was buried in one book or another.  We dealt with some pretty tough days.

But God used people like Loren Ligon to bless and encourage us.  We had left a community where we really felt like we were fitting in only to start all over again.  But were weren't forgotten.  Not by Loren.  And not by the Lord.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What instrument do you play?

Earlier this summer 16 of us from LICL participated in an evangelism/discipleship workshop called Awaken/Activate.  The workshop was designed to help disciples of Jesus identify our gifts and passions and to use those things to find our place in God's mission to witness Christ to other people.

Through the workshop I was encouraged to pursue something that I participated in while at my former church in South Carolina.  Myself and others found joy by working with and serving developmentally disabled adults.  Our ministry and outreach to this group of people was fulfilling and much fun.  In the coming months I'm going to pursue a new opportunity that has opened up to me and to our church.  I can't wait to see what God does this time.

Thinking about the workshop reminded me of something Max Lucado wrote in his book, "Outlive Your Life."

There are things only you can do and you are alive to do them.  In the great orchestra we call life, you have an instrument and a song.

What's your instrument? What's your song? In what way or ways has God gifted you? Have you ever considered a favorite hobby as a way that you could reach out to others and witness Christ to them? Do you have a particular gift that as you put it to use would enable you to show the love of Jesus to others?

Sometimes we think that we need some kind of special training in order to participate in God's mission of making disciples.  Maybe all we need to do is to see and understand how God's has blessed and gifted us and then put those gifts to work.

Go out today and make a joyful noise to the Lord! (Psalm 100)

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Folks coming to church at Life in Christ this Sunday are going to be surprised at some of the changes.

The great wall on the south side of the sanctuary is down and now we see what was going on behind that wall.  We have expanded the seating on that side of the sanctuary and the new area looks great. A new sacristy has been created for our altar guild plus two additional storage facilities have been constructed.  New carpeting was laid in the sanctuary and narthex and that looks very nice too.  Also, a elevated sound board area was constructed and, while not yet finished, will be a great place for our sound and IT people to work from.  Progress was made this week and we're grateful to God for it.

Services this weekend will take place today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8 and 10:45 am.  I'll be preaching on the theme, "Hide and Seek."  Our place is cool so come and join us this weekend for worship at LICL!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Joyce Haynes Committal Service Sermon

The Lord is MY Shepherd

            It is often during times of serious illness that a pastor discovers what words from Holy Scripture can really comfort and offer hope to a person.

            There was absolutely no doubt what Word from God gave comfort and hope to Joyce Haynes – the beloved 23rd Psalm.

            As we talked during that last week of Hospice care, Joyce kept coming back to Psalm 23.  She would say “Jesus has taken care of me.  Jesus has been good to me.  He has blessed me.  The Lord is MY shepherd.”  That’s how Joyce saw it – Jesus really was her shepherd.

            That’s the way David saw it too.  He could have written, “The Lord is like a shepherd” or “The Lord is the shepherd.”  But no! The name of the Lord takes the first place in this Psalm.  Surely David does this for emphasis – The Lord is my shepherd!

            Because Jesus was Joyce’s shepherd, she could sincerely say, “Jesus has taken care of me.”  Joyce wanted for nothing.  She had everything she could ever want.  God had blessed her with a loving and devoted husband, kids and grandkids and great grandkids whom she adored, friends and church family who gave her joy.  Today’s advertising is designed to create in each of us the need to want more.  But Joyce had all she needed.  As we confess in the First Article of the Creed, God had provided all the basics – clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, everything needed to support her body and life. 

Jesus led Joyce to His Holy Word where she found nourishment and rest for her soul.  We lamented that moment at Hospice when it was decided that there would be no more food or water to nourish and help Joyce.  But she was never without the Holy Food of God.  Every time you read the Bible to her, every time you prayed God’s Word with her, the Holy Spirit was feeding Joyce, strengthening and nourishing her faith in her shepherd.

Joyce could also say, “Jesus has been good to me.”  The 23rd Psalms drives that point home with the words, “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  These paths are those which lead to eternal life.  But these paths are not of our own making.  We had nothing to do with their construction.  This path is opened to us by Jesus.

            When the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep, the path of righteousness was opened wide for you and me and all who believe.  We are waved on to travel down this path because Jesus’ righteousness has been credited to us.  This happened at the cross where Jesus died.  He died with all our sin and disobedience piled on top of Him.  In return, His perfect righteousness was given to us.  This righteousness inspires us to want to live Christian lives every day.  It also makes us holy and acceptable to a holy God.  Jesus the Good Shepherd made it possible for Joyce to travel down “Righteous Road” and through the gates of heaven.

            The 23rd Psalm reminds us of something very important.  The Shepherd not only provides for His people; He protects His people too.  We read in verse four about “the valley of the shadow of death.”  The words could also be translated, “the darkest valley.”  So it’s fair to say that the Shepherd is with His sheep, like Joyce, during all those times in life when darkness threatens to overtake us.  We become discouraged or depressed; we get hurt and feel pain; all that was good in our lives suddenly seems to have vanished. 

            David reminds us that we do not deal with these difficult times alone.  And we do not travel down dead ends, destined to live with doom and gloom all our lives.  Remember how David put it: “For you (O Lord) are with me!” When you can confidently say, as Joyce did, “The Lord is MY shepherd,” then you know that your shepherd will lead you through the darkest valley ever, even death.

            Are you aware that sheep have a big problem? They cannot protect themselves.  Sheep have no dangerous bite.  Their hooves cannot do the damage that sharp claws can cause.  They’re not fast.  When it comes right down to it, a sheep’s only security is its shepherd.

            Joyce knew and believed this important fact.  She could not deal with her sin.  Unless taken care of, it would have crushed her to death.  That death would have been for eternity.  And Joyce could not have protected herself from Satan.  The devil, left unchecked, would have devoured Joyce, gleefully causing her destruction.

            But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was with Joyce.  Jesus redeemed Joyce with his own blood, paying the penalty for her sins.  His resurrection on the third day makes possible for Joyce to live again, on the Last Day.  And through His death and resurrection, Jesus took his rod and staff and gave Satan a beating from which that the old evil foe will never, ever recover.  

            And yes, Joyce could say, “The Lord has blessed me.”  Interestingly, in the last two verses the 23rd Psalm seems to change focus from a Shepherd to a King.  But I’ve read that in the Near East Kings were often referred to as shepherds of their people.  A king invited his most honored associates to live with him.  In the palace they were treated to the most sumptuous banquets.  Every need or whim was accommodated.

            But in the 23rd Psalm the place being referred to is heaven and all the feasting and celebrating represents the joys of eternal life with God.  In heaven we will have nothing to fear – our enemy, the devil will be vanquished forever.  There will be no more sadness or pain.  We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  And in the greatest irony of all, the Good Shepherd who made all this possible for Joyce and all who believe will be the Lamb who died for us.

            Get the picture.  This is why Joyce kept coming back to David’s beloved Psalm.  Trusting in the Shepherd, Joyce faced death and, through faith, has won the victory.  Today, she rests in Jesus.  Someday, she will rise in glory.  And I can tell you, that was her prayer for each of you here today.  Repent of your sins.  Turn to Jesus.  Receive His forgiveness, peace and salvation.  Grow in your knowledge and love of the Lord.  Then you’ll start talking like Joyce and we’ll be glad to hear you say, “The Lord is MY Shepherd!”  Amen.