Saturday, January 30, 2016

A "see you later" to Pastor Haak

Funeral and Memorial Services can be such a difficult time for family and friends.  For many these services are a coming together to say "goodbye" to a loved one or friend, an opportunity to try and remember good times with the individual and a smack-in-the-face moment to realize one's own mortality.

But for believers in Christ Jesus, a Funeral or Memorial Service can be a different thing.  Such a service is not a "goodbye;" because of the Lord's promise that "whoever lives and believes in me will never die," we have the hope of the resurrection of the dead and a homecoming with our loved ones and friends in heaven.

So today we say "see you later" to Pastor Loel Haak.  After faithfully serving the Lord's Church as pastor and shepherd, Pastor Haak helped to plant the congregation I serve - Life in Christ.  He even worked with us for a time as a pastoral assistant and helped to start our Stephen Ministry.  The Lord used Pastor Haak to bring His good news of new life in Jesus to many people.  And we've heard from many of them this week.

Our "see you later" takes place at 1 pm this afternoon with a Memorial Service.  Special music is planned.  A number of Pastor Haak's friends will participate in the service.  It will offer a great opportunity to show and share our love for Pastor Haak with his wife, Annemarie, their four children and many grandchildren.

We anticipate a full-to-overflowing attendance and a packed parking lot.  If you are planning to come please consider parking at the professional center at Thunderbird and Greenway and walking a couple of blocks south to the church.  It will be a beautiful day and the walk will do you good! And doing so will enable those unable to walk that far to have a place in the church parking lot.

Later today, will have a worship service at 5 pm; music will be provided by the Kevin Svec Group and Deacon Jerry Klink will serve as preacher.

Tomorrow we'll worship at LICL at 8 and 10:45 am.  I'll speak on how the Lord needs a voice - our voice - to share His message of forgiveness and love with the world.  Sunday school and Bible classes will meet at 9:20 am.  This will be the first Sunday that our children will not meet in the Ed. Building.  Classes for the kids will be held in the offices on the west side of the main building.  This will be the location for Sunday school for the next seven to nine months as we construct a new Education and Fellowship facility.

Join us, won't you, for worship this weekend at Life in Christ? See you soon!

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's been a good week

On Monday evening we learned that Pastor Loel Haak was called home by the Lord.  Even in the midst of grief we thank the Lord for His perfect timing and are comforted by the promise that in the resurrection of the dead, we will be reunited with Loel and will spend eternity with him and the communion of saints praising the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

I've marveled as so many of our church family have stepped up to help with preparing for tomorrow's Memorial Service for Loel.

Our Building Committee had plans for this weekend.  Our hope was to move everything out of the Ed. Building on Saturday.  Because the Memorial Service was set for Saturday, the Committee changed their plans without one complaint.  A great group of people, indeed.

Last night's Bible Class really dug into the idea of "inheritance" as is presented in Joshua.  Good questions, good discussion and much encouragement from God's Word.

Connie Kanzler, our lead Administrative Assistant, never seems to have an easy week of work.  How she keeps smiling and maintaining her good humor is a testimony to her faith in and love for her Savior.

Today, we'll put the finishing touches on tomorrow afternoon's service.  I'll also prepare for the Committal Service that will take place tomorrow morning.  Ash Wednesday is fast approaching so there is service planning to be done.  There are also calls to make on those who are ill or suffering.

All in all, I'm praying for a good Friday.  I hope you have one too.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lord, take away from us...

Our Father, we would not weary You in always asking for something.  This morning we would pray You would take something from us.  Take out of our hearts any bitterness that lies there, any resentment that curdles and corrodes our peace.

Take away the stubborn pride that keeps us from apology and confessing fault and makes us unwilling to open our hearts to one another.  For if our hearts are closed to our colleagues, they are not open to You.  We ask Your mercy in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Peter Marshall, from "For All the Saints," page790

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

At the Death of a Friend

In thinking about the passing of Pastor Loel Haak, I remembered this prayer of Donald Deffner's:

O God I know
Yours was the first tear to fall
when my friend died
Because of our sinful state
death reigns in this world
So comfort us Lord
with the certain hope
of life to come
Turn our mourning 
into dancing
and weeping into joy
knowing the resurrection
is near
And teach us so
to number our days
that we are always ready
And not just now
as the family nods 
in stunned grief
but in the weeks to come
move me Lord
in true compassion
to aid the bereaved
with a ministry of presence
and the assurance
of Your sacred promise
that our loved one is forever
"with the Lord!"

From "Prayers For People Under Pressure" page 39

Bible texts used as inspiration: Psalm 116:15; Romans 5:12; Psalm 30:5 b, 11, 12; 126:9; 90:12; 39:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What is worry?

Worry is dealing with tomorrow's problem on today's pasture.

A Jewish Rabbi as told by Ray Vander Lann

Monday, January 25, 2016

Rise up Red Sea!

There is no joy in Mudville
Or Glendale or Phoenix or Peoria
All gone is our euphoria

We had our favorite spot on the couch
We were ready to see
A great Cardinals victory

We had Palmer, we had Fitz
We had Dwight Freeney ready to blitz

We had Peterson P and Peterson D
And come to think of it, the Cardinals even had me!

But, alas, it was not to be.

One day this game will be forgotten
After all it was a great season
And it stands to reason

The Cardinals will be back
They'll come back with fire in their eyes
Focused on the Super Bowl trophy - the ultimate prize

We have Palmer, we have Fitz
Will Dwight Freeny be back to blitz?

We have Peterson P and Peterson D
And come to think of it, the Cardinals still have me!

Rise up Red Sea!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Worship this weekend!

Saturday, 5 pm.  Communion service with Pastor Marcus preaching.  The Kevin Svec group provides the music.

Sunday 8 am.  Sanctity of Life Sunday with Pastor Marcus preaching.

Sunday 9:20 am. Sunday school and Bible classes for all ages.

Sunday 10:45 am.  Sanctity of Life Sunday with Communion and Pastor Marcus preaching.

Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Memorial sermon for Fiona Kathryn Cierra Wims

            Of all the Christian hymns and songs I know, I probably still love best the ones I learned as a little child.

            Like, Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world, Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

            And, I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee.  Trusting Thee for full salvation, Great and free.

            Or, I am Jesus’ little lamb, ever glad at heart I am, For my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my need and well provides me.  Loves me every day the same, Even calls me by my name.

            And, of course, Jesus loves me this I know, For the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.

            Jesus loves little children.  The Gospel lesson chosen for this day leaves absolutely no doubt about it.

            “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them…”   To me, that is one of the least surprising sentences in the New Testament.  Of course, if you were a parent or grandparent, wouldn’t you want your child or grandchild to be blessed by Jesus?

            The people gathered around Jesus knew about His works.  They knew what He had done for a father named Jairus.  Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter became seriously ill.  All the usual remedies had failed to make her well.  Jairus was aware of Jesus’ mighty miracles.

            Perhaps Jairus knew the story of the man who was possessed with many demons.  Jesus healed him.  Or maybe Jairus was aware that there had been a great storm on the seas which threatened the disciples.  Jesus stilled it.  Maybe Jairus know of the man suffering from leprosy.  Jesus cleansed him.

            The miracles were amazing.  But what also drew people to Jesus was the way He related to others.  Tax collectors were considered thieves in Jesus’ day.  But Jesus called a tax collector, Matthew, to be one of His disciples.  People who didn’t keep the Law and Traditions of the Pharisees were considered unclean.  They were called “sinners.”  Jesus reached out to them and taught them about God’s love.

            Jairus reached out to Jesus and asked the Lord to heal His little girl.  And even though news came that the little one had died, Jesus comforted Jairus.  The little girl was only asleep, said the Lord.  And then, with just a few words, Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead and gave the girl back to her father.

            So it just makes sense that people would bring their little ones to be blessed by Jesus.

            What makes absolutely no sense is how that sentence concludes.  “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.”

            Now, I’d like to think that the disciples were trying to help Jesus.  Maybe He was running on a tight schedule.  Perhaps there were plans to travel to another village and this kind of interruption would throw off their travel schedule.

            I hope it wasn’t that the disciples didn’t consider little children important enough to take a little of Jesus’ time.  I’d like to think that the disciples were not thinking that the children didn’t need Jesus and could wait for Him until they were older.

            Jesus doesn’t become angry very often.  But this is one time when the veins in His neck are ready to pop.  I don’t know if the words Jesus says are spoken after He calms down.  But He makes it clean to the disciples and to us just how important little children are to Him.

            “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  The kingdom of God is for everyone, just as we sang earlier.  Red and yellow, black and white, (children) are precious in His sight. 

            The way children are brought into the kingdom of God today is through baptism.  Parents and grandparents bring their kids and grandkids into this house to receive a blessing from Jesus.  At the baptismal font Jesus calls children by name to come to Him.  They receive His sign – the sign of the cross which marks them as redeemed, purchased by Jesus, forgiven and made part of His family.  Water is poured over their heads three times in the name of the Triune God.  But not ordinary water.  This is extraordinary water, made so when joined by the powerful word of God.  As Martin Luther said, “(Baptism is) a life-giving water, rich in grace and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.”

            Then Jesus speaks more truth: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 

            Oh, that we would all believe like a little child.  Our little ones take us at our word.  We tell them we’ll do something and they believe it.  They have no doubts.  They don’t spend time worrying.  They believe.

            Oh, that we would all believe like a little child.  That we would always take Jesus at His Word.  He keeps His promises.  His Word does what it says.  We need not doubt the Lord.  Every promise Jesus has made He has kept.  Forgiveness of sins? Promise kept.  Answers to prayer? Promise kept.  Always present in our lives? Promise kept.  A place in heaven? Promise kept.

            And then Jesus does exactly what the disciples tried to keep Him from doing.  “(Jesus) took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.”

            There are few images in the Bible that are sweeter and more meaningful than this one.  I can just imagine Jesus tenderly picking up each child, maybe mussing their hair or caressing their cheek.  I can see Jesus gathering up children and wrapping His arms of love around them.  Did the disciples get the message that day? Jesus loves little children.

            Jesus loved Fiona.

            And, thankfully, Fiona knew of Jesus’ love.

            She learned this love as you taught her those songs that we sang at the beginning of this message.  These sweet, simple songs proclaim a powerful truth, the one we know from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Or, if you don’t mind, let me personalize this verse: For God so loved Fiona that He gave Fiona His one and only Son, that as Fiona believed in Him, Fiona would not perish but have eternal life.”

Yes, Jesus loved Fiona.  How much?

Enough to leave His heavenly throne to come down to this earth and be her Savior.  The King of heaven became the poor baby of Bethlehem.

Jesus loved Fiona so much that He obediently did the will of His Heavenly Father.  It was the Father’s will that the sin that Adam and Eve brought into the world, the sin with which we’ve been infected, be covered by someone.  But not just anyone.  It had to be someone who would keep God’s Law perfectly.  Someone who lived life perfectly.  Someone who could offer a perfect sacrifice.

This Jesus did for Fiona and for the whole world.  The devil offered Jesus a cross-less future.  Jesus turned the devil down.  His disciples wanted to wage war against the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin.  Jesus had them put their swords away.  Pontius Pilate gave Jesus every opportunity to offer a defense of innocence.  Jesus did nothing to sway the guilty sentence that was handed down.

Jesus endured a horrible beating by bloodthirsty soldiers, a humiliating walk through the streets of Jerusalem, and the excruciating pain and suffering of crucifixion.  Even worse was the pain of knowing that His Father had closed His ears to Jesus’ cries.  Finally, after Jesus had fully paid for the sins of Fiona and for us all, He cried out triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!”  Our debt paid in full by Jesus’ suffering, death and yes, on the third day, His resurrection from the dead.

This is important for us to know.  The only sin that Jesus’ shed blood did not cover is the sin against the Holy Spirit, that is the sin of unbelief.  Sometimes people commit sins and they do things that they wouldn’t ordinary do.  Sometimes, when a person isn’t in their right mind, they take actions that just make no sense.  But does Jesus reject us when we commit such sins? Absolutely not! His love for us is great, greater than the greatest sin we could commit.  Jesus knows us.  He understands us.  His grace is more than sufficient for us. 

So, on this day, we can be confident of Jesus’ love for Fiona.  Just as Jesus took up those little children and blessed them, Jesus has taken up Fiona to Himself.  He is faithful and He keeps His promises.  Jesus loves the little children.  Jesus loves Fiona.  To that we say, thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, Jesus.  Amen.    

A Mighty Fortress

in the midst of battle
against The Enemy
let me not forget
that though You permit
his deadly assaults
You are still in control
The final victory
has already been won
And though I'm still
with problems and 
with pain
you're by my side
upon the plain
There is no panic
in Paradise

Donald L. Deffner, "Prayers for People Under Pressure" page 101

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Make a date with God

I read a blog post this morning by Mark Altrogge that described his process for doing morning devotions.  I liked his ideas.

It went like this:

5 minutes for Scripture memorization.  This idea I really appreciated.  In 2015 at Life in Christ we gave everyone the chance to memorize one Bible verse each week.  We called it "The 52" and I was really pleased at the number of folks who picked up a memory card each week.  I kept up with the memorization but have noticed that in the past few weeks, I've not spent much time with those cards. Altrogge's approach seems like a good way to keep those verses on the top of my head.

20 minutes for Bible reading.  Altrogge believes that in 20 minutes a person can ready three chapters of the Bible.  At that pace, you could almost read through the Bible in one year.  I think, for me, I would continue to use some of the devotional books in my library.  They feature Scripture readings and prayers (many include Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline).

5 minutes to focus on things you're thankful for.  Altrogge uses a Muleskin notebook and uses one page each day to record those things for which he is thankful.  He writes this out in prayer form.

15 minutes for prayer.  I was pleased to read that Altrogge isn't afraid to use written prayers (from prayer books) in this time for prayer.  These written prayers often inspire him to spend that time of prayer focusing on his own needs and those of others.  I like the little format to prayer that Max Lucado introduced in his book, "Before Amen."  It goes like this:

Father, You are good
I need help
They need help too
Thank You 

Altrogge also gives the key to developing a good devotional life.  He says to do your devotions first thing in the morning and do it that way every day.

Really, any format for doing devotions will work so long as they are done early, before distractions come your way, and that they are done habitually.

I know this to be true.  I can't tell you how many times I've said to myself that I'll do my devotions when I get to the office.  This almost never happens.  When I get to the office I discover phone calls that need to be returned, emails that need to be answered and projects that need my attention.  And before I know it, half the day is gone and the devos haven't been done.

Altrogge says that if you don't have 45 minutes in the morning to follow his plan then make adjustments.  Spend one minute working on a verse to memorize.  Read the Bible for ten minutes. The important things is to make a date with God and keep it.  The Lord will be pleased and so will you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

God is for you!

God is for you.  Your parents may have forgotten you, your teachers may have neglected you, your siblings may be ashamed of you, but within reach of your prayers is the maker of the oceans, God!

God is for you.  Not "may be," not "has been," not "was," not "would be," but "God is!"  He is for you.  Today.  At this hour.  At this minute.  As you read this sentence.  No need to wait in line or come back tomorrow.  He is with you.  He could not be closer than He is at this second.  His loyalty won't increase if you are better nor lessen if you are worse.  He is for you.

God is for you.  Turn to the sidelines; that's God cheering your run.  Look past the finish line; that's God applauding your steps.  Look for Him in the bleachers, shouting your name.  Too tired to continue? He'll carry you.  Too discouraged to fight? He's picking you up.  God is for you.

God is for you.  Had he a calendar, your birthday would be circled.  If he drove a car, your name would be on His bumper.  If there's a tree in heaven, He's carved your name in the bark.  We know He has a tattoo, and we know what it says: "I have written your name on My hand," He declares (Isaiah 49:16).

Max Lucado, "The Gift for All People," page 92

Monday, January 18, 2016

The 2015 Book List

Each year I make it my goal to read 24 books.  That's basically two a month.  This year I managed to polish off 31 books so it would seem that I was reading when I should have been doing something else.  I share this list with the hope that maybe you'll find something here that you'd like to read.

"The Beatles Lyrics" by Hunter Davies.  Davies wrote the authorized biography of the Beatles.  Being so close to the Fab Four he came to possess a number of hand-written lyrics of their songs.  He writes the story behind those songs and other lyrics he was able to locate.  If you're a Beatles fan you need to read this book.

"Till the Nigh Be Past" by Theodore Kleinhaus.  A short, easy to read biography of Deitrich Bonhoeffer.

"The Keeper" by Tim Howard.  Inspirational story by the goalie of the USA Soccer team.

"A Clash of Kings" by George RR Martin.  Part of his "Game of Thrones" series.  I don't subscribe to HBO so I've been reading the books.  After a while you just can't put the books down.

"A Sleeping Life" by Ruth Rendell.  A detective fiction story from one of the best.  She passed away in 2015.

"George Harrison - Behind the Locked Door" by Graeme Thomson.  A major biography about the "quiet" Beatle.  The book shows that Harrison was anything but quiet.

"The Bat" by Jo Nesbo.  Saw Nesbo interviewed by Charlie Rose so I had to read the book.  It featured several interesting plot twists.

"First Family - Abigail and John Adams" by Joseph J. Ellis.  Ellis is my favorite historian and he provided many interesting insights into our second President and his impressive wife.

"Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian.  It was interesting to read how confessional theology had impacted a reformed churchman.

"You Can't Make This Up" by Al Michaels.  Michaels has done it all in sports broadcasting.  Nothing will ever come close to his "Do you believe in miracles" call at the 1980 Olympic USA-Soviet Union  hockey game.

"Death of an Expert Witness" by PD James.  A detective fiction story from my favorite author.

"The War by the Shore" by Curt Sampson.  Tells the story of the hot contested Rider Cup when it was held in South Carolina.

"No Man's Nightingale" by Ruth Rendell.  I had to have a second helping of Rendell.

"Porch Tales" by Phillip Gulley.  No one spins a tale like Gulley.

"A Short Guide to a Happy Life" by Anna Quindlen.  I highly recommend this short book.  Her insights make sense.

"Beatles vs. Stones" by John McMillian.  I thought I knew just about everything about the Beatles but McMillian offered some new insights while showing the strategy of how the two bands were presented to the public.

"Motivation for Ministry" by Nathan R. Pope.  One of the best books I read last year, written by a veteran pastor.  I'll read it again this year (and every year I'm in ministry).

"A Storm of Swords" by George RR Martin.  Book three in the "Game of Thrones" series.

"The Beatles - An Oral History" by Pritchard and Lysaght.  The Beatles - in their own words.

"Killing Patton" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.  A breezy read with some interesting insights.

"The King's Speech" by Mark Logue and Peter Conrad.  "The King's Speech" is on my top ten best movie list.  Logue writes about the friendship between a King and his grandfather.

"American Sniper" by Chris Kyle.  The book which inspired the movie.  \

"That Magic Feeling" by John C Winn.  An analysis of Beatles recordings from around 1967 to their breakup.  Not as interesting as I thought it would be.

"The Original Jesus" by Daniel Darling.  It ready like a modern day, "Your God is too Small."

"Love Casts Out Fear" by Brother Nathan.  Want to know what it's like to be a Christian in the Middle East.  This is the book to read.

"American Sphinx" by Joseph J. Ellis.  A second helping of Ellis as he writes about Thomas Jefferson.

"Ringo - With a Little Help" by Michael Seth Starr.  A major unauthorized biography of the drummer of the Fab Four.

"The Story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer" by Michael Van Dyke.  A short biography of Bonhoeffer.  Some details varied from other books I've read about Bonhoeffer.

"House of Living Stones" by Katie Schuermann.  One of the most enjoyable reads on this list.  Schuermann is the wife of an LCMS pastor who has crafted a "Mitford-Jan Karon" style book.

"Glory Days" by Max Lucado.  The latest from the pen of this skilled writer and pastor.

"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins.  This book spent months at the top of the New York Times best seller list.  A unique story.  The clues are there to solve the mystery - if you can identify them.

This year I've started with the major biography of George Bush 41 and I'm reading the latest by Phillip Yancey.  I hope you're able to fill some of your days in 2016 with the pages of a great book. See you at Barnes and Noble (or Goodwill!).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Laurie Schneider Memorial

Laurie Schneider Memorial

            Family and friends, grace and peace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

            In the 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed we confess these wonderful words: I believe…in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

            These are not mere words but they confess what we believe and that we believe what God has promised.  We believe these words because they are made true in Jesus.

            St. Matthew tells how Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb of Jesus on what we call Easter Sunday.  They heard the glorious news from an angel: He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.

            The angels then tell the women to go and give this great news to the disciples.  But before they can complete their task the women meet Jesus.  Jesus greets them and Matthew writes: They came to (Jesus) clasped His feet and worshipped Him.  They touched the risen Jesus.  They held onto Him.  He was real.  He was really alive.  His body, new and glorious.  Jesus knew them.  They knew Jesus.

            St. Luke gives us a long story about how two of Jesus’ followers that Sunday are making a seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus when they are joined by the risen Lord.  They were kept from recognizing Jesus for a time.  But they were not conversing with a ghost.  This was Jesus.  He was real.  He was really alive.

            In the midst of their confusion about all that had happened the past Friday, Jesus told the two followers how the Christ had to suffer pain and death and then enter into glory.  Using the Scriptures Jesus explained to them everything that was said concerning Himself.

            When they reached Emmaus the two asked Jesus to stay and eat with them.  As they reclined at the table, Jesus took bread with His hands and He broke it and as He gave it to them, the eyes of the disciples were opened and they recognized Jesus.  They saw Him.  His body, new and glorious.  They knew Him.

            St. John gives us, perhaps, the fullest account of the resurrection of Jesus and what happened afterward.  We have the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and we know that she grabbed Jesus’ feet and held on for dear life.    

            We also have Jesus appearing to the disciples on the second Sunday of Easter.  He shows His body to the doubting Thomas and invites the disciple to touch Him, for Thomas to place his hands upon the Lord’s scars.  And like the others, Thomas saw that Jesus was real.  He was really alive.  His body, new and glorious.  Jesus knew him.  He knew Jesus.

            And in St. John we have the story of the failed fishing expedition on the sea of Galilee.  Jesus stands on shore and in a loud voice tells Peter: Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some (fish).  They make a net-splitting catch and then realize who it is that is calling out to them on shore. 

            In all of the resurrection stories, the risen Jesus is seen.  He has a new glorified body.  He speaks.  He eats.  He breaks bread.  The people knew Jesus.  He knew them. 

            The apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians: So it will be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that was sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

            And here is further good news as Paul writes to the Philippians: But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.

            Everything that we read and know about the resurrected Jesus will also be true for all who believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world.  On the Last Day, there will be a resurrection of the dead.  What a day that will be for Laurie Schneider.

            Maynard and Laurie were a sweet couple.  They seemed to become friends with everyone who sat on my left side of the sanctuary.  They found a home here at Life in Christ.  They faithfulness in worship and Bible study was a powerful witness for us all.

            Then came the news – Laurie was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.  And slowly but surely, this hideous disease robed Maynard and family and church family of the real Laurie.

            Over time she couldn’t recognize those friends who sat on my left in the sanctuary.  She wasn’t sure why she was here, wasn’t sure why she was having to stand up and sit down so often, wasn’t sure why she was kneeling at the altar rail. 

            Maynard took on a new role.  He was more than a husband.  He was Laurie’s caregiver.  24 hours a day – 7 days a week.  He did the cooking and the cleaning.  He took Laurie to all of her doctor’s appointments.  Rest wasn’t even rest because he had to be sure he knew where Laurie was at all times.

            Finally, Maynard acquiesced and allowed some dedicated people to help him.  But it was hard.  Laurie, the love of his life, did not even recognize him as her husband.

            After Maynard fell asleep in Jesus, Laurie began living in a memory care unit at Glencroft.  Visiting her was so hard.  Alzheimer’s Disease had robbed Laurie of her memory, her ability to reason and think.  She became more confused, she continually lost some of her things and she did stuff that she would never have done.  We were fearful when we learned that she’d broken a hip.  She didn’t stay long with us after that.  Laurie fell asleep in Jesus on December 30 of last year.

            Today we come to this place with sadness in our hearts.  We mourn her loss.  But God does not leave us on our own.  He comforts us.  God comforts us with His promises.

            Laurie confessed Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior.  She believed that Jesus had come to save sinners like her.  She trusted in Jesus’ Word that he that believes and is baptized shall be saved.  She believed that Jesus rose from the dead, having paid in full her debt to the Father for her disobedience and sin.  She trusted Jesus’ Word that He came to give His life as a ransom for many.  She believed that Jesus had prepared a place for her in heaven.  She trusted Jesus’ word that the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ His Son.

            Now Laurie rests in Christ Jesus.  Alzheimer’s Disease can no longer hurt her.  No more confusion, no more pain for her.  Revelation 14:13 teaches: Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord for now on.  Laurie is blessed.  She is with Jesus and to be with Christ, wrote the Apostle Paul, is better by far.

            It will be this way until the Last Day, Resurrection Day.  And then, according to His promise, Jesus will come again.  He first came in humility, the tiny baby born in Bethlehem.  He will return in power and glory, in heavenly splendor and majesty.  Everyone will know it is the Lord.  There will be no mistaking Jesus’ glorious return. 

            In a manner that only an omnipotent God could carry out, or bodies will be resurrected and our souls will make those bodies our dwelling place again.  These bodies will be new, immortal and incorruptible.  We will be free from weakness, free from those diseases and illnesses that broke our bodies down.   

              And on that grand and amazing day, we will see Laurie.  Like the women who touched Jesus, we will be able to touch and hug her.  Her body will be new and glorious.  We will know her.  She will know us.  As Jesus talked to the Emmaus disciples, we’ll be able to talk with Laurie.  No longer will she be confused.  No longer will she struggle for words.

            Isn’t that a wonderful picture? It’s what you and I have to look forward to.  This eternal life is our possession now.  And the source of all this joy is God.  We will live in the presence of God and the Lamb.  We won’t worry about whether our job is stable or if we have enough money to retire or if the Arizona Cardinals will be able to beat the Green Bay Packers in football this evening.

            We’ll have nothing to worry about.  We’ll have nothing to cry over.  Instead, we’ll lock arms with Laurie and Maynard and all those we loved and turn our hearts and voices to God and cry out with that great multitude: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!  This is God’s promise to us.  What more can we say but come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.    

OK, it's Nervous Time

All week I've had a bad feeling about tonight's playoff game between the Cardinals and the Packers.

Maybe it's because the Cards played so poorly against Seattle.

And maybe it's because the Packers played so well against the Redskins.

Aaron Rodgers is one of the great QB's in the NFL.

And Rodgers is right - all the pressure is on Arizona.

The experts are picking Arizona.  I hope, for once, the experts know what they're talking about.

If you'd like to worship and pray before the game, join us at LICL for our 5 pm service.

Tomorrow there are two services - at 8 and 10:45 am.  Sunday school and Bible classes meet at 9:20 am.

You'll know from my mood tomorrow whether Arizona won or lost.

Go Cardinals!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Our Christmas letter is finished!

At this point maybe it should be called "an Epiphany letter."

We enjoy receiving Christmas cards and always hope we find a letter and pictures in each envelope. It's a joy to read about the lives of family and friends.  As these letter find their way to our home we, in turn, do our best to get our Christmas letter in the mail.

But it didn't happen this year.

My excuse.  We were too busy.

But that's not much of an excuse.  Everyone is busy.

The only thing I can say in our defense is that we were busy.  But it was a "good" busy.

We were busy with our wonderful family.  We're blessed that two of our three kids still live in Phoenix.  Sunday afternoon is family time.  We eat together, enjoy the kids and grand kids and sometimes squeeze in a nap.

Our family is a big part of our lives.  When they need us, we're on the way.  We wouldn't have it any other way.

We were also busy with meaningful work.  Sherri is enjoying her 10th year as Assistant Professor of Nursing at GCU.  She has a passion for teaching and molding students into compassionate and caring nurses.

I'm blessed to have served 11 years now at Life in Christ.  We have a great ministry team and fine lay leadership.  The work in 2016 will not slow down and we'll do that work around a 2 million dollar building project that should launch in about a month.

Now, maybe a "good busy" is still not a good excuse for being late with a Christmas letter.

Would you believe that when we tore November from our calendar we took December with it and moved right on to January 2016?

I didn't think so.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Pack are Coming Back

I was really hoping that Washington would beat Green Bay in their playoff game last week.

Instead, after initially being a close game, the Packers pulled away and won easily.

Although they wouldn't say it, don't you think the Packer players really wanted to come back to Arizona?

The Cardinals humiliated the Pack a few weeks ago.  The Cardinals dominated play on both sides of the ball.  They tossed Aaron Rodgers around like a rag doll.

Green Bay will be ready to play on Saturday.

Will Arizona?

Our Cardinals got from Seattle what they gave to Green Bay two weeks ago.

The Seahawks really wanted the game.  They played with playoff intensity.

The Cardinals phoned it in.

Bruce Arians is a great coach.  His three year record as Cardinals coach is all the proof anyone needs.

But if Arizona is not ready to play and play hard, Green Bay will show no mercy.

They want to beat the Cardinals and they want to beat us bad.

We'll see what the Cardinals are made of Saturday night.

My rally cry? Turn the Pack back! Turn the Pack back!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Today, put on your Baptism!

I say this in order that we may not adopt the opinion that long prevailed among us, that our Baptism is past and can never be used after we again have fallen into sin.  The reason for a notion of this sort is that one looks upon Baptism in its aspect of a one-time action.  Indeed, the idea goes back to ST. Jerome, who wrote, "Repentance is the second plank on which we must swim ashore after the sinking of the ship" in which we embarked and sailed forth when we entered the Christian church at Baptism.

This view deprives us of the use of Baptism, so that it can no longer benefit us.  Jerome's statement is not correct, for the ship, Baptism, cannot be shipwrecked because, as we said, it is God's ordinance and not something of ours.  It can happen, however, that we slip and fall out of the ship.  But when this happens and someone does fall out, he should at once swim for the ship again and cling to it until he can climb back on deck and sail forward as he had earlier begun to do.

Thus we see how splendid a thing Baptism is.  It snatches us out of the devil's jaws, makes God our own, defeats and puts away sin, daily strengthens the new man is us, keeps functioning, and remains with us until we leave our present troubles to enter glory everlasting.

Everyone should therefore look upon his Baptism as his everyday wear, to be worn continually.  He should at all times be found in faith and surrounded by its fruits.  He should every day suppress the old man and grow toward maturity in the new man.  For if we want to be Christians, we must carry on in the work that makes us Christians.

But if someone falls away from it, let him come back to it again.  For just as Christ, the throne of divine mercy, does not withdraw from us nor prevent us from coming back again to Him, though we sin, so also all His treasures and gifts remain.  As we once obtained forgiveness of sins in Baptism, so that forgiveness continues for us as long as we live, that is to say, for as long as we have the old Adam hanging about our necks.

Martin Luther, "The Large Catechism"
from "For All the Saints" pages 217-218

Monday, January 11, 2016

Your Light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

We have entered that time in the church year called Epiphany.  The word reminds us that all people are drawn to the light of God and come to worship Him as He reveals Himself in Jesus Christ.  It was the wise men who followed a star to Bethlehem so they could see and worship the bright Morning Star, God's glory to the world.

In the Bible, salvation is synonymous with light, that salvation which dispels the darkness of the things that so often separate us from God - ignorance, sin and Satan.  To come to faith and repentance through the Gospel is to move from the darkness of death and into the Light of God's love for us in Jesus.

Bathed in this Light, we look to God's Word for help with life's problems and decisions.  God's rich forgiveness frees us to put aside the past and look to the future with hope.  God's Spirit produces the fruit of faith which always points back to Jesus, our Light who has come.

Have you ever been stuck at home during a power outage? It's is no fun stumbling in the dark, trying to light a candle or hoping to find a flashlight that works.  When the light is finally restored, you feel both joyful and thankful.  The season of Epiphany leaves us feeling the same way.  Joyful that the Light of the world has come to us, bringing His precious salvation.  Filled with thanksgiving, we let our lights shine before us so that the glory of God might be seen at work in our lives too.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Just one Word!

Some of Jesus' most powerful acts took place with just one word from the lips of the Lord.  Come and learn this weekend how that Word can make the difference in your life.

Saturday service begins at 5 pm and will include Holy Communion.  On Sunday you can worship at either 8 or 10:45 am; Sunday school and adult Bible class begin at 9:20 am.  Join us and hear the Word of Jesus this Sunday at Life in Christ in Peoria!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Grace upon grace

I've been reading David Petersen's book of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany sermons as devotional material and I was especially moved by this paragraph:

John gives us a hint as to what the character of that grace is: it is grace upon grace.  John shows us this when Jesus makes water into wind and gives them not only the best wine but more wine than they could drink.  Grace upon grace, extravagant, wasteful.  He shows us this again as Jesus multiplies the loaves and there is too much left over, when the miraculous catch of fish is too big to haul in, when He saves and forgives the woman caught in adultery, and in many other instances.  But, of course, the clearest showing of the extravagant, even reckless, grace of God in Jesus Christ is when He is lifted up from the earth and draws us to Himself.  Grace upon grace, bestowed on those who don't deserve it, who could have never earned it or found it or figured it out.  Grace undeserved, unexpected, upon grace: glorious, free and perfect forgiving love.

This is why Jesus was born, why He came into the world, in this truth, for the sake of grace.  Grace upon grace: that is how it is with the Lord.

From "God With Us - Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Sermons" page 79

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Martin Luther leads us in prayer

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled.  My Lord, fill it.  I am weak in faith; strengthen me.  I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbors.  I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust You altogether.  O Lord, help me.  Strengthen my faith and trust in You.  In You I have sealed the treasure of all I have.  I am poor; You are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.  I am a sinner; You are upright.  With me, there is an abundance of sin; in You is the fullness of righteousness.  Therefore I will remain with You, of whom I can receive but to whom I may not give.  Amen.

Martin Luther, from "For All the Saints," page 190

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I did on my Christmas blog vacation

Well, here we are again.  Back from vacation and ready to start blogging again.

My dear, sweet wife and I, along with my youngest daughter and her family, left town on December 26 to spend a week in Carlsbad, Ca.  We were given a week at a time-share by one of our members - a very generous and special gift.  We had a great time together with many highlights.

My grandson, Drew, loved the beach and didn't mind that the water felt like it was 17 degrees below zero (I slightly exaggerate).  He loved building sandcastles, looking for sea shells and running in and out of the water.

My other grandson, Duke, about seven months old now, made every morning special for me.  His smile is infectious and he now sits up and can play with some of his toys (all of which go into his mouth).

My son-in-law, Josh, shares my love for the Az. Cardinals and we loved, loved, loved how the Cardinals demolished Green Bay (don't ask about the Seahawks game - too painful to even talk about).

My daughter, Katie, impresses me more and more each day.  Most mothers I know are multi-taskers and Katie is among the best.  How she gives her undivided attention to both boys is beyond me - I admire her greatly.

Sherri loved watching Drew play on the beach and welcomed the break from teaching at GCU.  She dealt with the effects of a cold and didn't let it spoil her fun.

I enjoy Carlsbad a lot.  Their downtown area boasts a number of neat shops and restaurants.  The pace is relaxed which doesn't bother me a bit.  And there is a CD store - Spin Records - which stocks a lot of hard-to-find music which is a real treat for me.  I spent a fair amount of Christmas money from my in-laws on some music I'd been searching for.

It was good to come back to the office on Monday.  This will be a super busy year at LICL, what with our new building project starting in a month or so.  We've been through this drill before so we know what to expect.  So with plenty of patience and prayer, we should be able to deal with the inconveniences while continuing to proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus - the light of the world!

I pray that 2016 is a year full of God's blessings and surprises for you!