Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The gift of "grace"

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has broken down the wall of sin that seperates us from Him, and He makes our union with Him a reality.  We call this gift, "grace."

Kurt Senske from "The Calling" (sorry, did not mark the page number)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What does the church collect? Would you believe...

Author Eugene Peterson never fails to enlighten me when he writes about the church and its people.  I really appreciate the comments below, taken from Philip Yancey's recent book:

When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business - and dishonest business at that.  

Insiders see it differently.  Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners.  Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It's similar with sinners outside the church.

So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior.  They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced and dealt this.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Christ is risen!

O Death, where is your sting?
O Grave, where is your victory?
Christ is risen and you are overthrown
Christ is risen and the devils have fallen
Christ is risen and the angels rejoice
Christ is risen and life reigns.
Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, and to Him be glory and honor, even to eternity.  Amen.

John Chrysostom (344-407)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

By love...

By love He took our place and died;

  by faith we take His place and live.

Our sins were imputed to Him;

  His righteousness is imputed to us through faith.

From the devotional book, "Daily Bread," page 81

Today at Life in Christ, Easter Vigil worship at 5 pm.

Tomorrow, Easter Celebration worship at 6:30 am, 8:30 am and 10:30 am.

Join us tomorrow at LICL, 14802 N. 75th Avenue in Peoria, AZ.

Friday, March 25, 2016

He has redeemed me!

As we prepare to observe Good Friday tonight at Life in Christ (service at 7 pm), I couldn't think of anything better to meditate on than Luther's explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostles' Creed.  I first memorized the meanings to the creeds as a 5th grade student at Redeemer Lutheran Day School in Tucson, Arizona.  To this day, Luther's words continue to fill me with a sense of awe and thanksgiving.

I  believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.  He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.  He did this not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, so that i may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Luther on the Lord's Supper

Therefore, the Sacrament is given as a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself (Psalm 23:1-3) so that it will not fall back in such a battle, but become ever stronger and stronger.  The new life must be guided so that it continually increases and progresses.  But it must suffer much opposition.  For the devil is such a furious enemy.  When he sees that we oppose him and attack the old man, and that he cannot topple us over by force, he prowls and moves about on all sides (1 Peter 5:8).  He tries every trick and does not stop until he finally wears us out, so that we either renounce our faith or throw up our hands and put up our feet, becoming indifferent or impatient.  Now to this purpose the comfort of the Sacrament is given when the heart feels that the burden is becoming too heavy, sot that it may gain here new power and refreshment.

For a fresh dose of power and refreshment, join us tonight at Life in Christ for our Maundy Thursday service.  The Supper will be served.  Be here at 7 pm.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Weekly prayer #1

Starting this week our Encouragement Team is trying to bring our congregation together to have us all praying for the blessing of the Lord upon our building project.

One of their ideas was to assemble a team of Prayer Warriors who would pray every day for successfully completing the project.  One of our members, Karen Bennett, a real prayer warrior herself, agreed to head up this team.

One idea was to include a prayer each week in the worship folder that people could cut out and put in their Bible or devotional booklet or wherever and then pray every day.

A wonderful thing happened.  In my closing announcements I urged the congregation to take home the worship folder so that the prayer would be available to them.  And that's what people did!

After the service one of the ushers came up to me and said, "Pastor, we had over 200 in attendance in the first service.  They all took their bulletins home.  Now, we don't have enough bulletins available for the 2nd service!"

Wow! It was so cool that people caught the vision of what we are trying to accomplish.  It has been a really good feeling to know that so many people are praying together for our building project.

Here is the prayer:

Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your continued blessing on our church.  Please be with us and guide us in every aspect of our being here.  We are here to worship You and to fellowship with one another in Your holy name.  We will soon begin construction on our new building after much prayer and discussion on the subject.  We ask Your continued blessing on our efforts, as they will be many groups within Life in Christ that will use the building for meetings, classes, and other activities for our own congregation and as a community outreach to share Christ with a needy world.  

Father, if it be Your will, please let construction run smoothly and safely.  Keep us from encountering problems along the way, and may there be no disputes among us as we move on.  The building is for Your great glory, Lord.  Help us to keep that in the forefront of our minds throughout its construction.  Please grant us wisdom on this path to honor You and each other in the process.  Let's never forget the purpose of this building is to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to strengthen it in the minds of our members and present a clear joy to all visitors, especially those who have not known Jesus before!

Holy Spirit, rain down Your blessing on our mission, that we may be instruments of Your Word.  We ask these things in the name of Jesus, our beautiful Savior!  Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A prayer for the day

This collect, written by Martin Luther, is appropriate for Holy Week or any other week for that matter:

Merciful, Everlasting God, Who did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all so that He might bear our sin upon the Cross: Grant us that our hearts may never be daunted or become discouraged in this faith.  Amen.

From "For All the Saints," page 951

Monday, March 21, 2016

Enjoy the quiet-celebrate the noise!

It's 7:15 am and I've been up for a little over an hour.  It's so quiet.  I've read my devotional book and have been giving thought to my Easter Sunday sermon. I've checked out Facebook and a few blogs I like to read.  These last 75 minutes have been wonderful.

We've not had too many moments like this recently.  My youngest daughter and her two boys have been with us for about two weeks.  In that time our other two kids and their kids have spent much time with us.  So the house has been rocking and rolling.  The noise level has resembled the frenzied crowd at an Arizona Cardinals game. I've been waiting for the neighbors to stop by and remind me that we're living in an active adult community where active children and toddlers are not tolerated!

My friends know me as someone who cherishes peace and quiet.  Monday is usually my day off. Sherri teaches on Monday so I've got the place all by myself.  Chilling is an essential part of maintaining good mental health (at least for me).

But I've come to realize that as much as I like peace and quiet, it's time to celebrate the noise!

How blessed I am to have most of my kids and grandkids nearby.  I know folks in our church whose children live hundreds, even thousands of miles away.  If they're lucky they get a visit a year.  They get a mere week or maybe two to spend time with the precious family members.

We see some of our kids and grandkids just about every Sunday.  My granddaughter, Emily, is very shy.  I thought I'd never connect with her.  But since she's here every Sunday, we've formed a very close bond.  I suppose it helps that I do every single thing she wants me to do.  But I've learned that this very shy girl is a very loving and very creative girl.  Would this have happened if she lived in St. Louis or Chicago or Orlando?

And the truth is, I'm not getting any younger.  I'm not going to be around forever.  I've heard some grandparents say, "I'm not really into little ones.  I'll wait until they get older and then I'll really enjoy them."  How foolish! None of us are guaranteed a certain number of years.  The Lord could call us home at any time.  Now is the appointed time to enjoy your family!

So I'll celebrate the noise.  I'll have time to read after Katie and kids leave.  We'll catch up on "Downton Abbey" in a couple of weeks.  Instead, I'll enjoy Drew's infatuation with firefighters.  I'll melt when Duke gives me a two-tooth grin.  I'll marvel when Luke and Ethan and Emily and Will join the fray.  With all the noise I may not be able to think.  But nothing will stop me from celebrating!


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Come and see Mount Dirtmore

Our construction project began in earnest this week.  A front-loader moved dirt every which way in digging out the footprint of the building so that concrete headers can be poured this week.  We thank the Lord for seeing us through the permit process.  I can't wait to see what progress is made next week.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week so I hope you'll join us for worship.  We'll have special music from our Sunday school children and from Annie Taylor and Jan Andersen.  The sermon message is entitled, "Great Is His Love For You."  Be here at either 8 or 10:45 am (Bible classes for all ages begins at 9:20 am).

You can also worship today at 5 pm.  Deacon Danny Baker will be preaching and music will be provided by the Herman Group.  Whether it be today or tomorrow, join us as we worship the Lord and receive His gift of mercy and grace at Life in Christ!

Friday, March 18, 2016

What does this mean?

"He will bruise the serpent's head" (Genesis 3:15) means nothing less than that He will destroy the kingdom of the devil.

CFW Walther, "Law and Gospel," page 81

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Faith is...

Faith is willing to abandon all earthly guarantees and rely solely on God.

Paul Wendlend, "The Peoples Bible - First Chronicles," page 300

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What Christian doesn't ask for forgiveness?

Whether you love or loathe Donald Trump, I don't think you can disagree with this statement from author, minister Max Lucado:

There was a time in Iowa when he (Trump) said, "I'm a Christian" and somebody asked about forgiveness and he said, "I've never asked God for forgiveness."  I can't imagine that.  I'm just shaking my head going, "How does that work?" Does a swimmer say, "I've never gotten wet?" Does a musician say, "I've never sung a song?" How does a person claim to be a Christian and never need to ask for forgiveness?

As quoted in "Christianity Today" interview with Richard Clark - 2/26/16

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

No one need fall below the reach of God's grace

Found this nugget in the Philip Yancey book I'm reading...

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus raises the ideals so high that none of us can reach them.  I have not committed adultery - have I ever lusted? I have not murdered - have I ever hated? Do I love my enemies? Do I give to everyone who asks? What sounds at first like bad news, a moral standard that no one can reach, takes a dramatic shift, for in the same sermon Jesus lowers the safety net of grace. In His ministry Jesus gave vivid proof that no one need fall below the reach of God's grace, not a prostitute, thief, murderer or traitor.  Indeed, Peter the traitor and Paul the human rights abuser, both now forgiven and transformed, proceed to lead the way in spreading that gospel of grace.

From "Vanishing Grace," page 229

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Let the happy chaos begin!

My youngest daughter is in town with her family for the next month so we often have all six grandchildren visiting with us.  The age range is 7 years to six months old.  Some run and walk, some crawl, and one just lays on his blanket.  Some jabber like parrots, others ask endless questions and a couple just coo and smile and melt hearts.  The noise level will, at times, will lead us to wonder if airplanes are taking off and landing in our living room.  My wife calls it, "happy chaos."  Bring it on!

What about your weekend? I hope it includes a visit to Life in Christ for worship.  It will be my joy to preach at all three services - Saturday at 5 pm & Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Also, Sunday school and Bible classes meet at 9:20 am.  We'll have an exciting announcement regarding our construction program before each service.  Want to know what it's about? Well...I can't tell you now! Come and join us this weekend for worship at LICL!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

If I could only write like...

If you're a pastor, you write.  In seminary you are given the basic tools needed to write a sermon.  As you go into the parish you hone your craft.  Some days the writing is as easy as adding 2 + 2.  Then there are the days that crafting a 15 minutes sermon is like trying to understand a single thought from Stephen Hawking.

There are two people who write, two folks that I greatly admire.  One is Max Lucado.  Over 50 million of his books are in publication.  I'd happily take a 10th of that and not complain a bit.  Lucado is not from my tribe - Lutheran.  But he is one author of a reformed church who gets Jesus the way I've been taught to get Jesus.  Each time Lucado writes and publishes another book, it immediately goes to the top of my reading stack.  There have been a few occasions when I've polished off the first four chapters of a new book of his before I've paid for the book.  Lucado helps me to see Jesus - the wonder of His sacrificial death and the power of His resurrection from the grave.  Stranded on a deserted island? As long as I've got a Lucado book in my backpack, I'll survive just fine.

The other author is Rick Reilly.  For ten years Reilly wrote the last-page-of-the-magazine column for Sports Illustrated.  So, for ten years I read SI by starting from the back. Reilly came first.  Always first. 

A few years ago he quit that gig.  Reilly did some television and I believe he wrote a bit for  For me it just wasn't the same as when I went to the mailbox every Thursday, pulled out my copy of SI and wondered, "What did Reilly write about this week?"

So you can appreciate the happy dance I did when I picked up last week's SI and found that the cover story, about the Golden State Warriors, was written by (drumroll....) Rick Reilly!

It was such a joy to see that Reilly hadn't lost the zip from his fastball, so to speak.  No one paints a better story.  And no one turns a better phrase.  Here are some examples from the SI article:

It's not going to last, of course, this team, this moment, this selfie of pure unselfishness.  It's too perfect, the way these Golden State Warriors, whose crunch-time five is so small it would fit nicely in a Fiat 500, have become the biggest thing in the NBA, with a possible stop at Best Team Ever.

It's past the All-Star break and the world is still joyously, wondrously, happily downside up.  How could every NBA arena be suddenly half filled with colors the home team doesn't even sell? How could a league whose standard used to be a cyborg called the Spurs now be fronted by a bunch of happy snipers from the Bay Area who get more touches in a single possession than a $20 bill at a street craps game?  And how could these guys be called the Warriors anyway? They're about as warlike as fudge.

These guys are looser than secondhand socks.  (My favorite sentence in the whole article!)

In 2003, Curry gave up a week of his off-season - including his anniversary - to come to a refugee camp in Tanzania to hang 37,000 antimalarial bed nets with us for Nothing But Nets, a charity I cofounded in these pages 10 years ago with the United Nations Foundation.  What's funny is that he (Curry) paid for a lot of those nets.  He donates three nets for every three-pointed he makes, which is like having your 14-year-old daughter donate three every time she checks her phone (my second favorite line in the article).

Well, hopefully, you catch my drift.  I've read that article three times now.  I'll read it again.  It's not work to read Rick Reilly.  It's pure joy.

It appears that Reilly and Sports Illustrated are going to become a thing again.

Well, I hope so. 

Gives me a reason to spare my dear, sweet wife and pick up the mail (on Thursday).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

BIG George Martin

I remember the first time I read it.  I had just purchased the latest Beatles record, "Magical Mystery Tour."  The album contained six new tracks from their TV special plus five other songs that had been released as singles.  At the bottom of the list were the words: PRODUCED BY BIG GEORGE MARTIN.

To this day I've never read an explanation as to why it was "Big" George Martin.

Were the Beatles poking fun at their producer for all the acclaim he was receiving for having produced the greatest pop record album ever made (IMHO), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?"

Or was the band simply acknowledging the big, huge, enormous influence Martin had had on their recordings and career?

Who could have ever predicted that a producer mainly of comedy records and a relatively unheralded pop band from the north in Liverpool would join forces to change the sound and the look of pop music forever?

Martin first liked the Beatles for their personalities and sense of humor.  Later he recognized the great song writing potential of Lennon and McCartney.

He changed the pace of "Please, Please Me" and gave the band their first number one hit.

He convinced McCartney that the use of strings on "Yesterday" would make the song.  And Martin was right.

He captured all the amazing sounds of "Pepper" on a four-track recording machine.  Unheard of!

And in the end, Martin was able to get the band to work together one more time to produce an album worthy of a career-ending flourish - "Abbey Road."

George Martin just passed away at the age of 90.

Lots of folks will spend the days to come attempting to analyze the influence of Martin on the Beatles career.

Let's just call it BIG!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How's your aim?

Here's a fairly well-known quote from CS Lewis:

If you read history you will find out that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next (world).  Aim at heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in.'  Aim at earth and you'll get neither.

From "Mere Christianity"

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Two thumbs up from my dear, sweet wife and me.

We saw the movie at the Harkins Arrowhead theatre and I would guess that at least a third of the seats were occupied for the 4:30 showing.  Now I know that doesn't sound impressive.  But we're used to going to faith-based films where there were maybe a half-dozen people in attendance.

What was impressive to us was the performance of Joseph Fiennes as the Roman Tribune tasked with finding the body of the missing Jesus.  Like a good detective, Fiennes' Clavius tracks down Jesus' followers.  He is struck by the calm peace of Mary Magdalene and taken aback by the giddy faith of Bartholomew.  Following the lead of a Jewish man in the know, Clavius finally discovers the place where the disciples are gathered.  He opens the door and gets the surprise of his life, which ultimately leads to a changed life.

Kudos to director, Kevin Reynolds, for remaining true to the Biblical record while weaving a true detective story that kept you on the edge of your seat, even if you had a pretty good idea of how the story would end.

As we left the theatre to make our way home we both had the feeling that we couldn't wait for Easter - our opportunity to celebrate with the entire Christian church on earth, the risen Jesus Christ, our redeemer from sin, our victor over death and our conqueror over the devil.

That is one of the joys of Easter, isn't it, to join our voices together with our brothers and sisters in Christ and exclaim: "He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!"

This is the weekend...

to see the film, "Risen."  Many of our members have seen the movie (one member three times!) and rave about it.  And it has done well at the box office too.  A film like "Risen" is not going to get much love from the mainstream press but I'm thinking that word-of-mouth support has really helped the film succeed.  So I'll let you know my impressions of the film next week.

Otherwise, I hope to see you at worship this weekend.  Saturday worship at 5 pm with music from the Kevin Svec group and Sunday worship at 8 and 10:45 am - Sunday school and classes for all ages at 9:20 in the morning.

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Don't bother me! I'm reading!

Prior to last night's worship service I decided to go out for a bite to eat.  One of our members gave me an Olive Garden gift card that had money left on it so soup and salad sounded like a pretty good pre-service meal.

When I was done I decided to stop by my favorite book store on the way back to church.  This store is actually the Savers store on Bell and 79th Avenue.  I like browsing through places like Savers and Goodwill because you never know what you will find.  Sometimes you walk out empty handed. Sometimes you hit the mother-lode, so to speak.  And that's what happened to me yesterday.

I walked out the door with $128 dollars of books for $12.95.  Really! Here's what I'll be reading in the coming weeks:

"The Closer" tells the story of the great New York Yankees relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera.  No pitcher saved more games for his team than Rivera.  He is a Christian with a strong testimony for Jesus so this book may find itself at the top of the stack.

"Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson was published about five years ago and I basically ignored the book. I'd read some stuff about Jobs and I wasn't impressed with the stories I'd heard of how badly he treated people.  But I started flipping through the pages and realized that it might be worth taking a look at how he built Apple into what it is today.

"Last Man Down" is the story of a NYC firefighter, Richard Picciotto, who somehow managed to survive the fall of the World Trade Center.  Without a thought regarding their own lives many firefighters, police men and women and first responders bravely went into those stricken building to save lives.  Don't know anything about the book but I'm looking forward to reading it.

"Making Records" is written by music producer, Phil Ramone.  Ramone has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to Billy Joel and Paul Simon.  I love music and have always been interested in the creative process of writing, recording and producing music.  This book, too, will find its way to the top of the stack.

"Unstoppable" was written by former ASU champion wrestler, Anthony Robles.  A unique athlete, Robles was born with only one leg.  But through the inspiration of his mother and his own hard work, Robles became one of the greatest wrestlers the college ranks have ever seen.  I love inspirational stories.  I think I'll like this book.

Well, gotta go.  I might be able to get a little reading in before I head to church.  See you at Savers!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

It's Super Wednesday

It's always a super day when you can worship in the house of the Lord.

Tonight at 7 pm we will gather at Life in Christ for a mid-week Lenten worship service.

We are taking a look at the petitions of the Lord's Prayer.  Tonight, the 3rd Petition: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Come and join us.  Make a mid-week pit stop and be refreshed by the Word of God.

See you tonight!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spring Training Baseball - No Thanks

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona which, at that time, was the spring training home of the Cleveland Indians.

I remember the good old days when my Dad would take me to Hi Corbett Field for a spring training game.

To see in person ballplayers like Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Rocky Colovito was like living a dream.

Tickets were cheap, food was inexpensive and parking was free.  As far as my Dad was concerned, life couldn't get much better.  And I had to agree with him.

That's not the case today.

It seems that spring training has priced itself out of the realm of the average family's budget.  Unless you're a die-hard fan of your team, how can a family of four afford tickets (no longer five bucks a piece), a hot dog (no longer a buck a dog) or park the car (I believe I paid seven dollars at Peoria a couple of years ago).

So I'll stay home.  I can sit out on my back porch, out of the sun, and listen to the Diamondbacks on the radio.  There won't be any vendors selling peanuts, pop corn and Cracker Jacks.  I'll have to get up to get my favorite liquid beverage.

But I won't pay $15 for it.