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