Saturday, December 23, 2017

Time for my annual Christmas blog vacation

Hello friendly readers! Each year at this time I take a little vacation from the blog.  I'll be back on January 8. About 100 people each day check out this blog.  That's not a large number but from some of you I hear that you check in every day so I feel quite honored that you take a little time to see what I've written.  I hope you have gotten some encouragement by checking in.  I really love sharing those things that have helped me in some way and I hope they do the same for you.

We have an exciting weekend of worship at LICL.  Today at 5 pm we'll have worship with Holy Communion and music provided by Kevin Svec and his band.  Sunday morning we will worship at 8 am and I'll provide the fourth message in my sermon series, "Moving Toward the Manger." At 11 am our Sunday school kids will tell the Christmas message with costumes, props, everything!  Pastor Marcus will include a sermonette.

Sunday evening at 7 and 9 pm we will hold our traditional candlelight services.  There will be lots of special music and the final message, "Moving Toward the Manger - With Praise," will be offered.  Then, on Christmas Monday, we will gather at the church for our traditional carols and readings service.

In the midst of this very busy time of the year, I hope you'll stop to come and worship the God who has made your salvation possible through the gift of His Son.  His name is Jesus, "for He will save His people of their sins."  "O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!"

A blessed Christmas season to you all! Have a wonderful and prosperous 2018!

Sunset in Maui

We were blessed to travel with our dear friends, Dan and Janelle, last September to Hawaii.  From our hotel room balcony I snapped this picture as the sun was setting.  God painted a masterpiece for us.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Love for broken people

There is a cross that makes us all safe. Jesus is drawn to the broken parts of us we would never want to draw attention to. Jesus is most attracted to the busted and sees the broken as the most beautiful. And our God wants the most unwanted parts of us most. "Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice...The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit." (Psalm 51:17 MSG, HCSB).

Nothing pleases God more than letting Him touch the places you think don't please Him. God is drawn to broken things - so He can draw the most beautiful things.

Ann Voskamp, "Be the Gift," page 102

Happy day for our family

This morning our family grows by one.

My oldest daughter and her husband have been fostering a young boy for a couple of years.  In this time he had become a part of the family.  They decided to adopt the boy and after a long, strange trip through the court system, today is the day.

We are all in agreement - this is the best Christmas gift our family could have received.

May you be blessed in the same way as we are.

Have a great day!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Depressed? Laugh and Sing!

I have shared this prayer before.  But I went back to it today and it blessed me greatly.  Maybe it can do the same for you.

Lord give me the courage
the heavenly medicine
to sing
when I am in the prison
of depression
as the apostles did
in jail
To laugh
at the demons within me
knowing you
reign supreme
in the throne room
of my heart
To be thankful
at all times
knowing you
are in control
Christ in me

Acts 16:23-25, Psalm 27:6; 40:1-3, Ephesians 5:19-20

From "Prayers For People Under Pressure," by Donald L. Deffner, page 28 (I believe this book, which had been out of print can now be obtained from Northwestern Publishing House or found on Amazon)

BFP - two years ago/You have Christ in your neighbor

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The To-Do List

Sunday Service - check

Christmas Eve Service - check

Christmas Day Service - check

Sunday sermon - do today!

Christmas Eve Sermon - done yesterday!

Christmas Day Sermon - done Monday!

I've never done the sermons backward like that.  But sometimes when you get inspiration you gotta run with it.  I had outlined the Christmas Eve sermon so I had a good idea of what the goal and subject would be.  Then came an idea for Christmas Day so I started typing and in 3 hours I had a sermon.  Praise the Lord!

Bottom line is that I'm making good progress and, hopefully, that will relieve some of the anxiety I've been feeling.  I believe that we're going to have a wonderful time celebrating our Lord's birth this weekend.  I hope you'll be there to help us give praise and thanks to the Father for the gift of the Son!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A busy week of work

Yesterday I got started on the three services I need to prepare for this weekend.  The Saturday/Sunday 8 am service is nearly done.  Christmas Eve is pretty much finished, just needing a few tweaks.  Christmas Day, traditionally full of Scripture readings and hymn is done. 

Today I'll finish the services and in between Memory Cafe and lunch with one of our members I'll get started on the Christmas Eve sermon.  The title is "Moving Toward the Manger - With Praise."  Now that I've got a title, all I need is a sermon to go with it! The Sunday 8 am service covers Luke 1:59-80. We come full circle with Zechariah.  Elizabeth delivers her baby and the moment of truth comes - how will the child be named.  So I'm working on some ideas for that sermon.  And the Christmas Day sermon will be entitled, "Mary Had a Little Lamb."  There are some correlations with the birth of Christ and John the Baptist's later pronouncement, "Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."  So I'm interested in exploring that idea and seeing if it goes anywhere.

This is not just a busy week for pastors; everyone I know has a pretty full agenda this week.  Whether it's getting ready for family to visit or attending school or work events or taking care of last minute shopping for gifts, it can really get stressful.

Last week I reread the story of Mary and Martha (Luke, chapter 10).  I realized that I was becoming like Martha.  The text says she was "distracted" by all the preparations she had to make in welcoming Jesus into her home.  But Mary chose "the better thing" and simply sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him teach His Word of hope and eternal life.

We can't do too much about the demands of the season.  But can do something about how we deal with those demands.  Yes, get out those to-do list and work through them.  But don't let those items distract you from what is really important - celebrating and giving thanks for the baby in the manger. Jesus is Mary's little lamb and Jesus is your Savior, who takes away your sin and fills your heart with peace and joy.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Gift For You!

When a person gives a genuine gift, don't you cherish the presence of affection?

Have you ever received such a gift? Yes, you have. Sorry to speak on your behalf, but I know the answer as I ask the question. You have been given a perfect personal gift.  One just for you. "There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11 NASB)

An angel spoke these words.  Shepherds heard them first. But what the angel said to them, God says to anyone who will listen, "There has been born for you..."  Jesus is the gift.

Max Lucado, "God is With You Every Day," page 370

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Curved in on yourself

Just read this great quote and wanted to share it with you:

Sin is the slippery slope of me, me, me. As the roiling sea we contribute to and are forced to swim in - us in our hoodies with our ear buds in, blocking out any and all input that does not delight or serve us, perpetually curving in on a world of our own creation.

Heather Davis, as quoted in "Reading Romans With Luther," page 23

Won't you join us for worship this weekend?

Martin Luther, in his explanation of the Third Commandment, wrote:  We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

You can put those words into practice this weekend at Life in Christ.  Saturday worship at 5 pm; Sunday services at 8 and 11 am.  Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Today's decision

I am slowly becoming a fan of Ann Voskamp.  I like her writing style.  It seems that each time I pick up one of her books or read her blog, she gives me something to think about.  Today, you can chew on this with me:

You have only one decision to make each day: how will you use your time?

From "Be the Gift," page 23.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Change the Lord's Prayer? Bah Humbug!

The Pope has a problem with the sixth petition of the Lord's Prayer.  Folks at church asked for my opinion on Sunday and my answer was pretty simple - why would we mess with Jesus' words.  An examination of the Greek (see Gene Veith's blog for a fine analysis) shows that "and lead us not into temptation" is a correct translation.  So, what does this petition mean? Martin Luther reminds us:

God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Martin Luther - Pastor, Rebel, Prophet, Monk

One of our member, Dave, blessed me with a book last week.  He'd read it and was so inspired by it that he purchased copies for myself and our associate pastor. 

The book is "Martin Luther - the Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World."  The author is Eric Metaxas, who wrote a brilliant biography on Deitrich Bonhoeffer.  This book was definitely on my "to buy" list.  Dave beat me to it and I'm really glad.

I sat down last night to get started on the book and read something in the first paragraph that I did not know. 

In 1934 an African American pastor from Georgia made the trip of a lifetime, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, through the gates of Gibraltar, and across the Mediterranean Sea to the Holy Land. After this pilgrimage, he traveled to Berlin, attending an international conference of Baptist pastors.  While in Germany, this man - who was named Michael King - became so impressed with what he learned about the reformer Martin Luther, that he decided to do something dramatic. He offered the ultimate tribute to the man's memory by changing his own name to Martin Luther King.  His five year old son was also named Michael - and to his son's dying day his closest relatives would still call him Mike - but not long after the boy's father changed his own name, he decided to change his son's name too, and Michael King Jr. became known to the world as Martin Luther King Jr.

Metaxas goes on to write, "This father and son name change is just one dramatic measure of the influence of Martin Luther."

Can't wait to see what else I learn.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Come for a short sermon this weekend

I'm not sure when I copied this quote in one of my journals.  But I remember the impact it made on me.

A long sermon may be good.  But a good sermon is rarely long.

Jazz great, John Coltrane, once talked about his idea that good experimental jazz had no time limits.  If it took 20 minutes to play the song, that was the appropriate length for the song.  Then he had an epiphany of sorts - he began playing with musicians who seemed to accomplish the same impact with their music in 10 minutes and Coltrane realized that quality, rather than quantity, was what he should strive for.

My mentor at the Seminary, Glenn Nielsen, was once asked, "How long should a sermon be?" His answer - "As long as it needs to be."  So there's no time limit to how short or long a sermon should be, huh?

Yes, that's right.  But that's not the only consideration.

We live in a day and age where people are not accustomed to receiving information from a talking head, standing in a pulpit, going on for 15, 20 or more minutes.  The average attention span of a person today is, depending on who you read, is only a couple of minutes at best.  So, if a pastor is going to go on and on, sharing every idea he's discovered in his study of the text, he'd better be a captivating speaker.

Most of us aren't.

Even someone as talented as Max Lucado doesn't speak endlessly.  He brilliantly decides on one goal or theme for his message and then develops that one goal or theme.  His books were sermons first - so you get an idea of how he arranges his thoughts and how he masterfully presents the central truth of the text.  And he's such a great writer and speaker that he could go on forever and you'd never once look at your watch.

But he doesn't.

Not being one of those great speakers, I do pay attention to the length of my messages.  That doesn't mean that I never stray into the 17, 18 minutes area.

But I'd better be convinced that I really need to speak that long and I'd better feel certain that the material that I've developed needs to be presented to the flock.

I started a new Advent sermon series last Sunday, "Moving Toward the Manger."  The message lasted, I believe, 15 minutes.  When I first read it the message timed out around 17 minutes.  So, I reviewed the manuscript carefully.  I looked for redundancies.  I sought out paragraphs that could be tightened up. I found stray sentences that were just in the way of the main point I was trying to make.
I trimmed a good two minutes from the manuscript.

Was it a great sermon? I don't know.  The feedback I received was good.  Mostly, I felt like I had delivered the message I thought the flock needed and I did so in an appropriate time period.

This weekend I offer part two of the series - "Moving Toward the Manger - With Faith."  We'll look at Mary's encounter with an angel and his message - that she would be the mother of the Most High God.  The question I want to explore is, "What was it that the angel said that caused Mary to respond the way she did?"

The message takes 12 minutes to deliver.  It could be longer.  In fact, I wondered if I'd left something out that needed to be communicated.  But having read through the message a couple of times, I'm satisfied with what I've written.

But the proof is in the preaching so I'm anxious to see how it goes.

Join us tonight at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8 or 11 am.  Come and travel with us as we move toward the manger in Bethlehem to receive the gift God has given us - His Son!

And have a blessed weekend! 

Friday, December 8, 2017

You say the sermon was a little long?

A pastor, known for his lengthy sermons, noticed a man get up and leave during the middle of his message. The man returned just before the conclusion of the service. Afterwards the pastor asked the man where he had gone.

"I went to get a haircut," was the reply.

"But," said the pastor, "why didn't you do that before the service?"

"Because," the gentleman said, "I didn't need one then."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When we make church all about us

But when we make church about us, we can expect two outcomes: shallow friendships and a shallow faith.

Sharon Hodle Miller, "Free of Me," page 117

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BFP (five years ago) - The Devil's Agenda

Another nugget from John Jeske's great book, "Connecting Sinai to Calvary"

(Satan's goal) is to rob us of our thankfulness for God's good gifts.  If it was within Satan's power, we wouldn't have a single piece of bread, not a single penny of income, not even a single hour of life.  But since that's not in his power, he'll try to rob us of God's blessings by making us ungrateful and unappreciative of them.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Your favorite hymn?

What is your favorite hymn or song? Is there a psalm, hymn or spiritual song that cheers and blesses you every time you hear its melody or sing its words?

Of modern songs I am blessed every time I hear the Stuart Townend/Keith Getty song, "In Christ Alone."  And with some help from his friends, Matt Maher wrote and and recorded, "Abide With Me." The former is a statement of faith; the later a cry for the presence of God.  Both, in my humble opinion (doesn't count for much) are masterpieces.

My all-time favorite hymn is 'My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less."

My hope is built on nothing less
 Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
No merit of my own I claim
 But wholly lean on Jesus' name
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand
 All other ground is sinking sand  (LSB 575)

My devotional reading over the past few weeks has taken me once again through the Psalms.  I often read each one as if I'm a miner looking for a gem or two that I've missed before.  I had that experience recently as I reread Psalm 13:6 - I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.

At the beginning of this new work week why not follow the lead of the psalmist and sing to the Lord? His goodness to you is all the reason you need.

God is:

Your shelter - see Exodus 33:22
Your keeper - see Psalm 121:4
Your helper - see 1 Peter 5:7

Include your favorite hymn or song in your devotion time this week.  Sing the song or hum its melody as you travel around town.  Ask your spouse, kids or friends about their favorite hymn. Share why your special hymn or song is so meaningful to you.  Someone said, "The one who sings prays twice!" (Was that Luther?)  Go ahead - sing to the Lord! He has been good to you!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Happy 2017 Church New Year

Yes, the beginning of Advent marks the start of a new church year.  Observing major festivals in the church year like Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost help provide a rhythm for worship and an opportunity to utilize the entire Scriptures in worship and study.

We worship today at 5 pm and on Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  My Advent sermon series is "Moving Toward the Manger," and we'll follow Luke chapter one and what happens to Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary as we look forward to the events that take place in Bethlehem.  Come and join us this weekend at LICL! 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Let it all go

This morning I woke up unusually anxious.  The the season of Advent and Christmas will soon be here.  It is a more stressful time for clergy.  There are extra services and sermons to prepare for along with special projects and events to plan for the upcoming year.

I was feeling the stress pretty badly.  I didn't want the dark cloud to completely envelope me again.

I sat down in my chair and started to breathe deeply - in and out, in and out.  As the anxious thoughts began to flood my mind I prayed, "Lord, I give this to you.  Lord, I give this to you."

As I relaxed and prayed eventually a peaceful feeling came over me.  I could feel my body relax.  The anxiety began to lessen.  I found myself at peace, breathing in and out quite easily.  This quiet time with God was such a blessing to me.

I may have to do this several more times today.  I've given my anxious thoughts to God.  But I have a very bad habit of taking them back.  Do you do the same?

Psalm 32:7 - "You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."  Praise the Lord that He is our hiding place in times of anxiety and stress.  May His unfailing love surround you and me and all who call out to Him to take our troubles away.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Don't lose your mind!

Anxiety can come out of nowhere. Get busy, get distracted, and you can forget God. Forget God, and you lose your mind and your peace. Forget God, and all you remember is anxiety. Anxiety can give you God-Alzheimer's. Forget the face of God, and you forget your own name is Beloved.

Ann Voskamp, "Be the Gift," page 52

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Find your purpose?

You have new purpose in Christ. God purposefully uses you through every day tasks. God uses your hands to feed, protect and care for others. God uses your honest labor to bless your community. God uses your mouth to speak comfort, truth and love. God uses your ears to hear the hurts and hopes, fears and failures of your neighbors. And God uses you to bring Jesus to other useless runaways, thereby making them useful again.

Trevor Sutton, "Being Lutheran," page 209

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Psalm 34:15-19

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry;

the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them;

He delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from then all.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Day off - thank you, Lord!

Thank you, Lord, for a day off.

A day to sleep late.  It felt so good to get a full night's sleep for a change.

We've got a busy month of services and activities coming up.  Help me to let those things go.

Let me rejoice in the time You've given me today. 

All that other stuff? It can wait until tomorrow.

Let me rest in Your peace, Your gift.  You don't give to me what the world gives.

The world may provide temporary peace. 

But even where there is no peace in my life, You've given me peace for my heart and mind.

Through my baptism I was made Your child.

I am in a right relationship with You.

My sins are forgiven.

Your Spirit lives within me.

My destiny is sure and certain - eternal life in heaven.

Lord, I give you the things that cause anxiety and turmoil.

Let me rest in Your peace, Your gift. 


Friday, November 24, 2017

The most powerful word

Is there any word more powerful than giving?





Everything that matters in living comes down to giving.

Ann Voskamp, "Be the Gift," page 38

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A prayer for thanksgiving

Almighty and gracious Father, I give You thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them.  Make me, I pray, a faithful steward of all Your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of Your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

A blessed thanksgiving to all you blessed readers out there!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dreaming the Beatles

I love the Beatles.  There, I said it.  I heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand" while riding in the family car in December 1963 and I was hooked. 

I remember seeing them on February 9, 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show.  My parents, like many adults, thought the Beatles look horrid, especially with that long hair.  I thought they looked and sounded fabulous.

I remember how my friends and I would purchase the albums and singles and then swap them around so everyone got to hear the latest Beatles music.  I remember the first time I heard "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."  I was speechless.  It was an album like no other and it has stood the test of time (along with the other records).  I remember going to buy the White Album and discovering it was a double album! I didn't bring enough money to buy it so I had to go back home to get more money - and I didn't mind a bit! I mean, a double album of Beatles music!!

I remember the acrimonious breakup in 1970 and the realization that there would be no more Beatles music.  And while John, Paul, George and Ringo have recorded great music during their solo careers, I really can't think of a single project that was the equal of the music they made together.  Opinions about music are usually subjective so you may disagree with me.  That's OK.  I'm sure I'm right:-)

I have over 100 Beatles titles in my library.  Each one has brought me a little closer to the group. One book I read earlier this year was Rob Sheffield's "Dreaming the Beatles."  Sheffield is a long-time writer of music and has been published in Rolling Stone magazine, among others. 

Sheffield writes how he was amazed at the sales records the Beatles "1" CD produced.  From his research into why that CD was so heavily purchased he discovered : I proved that three things never change: 1) people love the Beatles; 2) it's a little weird and scary how much some people love the Beatles; 3) even people who love the Beatles keep underestimating how much people love the Beatles. (page 307).

Fifty years after it's original release, "Sgt. Pepper," reentered the Billboard Top 100 chart this summer.  It is now rumored that the White Album will be rereleased next year, its 50th anniversary. 

Who will be standing at the door waiting for Zia's Record Exchange to open on the day the White Album is released? Me. Why? Read the opening sentence of this blog entry.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A BFP (11/20/2013)-Mr. Irrelevant you're not!

"Mr. Irrelevant" you're not!

Each spring the National Football League holds a draft of all college players eligible to play in the NFL.  255 players are chosen but the last player, number 255, receives a special designation.  He is called "Mr. Irrelevant."  Being chosen as the last player in the draft is only slightly better than not being picked at all.  Football experts figure that as the last player in the draft, you have only two chances of making an NFL team - slim and none.  Hence, the tag, "Mr. Irrelevant."

Maybe you've had the same experience as "Mr. Irrelevant."  Perhaps you were chosen last for the team, the last one asked to the dance, the last one picked for the assignment.  Maybe you've felt like your name was "Mr. Irrelevant" or "Ms. Afterthought."

The apostle John reminds believers that you also carry a special description - "Child of God."  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)  And this is no honorary title - God has adopted you into His family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  In fact, you might say that your baptismal certificate also serves as your adoption papers! You are neither irrelevant nor an afterthought to God.  You are important to the Father - important enough that He sent His only Son to be your Savior.  Rest securely in the knowledge that you are a child of God!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I love Your house, O Lord!

The psalmist writes, "I love the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells." (Psalm 26:8)

Join us at God's house this weekend for worship.  Saturday at 5 pm & Sunday at 8 and 11 am. My sermon has a pretty nondescript title, "Our Giving God." Hopefully, the message will be more exciting than the title. 

See you at LICL!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Look at how God's Word helped Joni Eareckson Tada

Hello blog friends!

Yesterday's post about the fictional Father Tim from the Mitford series of books generated a lot of action here on my blog.  The reminder that God's Word comforts, directs and helps us in all kinds of situations is needed - especially for us who suffer from depression or discouragement or grief.

Today, I urge you to check out  Ann Voskamp is a popular Christian writer and she is all over social media.  Her blog makes for interesting reading and the photography she includes is an added plus.

On her blog today is a guest article written by Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni's story is quite familiar to many.  As a teenager she suffered a broken neck in a diving accident, was paralyzed from the neck down, and has spent 50 years of her life in a wheel chair.  That's has not stopped Joni from sharing her story of how she has relied on God's grace to see her through all these years.  Joni says that even people in wheelchairs can "walk with Jesus."

Joni lives with debilitating pain and she tells of one particular day when she was suffering so badly that going to the Joni and Friends office was the last thing she wanted to do.  Then she began remembering God's promises.  She used those promises, actually quoting the Scriptures, as her prayer to God.  Then something happened.

Her attitude changed.  The Scripture enabled her to focus on God and not on the pain.  As she notes, the pain did not leave her.  But the temptation to become hopelessly depressed did.  Just like Father Tim, knowing and using God's Word lifted her spirits and restored her hope.

The article is entitled, "How to Feel Comfort Through the Really Hard Days."  It will be worth your time to check it out.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Turn to the Psalms

All of us have people in our lives that have influenced us or made a lasting impression in some way. Because of their faith in us or the love they've shown to us, we consider such people to be heroes. We look up to them.  We admire the example they set for us. We want to be like them.

One of my heroes is Father Tim. I've never met him in person. In fact, he doesn't exist - except in the pages of the Mitford series of books by author Jan Karon.

Father Tim is the pastor of the Lord's Chapel in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. Each of the Mitford books follows the life of the humble and devoted pastor as he cares for the people of his little community. I appreciate the fact that Father Tim knows what people need the most - the Word of God. And he uses the Psalms very effectively in his ministry.

For example, as Father Tim sought to minister to a young man who had been abandoned by his mother, the pastor prayed Psalm 32:8b: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."

When searching for encouragement, Father Tim remembered Psalm 68:19: "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."

To the individual near death, the first verse of Psalm 27 was Father Tim's prayer: "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?"

I read on another blog this morning that people suffering from depression can find real comfort from reading the Psalms.  A favorite devotional book of my, "The Divine Hours," consists mostly of reading and praying the Psalms.  I have been surprised at how often a Psalm reading for the day gives voice to my feeling and struggles. It feels good to pray the words that others have offered to God.

But praying the Psalms is worthwhile for every child of God.  So I pray that you, like Father Tim, will find verses and chapters in the Psalms that give you comfort in troubled times and peace when your heart is troubled.

God bless your day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What pride does

Pride confuses one's identity with God's and makes us think of ourselves as larger than we really are.

Hannah Anderson, as quoted in "Free of Me," page 139

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Give away your life!

Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back - given back with bonus and blessing.  Giving, not getting is the way.

Luke 6:38 from the Message translation

Having a depressed person in the family is like...

I have written on a few occasions about my battle with depression.  This is an illness that I've been able to manage pretty well for the past 20 years or so.  In early 2016 I had a change of medications that made me feel really great. I dropped the other medication that I'd been taking for five previous years - I felt that I didn't needed it anymore.  But the great feeling faded pretty fast.  By September of last year the black cloud descended on me in a way I had never experienced before. 

Since then, life has been like a roller coaster ride, with lots of ups and downs.  There are days when I feel pretty good, like my normal self.  I'm positive, optimistic and have lots of energy.  But sure to follow are the days when it's a victory just to get out of bed.  I go down to church and try to look like all is well - I hate to worry some of the members of church who are concerned about my condition.  But everything seems like it takes a massive effort and I get home at the end of the day exhausted and feeling guilty, that I've let so many people down who need my ministry but didn't get it because I couldn't do it.  And that's the way it's been for the past 13 months.

I recorded this quote from the golf analyst and interviewer, David Feherty, who also suffers greatly from depression: Having a depressed person in the family is like having a death in the family. At least the dead person has the decency to not be around anymore.

So, having a depressed person in the family creates a special burden.  My dear, sweet wife wants to help so badly.  She hates to see me hurting.  And there are those at church who know how tough life is for me and they will do anything to support me.  I know there are people praying that the dark cloud will lift. That's a blessing.

If you have a depressed person in your family or know of something who is suffering, you can do a few things for them.  Be patient and know that they want to feel better and normal.  Be supportive and understanding and cut them a little extra slack when they forget to do something or fail to show enthusiasm for something that is important to you.  Be prayerful and continue to lift up that person before the Lord's throne of grace in prayer.  In my case, I know that God loves me, considers me His child in baptism, and will see me through this present situation.  And for the person suffering from depression, that's the best news of all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The devil did not win!

How come we so often act as if the devil were still celebrating? How come we so often live as if it were still Good Friday & Easter had never come? We can't blame the devil for getting off the canvas after Easter's knock out blow.  We should expect the master chameleon, as he sweats to hold the world captive in chaos and uncertainty, to camouflage defeat as victory.

As Luther Taught the Word of Truth, page 56

Friday, November 10, 2017

What greed is

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.

Erich Fromm, as quoted in "Free of Me," page 86

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Free of Me

Author Sharon Hodde Miller makes a compelling argument as she explains "Why life is better when it's not about you," in her new book, "Free of Me." (Baker Books)

The honesty of the book captivated me.  Hodde writes frankly about her struggles in trying to live her life without always having to be in the spotlight.  She shows how the self-focused life actually makes us miserable, weakens relationships and prevents us from seeing how we might touch lives with the love of Jesus.  When we are "free of me," we are really free to turn our attentions to those around us and, in doing so, we reap a joyful attitude and a more satisfied and fulfilled life.

My only quibble with the book is with the "interlude" that follows the first nine chapters.  Miller talks about a piano her family owned and how, over time, that piano fell out of tune.  She then goes on to write about how easy it is for the human soul to fall out of tune when when is always focused on self. Her solution is to utilize resources for developing spiritual disciplines which can move a person's gaze from inward to an outward look toward God.

Because of our sinful nature, inherited from our first parents - Adam and Eve - we will never be fully in tune in this life.  But when we come to God, in repentance and faith, confess our sin of self-focus and seek His forgiveness, God's Word of absolution tunes up back up, so to speak, and frees us love God and to love our neighbor. 

Still, I was blessed to read this book.  If you desire to take a critical look at how our selfish ways keep us from living the new life in Christ, then get yourself a copy of "Free of Me."  It would be a worthwhile investment.

Where Brian Epstein met the Beatles

November 9, 1961, Brian Epstein, who ran a record shop in his father's music store, visited the Cavern Club in Liverpool to see a band who had been featured on a song called, "My Bonnie." It was the first time Epstein laid eyes on the Beatles, who played lunchtime sessions at the club.  The conditions of the Cavern Club appalled Epstein and the look of the Beatles was scruffy at best.  But the Beatles generated excitement with their sound and stage presence and Epstein was captivated by the group.  He quickly connected with John, Paul, George and Pete (yes, Ringo had not yet joined the group) and offered to be their manager.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sherri and I visited the Cavern Club in the summer of 2014.  What is there now is not the original but the recreation captures the atmosphere of what it was like to visit the Cavern during your lunch hour from work.  It was a thrill to be in the area that helped to launch the Fab Four.  After our visit there all I could say was, "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Christ to the other

As our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor...and each one should become...a Christ to the other.

Martin Luther, quoted in the book, "Be the Gift," by Ann Voskamp, page 13

Our mission?

Making disciples to the ends of the world and to the end of time is the work He left us to do.

Andrew M. Davis, "Revitalize," page 199

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Message - Matthew 6:34

I'm ordinarily not a big fan of The Message translation of the Bible.  But I do like what Eugene Peterson did with Matthew 6:34:

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

From "When Your Church Feels Stuck"

I appreciated these two thoughts from author Chris Sonksen:

Remember, to be unclear is to be unkind.

Sometimes you have to choose leadership over friendship.

Monday, November 6, 2017

BFP (blast from the past) 3 year ago today

For years I've used CPH's "Today's Light Bible," with devotions by Jane Fryer as my resource for daily Bible reading and meditation.  Fryer's devotions are worth the price of the book.  I was greatly encouraged by this devotion as Fryer wrote about Abraham and Sarah.  In part, she wrote:

How like us - to think that somehow God can't or won't keep His Word, especially when we don't see Him fulfill His promises right away.  How like God - to come to us, not with words of rebuke but of grace.

God asserts a remarkable truth to Abram and Sarai by changing their names.  These desert nomads with dust in their sandals were, in reality, His royal children.  Kings would come from Abraham.  Sarai was now Sarah - "princess.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

A delay is better than a disaster.

A fortune from a cookie opened by Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, carried on Flight 1549. which crashed in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 (recorded in his book, "Highest Duty," page 306.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Serve the Lord with Gladness

is the theme of the Lutheran Women in Mission's Zone Rally being held today at Life in Christ.  Yours truly will offer the opening devotion.  Special music will be provide and several guests speakers are scheduled.  Plus, the food and fellowship is great!

Later in the afternoon I'll be doing the committal service for one of our dear saints who has gone to rest in Jesus, Loretta Hertzog.  I often visited with her and she would always have a cup of coffee ready so that we could sit and chat.  She will be missed by her family and by us all.

At the 5 pm Saturday service, my little group and I will provide the music so come and join us.  Or be with us on Sunday at 8 and 11 am for worship.  My sermon title is "No More Tears."  Also, we'll begin a new Bible study, based on Max Lucado's new book, "Anxious for Nothing."

Then, at 3 pm, we will hold an installation service for Jerry Andersen and Kevin Svec to serve as Deacons at LICL.  Pastor Dave Poedel will serve as preacher.  A reception will be held afterward in the Christian Life Center hall.

A busy weekend for sure.  I will be trying hard to do as the psalmist has instructed - "Serve the Lord with Gladness!"

Friday, November 3, 2017

Stuff I Like

A good cup of coffee in the morning.  We buy a product called "Jose's" from Costco.  It has a full-bodied taste but is not too strong.  We can never go back to Folger's now.

Portals of Prayer.  While I was visiting one of our members in the hospital yesterday, she and her husband were telling me how they read their Portals of Prayer together every morning.  I think that sometimes Christians think that unless they are devoting a goodly amount of time for Bible study and prayer, their devotional time is bogus.  Not true!  Portals of Prayer gives the reader a short Bible reading, a devotion that can be read in a couple of minutes and a prayer to help you start the day. A very valuable too indeed.

Playing with our little group.  This weekend Connie, Dan, Ron and I - joined by Pete on guitar - will provide the music for our Saturday service at 5 pm and will play "Cornerstone" and "In Christ Alone" during our Deacons Installation service Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.  I can't explain it but there seems to be something magical when we practice a song and it suddenly comes together.We have lots of fun!

Proclaiming God's Word.  And I get to do a lot of it this weekend.  Saturday morning I'll provide the opening devotion for the LWML Zone gathering; Saturday afternoon I'll meet with the Hertzog family for a committal service for their mother, Loretta.  Sunday, at 8 and 11 am, I'll share the message, "No More Tears," for All Saints Sunday.  How could I have known years ago that my career in radio broadcasting would actually be a warm up for sharing the good news of Jesus' love for three congregations.  Praise God!

Have a blessed weekend in the Lord!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The will of God..

Found in my mailbox at church:

The will of God will never take you,
Where the grace of God cannot keep you
Where the arms of God cannot support you
Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs
Where the power of God cannot endow you

The will of God will never take you
Where the spirit of God cannot work through you
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you
Where the army of God cannot protect you
Where the hands of God cannot mold you

The will of God will never take you
Where the love of God cannot enfold you
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you

The will of God will never take you
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears
Where the Word of God cannot feed you
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you

Author unknown

Church beware!

A church can become frozen in time, clinging to the remnants of a byegone era when the church was the largest in town and all was right with the world. The result can be that the church's membership generally gets older and older as time goes by.

Andrew M. Davis, "Re-Vitalize" page 187

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

When we suffer, we are not alone

Therefore, when we feel pain, when we suffer, when we die, let us turn to this, firmly believing and certain that it is not we alone, but Christ and the church who are in pain and are suffering and dying with us. Christ does not want us to be alone on the road of death, from which all mortals shrink. Indeed, we set upon the road of suffering and death accompanied by the entire church…All that remains for us now is to pray that our eyes, that is, the eyes of our faith, may be opened and that we may see the church around us.
Martin Luther

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Did you hear the one about the man at the funeral home?

Did you hear the one about the man who was hit on the head and fell into a deep coma? He stayed that way for such a long time that people thought he was dead.  They sent him to a funeral home and stuck him in a coffin.  At two o'clock in the morning, all alone in a dimly lit room, he sat up and looked around.  "What is going on here?" he asked.  "If I'm alive, why am I in this casket? And if I'm dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?"

CS Lewis on praise

I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise...the world rings with praise - lovers praising their (spouses), readers their favorite poets, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game - praise of weather, wines, dishes, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers...The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is its appointed consummation.

CS Lewis, as quoted in "Free of Me," Baker Books, page 137

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Celebrating Reformation 500

This weekend all over the world the church is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  Many churches, even those who do not call themselves, "Lutheran," are making note of what the Reformation meant to the church.

We may sing a little more loudly as we reflect upon the act of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors.  As Luther challenged the teachings of the church he also came to see with crystal clear vision the grace of God.  Luther was thrilled by the teaching that "the just shall live by faith."  Those words freed Luther from the bonds of good works which he did with increasing intensity but without feeling free from the guilt and shame of failing to please a righteous God. And now that great foundational teaching - we are justified by God by grace alone through faith alone in the saving work of Jesus - is the joy that our church proclaims every weekend to anxious souls seeking the encouragement that God is not angry with us but loves us and counts us His children.

Join us at LICL this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  And plan on bringing your kids and grandkids to our annual Trunk or Treat event from 5-7 pm.  Come in costume.  There will be lots of treats and games and fun!  I hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Blessed by the Kramers concert

That's a mighty small picture of a great singing group and family!

LICL was blessed to have the Kramers in concert last night.  This talented family sang for nearly 90 minutes, mixing gospel classics along with some newer Christian songs as well.

These people can play music! Scott, is a multi-talented musician who impressed up with his play on the keyboard and the guitar.  And he does a wonderful Elvis impersonation!

Their daughter, Maria, plays five musical instruments and has some amazing vocal chops too. She was accompanied by her husband of almost one year, Ben, who played a mighty fine bass guitar.

And then there is Rachel, an amazing vocalist in her own right. My dear, sweet wife and I were comparing her talents to Sandi Patti, who was one of Christian music's top artists in the 80's and 90's.
Rachel also spoke between some of the songs, showing her heart of love for her Savior, Jesus.

In spite of the World Series and College Football on television, we enjoyed a good turnout for the concert.  We hope to have them back someday.  If you missed the concert last night, promise yourself you'll make the next Kramers concert.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 27, 2017

BFP (Blast from the Past) 4 years ago today

A blessed Reformation to you!
In Dr. Martin Luther's lectures on Romans 1:17, there is a passage which explores the doctrine of "The Lord, our Righteousness."

In human teachings the righteousness of men is revealed and taught, that is, we are taught who is righteous and in what way he is righteous and becomes righteous before himself and before men.  Only in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, that is, we are taught who is righteous and in what way he is righteous and becomes righteous before God, namely, solely by faith, by which the Word of God is believed.  Thus the last chapter of Mark says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."  For the righteousness of God is the cause of celebration.  And here again the "righteousness of God" must not be accepted as that by which He Himself is righteous in Himself but that by which we are justified in Him, which is done by faith in the Gospel.

Again, writing on Romans 1:17, Luther penned these words: As intensely as I had formerly hated the expression, "righteousness of God," I now loved and praised it as the sweetest of concepts; and so this passage of Paul was actually the portal of Paradise to me.

A blessed Reformation to you all

Thursday, October 26, 2017

One way to know if you are caught up in idolatry

You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.

Anne Lamont from "Bird by Bird," as quoted in "Free of Me." page 50

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's not about me!

My sincere thanks to my friend and sister in Christ, Julie Peapenburg, for sending this devotion to me. I just had to share it with you, my kind readers.

It’s Not About Me
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” Psalms 148:13

Friend to Friend

Some of my Girlfriends in God are not going to like this devotion. I’m not even sure I do. But I’m going to put it out there anyhow. During the month of February, I write devotions on marriage. It is the month of love, and marriages certainly are in shambles all around the world. Each February, I am flooded with e-mails: some are appreciative for the reminders on how to love their husbands; some are filled with hurt because they are in their own struggling marriage, and some are broken-hearted because of shattered dreams. These women are so thankful for the balm of God’s truth in a very tender area of their lives.

But I also receive e-mails from women who are not married, who do not like the attention to marriage at all. They are flat out angry and frustrated because the devotions do not pertain to them. “Don’t you know that all of your readers are not married?”

“Oh honey child,” as my grandmother would say.

I’ve seen the same attitude in church. “I didn’t like that sermon.” “I didn’t like the singing today.” “I couldn’t relate to that teaching.” And on and on we go.

You know what I’ve’s not about me. It is all about God. If the pastor is preaching on a topic that is not my struggle, I pray that God will open my eyes to new truths that I’ve never seen. If he is talking about losing a loved one, I pray for those who have lost a loved one recently...even though that might not be my struggle at that particular time. Is the teaching on raising young children? I have a grown son, so I pray for those who are raising the next generation.

One Sunday, I was singing in church. Barely singing, I might add. It was a dry old hymn and I just wasn’t into it. Then I looked at an older woman a few seats down and she had tears trickling down her wrinkled cheeks. She was moved to tears by that old hymn and was taken to the throne room of grace.

“Oh Father,” I prayed. “Please forgive me. This is not about me. It’s not about what I like or don’t like. It is all about You. Truth is truth. Worship is worship. Help my focus be on You and You alone. It’s not about me.

Here’s a truth I want you to underline, memorize and ponderize (I know that is not a real word, but it should be.) Say it out loud: As long as I think the world is all about me, the angrier  and tired-er I will be. The more I realize it is all about God, the happier and freer I will be. (I know tireder is not a word either. I’m just feeling feisty today).

Listen to how David focused on God during worship:

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

So let’s commit to remember’s not about me. It’s all about God.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, please forgive me when I make everything all about me. It’s all about You! I praise You! I thank You! I worship You!

In Jesus’ Name,


The givens

Talent is God-given; be thankful.

Praise is man-given; be humble.

Conceit is self-given; be careful.

Dave Driscoll, as quoted in "Quiet Strength." by Tony Dungy, page 215

Monday, October 23, 2017

The thought for the day

Whenever we put anything before God, it's only a matter of time before it turns on us.

Sharon Hodde Miller, from her book, "Free of Me," (Baker Books), page 26

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do not pass go until...

Anyone who has played Monopoly has landed on that spot that said, "Do not pass go, do not collect 100 dollars."  Then it's off to jail until you can set yourself free.

In the Epistle Lesson for this Sunday, the apostle Paul shows us that there is something very important, something we should make sure we do before we get on with our day.  What is it? Join us at Life in Christ tomorrow and find out.  We have worship at 8 and 11 am (and also a service today at 5 pm).  God's powerful Word & friendly people - it's the right mix to come and see us this weekend at LICL!

Reading People

Ever wonder why you are you? Why you connect with some people but not all people? Ever want to get inside the head of your spouse, kids, friends, co-workers to better understand who they are?

"Reading People" by Anne Bogel (Baker Books) is one of the best books I've read this year.  Bogel is a gifted and engaging writer and her transparency and honesty is refreshing.  She writes of her struggles to understand her own personality and that of her family.  What she learned can help us all.

This could have been a highly technical book but Bogel takes complicated systems and methods and breaks them down so that a layman can understand them.  She breaks down some of the myths regarding introverts and extroverts. She whets your appetite to know more about tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, The Clifton StrengthsFinder, and something I'd not heard of before, The Enneagram. She shows how using the Five Love Languages can really help to build healthy, loving relationships and breaks down what it means to have and understand the highly sensitive person living in your home.

If you have ever wanted to know... your personality type, determine if you can change certain aspects of your personality, live a happier and more fulfilling life with those you love (and maybe with those that you don't like so much), "Reading People" by Anne Bogel should be a definite addition to your "must read" list!

Friday, October 20, 2017

What if...

What if...
This is the manuscript from the sermon I proclaimed last Sunday at Life in Christ.  The sermon itself was 15 minutes long.

            Do not be anxious about anything.  Well, I guess that’s easy for Paul to say.  But what about you and me.  What about those of us who seem to have been stricken with the worry gene.  On our recent vacation, it was determined that we would do some snorkeling.  Anxiety set in.  I don’t know how to swim.  Dogs laugh at me when I try to dogpaddle, just to stay afloat.

            Don’t be anxious about anything.  It’s hard not to be anxious when you just don’t know how to care for your aging parents.  Or when a mysterious mole appears on your back. Or when your once conscientious child no longer seems to care about school or church or anything. 

            Anxiety ruins our sleep, our health.  It wrecks our concentration.  It can turn the most mild mannered person into a jittery, nail-biting mess.

            And with worry and anxiety comes guilt.  You know that it makes no sense to let yourself become anxious.  Jesus taught that if God clothes the flowers in the fields and feeds even the most insignificant sparrow, can’t He take care of you too? And you respond, “Yes, Lord! I know you love me and you take care of me every day! Forgive me when I act as if I don’t believe it.”

            I was in a meeting earlier this week and the ideas were coming fast and furious.  And they were good ideas, ideas that our church should consider as a part of extending our outreach.  But all I could think was, “My schedule is pretty full as it is.  How in the world could I possible see to it that all these other things get done too?” Finally, I had to call a halt.  “I’m getting stressed out!” It was too much for me.  My anxiety was running as hot as those plates they serve at Abuelo’s.

            Is that how it is for some of you.  You see your plate as being full, so to speak.  But at work you’re assigned three new tasks.  How will it all get done? Or, you’re a stay at home mom or dad.  You managed getting through the summer – barely.  But now the kids are in school, there’s now teams and practices to take the kids to, there are school projects that must get done – maybe that night! Suddenly, you feel stressed out! The worry gene kicks in.  The anxiety seems as thick as the smoke from a California wildfire.  What are you going to do?

            Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”  But that’s not all he says, is it?  “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

            So, what if we “worry warts” would do what Paul has suggested.  What if when we feel anxiety starting to build up to stop, drop to our knees or in a chair and pray about what we’re feeling? What if when we begin to feel stress pulling us down that we silently ask the Lord to lift us up and keep our minds focused on His love and mercy?

            Do not be anxious about anything but in everything…  Here is some good news – nothing that happens in our lives is insignificant to God.  We tend to categorized troubles. We reason, “Why bother God with some of the easy trials we face? We can take care of those.”  On the other hand, God says, “Bring it all to me.  The blown engine and the skinned knee.  The overdrawn account and the lost book bag.”  Jesus taught, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  So, with that kind of encouragement, bring everything to the Lord.

            Paul says by prayer and petition….  For many of us, we learned to pray at a very young age.  My parents taught my sister and I “Come Lord, Jesus, be our guest…”  And there was, “Now I lay me down to sleep…”  And, of course, there was the Lord’s Prayer.  I felt very good when I could pray that prayer without any help.

            I heard of one parent of who decided to teach the Lord’s Prayer to his son.  Each night the parent would add one petition with the hope that in a few weeks the boy could say the prayer without help.  One night the boy said, “I think I’ve can do it.”  So, he started out, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and away he went.  The child was doing so well until he prayed, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from email…”

            What if we would just devote ourselves to prayer.  Instead, of becoming overwhelmed by the tasks of the day, what might happen if we prayed to God first.  Is that not the example Jesus set for you and me?  Mark 1:35 – “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”  If Jesus thought that it was important enough to make an appointment to pray to His Father, wouldn’t we be wise to do the same?

            Don’t be anxious but by prayer and petition…  That word, petition, in the Greek, carries the meaning to “make a request for a specific benefit.”  I know that when I feel overcome by anxiety my mind seems to race at a thousand miles an hour.  It hard to think clearly.  It’s difficult to make a decision.

            What if, when caught up in the whirlwind of worry, we just stopped, took a couple of deep breaths and then spoke to God and made some specific requests?

            “Dear Lord, I have a doctor’s appointment today at 9 am about the results of my c-scan.  I fear it’s cancer.  Help me to calm down.  There is nothing the doctor will tell me that you and I can’t handle together.  And if I can’t handle it, you’ll take it all on yourself.  I ask that I receive a good report.  I pray that it is not cancer.  I ask that I would be blessed with good health.  I pray for the strength to accept whatever may come my way.  May Your will be done.  Amen.”

            Or, “Jesus, you know I have an important job interview this afternoon at 3 pm.  Enable me to relax.  Give me peace.  I need this job.  Open the door for me, please.  Let me leave there today with a job offer in hand.  Thank you for hearing my prayer, Jesus.  May Your will always be done in my life.  Amen.”

            Picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He is on His knees, His cloak pulled tightly around his body.  He is suffering anxiety like no one has ever suffered.  In a halting voice, He offers a very specific prayer – “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  And then Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will but as you will.”

            So, if Jesus can make specific requests to the Father, can’t we do the same? And if Jesus submitted Himself to the Father’s will, can’t we do the same too?

            Do not be anxious about anything…but by prayer…with thanksgiving.  Paul is teaching us that when we come to God in prayer and have made specific requests about those things that worry us so, wrap up those prayers with a bow of thanksgiving.

            I just recently celebrated a birthday.  And I was surprised and humbled by the thoughtfulness of those who gave me cards and gifts.  I was truly grateful for their love and care.  I hope that I expressed my heartfelt thanks to them.

            How much more does our God deserve our thanks.  Isn’t it just a little more than surprising that, given our rebellious behavior, that God would send His one and only Son to be our Savior.  Who else can offer a gift like that. One that we don’t even deserve.  And when we examine our lives and see our sin and selfishness and all those times when we didn’t live for God but only for ourselves, well, aren’t we humbled that God loves us anyway?  We’ve given God plenty of reasons to shake us off like so many dust particles off His feet.  Instead, He puts on us Jesus’ perfect robe of righteousness.  He makes us ready to enter His kingdom.  Someone once said, “A prayer without thanksgiving is like a bird without wings.  It’s hard to get off the ground.”  So, pray, pray specifically, but do so with thanksgiving.

            Now, what would happen if us “nervous nellies” would do just as Paul has taught us? What if, the next time we feel that our hearts are going to burst because of the pressure we’re feeling, we would take a deep breath or two, sit or kneel, and tell God what’s happening with us and be specific about it.  What might happen as a result of our time of prayer?

            How does the word, “peace,” sound to you?  Paul wrote: “And the peace of God, that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

            What a wonderful promise that is.  No longer living each day in a panic.  Instead, having the peace of God come over you, like a warm blanket that covers you on a cold night. 

            This peace is also a gift of God.  Peace is delivered by Jesus Christ.  Our sins are forgiven.  Our salvation is certain.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love.  We have His Word that He will answer our prayers.  We can leave our cares and concerns with the Father and trust that His watchful and loving eyes will never leave us as we go through our day.

            Well, I don’t snorkel very well.  But not all of my time at the beach was wasted.  At the Black Sand Beach on the road to Hona, I picked up this black stone.  I’ve decided it will be my “anxious for nothing” stone.  This doesn’t mean that with this stone with my pocket, I won’t ever feel anxious or worried.  But when I begin to feel like that, I’m going to reach in my pocket and hold onto this stone.  I pray that it will remind me to take a deep breath or two and then remember these words: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

BFP (blast from the past) one year ago today

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quote of the day

The truth will set you free...but first it will make you miserable.

Richard Rohr, as quoted in "Reading People," by Anne Bogel.  Rohr's comment is related to the idea of learning to know one's self and then having courage to change those things about yourself that you want to change.  When you understand who you are - strengths, weaknesses, why you think and react the way you do - only then can you begin the work of becoming the true "you."

Bogel's book is excellent and she is quite transparent in describing her quest for better understanding herself and through that work to become the better person she wants to be.  She also a very engaging writer and takes a topic that could have become quite technical and puts it all down in layman's terms. A good read!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A prayer of repentance and faith

Almighty God, unto You all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from You no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy Name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Catching my breath

It was a pretty wild weekend for me.

Saturday morning was devoted to getting the house ready for a birthday party - my grandson, Will, celebrated his 2nd birthday.  That began at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I left the party at 4 pm to head down to church for our Saturday service.  I preached and served communion to the faithful.  At 6:30 we did the rehearsal for Melissa and Rich's wedding and that was followed by a dinner that was held in our Christian Life Center hall.  There must have been 50 people there including several that had traveled from Holland (family on Melissa's side).  By the team the hall and kitchen had been cleaned up it was almost 10 pm.  On Saturday night that's my bedtime!

On Sunday, I preached at 8 and 11 am and had a very interesting Bible class as we did another segment on Martin Luther.  Great discussion by the group made for a very fast hour.  Then we readied the sanctuary for the wedding.  At 2 pm the doors leading into the Sanctuary opened and Rich got to see his beautiful bride.  Melissa was gorgeous and so was the wedding.

Picture taking took almost an hour giving me enough time to run home, change clothes, pick up Sherri and head over the the wedding reception.  We stayed through the dinner, dances and toasts and then decided it was time to leave.  I've learned that people party more hearty when the pastor isn't around!

I finished my evening by going over to visit one of our members who is on hospice care and seemingly doesn't have much time to live.  Her family and I were comforted by her consistent confession of faith in Jesus Christ and could rejoice that "Whoever believes in (Jesus) will not perish but have eternal life."  My pillow felt wonderful as I went to sleep that night.

So yesterday? Sherri had a class to teach and I had the house all to myself.  I spent a lot of time reading a book for review from Baker Publishing (review coming soon!).  In the afternoon I watched a documentary about filmmaker, Steven Spielberg.  I had forgotten that he spent part of his formative years living with his family  in Phoenix.  Oh, I think there was a nap in there somewhere - maybe while the baseball game was on???

Going over my schedule it looks as if this week will be very busy.  It is good to have meaningful work.  Though the hours are long for clergy, the opportunity to be a part of the lives of others and to be able to offer encouragement through the Gospel makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What if...

is the title of this week's sermon.  In Philippians, chapter 4, Paul writes: "Be anxious about nothing." Sounds simple.  But those of us who are prone to worry and fret find Paul's words challenging. However, Paul follows up his words with some thoughts about how a person might deal with their anxiety.  What if we took Paul seriously and followed his advice.  If you are one who is often overcome with anxiety, come and join us.

I'll be preaching at all three services - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

The Quotable Luther

This month's Lutheran Witness is all about the 500th celebration of the Reformation.  There are also a number of articles about Martin Luther including one called "The Quotable Luther." Featured are a series of quotes which are attributed to the Great Reformer.  A number of them I'd never read.  Are you familiar with the following?

"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."

"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."

"The law says 'do this' and it is never done. Grace says 'believe in this' and everything is already done."

And my favorite...

"Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!"

I'll drink to that! But right now I have to get back to my Guatemalan coffee!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Books on the night stand

In case you're interested, here's what I'm reading right now...

'Reading People" by Anne Bogel.  This is a book that was sent to me from Baker Books for review.  I did not know of Anne Bogel but I'm really enjoying her writing style and learning from her new book.  "Reading People" takes a look at the various resources available today that can help each of us understand ourselves and also better understand the people around us.  Have you ever wondered why you are "you?" This book can help.

"Beatlemania! The Real Story of the Beatles UK Tours 1963-65" by Martin Creasy.  This is a well researched book that tell the story of how Beatlemania descended on the UK and ultimately upon the USA and the rest of the world.  You'll read of how the Beatles started at the bottom of the concert bill and in short order became the headliners.  Creasy offers a different perspective on Beatlemania that is refreshing.

"Rave On, The Biography of Buddy Holly" by Philip Norman.  Norman has written biographies on John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elton John and the Rolling Stones, just to name a few.  This bio was penned in 1996.  It is well researched and shows Norman's passion for the young guitar player with the black horn-rimmed glasses from Abilene Texas.  As you read you begin to understand why singer Don McLean called the day Buddy Holly died as "the day the music died."

Each year I set a goal to read 24 books.  So far I've polished off 30 books so I'm glad I've met my goal.  And I've got a good two and a half months to add to the list.  Gotta go! Time to read!