Saturday, September 23, 2017

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

What a way to start the day! Sitting on the back porch with our friends, Dan and Janelle, sipping coffee and enjoy the cool temps.  Could it be that we are on the back end of summer? I know it's officially "fall."  But fall usually arrives a bit late in Arizona.  What am I doing here? Gotta get back outside with a second cup of coffee!

But first...join us today at 5 pm for our Saturday service with Holy Communion.  Or we'll see you tomorrow at 8 and 11 am for worship (Holy Communion at the later service).  I'll be preaching at all three services and reflecting on what my baptismal birthday means.  Be there, today or tomorrow, at LICL!

Friday, September 22, 2017

I have found this to be true!

“The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight because by that time your body and your fat are really good friends.”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Considering this week's Gospel lesson

On Matthew 20:1-16, Philip Yancey writes: In a rabbinic story of the time, the owner of a farm went into tow to hire temporary workers for the harvest. The day wore on, and as late as the eleventh hour he recruited one last batch of workers, who had a mere hour remaining to prove their worth. In the familiar version of the storm, the latecomer made up for lost time by working so hard that the foreman decided to reward them with a whole day's pay. Jesus' version, though, says nothing about the diligence of the workers. He accents instead the generosity of the employer - God - who lavishes his grace on veterans and newcomers alike. No one gets cheated and everyone gets rewarded, far beyond what they deserve.

From "The Jesus I Never Knew" page 95

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Happy birthday to me!

At a place where I used to work we celebrated birthdays.  One of the co-workers always sang, "Happy birthday to me..." It was funny for a while and then not so funny.

Actually, I've not been looking forward to this day.  65 just sounds "old" to me.  It's amazing to think that you've actually lived most of your life.  Our days are numbered, of course.  It's just a little jarring to me to think I've used most of mine up.

The joy comes in knowing that for these 65 years God has poured out upon me more blessings that I could possibly ever add up.  His forgiveness and righteousness has covered me since the day of my baptism.  I belong to the Lord! I am His child! Amazing grace, indeed!

So I give thanks for my dear, sweet wife and wonderful kids and grandkids.  I give thanks for extended family and many precious friends.  I give thanks for meaningful work and having had the opportunity to serve three different congregations.  I am blessed.

Thank you, God, for another birthday!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For all the things my hands have held...

This is a plaque that I found hanging at Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas.  I didn't buy it but I wish I would have.

An update on my Bible reading

I'm on day 25 of my Bible reading challenge, "The Bible in 90 Days." As I have previously written, I found this 90 day Bible in a Goodwill store. At first, I was put off--"There is no way I could do such a thing!" But the more I pondered the challenge, I suddenly remembered what I would say to my kids: "Don't give up before giving it a try." So I took my own admonition and bought the Bible.

I've just begun 1 Kings. I'm trying to read first thing in the morning or at lunchtime. I have been reminded again of God's grace and patience for those stiff-necked Israelites. Reading once again the stories of Joseph, Moses and David has been a blessing. Now we'll see how Solomon does in leading God's people.

The program allows for 2 grace days. I have used one already. Two Sunday's ago I just plain forgot. Gotta stay on the ball! It takes about 45 minutes a day to do the reading. And that is turning out to be the best 45 minutes of the day.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A prayer for when you are miserable

O God, great misery has come upon me. My cares about about to crush me, and I do not know where to turn. O God, be compassionate and help me. Give me strength to bear whatever You may send, do not let fear rule over me.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, September 16, 2017

One - two - three- four!!!!

Connie and I were practicing a new song yesterday and it caused me to think about the origins of our little group.  Dan Seabreeze, a great drummer, came along side with us to add depth to the music and to help with the arrangements and sounds.  Later. we added Ron Taylor, a fine bass player and it doesn't hurt that he plays a Hofner violin base guitar (just like Paul McCartney!).  From time to time the multi-talented Pete Gougan sits in with us, playing anything that has strings on it (and some things that don't!).

Since I was 12 years old I wanted to play in a band.  That bucket list item got checked off a few years ago and I'm so glad that Connie, Dan, Ron and Pete are willing to play with a non-talent like me.  We have such a wonderful time pointing people to Jesus through the music we play.

Baby, It's Cooling Off A Little Bit Outside

No, they'll never be lyrics for a song but how pleasant it felt this morning as I went out to get the paper.  And in looking at the 10 day forecast, our mornings will be nice enough to enjoy that first cup of coffee or tea on the back porch or patio.  Summer temps are not over with yet.  But there's hope!

I have been using the hot summer temps as an excuse for not walking each day.  The goal for most folks is 10,000 steps.  I'm not sure I've been getting in a 1000 steps.  Excuse making is over - time to find the iPod and get to work!

There a few good excuses for not attending worship on Saturday or Sunday.  We invite you to join us at Life in Christ.  Today, we'll worship at 5 pm.  Tomorrow you can attend services at either 8 or 11 am.  The three texts for this Sunday deal with forgiveness.  Come and learn about the importance Jesus places on being ready, willing and able to forgive as we have been forgiven by the Lord.  Also, don't forget our study groups and classes for all ages - they begin at 9:30 am.

See you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, September 15, 2017

She should have never listened to Satan

Struggling to make ends meet on a first-call salary, the pastor was livid when he confronted his wife with the receipt for a $250 dress she had bought. "How could you do this?!"

"I was outside the store looking at the dress in the window, and then I found myself trying it on," she explained. "It was like Satan was whispering in my ear, 'You look fabulous in that dress. Buy it!'"

"Well," the pastor replied, "You know how I deal with that kind of temptation. I say, 'Get behind me, Satan!'"

"I did," replied his wife,"but then he said, 'It looks fabulous from back here, too!'"

Meet my new grand dog!

This is Bubba.  He is a rescue dog that my oldest daughter and her family adopted.  He seems to be a good fit with their other dog, Abby.  He's a pretty mellow guy who enjoys getting comfortable on the couch for a nice long nap.  My daughter's family are "dog people" so Bubba's in a pretty good home.

Welcome to the family, Bubba!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's that time of the year again

Time to pick the football winners! My friend, Michele, is participating in her office football pool and I, as her spiritual and sports advisor, am ready for another season.

We actually did very well last year.  It might have been our best.  I'd like to guarantee Michele that we're going to clean up every week but that would be foolish.  For example, I wasn't sure that I could pick our Arizona Cardinals every game, partly because I wasn't sure they had improved enough to see something better than an 7-8-1 season.  Now, with David Johnson on injured reserve, it gets even dicer. 

Anyway, we do have fun and I always get a chuckle from Michele when I see her after we've won and she says, "Here's your take!" Sounds like we've robbed a bank! But I assure you we haven't!  However, we would like to bank a few more victories this year.  And since I'm sure you wonderful readers are interested, I'll keep you posted on our successes this year.

You're welcome!

The worship of success

The worship of success is generally the form of idol worship which the devil cultivates most assiduously.

Helmut Thielicke, as quoted in "The Jesus I Never Knew," page 81

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What do we see in the cross of Christ?

If one follows the New Testament, we will come to recognize that the cross is actually a revelation of the depth of human sin and the depth of diving love.

From the book, "Martin Luther in His Own Words," page 114

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Like a bridegroom and his bride

Came across this wonderful Luther quote while reading, "Being Lutheran" this morning:

Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death and damnation will be Christ's, while grace, life and salvation will be the soul's; for if Christ is a bridegroom, He must take upon Himself the things which are his bride's and bestow upon her the things that are His.

page 108

Be warned!

No dying church will ever be revitalized without courage, for Satan never gives up any territory without a fight.

Andrew M. Davis, page 129

Monday, September 11, 2017

Good advice from TJ Maxx

My dear, sweet wife found this while doing a little shopping a couple of weeks ago.

I think I'll work hard at putting these three little words into practice this week.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Only in Green Bay

I wish the picture was a little better quality.  My youngest daughter was across the street when she saw this church sign.  It sits in front of the Catholic Church in her neighborhood.

One side of the sign says, "Opening Weekend! Wear NFL Gear to Mass!"  On the other side is the familiar refrain heard during the football season in that community: "Go, Pack, Go."

Makes me wonder if I should have gotten the same message out to our congregation. There would certainly be some folks wearing Arizona Cardinals gear.  But I'm pretty sure I'd also see jersey's for the Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and, yes, the Packers - they have fans everywhere.

Well, regardless of what you wear, come and join us this weekend at LICL.  Today's service takes place at 5 pm; Sunday worship at 8 and 11 am with classes and groups for all ages at 9:30 in the morning.

Have a blessed weekend and "Go, Cards, Go!"

Friday, September 8, 2017

Read the Babylon Bee

Find it on the internet.  Like it on Facebook.  Check it out on Instagram.  Do whatever it takes to find the Babylon Bee.

The Bee call themselves "Your trusted source for Christian news satire."  Heavy on the satire.  I have shared some of their stuff on Facebook and folks take their reports at face value.

Today, the Bee has outdone itself.  Here are the headlines:

Joel Osteen Assures Church He Will Continue To Preach False Gospel In Spite Of Critics
Said Osteen, "I just want each and every one of you to know that no matter how much critics try to tear me down, I will be here, preaching the false gospel of prosperity into your lives."

Heartbreaking: This Deaf Child Was Healed, But The First Thing He Heard Was The Newsboys

Local Megachurch Now Offering Belief Matching Guarentee
The pastor of marketing said, "Whatever beliefs you bring in here, we'll match.  Why go anywhere else?"

Check out the Babylon Bee today!

The best laid plans of mice and pastors...

I believe I read something like the sign posted on the door in an actual bulletin.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A soldier of the cross

Apparently, I've been writing too much about sports these days.  So, let's try on for size this devotion.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:6

The story is told that during the early days of the Civil War, a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  He could not prove that the charges were unfounded and was declared guilty and condemned to die as a deserter.  An appeal was made on the soldier's behalf and, as fate would have it, the paperwork ended up on President Abraham Lincoln's desk.  The President was moved by the appeal and signed a pardon, freeing the soldier.

Then that man did a most surprising thing.  He reenlisted, returned to service and fought the entirety of the was on the side of the North.  Tragically, he was killed just as the war was coming to an end. In looking for some identification, found in his breast pocket of the soldier was the signed pardon of the President.

In verses one and two of chapter five of Romans, Paul describes the pardon we have received by being declared "justified by faith." God's pardon of our sins has given us "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus' victorious battle over sin, death and hell has brought peace for all who trust in the Lord.

We can live life without fear of God's punishment.

We can enlist in the Lord's service as soldiers of the cross.

We can arm ourselves for battle with the sword of the Spirit, which is God's Holy Word.

We can share the Word with those whose hearts are troubled and confused.

May the rich grace of God move us to faithful service as soldiers of the cross of Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Blame the fatigue on the Diamondbacks

In my old age I seem to start winding down about 9 pm.  And by 10 o'clock I'm ready to turn out the lights.

But the Diamondbacks are totally messing up my routine.

Last night's game was a real nail-biter.  The game went well past 10 pm.  I kept saying to Sherri, "Something needs to happen."

And then it did.

A grounder down the third base line resulted in a Dodgers error and two runs scored by the D-Backs.

The closer come on in the bottom of the 10th to close out the game and Arizona won again.

They are the hottest team in baseball.  If they were in the National League Central, the Cubs will be trailing Arizona by four or five games.

The 2017 version of the D-Backs has made baseball watching fun again.

I just wish they'd get their games over earlier.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The God-Shaped Heart

Using St. John 11:1-11 as a backdrop, Dr. Timothy Jennings' new book, "The God-Shaped Heart," (Baker Books) demonstrates the effective power of love - God's love.

Jennings' is convinced that when people apply the law of God's love in every area of life, transformation can take place.  Jennings' holds that too often we treat and are treated with a strong dosage of law.  The law, as Martin Luther said, "condemns."  Through that condemnation people are left carrying burdens like shame and guilt and seek relief through addiction and flawed relationships and the like.  Jennings, a psychiatrist by trade, believes that there is another way to live and that is to find life through God's heart of love and compassion.

Do Christians need to read this book? Jennings cites statistic after statistic showing that Christians are doing no better than the secular world in such areas as domestic violence, teen pregnancy and abortion, and pornography, just to name a few.  Can these results be changed? Jennings says "yes!" His desire is for his readers to take off the shackles of guilt and fear and be changed by the transforming power of God's love-shaped heart.  If you're discouraged with your Christian life, "The God-Shaped Heart" is a necessary read.

How do you plan your week?

Since becoming a Parish Pastor some 20 years ago, I've always had some ritual for planning my work week. Since I'm an old fashioned guy in so many ways, I write everything down.  Thrivent has been providing a yearly planner for a long, long time and I've usually worked with it.  And it was free! (Thrivent has discontinued the planner so now I'm going to have to spend some money for the 2018 version from CPH).

Since I like to have the whole week in front of me and see it at a glance, I devised a weekly spread sheet.  It has columns for each of the seven days and is broken down into three grids. This leaves 21 blocks of time.  My mentor at the Seminary, Dr. Glenn Nielsen, recommended the use of the grid for one very specific reason.  He knew how hard pastors work and felt that they didn't take care of themselves.  He also knew that many pastors only schedule one day off per week.  So, the idea of the grid was help the pastor set aside six blocks of time per week, which would amount to two days off. Now, the two days off are not usually consecutive days. But this helps the pastor be intentional about taking enough time off for rest, to be with family, to pursue hobbies or other activities. Too many pastors suffer from burn out so it's important to have that time off.  I think that one of the reasons I've suffered bouts of depression is from working many hours week after week and not taking time to refresh. My time grid tool helps me work at taking the appropriate time off so I can stay fresh.

Today I'll spend the morning getting this weekend's services ready for our administrative staff  to work on during the week.  I've also got a number of folks to follow up with, mostly those who are recovering from illness.  Often we'll have a prayer on the phone and I'll determine if one of the pastors or a deacon needs to pay a visit.  Later in the afternoon I'll meet with a prospective new member and talk about going through our Basics Class on the teachings of the faith.

If I play my cards right I should make it home in time to see the second half of the USA-Honduras World Cup qualifying match.  The World Cup is next year and I can't imagine not having the USA team in the mix.  It's an important match and I want to be able to celebrate a USA victory (fingers crossed!).

Monday, September 4, 2017

The power of a lie

On the evening of January 31, 2016, the manager of the Morro Bay Burger King received an urgent phone call from a person stating he was from the Morro Bay, California, fire department. Sounding alarmed and with a commanding tone, the man explained that a dangerous methane gas leak had occurred and was filling the Burger King with lethal levels of this toxic gas and that immediate action was required. He ordered the manager to break out all the windows in the restaurant to ventilate the deadly fumes. Panicked, the manager instantly ordered his employees to break out the windows. But the windows were difficult to break, so the manager heroically drove his care through the plate-glass window, and the employees eventually succeeded in breaking the rest of the windows and saving the building from a devastating explosion.

Relieved, the manager called the fire department to proudly report his success and received disturbing news - no one from the fire department had made any such phone call! It was nothing more than a prank call by someone pretending to be a city official. The manager and his employees had inflicted over $35,000 o damage to his business - all because of a lie.

Timothy R. Jennings MD, "The God-Shaped Heart," page 37, Baker Books

The grandkids keep me laughing

My daughter, Steph, told me a funny story about my two grandsons, Luke and Ethan.

Luke came to Steph, handed her a $5 bill and said, "I took this out of my piggy bank.  I want you to send it to the people who were hurt by Hurricane Harvey."

Steph replied, "That's so sweet.  Let's do it today."

Ethan overhears the conversation and decided not to be outdone.  "Mom," he said, "I'm going to give money too! 80 million and 30 dollars!"

If Steph is wise, she accept only cash and no checks.  Just to be on the safe side in the event that Ethan doesn't have 80 million and 30 dollars.

What do YOU do on Labor Day

For years my dear, sweet wife and I have had differing views on Labor Day.

She believes it's a good day to be laboring around the house and yard. I believe Labor Day is for taking a break from laboring and, instead, it's for lounging around the house.

Today, I think Sherri is going to have her way.

So, I'll help her dig up a bush in the back yard...spread five bags of mulch...make sure the gutters are clean.

And there is some indoor fun too!

Signing up for medicare A and B (I'll be 65, ugh, in a couple of weeks).

Responding to some lab results my doctor sent to me last week.

And, maybe, we'll get over to Scottsdale to look at some new eye frames - I think it's time for a new look!

So there you have it.  I hope you've got some fun planned on your Labor Day holiday!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Place Called Heaven

Dr. Robert Jeffress' new book, "A Place Called Heaven" (Baker Books) deals with very important questions. What is eternity like? Is heaven a real place? When do I exactly go to heaven? Will I know the people there? Will I know how my loved ones are doing back on earth? How will I occupy myself? And what do I make of those who have written books saying that they've already had the chance to visit heaven? Should I believe them?

Jeffress is a fine writer with an engaging style.  He quotes everyone from CS Lewis to Joni Eareckson Tada.  I received a review copy of the book just a couple of days ago and really couldn't put it down.

Depending on your Christian upbringing you might not agree with every conclusion by Jeffress. But "A Place Called Heaven" just might fill you with hope.  Like the apostle Paul, Christians find themselves longing to be with Jesus which is better by far.  Jeffress' book offers the assurance that no matter which trials and struggles we face in this life, the one Jesus is preparing for us cannot be equaled.  And we'll enjoy it for all eternity!

A week of ministry - a weekend of worship

My, it was a busy week.  Bible studies to prepare, projects to work on, a proposal to polish.  And there were people...people to pray with, people to encourage, people with whom to celebrate friendship.  Thank you, God, for your multitude of blessings and undeserved grace!

Now, come and join us this weekend at LICL.  Saturday worship today at 5 pm.  Sunday worship at 8 and 11 am.  Christian LIFE Hour starts at 9:30 in the morning.

Hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Friday, September 1, 2017

A birthday meal

My grandson, Ethan, has a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks.  My dear, sweet asked him what kind of meal she could make for him to celebrate his big day.

Ethan: "Chick-fil-a!"

Sherri: "No, something I can make for you."

Ethan: "Pizza!"

Sherri: "Oh, you like the pizza I make?"

Ethan: "Oh, no!"

After several more minutes of negotiation, they agreed upon hot dogs.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Luther Wisdom

Many things I have tried to grasp, and have lost. That which I have placed in God's hands I still have.

Martin Luther, as quoted in "Patches of Godlight," by Jan Karon,

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bible in 90 Days

I apologize for the small thumbnail photo above. I found this Bible in a Goodwill store the other day. I was intrigued. Read the Bible in 90 days? I'd read the Bible in a year before.  But in three months? No way!

But as I continued to thumb through the pages I changed my mind.  I took it as a challenge. "I can do this," I told myself.  So for a couple of bucks I got with the program.

The guide says it will take about 45 minutes a day to read 12 pages of scripture.  I've found this is true.  Today is day seven so I've got a long way to go. And my reading today begins with Leviticus, chapter one.  I'm thinking that I can power through Leviticus and Numbers, I'll be rolling.

I don't believe that I'd recommend the Bible in 90 days to anyone.  This is kind of like eating a 60 ounce steak every day! In fact, if you never read through the Bible in a year, I don't think that you'll be denied entrance into the heavenly kingdom.  Faith is Jesus is what counts.  So read your Bible. Let the Holy Spirit do His sanctifying work as you let the Word of God penetrate your heart and mind. Then go out and put that Word into practice. And God be praised!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Open Access to the Gospel

I've just started reading a book that I purchased a year ago.  That's a little embarrassing! I purchased "Being Lutheran" by Trevor Sutton from Concordia Publishing House.  On their web page that have a section that offers book for sale that are slightly damaged or have some kind of imperfection that prevents them from selling the book as new.  I've purchased several of these kinds of book from CPH and, to tell the truth, I have a difficult time determining how the books are imperfect.  You should check it out - might find a bargain!

I'm only about 30 pages or so into the book and in one chapter Sutton talks about how Martin Luther took the Word of God, which had been closed to the people and, in essence, opened it so people could receive the pure Gospel of the Lord.  I particularly liked these words from Sutton:

Luther opened the Bible. He yielded his beliefs to God's Word. He led the church back to the source of salvation, God's grace in Jesus Christ. He directed people to rely on the source of eternal comfort, God's gift of faith. He led believers back to the source of their beliefs, God's Word in Scripture.  Being Lutheran is having open access to the Gospel.  (page 12)

I'm sure I'll be featuring more of Sutton's thoughts on the blog.  He's a good writer and really knows how to present the joy of the Gospel of Jesus.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's hot...stay inside!

And you can start today at Life in Christ!

Saturday at 5 pm.

Sunday at 8 and 11 am.

I preach all weekend and my theme is: Who do YOU say that I am?

Join us at LICL!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

In praise of the to-do list

I have a love-hate relationship with day planners.  I like to be organized.  I like to have an idea of what my work day might look like.  But day planners are like the 10 Commandments - all Law. There's nothing there that offers grace.  Nothing that jumps off the page and says, "Hey! If you don't get it all done, that's OK - there's always tomorrow!" Instead, the tasks and responsibilities are written down in black and white and you know whether you've gotten them done or not.  For me, there's a certain pressure there that I just don't like too much.

However, there I sat at my desk yesterday at 8:45 am.  My to-do list in front of me.  Since I'm going to be out of the office a few days this week I had a rather long to-do list.  But this time, rather than becoming depressed by all the things that needed to be done, I took the list on as a challenge.  I thought to myself, "If I keep my head down, and there are few interruptions, I can get all this done. And won't that be a great feeling?"

Here's the list:
  Get approved a free will offering so we can make more Blessing Bags
  Email to thank team for putting Blessing Bags together
  Make changes to the Music Schedule\
  Contact several families about scheduling baptisms
  Make arrangements to help a family take care of a debt
  Make arrangements to do a house blessing for a family
  Set up an appointment for next week
  Write to an interested individual about an Evangelism project
  Process Lay Leadership materials
  Prepare Sat/Sun Worship
  Prepare Treasuring God's Word devotional
  Review Attendance Cards and rebuild my personal prayer list
  Prepare Sunday morning Bible class
  Send information regarding Sunday's sermon to our power point team

At 6:45 pm I checked off the last item from the list.

So now, for a few days, I'm free as the breeze (so they say). And everything is ready for worship this weekend.  How did the Eagles put it? I got a "peaceful, easy feeling."  Feels good!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Here's what's so amazing about grace

I've finished going through Philip Yancey's wonderful book, "What's So Amazing About Grace." Given the condition of the world today, Yancey's last two sentences of the book are right on point: "The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends the world falls silent before it."

To whom might you show grace today? To a frustrated neighbor? A worried co-worker. To your troubled spouse or child? One reason grace is amazing is that it seems to come out of nowhere. Without any expectation someone shows unconditional love to you.  Another treats you with kindness even though you don't deserve it. Extending grace can be hard.  Often the people who need it are the ones who have hurt you or taken advantage of you or haven't even acknowledged you.

Sounds like some of the ways that we've treated our gracious God, doesn't it?  And yet, He continues to extend grace to us.  He, who has every reason to drop us like the proverbial "hot potato," keeps on loving us, forgiving us, caring for and helping us. What an amazing God we have!

So, to whom might you show grace today?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hope For The Prodigal

You're a committed parent.  You've loved your child since the day they left the womb. You've offered equal parts affection and discipline.  Taught your child how to pray at a young age.  Made sure worship, Sunday school and youth ministry was a priority.  Like all parents you've made the usual mistakes.  But you have parented that child with all your heart.  And then, without warning, that child goes a different way.  A way from family and church and all the things you emphasized so much. Your child, like the son in the Parable of the Prodigal, has drifted away.

Jim and Bill Putman know and feel your pain.

In their new book, "Hope for the Prodigal" the Putman's share their story of dealing with prodigals. Jim, Bill's son, went through a season as a prodigal.  Jim has a son who went the way of the prodigal for a time. This honest and transparent book offers real hope to those who lament the wandering ways of their child.

In "Hope for the Prodigal" you'll find common sense advice supported by verse after verse of Holy Scripture.  The telling of the story of the Prodigal from Luke, chapter 15 was most enlightening and I found insights that I'd not captured before.  The Putnam's emphasize the importance of building a home that is hard for children to leave that they also find a home that, when they are ready, is easy to return to.  The Putnam's also write about the impact a broken family has on an entire church community.  They make it clear than when a family sufferers through the trials and conflicts of dealing with a prodigal, the church must be there for the prodigal and the family and offer unconditional help, support and love.

Know a family that is dealing with a rebellious child? Recommend that they read, "Hope for the Prodigal." Later, they will thank you for the recommendation.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Holy Land for Christian Travelers

Next April, Lord willing, I will be leading a group from our church on an 11 day visit to the Holy Land. As I prepare for that trip I've come across a book that I'm sure will be my "go to" resource.

"The Holy Land for Christian Travelers," is authored by John A Beck. Beck is a Hebrew and Old Testament scholar who teaches at a college in Jerusalem.  Additionally, Beck has taught field studies in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.  He has regularly led tours throughout the Holy Land. If you want an expert to be your guide then Beck is your man.

Beck writes in the Introduction: "And you will become more at home in your Bible as you travel the promised land." As Beck properly notes, a trip to Israel is not just sight-seeing; it is all about seeing those places that you've read about all your life and letting those stories from the Gospel writers come to life.

Beck covers all the areas which are usually included in Holy Land tours.  He has helpfully marked the "must see" sites, explains their significance and what the travel should expect at each place.  He does a nice job of noting all the various places that can be seen at each city or region but make clear that with a limited amount of time, their are places to see and there are others that can be skipped.

I'm discovering that the more time I spend in Beck's book, the more eager and excited I am about this trip.  As I go through my final check list of what to pack, "The Holy Land for Christian Travelers" will be at the top!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thank you, Joan!

One of our members, Joan Gorges, went to heaven to rest in the arms of her Savior.  She was a generous person and blessed many of our members.  Her legacy is our Prayer Chapel.  She paid for the entire construction, which included the stained glass window.  We were so glad she was able to be with us when we dedicated the Chapel following one of our 11 am services.  Speaking for myself, it is such a blessing to go to a quiet place, read "Treasuring God's Word," pray the daily hours and go over my prayer list.  It is the best part of the day.

I hope you will include in your day spending time in worship with the Lord.  Our Saturday service takes place at 5 pm and Sunday services start at 8 and 11 am.  My message for tomorrow is entitled, "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet."  Please come and join us this weekend!

Friday, August 18, 2017

"You won't get worms!"

At a downtown mission one evening the minister was preaching a sermon on the evils of drinking. To illustrate the point he put two glasses on the pulpit. 

The first glass he filled with water, the second glass he filled with a very good bourbon whiskey. The he dropped a healthy earthworm into the glass of water. 

Immediately the worm started to swim around. The he took the worm and dropped it into the glass of whiskey. Immediately the worm shriveled up and died. 

The minister asked the congregation of drifters, "What does this prove to you?" Immediately an old drunk enthusiastically raised his hand and said, "Preacher, if you drink good whiskey, you won't get worms!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I sense you are very thirsty

I am close to finishing up Philip Yancey's wonderful book, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" By the time I complete one of his books, nearly every page is highlighted, underlined or starred in some way. I loved his insight regarding Jesus' amazing meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well in John, chapter four:

John give the account of Jesus' impromptu conversation with a woman at a well. In those days the husband initiated divorce: this Samaritan woman had been dumped by five different men. Jesus could have begun by pointing out what a mess the woman had made of her life. Yet he did not say, "Young woman, do you realize what an immoral thing you're doing, living with a man who is not your husband?" Rather, He said, in effect, I sense you are very thirsty. Jesus went on to tell her that the water she was drinking would never satisfy and then offered her living water to quench her thirst forever.

So often we try to quench our thirst for living by pouring ourselves into our jobs, pursuing a special hobby, acquiring stuff or investing inordinate amounts of time into relationships, some of which aren't healthy for us.

But if we're honest we have to admit that nothing can really quench our thirst for authentic living except Jesus.  Our new life in Christ quenches our thirst. Jesus is the end of the seeking life. Jesus gives new life!  He refreshes us with His living water and living Word. If you are thirsty, go to Jesus. Now! He has exactly what you need to quench your parched, dry life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Making weakness irrelevant

My former business partner used to say, "You can't make a quarterback out of a tight end." This was his way of saying that it's bad business to take an individual who doesn't have what it takes for a certain position or responsibility and thrust them into that position.  Both the business and the employee will feel incredibly frustrated.

The same mistake often takes place in the church.  Sometimes people are added to the ministry staff because they needed a job or have been loyal and supportive to the pastor or the church. But is that an appropriate reason for hiring a person for a specific task? Probably not, especially if that person isn't suited for that role.

I appreciated what Carl George and Warren Bird wrote in their book, "How To Break Growth Barriers:" One of the keys of effective leadership is to work from your area of strength, not weakness. As Peter Drucker...has said, "the purpose of organization is to make weakness irrelevant. To maximize what you do best, you need to be effective in empowering others."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Welcome God In

When we invite God into our world, He walks in. He brings a host of gifts: joy, patience, resilience. Anxieties come, but they don't stick. Fears surface and then depart. Regrets land on the windshield, but then comes the wiper of prayer. The devil still hands me stone of guilt, but I turn and give them to Christ. I'm completing my sixth decade, yet I'm wired with energy. I am happier, healthier, and more hopeful than I've ever been. Struggles come, for sure. But so does God.

Prayer is not a privilege for the pious, not the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and His child. My friends, He wants to talk with you. Even now, as you read these words, He taps at the door. Open it. Welcome Him in. Let the conversation begin.

Max Lucado, "God Is With You Every Day," page 235

This weekend - worship on Saturday at 5 pm; worship on Sunday at 8 and 11 am. Study the Bible with your friends at 9:30 am and classes for the kids too! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

I got this Mom!

A crowded airplane was about to take off. But suddenly screaming and whaling filled the plan from front to back - a six year old boy began throwing a wild tempter tantrum.  It seemed that Mom could do nothing to calm the kid down.

In the midst of the commotion, an older man wearing the uniform of a Marine calmly walked down the aisle toward Mom and boy. The man looked impressive - his body was still lean and this uniform full of medals and stripes.

He bent over and whispered something to the boy.  And just like that the kid stopped crying, hopped up to his seat and fastened his seat belt.

The stunned travelers burst in applause as the older Marine walked back to his seat.  As the man sat down, the passenger next to him asked, "What was it that you whispered to the boy that caused him to stop making such a scene?"

The Marine smiled and said, "I showed him all of my medals and stripes and told him that they gave me the authority to throw on passenger out of the plane door on any flight I choose."

Adapted from Ken Davis' book, "Lighten Up and Live," page 136

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I love my church family?

Christian congregations are often referred to as a "church family." As a group of people we have lots in common - a heavenly Father who loves us, a Brother who loved us to death, and a Counselor who intercedes and helps us daily.

But some have the expectation that because we are a "church" family, we should be one happy family. Kind, considerate, understanding and always full of love for one another.  Those are not always the marks of our natural family and it is silly to expect that things would be different with the "church" family.

One of our members gave me an interesting devotional piece written by a favorite author, Philip Yancey.  It's entitled, "Building Community."

"Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives," says Henri Nouwen. Often we surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, which forms a club or a clique, not a community.  Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision and hard work to form a community.

The Christian church was the first institution in history to bring together on equal footing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free. The apostle Paul waxed eloquent on this "mystery," which for ages past was kept hidden from God." By forming a community out of diverse members, Paul said, we have the opportunity to capture the attention of the world and even the supernatural world beyond us (Ephesians 3:9-10)


In some ways the church has sadly failed in this assignment. Still, church is the one place I visit that brings together generations: infants still held in their mother's arms, children who squirm and giggle at all the wrong times, responsible adults who know how to act appropriately at all times, and those who may drift off to sleep if the preacher drones on too long.

If we want the community experience God is offering to us, we have reason to seek a congregation of people "not like us."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Bonhoffer Prayer

Dietrich Bonhoffer was a German pastor and theologian who died just prior to the end of World War II. He was convicted of plotting to kill Adolph Hitler and was hanged in a prison camp, just days before the camp was liberated.

He is best known for his writings, especially his classic, "The Cost of Discipleship." Even while imprisoned, Bonhoffer continued to write .  His "Letters and Papers from Prison" offers a keen insight of how faith in God enabled Bonhoffer to endure through the harsh rigors of prison.

I discovered a prayer of Bonhoffer's in a book I picked up yesterday.  Phyllis Tickle's, "The Night Offices," is a companion devotional book to her "The Divine Hours" trilogy.  Perhaps this prayer will bless you as it blessed me.

In me there is darkness, but in You there is light; I am lonely, but You do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help; I am restless, but with You there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience; I do not understand Your ways, but You know the way for me.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The most famous crosswalk in history

On this date in 1969 the Beatles took a break from recording to take some photos for the cover of the album they were preparing.

It's said that Ringo suggested the title for the album - "Abbey Road."  So, on a sunny day, the Beatles crossed the road three times.  Six photos were taken but only one had them walking in lock step (I think that's the term) so that photo was chosen for the cover of the album.

In 2011, I was blessed to take a 3 month renewal from my duties as pastor of Life in Christ.  We designed a month long European trip in which we would attend music festivals in Austria and Germany.  We also spent a long day in Liverpool, birthplace of the four Beatles and did a walking tour of Beatles sites in London.  The tour ended at Abbey Road - very fitting since the Beatles stopped being Beatles with the recording of that album.

A young American who was doing a summer internship in London and was on the walking tour as well.  She caught my dear, sweet wife and I making our way across the most famous crosswalk in history (at least in my opinion).  To mimic Paul, I walked across in bare feet.  We had a very splendid day!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

One of THOSE days

Have you ever had one of those days where you knew that there would be a mixture of happiness and sadness? Our home is very excited that Kurt Warner will be officially received as a member of the Football Hall of Fame this evening in Canton, Ohio.  Warner's career took off at age 28 when, through an injury to another player, he became the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.  All Warner did was lead the team to victory in the Super Bowl.  Later, because of injuries, Warner's career hit a snag.  He was signed by Arizona, got a chance to be a starter again, and was only a minute and a half from leading Arizona to its first Super Bowl championship in 2009.  I believe Warner's years in Arizona are responsible for the resurgence we've seen from our hometown team.

But what we really loved about Warner was his unashamed witness of Jesus Christ.  He did not hide his confession of faith in Christ Jesus under a basket.  No, he let the light of Jesus shine, whether it be on the football field or in church or wherever he was.  My dear, sweet wife and I briefly met Kurt and his wife, Brenda, at Celebrity Fight Night a few years ago.  They were both gracious and kind.  So, we really rejoice for Warner and his family.

This afternoon I will be preaching at a Memorial Service for a long time friend and her family.  They mourn the loss of their 17 year old son.  We expect to see friends that we haven't had the opportunity to connect with for years.  So it will be a bittersweet day for us.  But I'm looking forward to proclaiming the comfort of Jesus Christ to this family and to reassure them that Jesus has overcome sin, death and the grave.

Otherwise, we'll have our Saturday service at 5 pm, as usual.  Sunday worship is at 8 and 11 am and my message is entitled, "Jesus is Our Hope."  Communion will be celebrated at the early service. Bible classes for all ages meets and 9:30 am.  Come and join us this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, August 4, 2017

It's Frriday!

Remember Paul Harvey? Those of a certain generation, including me, would tune into the local radio station to hear Paul Harvey deliver the news.  He did not read words but conveyed thoughts. Through pacing and voice modulation Harvey presented the news in a way that was completely captivating.  I loved hearing him say on a day like today, "Good morning, America! It's Frrriday!"

So, because we've reached the end of the week, try this funny on for size:

A little boy, not accustomed to seeing a priest in his “work uniform” went up to the priest and asked, “Why do you dress so funny?” The priest replied, “This is the uniform that I wear when I work.”
The child, still staring at him, asked, “Do you have a boo boo?” The priest was somewhat puzzled, but quickly figured out that the child was looking at his white and black Roman collar. The priest pulled out the white plastic insert and showed it to the child telling him that it was also part of his uniform.

On the back side of the collar there was some writing: “Wash with warm soapy water.” The priest showed this to the little boy and then asked him “Do you know what these words say?
The little boy, obviously much too young to read, stated, “I sure do.” The priest a little taken aback then replies, “OK then, tell me what they say.”

The little boy then replies, “Kills fleas and ticks for up to six month!"

Have a great Frrrriday!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The danger of making your own Jesus

And whenever we do this (adopt our own personal Jesus), no matter how we do it, we always get the Jesus we deserve, which is one as dysfunctional as we are and just as powerless to save.

Jared Wilson, "Unparalleled," page 118

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

We're all jolly beggers

"Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our Need, a joy in total dependence. We become 'jolly beggars'." C.S. Lewis

"We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God by our dependence. Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass. It is our human destiny on earth to be imperfect, incomplete, weak and mortal, and only by accepting that destiny can we escape the force of gravity and receive grace. Only then can we grow close to God."  Philip Yancey

From "What's So Amazing About Grace," page 273

Monday, July 31, 2017

When Your Church Feels Stuck

There have to be dozens and dozens of books for pastors and church leaders that offer tips, plans and processes for bringing new life to a dormant church.

"When Your Church Feels Stuck" by Chris Sonksen is the best one I've ever read.

Sonksen is uniquely qualified to write such a book because he's been on the front lines.  He's learned what it like to take a church that seems to be stuck and has developed strategies for the church and its people to begin moving forward again.

Sonksen's presentation revolves seven different questions, questions, he says, every leader must answer.  These deal with the mission of the church; how the church gets its mission done; what guiding principles does the church live by; how success is measured; making sure you have the right team to accomplish all you want; making sure the culture of your church matches the mission; developing a worship service that compliments all of the above.

This would be an outstanding book for a pastor and church leadership to work through together.  It's obvious that Sonksen knows his stuff.  If attendance has bottomed out, if finances have grown stagnant,  if the ministry teams seems to be just going through the motions, then get this book today. You just might find the secrets to getting your church moving when it is stuck.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thinking about Yvonne

This morning at 11 am we will hold a Memorial Service for Yvonne Doede.  We expect a full house. Yvonne and her husband, Harold, moved to the Valley of the Sun from Wisconsin and they were a blessing to our community and church.  They both had serving and giving hearts and if they were needed you always knew they would be there for you.

When I arrived at Life in Christ in 2005, Yvonne was helping to get the Sunday school going.  She taught a group of older children and was a bit of a tough taskmaster.  But she wasn't mean or uncaring. She just wanted the children to know Jesus, know the Scriptures, know that they were loved by God and saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

Yvonne faithfully worshiped her Lord and Savior every Sunday.  She was glad for Jesus' invitation to come to the altar and receive the Lord's Supper.  Her example of faith and devotion to the Lord will be missed.

A reception and light luncheon will take place following the service in the Christian Life Center hall. Come and support Harold and his family today.

You are also invited to attend worship this evening at 5 pm or on Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  Bible classes for all ages will meet at 9:30.

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Common sense wisdom about losing weight

"The older you get the harder it is to lose weight because by that time your body and your weight are really good friends."

Don't know who said it but it seems to be true!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Another gem from Luther

To the extent we are Christians, we stand above the law and sin. Christ is the Lord of the law.  He is present and locked in our hearts, just as a precious stone is firmly mounted in a ring. When the law accuses us and sin terrifies us, all we need to is look at Christ. When we have taken hold of Him in faith, we have the victor over the law, sin, death and the devil with us. Because Christ rules over all of these, we won't be harmed.

From "Faith Alone," July 14

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

It's gonna be a busy week

Prepare Saturday and Sunday services and two Memorial Services

Prepare Sunday sermon and two messages for Memorial Services

Prepare new Sunday morning Bible study

Meet with Congregational President and marketing expert on possible campaign

Get Treasuring God's Word ready for another week

And all the unplanned stuff that comes up in a typical week

I'd better get to work!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why serve?

The Christian knows to serve the weak not because they deserve it but because God extended His love to us when we deserved the opposite. Christ came down from heaven, and whenever His disciples entertained dreams of prestige and power He reminded them that the greatest is the one who serves. The ladder of power reaches up, the ladder of grace reaches down.

Phillip Yancey, "What's So Amazing About Grace," page 266

Saturday, July 22, 2017

To worship we will go...

Yes. come and join us this weekend for worship - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.

I'll be preaching at all three services - the message is titled, "Help When You Need It The Most."

Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Praying With Eyes Wide Open

It all began by accident.  A father and daughter are out on a walk.  They decide to pray together and in the next moment father knocks over daughter and they both fall to the ground. It turned out that when he began to pray father closed his eyes, as most if not all Christians do.  Obviously, it's a bit difficult to walk with your eyes closed.   However, this form of prayer provided a discovery for father and daughter - praying with eyes wide open.

That story sets up the premise of Sherry Harney's new book on prayer.  She makes the convincing point that praying with eyes open can add a new dimension to a person prayer life.  She recounts all the different ways that God's people pray.  But there is not one Biblical admonition that one must pray with eyes closed.  Praying with opened eyes engages the senses in an entirely different way.

Harney writes in the introduction: "Praying with our eyes open...allows us to see what is happening around us and engage in prayer in new ways.  Rather than closing our eyes to block out the world, we open our eyes, like Jesus did.  We see the need and pain as well as the beauty and joy all around us. What we see shapes our prayers."

Harney writes in an easy engaging style.  The book is filled with Scriptural references to prayer and also includes a number of stories about people who found that praying with eyes opened enhanced their prayer life.  If your prayer and devotional time has become routine and humdrum, you just might be blessed by "Praying With Eyes Wide Open."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This is the way I always imagined it.

Jesus is dead, crucified on a cross. His body is buried in a borrowed tomb.

The devil gathers his minions and they celebrate.  What Satan could not do in the desert, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, when he spent 40 days throwing every temptation imaginable at Jesus, he has finally done, working through the jealous Pharisees and the cowardly Roman governor.

While toasting themselves with hot toddies (because all drinks there are hot!) Jesus suddenly appears in their midst, very much alive.

According to the Apostles' Creed, "He descended into hell." Thus began Jesus' exaltation.

He is victor over death and sin and the devil.

Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father.  But one day He will return to this earth "to judge the living and the dead." Come, Lord Jesus!

Until then, we wait with hope.  We believe in "the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting."

The devil's banner is torn down.  Jesus is very much alive - "the resurrection and the life."

Praise Jesus!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No, nothing can separate us from God's love in Christ!

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

So positive is Paul of the truth of his words that he resorts to poetic hyperbole in listing all conceivable crisis.  Today we might say: "I am persuaded that neither sickness nor death, neither poverty nor want, neither unemployment nor enforced idleness, neither an unfaithful spouse nor wayward children, neither family bitterness nor rancor, calamity nor disaster - nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which we have found in Christ Jesus, our Lord!"

Does this sound too abstract, too theological? By no means! When the crisis moment is upon us, when all human resources have failed, when all "helping hands" have proved devoid of help - how soul-sustaining it is to know that standing at our side is the loving, caring, omnipotent Redeemer, from whom nothing can ever separate us. When despair would overtake us, let us turn to Him; let us walk with Him and talk with Him. He will grip our hand more firmly and lead us where His love would take us. In Him is our salvation.

Herman Gockel, "Daily Walk with God," page 384

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Revenge never works

Vengeance is a passion to get even. It is a hot desire to give back as much pain as someone gave you...The problem with revenge is that it never gets what it wants; it never evens the score. Fairness never comes. The chain reaction set off by every act of vengeance always takes its unhindered course. It ties both the injured and the injurer to an escalator of pain. Both are stuck on the escalator as long as parity is demanded, and the escalator never stops, never lets anyone off.

Lewis Smedes, quoted in "What's So Amazing About Grace," page 115

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Perfect You

"The Perfect You," the latest book from Dr. Caroline Leaf, is not an easy or quick read.  It's not a book that you'll leisurely read while relaxing on the beach.  It's not something that you can plow your way through while the kids are creating chaos in the house.

For example, Dr. Robert Turner, the author of the Forward to the book wrote: "As a neuroscientist, I love chapter 5...Dr. Leaf helps us understand the anatomical and physiological underpinnings of our particular ways of thinking, feeling and choosing. I appreciate how she weaves together three interrelated disciplines: neurospirituality, neuropsychology and neurophysiology." Whaaaaaat?

I found it a great challenge to read chapter 5 and all the material before it.  The technical and scientific jargon was difficult for me to understand. More interesting and helpful was the Unique Qualitative (UQ) Assessment tool in chapter six.  There are about 100 questions that are designed to help the reader gain an understanding of who they are and how and why they react to things as they do.  Again, this section will not be completed in 15 minutes.

I also struggle with the title of the book.  There is no perfect "you." That perfection was lost in the fall of the garden.  Because of our sinful human nature there will never be a time in life when the perfect feeling and thinking "you" will show up.  However, for the person who struggles in living life day by day, "The Perfect You" could be helpful for understanding one's self and learning how to overcome those moods, feelings and circumstances that make one feel less than perfect.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Prayer...for Christ to Love Through Your Heart

O Lord, live in me. My Your love beat in and through my heart. May You speak through my voice. Jesus, be the strength of my soul and the fire that purges wrongs from my desires.  Fill me with Your great abounding grace. In Jesus' name.  Amen.

From "God is With You Every Day," page 193

Worship this weekend at Life in Christ - 5 pm today or 8 and 11 am tomorrow.

God bless your weekend!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rooting for Katherine Kirk!

This weekend the LPGA Open Championship is being played and our family is rooting for Katherine Kirk.

She won the Thornberry Classic in Green Bay last weekend.  My son in law is the COO of the golf club and worked over a year to bring the event to the area.  Over 50,000 spectators attended throughout the week.

Kirk won by one shot.  She made clutch shots and putts when she needed to.  Sherri and I cheered when she sank a 10 foot putt on the 72nd hole to clinch the victory.

But what really impressed us was the fact that she is a believer in Jesus and wasn't afraid to show it.

Her yardage booklet had printed in bold letters "John 3:16." It was seem numerous times throughout the television coverage.

And she marked her golf ball with a cross and 3:16 written next to it.

My son in law and daughter met and spoke with Katherine after the tourney.  They said that she was warm, welcoming and spent time to talk with each of them and all the people that wanted to congratulate her on her stellar play.

Kirk shot 2 under par in the first round of the Open.  She trails the leader for four shots.

We're hoping she'll be gunning for the championship this weekend.  And hoping that her yardage book will be on display.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A collect for the week

O God, You have taught me to keep all Your commandments by loving You and my neighbor: Grant me the grace of Your Holy Spirit, that I may be devoted to you with my whole heart, and united to others with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From "The Divine Hours - Prayers for Summertime," page 201

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

God does what is best for us

Martin Luther, writing on Psalm 118:1 (Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever) offers this reflection:

God proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is good and merciful. His daily and continual goodness shows this in rich and powerful ways. This psalm says, "His mercy endures forever." In other words, God always does what is best for us.

From "Faith Alone," July 11 devotion

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Prayer...for Light and Joy

Father, thank You that You have no problem walking through the walls that I sometimes hide behind. I welcome You to come with Your forgiveness and shed Your light and joy into my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Max Lucado, "God is With You Every Day," page 214

Monday, July 10, 2017

How To Break Growth Barriers

Maybe you're a pastor or lay leader who has seen God bless your church with growth and believe that He is leading your church to make plans to move to the next level of growth.  Or perhaps you're a pastor of a church that seems to have reached it peak and you've got no idea of how to reverse the trend.

You would be wise to purchase a copy of "How To Break Growth Barriers," by Carl F. George and Warren Bird.

George has been consulting with pastors, lay leaders and congregations for years.  His experience and research have gone into this new book, offering ideas on how to change the pastor and church so growth can take place.  George is very transparent; he reveals some of his own weaknesses and challenges he faced while in the pastoral ministry.  If you are a pastor who feels overworked and burned out, you should read this book.

The chapter, "Should You Use More Than One Leadership Style" is probably worth the price of the book.  There you will read about Stakeholders, Berry Buckets, New Berries, Senior New Berries, Senior Formerberries and Junior Formerberries.  Makes no sense? I assure you, George provides real enlightenment on understanding the people of your congregation.

I'm not sure this is the best book Carl George has written.  But it may be his most important.

So this priest meets this peasant...

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, "You must be very close to God." The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks for a moment, and then smiles, "Yes, He's very fond of me."

From "What's So Amazing About Grace," by Philip Yancey, page 69.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Remembering Mary

Today would have been Mary Croushore's birthday.  Mary, pictured above with Kirk Brunmeier and Jan Hagar, was a wonderful servant of the Lord.  She simply enjoyed helping other people.  And she always made sure that LICL put its best foot forward, so to speak, through greeting and ushering at worship and by the way she did her work in the office.

Mary suffered for about a year or so from ALS.  She suffered while displaying great courage and steadfast faithfulness in her Lord and Savior.  In ministering to Mary I got to know her daughter Anita and her family and also Mary's friend, Bob Faulkner.  I watched in awe as they loved and supported Mary.  And they were by her side as the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, led Mary through the valley of the shadow of death so that she might rest in His arms until the Last Day, "the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting."

Thank You, O Lord, for blessing us with Mary's love, friendship and care.  She modeled Your compassion in the way she helped and served others.  Enable us to do the same until that last great day when the trumpet sounds and You receive the greatest escort we will ever see, when you come to judge the living and the dead.  We will be reunited with our loved ones who kept the faith and trusted You for forgiveness, life and salvation.  What a reunion that will be! We look forward to that day when we shall all together give You our total worship and praise.  What a joy it will be to stand with Mary on that day.  Keep us in the one true faith until You come again.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Worship this weekend at LICL - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  Have a blessed day!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Oh, did I forget...

To let you know I was going on vacation? Well, I did forget and I felt badly about that.  I know how frustrating it can be to visit a blog day after day and find no new content.  So, I'll try not to let it happen again.  Deal?

We spent almost 2 glorious weeks in Green Bay, Wisconsin visiting my youngest daughter, Katie, and her family.  My oldest, Stephanie, and her family joined us for a couple of days,  Green Bay is a wonderful place to visit in the summertime.  Most days the highs were in the mid 70's so Sherri and I tried to soak up all the cool breezes we could.

We were able to celebrate my grandson, Luke's birthday (age 9) and Drew's birthday (age 5).

We were continually amused by the antics of our other grandboys, Ethan (age 7) and Duke (age 2).

I spent quality time with Katie's dog, Howie.  (See below)

For the third year in a row we got to see a Peninsula Players performance - the best one yet!

Visited the downtown Green Bay Farmers Market - great food trucks and lots of local produce and plenty of cheese.

Went out to Thorneberry Creek Golf Club which is hosting an LPGA golf tourney.  My son in law, Josh, is the COO of the club and has been working to bring the LPGA to Green Bay for more than a year.  All his hard work paid off! The first round is in the books and the remaining three rounds will be televised (in part) on the Golf Channel (which we will be watching from start to finish).

As we flew in to Phoenix last night the pilot announced, "Welcome to Phoenix or as it is better known, the surface of the sun!"  And even though it was mighty hot, like Dorothy we had to exclaim, "There's no place like home."


Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer has officially arrived

Everyone has a way to officially mark summer.  The first 100 degree day...the first 120 degree day.

Here's what signals summer for me.  I go out each morning to pick up the paper.  When it is no longer cool but hot and sticky at 6 am, well, that's when summer begin for me.

It's summer! Stay cool!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

It's a weekend to worship

At Life in Christ! Won't you join us?

Saturday at 5 pm...Sunday at 8 and 11 am...classes for all ages at 9:30 am.

Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Unparalleled

Perhaps you've heard comments like: "We all worship the same God." "All religions are pretty much the same." "All paths lead to heaven so just take one."

Yes? Actually, the answers are No, no and no! And Jared C. Wilson explains why this is so in his new book, "Unparalleled."

In 10 masterfully written chapters, Wilson demonstrates how Christianity stands separated from every other faith.  He shows how Christianity is the only religion which teaches that a person can't save themselves; that only Christianity sees Jesus as He really is - True God and true man; that Christianity is the only religion that is built on the foundation of grace and love.

Weaving personal stories with powerful Biblical teaching, Wilson has written a book that should be in every pastor's study, on every church library's shelves and in every Christian's home. "Unparalleled" will bolster a person's faith in Christ and offer ideas on how to engage unbelievers by sharing the uniqueness of the Christian faith.  And reading this book will make a believer feel good knowing that faith in Jesus Christ is not in vain.  Christianity is different and as Wilson proves - that's good!

"Unparalleled" is easily one of the best books I've read this year.  Kudos to Jared Wilson for reminding me that there is nothing like Christianity.  It's unparalleled!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why didn't I just buy the wallpaper?


I could have saved myself so much money!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What makes Christianity unique?

The Gospel makes Christianity unique among all other religious and philosophical systems of enlightenment, approval or success because while every other system primarily teaches things to do, only Christianity primarily teaches that the things to do are done.

"Unparalleled" by Jared Wilson, page 180

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nothing else matters

Discovered this wonderful quote while working my way through Jared Wilson's "Unparalleled:"

If Christ is risen, nothing else matters.  And if Christ is not risen, nothing else matters."

Jaroslav Pelikan

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Meditate on the names of the Lord

            When you are confused about the future, go to your Jehovah-raah, your caring shepherd.  When you are anxious about provision, talk to Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides.  Are your challenges too great?  Seek the help of Jehovah-shalom, the Lord is peace.  Is your body sick? Are your emotions weak?  Jehovah-rophe, the Lord who heals you will see you now.  Do you feel like a soldier stranded behind enemy lines?  Take refuge in Jehovah-nissi, the Lord my banner.

            Meditating on the names of God reminds you of the character of God.  Take these names and bury them in your heart.

            God is:
            The shepherd who guides,
            The Lord who provides,
            The voice who brings peace in the storm
            The physician who heals the sick, and
            The banner that guides the soldiers.

            From the Great House of God by

            Max Lucado

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The weekend service schedule...

Is as follows:

Saturday @ 5:00 pm

Sunday @8 & 11 am

Sunday @ 9:30 am Classes for all ages

Short, sweet and to the point.

Come and join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Today's Quote

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask 'Where have I gone wrong?'  Then a voice says to me, 'This is going to take longer than one night'."

Charlie Brown

From "A Laugh a Day," day 314

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The unique gift of grace

In the movie "The Last Emperor," the young child anointed as the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command.  "What happens when you do wrong?" his brother asks.  "When I do wrong, someone else is punished," the boy emperor replies.  To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten.  In Christian theology, Jesus reversed that ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished. Grace is free only because the giver Himself has borne the cost.

Philip Yancey, "What's So Amazing About Grace," page 67

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

For want of a common vision

I just finished reading George Barna's "America At The Crossroads" and gained some insights into where it seems our country is headed.  I copied the following quote in my journal.  It seemed, in some ways, to summarize why our country is in such turmoil.

It is not much of a leap of logic to posit that one reason why there is so much division concerning which issues and solutions deserve our resources is because Americans today lack a common vision.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

America at the Crossroads

This was a hard book to read.  But it was a necessary book to read.

George Barna doesn't sugarcoat what's happening in America in the 21st Century.  Our "do whatever makes you feel good" type of morality is weakening relationships of all kinds.  While a majority of American describe themselves as spiritual, that spirituality is based on an individual's personal concept and beliefs and not necessarily based on a holy book like the Bible.  Institutions upon which we once relied for helping us achieve a high standard of living no longer have the trust of a majority of people.  Christians in general seem to be bullied by those factions that oppose the basic tenants of the faith and are often silent instead of taking a risk and standing up for what they believe.

These are just a few of the things you'll learn as you work your way through Barna's book.

The book is based on four parts.  Barna explores faith and spirituality; government and politics; lifestyles and perspectives.  The final part focuses upon what Barna believes the reader can do to confront a changing USA. I found Barna's approach in this last part very Law oriented and wasn't sure that a reader would feel motivated to change their lives as Barna urges.  None of us can change ourselves because of the sin and brokenness in our lives.  I would have appreciated to have read more about Jesus and how He has healed the brokenness of all people through His suffering, death and resurrection. Embracing Christ by faith is the first step toward healing and the new life that only the Lord can give.

One thing seems clear from reading "America at the Crossroads" - our country has actually become a mission field.  More and more people are in need of being touched by the love of Jesus Christ.  Those individuals and churches that are not afraid to offer a winsome but confident defense of the Gospel can and will make a difference in the lives of those who call our country home.  Reading this book will provide you with an understanding of our times and offer ideas for dealing with the changes taking place all around us.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

We're going to have a great week of worship!

Saturday at 5 pm - Holy Communion will be celebrated and I'll be preaching.

Sunday at 8 and 11 am - the children from this year's Vacation Bible School will be singing at the beginning of both services and I'll be preaching.  Our music group featuring Connie, Dan and Ron will be providing the music.

Come and join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, June 9, 2017

A dangerous path

I'm almost finished reading George Barna's "America at the Crossroads."  He spends much time analyzing the effect of "Political Correctness" on our society and how Christians have been impacted by the PC police.  Barna's conclusion:

When Americans are no longer free - or no longer feel free - to hold or express opinions that conflict with the perspectives promoted by certain vocal or activist sectors of society, we are headed down a dangerous path.  (page 136)

I'll be sharing more from this timely book in the weeks ahead.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Luther on the difference between Law and Gospel

I really enjoyed reading Kilcrease and Lutzer's "Martin Luther In His Own Words."  Here's one of the little nuggets I found:

The Law is a statement of debit; the Gospel is a statement of credit.

The Gospel, which is all about the atonement of Christ for sinful man pays our debt to God "in full!"

page 44

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Philip Yancey on reading the Psalms

 I come to the Psalms not primarily as a student waiting to acquire knowledge, but rather as a fellow pilgrim wanting to acquire relationship...More than any other book in the Bible, Psalms reveals what a heartfelt, soul-starved, single-minded relationship with God looks like.

From "The Bible Jesus Read," page 115

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

They say it's her birthday!

Today is my youngest daughter's birthday.  Katie is an excellent wife, mother and friend.  She bring light and life to our family.  Today is another good day to give thanks to God for blessing us with such a wonderful and loving daughter.  Happy birthday, Katie!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Just me and my gal...

If we could only see into the future.  Today, Sherri and I are looking back into the past and celebrating 45 years together.  It's been quite a trip.  Meeting each other in high school, getting married so young (now we know why our parents were so concerned), pursuing careers, raising kids, using our gifts where they could be used best, Sherri in teaching future nurses and me proclaiming God's Word in parish ministry, spoiling grandkids and thinking about retirement and what those years will look like.  God blessed me with a loving, supportive, compassionate wife.  And even though she recently spent 11 days in the hospital, Sherri's home now and we'll have a fine celebration today (even if it will be a little low key).

Join us this weekend for worship at Life in Christ.  Saturday services take place at 5 pm; Sunday worship happens at 8 and 11 am.  It's Pentecost Sunday and I will try to explain why Pentecost is such a big deal.  I hope you'll be there!

Friday, June 2, 2017

The difference between men and women

Author and funny man Ken Davis tries to explain it for us...

Women look at a cat's facial expressions and say, "Look, he's lonely and needs some love." To a man that cat just looks evil.

Woman want to talk about feelings; men don't have any!

Women comparison shop. If a man can find it, he buys it.

Taking a car trip without trying to beat you best time - why even go?

Women know the difference between beige, off-white, and eggshell.  Men know that teal is a certain kind of duck.

Women care about the inaccuracy of the bathroom scale. A man is satisfied as long as the scale is accurate to within 10 pounds!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It was 50 years ago today!

50 years ago today the greatest record album ever made was released.  I was 15 and a year or so from driving.  So, I managed to get my Dad to take me the the foremost record store in Tucson (the name now escapes me) so I could buy my copy.  I purchased the Mono version because it was less expensive than a stereo copy (plus my record player had only one speaker anyway).

I gingerly took the record from its sleeve and began to play the first song.  It was like nothing I'd ever heard.  The crowd noise, the strings warming up and then Paul McCartney's guitar introduction leading to: "It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play..."  I sat in awe through side one and I thought to myself, "Side two can't possibly be as good."  And, of course, I was wrong. And when the final note of "A Day in the Life" (with each Beatle on a piano) was played, I was gobsmacked.  The Beatles had produced a masterpiece.

50 years on and nothing has changed.  I purchased the newly remastered stereo version of Pepper last week.  It was like hearing it for the first time all over again (Does that sound like something Yogi Berra would say).  Giles Martin (son of Pepper producer, George Martin) took 21st century technology and brought the album alive.  It's like seeing something in black and white and then seeing the same thing again in brilliant color.

A couple of years ago some seminary friends and their wives and Sherri and I met in Branson, Missouri for a reunion.  The highlight of the trip for me was enjoying the performance of the Liverpool Legends.  They are a Beatles tribute band headed up by Louise Harrison, the older sister of George Harrison.  The Legends were amazing! The music was spot on - every guitar lick, every drum fill was perfect! The Pepper logo was painted on the front of the stage and I couldn't resist having my picture taken with it.  As we made our way home following the concert, I had to conclude: "A splendid time was had by all!"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Martin Luther In His Own Words

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  Standing at the center of it all was Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who wanted to bring reform the the Roman Church.  As it turned out, God's plans for Luther were much greater.

Through Luther, the Bible was unchained and translated so that the common man and woman could read God's Word for themselves.  Through Luther the great doctrine of the church - Justification by Grace through Faith - brought God's love, forgiveness and salvation to a people enslaved by the notion that God's favor had to be earned rather than received as a gift.  Through Luther, catechisms which taught the meaning of the 10 Commandments, The Apostles' Creed, The Lord's Supper, The Office of the Keys, and The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper could be learned, enabling people to grow in faith and in their new life in Christ Jesus.

The biographies written about Luther number in the thousands.  The question for those who want to know more about Luther is this: "Where to start?"

Jack D. Kilcrease and Erwin W. Lutzer have complied a book that will introduce you to Martin Luther.

"Martin Luther In His Own Words" offers key writings from Luther that will give you an idea of the condition of the church and how the reformer sought to bring God's Law and Gospel to his readers. In this small volume you'll find Luther holding forth on the three articles of the Creed; writings referencing the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians; a short snippet from his classic, "The Bondage of the Will," and more.

Admire the hope that Luther offers when he writes: "The Holy Spirit assures us that we are God's children no matter how furiously sin may rage within us, so long as we follow the Spirit and struggle against sin in order to kill it." (page 65)

Whether you are a Luther scholar or simply want to know about the reformer, this is a volume that should be on your bookshelf.

Our prayerful Jesus

Awaking early to pray (Mark 1:35)

Dismissing people to pray (Matthew 14:23)

Ascending a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28)

Crafting a model prayer to teach us to pray (Matthew 6:9-13)

Cleansing the temple so others could pray (Matthew 21:12-13)

Stepping into a garden to pray (Luke 22:39-46)

Jesus immersed His words and work in prayer. Powerful things happen when we do the same.

Max Lucado, "God Is With You Every Day" page 154

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember, merciful Jesus

Remember, merciful Jesu, that I am the cause of Your journey.

From Mozart's "Requiem," as quoted in Philip Yancey's "What's So Amazing About Grace"

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A need to worship

It's been a tough week for us.  My dear, sweet wife was struck down with a bad virus that ultimately led to her hospitalization.  A serious staph infection left her with pain in both shoulders.  Through this week she underwent two surgeries to deal with abscesses that had developed.  She is not bouncing back from all of this and we continue to be very concerned.

We have been encouraged by the prayers of family, friends and church family.  We are pleading with God to use any means at his disposal to bring healing and health to Sherri.  Having the opportunity to turn to God in worship, to receive His gifts of grace and to pour out our concerns at His throne of grace couldn't come at a better time.

On this Memorial Day weekend we will worship today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8 and 11 am. I'm am speaking at all three services and the title to my message is, "The Problem with Waiting." Please come and join us this weekend at Life in Christ.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Say that again???

Our pastor was winding down. In the back of the church the fellowship committee stood to go to the church hall and prepare snacks for the congregation. Seeing them get up, Pastor Michel singled them out for praise. "Before they all slip out," he urged, "let's give these ladies a big hand in the rear."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Unwanted Houseguests

There were certainly times when fear and doubt and anxiety came knocking at my door. I would simply say, "You can come in but you're gonna have to hang out with faith, hope and trust - and they're not gonna let you stay here long.

Ernie Johnson Jr, "Unscripted," page 153

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

God's friendly heart

First, do not look at Christ's sufferings any longer; for they have already done their work and terrified you; but press through all difficulties and look to His friendly heart, how full of love it is toward you, which love constrained Him to bear the heavy load of your conscience and your sin.

Martin Luther, "Martin Luther in His Own Words," pages 122-123

Monday, May 22, 2017

What the church does best

The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.

Gordon McDonald, as quoted by Philip Yancey, in "What's So Amazing About Grace?" page 15

Saturday, May 20, 2017

See you later, Jim

It was a lovely evening in the last week of October, 2004.  I was getting ready to do a Q n' A with the people of Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Peoria, AZ.  The congregation was preparing to call a new pastor and I was on the list.  Before we began I walked around introducing myself to folks.  One man reached out for my hand and said, "I'm Jim Horner."  I asked, "Are you related to Bob Horner, the great Arizona State baseball player?" Jim proudly replied, "I'm his Dad!"

That's how my friendship with Jim Horner began.  For the next 12 years I got to know him better as he faithfully worshiped every Sunday at Life in Christ.  Jim loved to be in God's House, loved to receive the Lord's Supper.  I was blessed to know this disciple of Jesus.

This morning at 11 am the congregation and I will gather together to say, "See you later, Jim."  We are confident that we will see Jim again, on the Last Day when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, to separate the sheep from the goats, to send some to eternal judgment and the rest, the believers in Jesus, to eternal life.

There will be a reception for family and friends following the service.  If you knew Jim or the family, I'm sure they would be pleased to have you join them.

Our Saturday service takes place later today at 5 pm.  The Kevin Svec group will provide music for all three services this weekend.  Tomorrow is Confirmation Sunday.  We have two services - 8 and 11 am - with Bible classes for all ages at 9:30 am.  Please come and worship with us at LICL!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Leave it the way you found it

Leave It The Way You Found It

A pastor places his order at the pet store: "I need at least 50 mice, 2000 ants and as many of those little silverfish you can get."

The clerk replies, "We can probably do that, but it might take some time. Mind if I ask why you are placing such an unusual order?"

The pastor replied, "I've accepted a call to another church and the congregation council told me to leave the parsonage the way I found it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Downward Dog got to me

My family was a dog family.  Throughout my first 19 years a four-legged canine was part of our family unit.  Brownie (three guesses as to how we came up with the name "Brownie") was with us the longest.  She was my Mom's dog and after my Dad passed away, Brownie was the best companion and friend that my Mom had.  Me, I liked any dog that would play fetch.  And Brownie, in her younger days, was like Brooks Robinson, the famous third baseman of the Baltimore Orioles - never missed a ball.

When I married my dear, sweet wife, I married into a cat family.  And I really dug cats.  So much different than all the dogs I'd known.  The biggest thing was that you really had to work hard to earn a cat's affection.  Dog were easy.  Some cats acted like they cared less whether you loved on them or not.  So, throughout our married life we've always had at least one cat around the house.

Not that we were devoid of canine affection.  My oldest daughter loved a dog that was given to us. Duppy the Puppy had a Lab body and with short legs.  A bit odd looking but lovable as the day was long.  Later, we acquired a second dog, Sunny, an Australian shepherd, that exclusively belonged to Steph.  And when Steph went to Law School, Sunny went with her.

Afterward, we were without a dog for a while.  But then our youngest, Katie, rescued a dog and gave him the name, Howie.  Howie came to our house every Sunday with Katie and Josh.  On Superbowl Sunday, when the Arizona Cardinals played the Pittsburgh Steelers, I taught Howie how to sit up and shake hands.  This was my way of dealing with the tension of the game.  Howie ate at least a dozen dog biscuits that day.  By the end of the game my stomach was upset over the Cardinals loss to Pittsburgh.  Howie had an upset stomach too - too many biscuits.

Three years ago, Katie and her family moved to Wisconsin.  Howie went with them.  I usually see Howie once a year and the first thing he does is lead me to where the dog biscuits are kept.  I walk him every day and he takes naps with me - I'm on one pillow and he's on the other.  I miss him terribly.

I found Downward Dog very clever.  Martin, who seems like a very lovable and loyal dog to me, talks to the viewer throughout the program.  He shares his thought processes about his life, his master and about the evil cat that sits outside on the porch.  Martin explains his love for his master, how he feels when he is left for hours at home while she works, and his reasons for destroying a pair of shoes.  Who knows if dogs think the way Martin expresses himself? I think what this communicates by the creators of the program is this - our pets are more than just "pets." They show unconditional love.  They crave our attention.  Their loyalty is off the charts.

At the end of the program, Nan, Martin's owner (played by Allison Tolman), makes a presentation where she wonders what our world would be like if we loved each other the way Martin loves her. I believe that the love of Jesus is the model and motivation for reaching out and loving one another. But Martin comes in a close second.

Check out Downward Dog.  It takes the place of Modern Family on Wednesday's on ABC. Even if you're a cat person, Martin might just steal your heart.