Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Luther, speaking of prayer

God doesn't want long, drawn-out prayers. Instead, He wants sincere prayers that flow out of a faithful heart.

From, "By Faith Alone," November 12

Monday, January 30, 2017

Playing Torrey Pines

Watching the Farmers Open on television yesterday afternoon brought back some great memories.  In 2011 I had the chance to play Torrey Pines South golf course.  It was ever bit as tough then as it was last weekend.  When I drove the ball in the thick rough there was just no chance to make a good score.  However, this is the fourth hole and I drove the ball in the fairway.  Feeling very good about my chances (I had just parred the 3rd hole) I was caught by my son, Eric, in mid swing.

I have no idea where the ball went.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Welcome to our "Mouth House"

Martin Luther once called the church a "mouth house," because the church is a place where the Scriptures are read and proclaimed out loud.  That's what we'll do this weekend with Pastor Neil Andersen preaching today at 5pm.  I'll be in the pulpit for our Sunday morning 8 and 11 am services. Kevin Svec's group will provide the music on both Saturday and Sunday.  If you don't have a "mouth house" to attend, try ours! Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Spiritual weakness is a result of...

We are spiritually weakened by the pace of life, the lack of community, and the lack of time and energy to cultivate our relationships with God and our fellow man.

Dr. Michael A. Swensen, from his book, "Margin," quoted in "Imagine 5:16," page 142

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fun at Magnolia Market

Last May, my dear sweet wife and I had the opportunity to visit Waco, Texas.  Our mission? To see Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Market and Garden.

We are big fans of the "Fixer Upper" television show.  We admire their story.  We really appreciate their emphasis on family.  We wanted to support their efforts.  And we weren't the only ones!

Many of the things Joanna uses to decorate the homes they renovate were on sale.  The prices were reasonable and as you can see from the above photo, we found a couple of items to bring back home. The photo below shows that the store was packed.  I doubt there was space for one more person.  We spent several hours there and I'd be glad to go back.  We had fun in Waco!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What we need from God

Father, we come (before You) bringing our marred lives for Your remaking, our stained hands for Your cleansing, our tired feet for Your rest, our wearied hearts for Your peace.

Robert E. Speer, "For All the Saints," Vol. 2, page 113

Monday, January 23, 2017

My 2016 Book List

Each year I set a goal to read 24 books or two books per month.  This past year I managed to get through 26 books.  I'm always amazed to look back at the list and see the variety of subjects I managed to get through.  Maybe you'll find something on this list that you might want to check out. Here is it...

"A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion" by Gary M. Burge.  A fictional story written with an eye on the times and culture during the time of Jesus.  An interesting read with a surprise ending.

"God With Us" by David Petersen.  An Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany devotional from a skilled writer and preacher.

"Destiny and Power" by Jon Meacham.  A wonderful biography of George H.W. Bush.  My admiration for our 41st president grew as I learned about his commitment to public service.

"Vanishing Grace" by Philip Yancey.  The book takes a look at why the Christian faith's influence has seemingly diminished and how the trend could be changed.

"The Big Miss" by Hank Haney.  Haney was Tiger Woods' swing coach and he provides an intimate look at the rise and fall of one of golf''s greatest.

"Paul McCartney - The Life" by Phillip Norman.  A well written and well researched biography of the "cute Beatle."

"Killing Reagan" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugand.  This edition was written in the same breezy style as the other books in this series.

"The Gift For All People" by Max Lucado.  A short devotional book given to me by one of our members.  If you like Lucado you'll like this book.

"Imagine 5:16" by Steve Lingenfelter, et al.  A fine book on how one Peoria, AZ church sharpened its skill for outreach into its community.

"Becoming a Person of Influence" by Maxwell & Dornan.  Typical John Maxwell.

"The Veiled One" by Ruth Rendell.  My two favorite detective fiction writers - Rendell and PD James passed away last year.  I have to have at least one dose of Rendell each year.

"I'll Mature When I'm Dead" by Dave Berry.  The perfect book to take along on your summer vacation.  Had me laughing out loud more than once.

"A Feast of Crows" by George RR Martin.  The least interesting book of the series which has been turned into HBO's number one program.

"The Girl in the Spider's Web" by David Lagercrantz.  A continuation of the Stig Larrsen series of books.  I found it a cut below the first three books.

"For the Glory" by Duncan Hamilton.  Easily the best book I read in 2016.  Many know of Eric Liddell through the movie, "Chariots of Fire."  Hamilton shares the details of what happened to Liddell following his amazing Olympic effort.  An inspiration book about a faithful Christian man.

"In a Heartbeat" by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.  The family behind the film, "The Blind Side" tells how they came to give shelter to and later adopt a boy from the streets.

"The Choir Immortal" by Katie Schuermann.  The continuing story of a small town Lutheran church and its colorful cast of characters.  A wonderful read.

"Katie Luther - The Graphic Novel" by Susan Leigh.  A companion piece to a book presented in the same fashion about Martin Luther.  If you know nothing about "Kitty, my rib," as Luther used to call his wife, this short book would be a good place to start.

"Everything is Possible" by Jen Bricker.  Bricker was born without legs but that has not stopped her from pursuing her dreams and living a full life.

"The Chronicles of Downton Abbey" by Fellows & Sturgis.  My dear, sweet wife and I came to the Downton party late but we're glad we made it.  We fell in love with the show and enjoyed reading this companion book.

"The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert" by Rosaria Butterfield.  Can a radical feminist do a 180 and come to believe and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? The answer is yes and it would be worth your time to read Butterfield's story.

"Because of Bethlehem" by Max Lucado.  Each September it seems that Lucado releases his newest book.  Since September is my birth month I can always count on my in-laws to give Lucado's books as a gift.  This is one of Lucado's best.

"Beatles 66 - The Revolutionary Year" by Steve Turner.  Turner has written extensively about the Fab Four.  Here he focuses on 1966 - the year that the Beatles stopped touring and began focusing their energies on studio recording.  Great book.

"What's It All About" by Cilla Black.  Cilla was a coat check girl at the Cavern, the place where Liverpool boys and girls could go on lunch hour or in the evenings to see John, Paul, George and Ringo.  A wonderful singer in her own right, Black went on to have a successful career in music & television.

"Cat Watching" by Desmond Morris.  My friend, Michele, has a book selling business on Amazon.  The books she can't sell she lets me take a look at.  I learned a lot about my two cats through Morris' observations and studies.

"Christian Freedom" by William E. Fischer.  Part of the "People's Bible" series from Northwestern Publishing House. A helpful read.

So that's the list.  I'd like to spend more time on the blog today but I've got to get going.  I've got a book to read!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Life Sunday

Tomorrow, Life in Christ will observe Life Sunday.  In my message I'll share a bit about my time serving on the board of directors of the Pregnancy Center and Clinic of the Low Country, based on Hilton Head Island, SC.  As I worked on the message I enjoyed reflecting on the time I spent with the director, Dr. Vera Bailey.  She was a charismatic and effective leader and would not let anything stop her from helping a young woman who had decided to carry her baby to term.  Dr. Bailey would find funds, medical care, places to live and just about anything the expectant mother needed.  She was also a person who trusted in Jesus' forgiveness and salvation and was a very effective witness for the faith.

There will be a worship service this evening at 5 pm with Deacon Jerry Klink preaching.  Tomorrow, two services are scheduled - 8 am and 11 am - and Bible classes for all ages will meet at 9:30 am.  So, join us this weekend for worship at LICL!

Friday, January 20, 2017

A prayer for pastors

Lord God, You have placed me in Your Church as a bishop and pastor. You see how unfit I am to fulfill this great and responsible Office, and had it not been for Your wisdom and guidance I would long since have brought everything to destruction.  Therefore, do I cry to You.  Most willingly do I desire and conform my mouth and heart to Your service.  I desire to teach the people, and long continually to be taught Your Word. Deign to use me as Your workman, dear Lord.  Only do not forsake me, for if You forsake me, I, alone, shall bring all to nothing. Amen.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

I love the brutal honesty and heartfelt sincerity of this prayer.  Without God's help, the leading by the Spirit and the guidance of the Word, no pastor can successfully serve the flock to whom he has been called.  Luther gets it and sets the perfect example for the rest of us who desire to be the Lord's workmen. I love this prayer.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Upon what is your focus?

Here's a thought to ponder...

We, as humans, tend to self-destruct when we are focused on just ourselves.

From "Imagine 5:16," page 133

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Top 10 Church Petty Arguments

Author and church consultant, Thom Rainer, recently did a survey of the kinds of petty arguments churches had experienced.  Some of them are real doozies! I whittled the list down to ten.  Here you go...

10) Argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor's beard

9) A 45 minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; two, three or four drawers

8) A deacon accusing another deacon of sending an anonymous letter, and deciding to settle the matter in the parking lot

7) Fight over whether or not to build a children's playground or to use the land for a cemetery

6) A church dispute of whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women's restroom

5) A dispute over whether the worship leader should have his shoes on during the service

4) A big church argument over the discovery that the church budget was off 10 cents.  Someone finally gave a dime to settle the issue

3) Business meeting argument about whether the church should purchase a weed eater or not.  It took two business meetings to resolve it

2) Arguments over what type of green beans the church should serve

1) Major conflict when the youth borrowed a Crockpot that had not been used for years

Does the devil rub his grubby little hands with glee over these kinds of incidents.  You bet! When the church is fighting over filing cabinets, weed eaters or Crockpots then the church is completely distracted from its mission of baptizing and teaching the lost, the searching and the hurting.  How many people walk out of those kinds of meetings and say, "If this is what the church is like, I don't need it!"

May the Lord save the church from its inclination to "major in the minors" of congregational life. May nothing get in the way of being "witnesses" of our Lord's forgiveness and salvation.  Until Jesus comes again, we've got work to do! God lead us in that work and bless that work, for Jesus' sake.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A manly insight

If you are planning to host a Super Bowl party, you should get the old standby - potato chips - but you should also, for nutritional balance, put out a bowl of carrot sticks. If you have no carrot sticks, you can use pine cones or used electrical fuses, because nobody will eat them anyway. This is no time for nutritional balance: this is the Super Bowl!

Dave Barry

Monday, January 16, 2017

Crosses, crosses everywhere

A little over a year ago I was in St. Louis at the Missouri Synod headquarters for some training.  During a break we were invited to see Synodical President Matthew Harrison's office.  Very impressive.  He has a collection of crosses that were given as gifts or collected during his many travels. He also has an amazing collection of books.  I tried not to be too jealous.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Yes, it's wet outside but...

It will be dry and warm and comfy this weekend for worship at LICL.  Join us today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8 and 11 am.  Sunday school for all ages and Bible class for adults too.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, January 13, 2017

This is the Gospel of the Lord

I love and am encouraged by the Gospel message presented by author, Todd Pepercorn:

Christ came to take away our death.  We really died in the font, not when our body was laid to rest. This means that no matter what terrible thoughts you harbor in your soul, in the midst of your despair, Christ is there. You may not be able to see Him, feel Him, or touch Him, but He is there. You are washed in baptism; you are cleansed in His name. You are His holy child, beloved in His sight. Yes, you suffer.  It is painful. But suffer as the redeemed. For you will come out whole and undefiled in the end.

From "I Trust When Dark My Road," page 83

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to understand God's blessings

No matter how much we might be tempted to read into Holy Scripture, blessings are not a reflection of how well we are doing in this life.  Blessings are not about us; rather, blessings are about God who gives them.  Blessings are exactly what King David asked for: a sign of God's merciful favor.

"Blessed - God's Gift of Love," by Mary J. Moerbe, page 18

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

From God Nothing Can Move Me

From God nothing can move me

 He will not step aside

But gently will reprove me

 And be my constant guide

He stretches out His hand

 In evening and in morning

My life of grace adorning

 Wherever I may stand

verse one

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

More than a case of serendipity?

A few months ago I shared with the church that I suffer from depression.  This illness began in my second year of ministry.  It has been troublesome to me since but last fall my depression seemed to greatly increase.  I began cancelling meetings and Bible classes.  Appointments had to be rescheduled.  It put a great burden on our Administrative Assistant, Connie.  Tuesdays were especially hard for me.

Monday is my day off.  It became a day of refreshment, a day to leave behind the pressures of ministry and a day to forget my own expectations of what I think I should be and do as a pastor.  But by Monday evening feelings of anxiety and worry began to consume me.  A dark cloud seemed to descend over me.  By the time the morning rolled around I couldn't face Tuesday.  It was hard.

Interestingly, I made it through Advent and Christmas in pretty good shape.  The time was stressful but I seemed to handle it without too many problems.  But last night the old pattern started.  I had a difficult time sleeping.  I hated getting out of bed this morning.

What woke me up? The pinging sound my cell phone makes when I receive a text message.  When I heard the second "ping" I had to get up.  What if there were an emergency? I couldn't just lay there.

The first message was from one of our members who was letting me know that they were specifically praying for me today.  All day! This member and their family are dealing with their own troubles. But their thoughts and prayers were focused on me.  Such encouragement!

The second message was from another member who was sharing some good news with me.  This person thought that I would want to know that my ministry is not in vain and that it is helping others. Another word of encouragement.

Was all of this a "happy accident?" I choose to believe that God's fingerprints are all over these incidents.

People suffering from depression don't see the glass as "half-full," so to speak.  In my case, I don't even see the glass.  Life in hard.  Doesn't seem to be worth going through the motions.  You retreat into a place of darkness and hopelessness.

But I believe that God knew my heart, knew that today would be a struggle, knew that I needed some encouragement.  I received some this morning through a couple of text message.  I'll receive even more when I open up God's Word of encouragement, the Bible.  And, I pray, that will help me to get going this morning.

Sorry for the long post.  I hadn't intended on sharing about my struggle.  But I couldn't help but tell about God's watchfulness over my life and how He used a couple of His people to give me the encouragement I needed this morning.

A blessed day to you today and may the grace of God dwell with you always.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Not trusting God is like...

Not trusting God for your daily needs is like having a wealthy father who is willing to lavish thousands of dollars on you, yet not being able to trust him for money in an emergency.

Martin Luther, from "Faith Alone," September 13

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Let's go to worship

How about tonight at 5 pm? ASU Campus Pastor Greg Fairow will be our special guest speaker for all three services this weekend.

If tonight doesn't work, join us tomorrow at 8 or 11 am.  The Lord's Supper will be celebrated at the 8 am service.

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Hello! Welcome to 2017!

So how is the new year going for you?

We had a blessed Christmas season with our family.  There was one exception - someone brought a virus into our house and before we knew it, 14 or 18 family members were stricken with it.  Only lasted a day or so but those particular 24 hours were pure misery (I will skip the details).

At church we celebrated with joy the birth of our Savior.  Singing "Silent Night" in a sanctuary bathed in candlelight is always a memorable experience.  And we began the new year by considering a resolution that makes sense - be like Joseph, who heard the Word of God and obeyed it.  Jesus called those who do so, "blessed."  This is a resolution worth keeping.

Today, is Epiphany.  This is a word that means, "appearing."  During this time in the church year we celebrate the appearing of Jesus, who brings light into this world of darkness and sin.  Starting the new year by seeking to walk in the light of forgiveness, love and peace that Jesus gives is what His disciples strive to do.

Our new Christian Life Center is finished but unoccupied.  Apparently, some important paperwork was not given to Maricopa County as was required.  So now we wait while these documents are under review.  Please pray with us that the paperwork is in order and that we will soon receive our occupancy permit.

A blessed new year to you!