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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Heaven on Earth

The most significant boundary we cross is the boundary between heaven and earth. This boundary is marked by the Divine Service, the appointed place where the now of our lives comes together with the not yet of heaven to come in the bodily presence of Christ.

Art Just, "Heaven on Earth," page 40

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


I don't know where I copied the following.  Unfortunately, I didn't note the source.  Someone had collected insults by famous people.  Can insults be appreciated? You be the judge.

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to a dictionary.
  William Faulkner about Earnest Hemmingway

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
  Oscar Wilde

And then there was this exchange:

I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend...if you have one.
  George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

Can't possibly attend first night, will attend second, if there is one.
  Churchill's response to Shaw

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sunday's schedule

6:45 am - arrive at church to pray, write prayers for worship and review my material for class later that morning.

8 am - during the sermon I sat in the first row on the lectern side and had the opportunity to greet a young couple and their new born - three weeks old! A beautiful child with thick dark hair which left me greet with envy.

9:30 am - it was a late arriving group but 25 attended my first presentation of our new INTRODUCING: LIFE IN CHRIST orientation class.  We focused on the four key words of our mission statement - Live...Grow...Encourage...Reach and explored how each word related to our new life in Christ.  A fun session!

11 am - our second worship service with Holy Communion.  I spied several new faces which is always exciting.

12:20 pm - after greeting the worshipers I went back into the sanctuary to tickle my buddy, Cohen. His Dad said, "This is probably the best part of Sunday for him." It was one of the best parts of my day too!

12:25 pm - Got to visit with my favorite singer in the whole world - Nicole Lingerfelter, along with her mom, Patti and her aunt, Connie (our lead administrative assistant).  We didn't get to sing together this time but hopefully soon...

1:30 pm - arrived home to see our crew in action.  My son, Eric and his wife, Christina and my oldest daughter, Steph and her husband, Geoff, provided the meal.  Meanwhile, my grand kids were running around in every part of the house, creating mayhem (of which my dear, sweet wife loves the sound of).

2:10 pm - Eric offers a beautiful prayer of thanks to God for the mothers in our lives.  Dinner is served!

3 pm - the mayhem continues! A couple of kids are watching Alvin and the Chipmonks; two more are in the family room playing with puzzles and the others are playing outside in our back yard. Everyone is happy!

5:45 pm - The mayhem ends and the cats enter the living room very cautiously.  They are not as fond of the grand kids as we are.

6 pm - Sherri and I relax by watching a few of our favorite tv shows - "Call the Midwife," "NCIS LA," a Rick Steves feature on Florence, Italy and an episode of "The Middle."

9:20 pm - time for an ice creme bar and an episode of "Cheers." Sherri says it's been a very good day and drifts off to sleep.  And I am right behind her.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Pocket Prayer

I've read lots of books on the subject of prayer.  Many of these books have offered some formula for constructing prayers.  These formulas can be helpful, especially when a person is troubled or confused and finds it difficult to pray to God.

I often use Max Lucado's "Pocket Prayer."  You can learn more about it in his book, "Before Amen." It goes something like this:

Father, You are good
  And your mercy endures forever.  In Your goodness You give me all I need for this life.  I lack nothing.

I need help. Heal me and forgive me
  I suffer from depression. My back seems to be a mess and a good friend says I just might have to live with the pain.  According to Your will, heal me. You have lifted me up from the pit, yet again. I thank and praise You for Your mercy. Do the same, if it be Your will, for my back.  Relieve the pain. Calm down that nerve.  Provide relief. Worse than that pain is the pain, the regret, the sorrow that my sin has caused You and those I love. I praise You that You sent Your Son, Jesus, on a rescue mission to save me and  a world enslaved by sin. Through faith in my Savior, my sins are forgiven.  I have been rescued! Help me to live in my baptismal grace, knowing that I am Your child, dearly loved.

They need help
  My prayer list is so long.  There are so many that suffer or are troubled. Lift the dark cloud of depression from those who feel as if they have no hope. Provide healing and relief for those who fear that their finance won't cover basic needs. Protect children who find themselves caught in the middle which mothers and fathers fight it out. Comfort those who mourn the passing of their loved ones. Give strength and protection to those undergoing trials and tests. Help all to trust that You are the God who doesn't slumber nor sleep.  Your love endures forever.

Thank You
  For Your promise to hear my prayers and to answer them.  For the faith to believe and trust in Jesus. For Your Holy Spirit who continually nurtures my faith and helps me to do those things I can do for my neighbor. For my dear, sweet wife, my kids and grandkids, my church family, for good friends. For everything good.

In Jesus' name. Amen

Join us this Mother's Day at Life in Christ.  Worship today at 5 pm; tomorrow at 8 and 11 am. Classes for all ages at 9:30 am.

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, May 12, 2017


Andrew M. Davis' book, "Revitalize," doesn't offer 5 or 7 or 9 easy steps to follow to revitalize a stagnant or dying church.  In fact, he makes it clear that such work is hard and challenging.  Instead, Davis offers some Biblical keys to help such churches come alive again.

Davis knows of what he writes.  Throughout the book he weaves his own story of coming to the First Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina.  The church had fallen away from solid Biblical principles and had succumbed to lay leadership that had grown drunk on their own power and authority.  Davis explains how, with the help of a remnant of godly men and women, the church was able to return to its Biblical roots and, in the process, become a revitalized church with a passion for discipleship and outreach.

The book consists of 17 easy-to-read chapters.  "Revitalize" would be the perfect tool to be utilized by pastors, elders, deacons and other church leaders.  Each chapter concludes with a section called "Practical Advice."  And that's just what Davis offers - practical advice regarding the way that a church can come alive again - revitalized!

News travels fast!

Advance Notice

A bishop visited a church in his diocese. Only three people turned up to hear him peach.

He asked the Vicar "Did you give notice of my visit?".

"No" replied the vicar, "but word seems to have got round anyway".

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The importance of chastity

A certain wise man said that chastity of body and purity of spirit are the two keys of religion and happiness. If the body is not kept pure and chaste, it will scarcely be possible for the soul to glow with a holy fervor in prayer.

Johann Gerhard, "Sacred Meditations," #37

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fire tests iron

Temptation tests an honest person. Sometimes we don't know what we can do until temptation shows us what we are.

Thomas 'A Kempis, "The Imitation of Christ"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rest in Jesus, Lois

In yesterday's mail we received the funeral bulletin for a dear friend of ours, Lois Holscher.  Lois, and her husband, Ed, were members of Island Lutheran, when we served the Hilton Head Island church from 2011 to 2014.

Lois and Ed were faithful worshipers. They drove 50 minutes from Savannah, Georgia to our campus on the Island.  They appreciated our Law/Gospel proclamation of God's Word and enjoyed digging through the Bible with us during Sunday morning study.  Ed carried one of the biggest Bibles I've ever seen.  It was chock full of notes, study sheets, pieces of articles he'd found on different texts plus family pictures and mementos.  It was amazing!

At Life in Christ we have a couple, Sharon and Dick Mefford, who do a fantastic job of greeting people before and after worship each week.  I can't tell you the number of times I've had visitors tell me how much they appreciated the warm greeting they received from Sharon and Dick.

Lois and Ed did the same for us at Island Lutheran.  Ed was usually the spokesman but they did this important task as a team.  Their warm greeting and sincere interest made a great impression on visitors and it made my job easier when I got to them.  Lois and Ed cared for people and wanted to do all they could so that more and more people would get to know the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus.

The Holscher's also cared for Sherri and me.  They went out of their way to spend time with us. After everyone had left the church, Lois and Ed stayed to visit and see how Sherri and I were doing.  They were interested in Sherri's work as a nursing professor at the community college in Beauford.  They also understood well the pressures that pastors labor under so they were always checking on me, wanting to know how I was doing and how they could pray for me.  We went out to eat with them a number of times but not one time was I able to pick up the check.  Ed always managed, one way or another, to pay for our meals.  His generosity seemed unlimited.

We stayed in touch with Lois and Ed after I took the call to be pastor of Life in Christ.  In November of 2005 they came out to Peoria to join us for my youngest daughter's wedding.  When I was invited to speak at Island Lutheran's 25th anniversary in 2009, we were able to have lunch with the two of them. We had heard that both of them had experienced some major health issues.  But at lunch Lois and Ed were the same warm and friendly folks that we'd always known.

In the last few years Lois and Ed moved to Wichita, Kansas to be closer to their daughter, Cindy. Worship continued to be a priority and although they were no longer very mobile, their prayer lists were extensive.  Just 10 days after her 90th birthday, the Lord Jesus came for Lois, took her by the hand, led her through the valley of the shadow of death, and to God's kingdom to rest.

But one grand, glorious day to come, Lois' soul will be reunited with a new, glorified body and she will be raised to life.  She'll be reunited with Ed and family and friends and the saints of God, those who died trusting in Jesus alone for life and salvation.  Sherri and I will see Lois and we will gather around the throne of God and the Lamb to give our unending glory and praise. Until then, rest in Jesus, Lois.  We loved you and won't soon forget you.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why read and pray the Psalms?

The Psalms supply me with the words I need and sometimes want to say to my God. Words that celebrate His reality: "The heavens declare the glory of God." Words that confess His action in my life: "You have turned my mourning into dancing." Words that express my utter dependance: "In my mother's womb, You formed me." Words that convey my hoped-for intimacy: "This one thing I desire, that I might dwell in the house of the Lord forever." The Psalms tutor my soul in my love for God.

Harold Fickett, as quoted by Philip Yancey in "The Bible Jesus Read," page 124

Saturday, May 6, 2017

From 109 to 75???

I had the privilege of conducting the marriage of Raili Rogers and Garrett Rains yesterday.  The bride was beautiful and the groom had "goo-goo eyes" for his bride.  (Yes, goo-goo eyes is a condition that I'm aware of, mostly because I had them when I saw my dear, sweet wife for the first time at my wedding!).

It was an outdoor wedding and it began at 4:30 pm.  Need I say more? It was hot! But the heat didn't bother Raili and Garrett who were as cool as Pierce Brosnan in a James Bond movie.  God's best to Mr. and Mrs. Rains!

The air conditioning works just fine at Life in Christ so join us this afternoon for our 5 pm service. Or be with us tomorrow at either 8 or 11 am (Christian LIFE Hour takes place at 9:30 am).  During the sermon I'll be looking at the concluding verses of chapter two of Acts and reflecting on the phrase, "They were devoted..."  What does devotion look like? Who best models the idea of devotion for you and me.  I hope you'll join us this weekend at LICL.  And, stay cool!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Ban those hot air hand dryers!

My pastor friend put sanitary hot air hand dryers in the rest rooms at his church and after two weeks took them out. I asked him why and he confessed that they worked fine but when he went in there he saw a sign that read,

"For a sample of this week's sermon, push the button."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cats and Dogs

I like this about cats: they're the Clint Eastwoods of companion animals. A dog who sits by your side craves company; a cat is doing you a favor. This is why when you say, "Sit!" a cat rises and stalks out of the room. Most dogs will fall back on their haunches, vibrating slightly, their liquid eyes locked on yours.

Anna Quindlen, "Good Dog. Stay." page 19

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's all God!

It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on.  It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God's and the call is God's and everything is summoned by Him to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package - our bravery and our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses.

Elizabeth Elliot, "Through Gates of Splendor," (page not noted)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Does God care?

"Does God care?" I know of only one way to answer that question and it has come through my study of the life of Jesus. In Jesus, God gave us a face, and I can see directly in that face how God feels about us as a people...By no means did Jesus eliminate all suffering - He healed only a few in one small patch of the globe - but He did signify an answer to the question of whether God cares.

Philip Yancey, "The Jesus I Never Knew," page 160