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."