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