Friday, September 29, 2017

But deliver us from...

I like the story of the father who was teaching his three-year-old daughter the Lord's Prayer. She would repeat the lines after him. Finally she decided to go solo. He listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer. "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us from e-mail."

From, "Anxious for Nothing," page 82.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A happy saint...

A happy saint is one who is at the same time aware of the severity of sin and the immensity of grace. Sin is not diminished, nor in God's ability to forgive it.

Max Lucado,"Anxious for Nothing," page 44

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A new chapter for you

It is not God's will that you lead a life of perpetual anxiety. It is not His will that you face everyday with dread and trepidation. He made you for more than a life of breath-stealing angst and mind-splitting worry.  He has a new chapter for your life. And He is ready to write it.

Max Lucado, "Anxious For Nothing," page 12

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.