Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Did you hear the one about the man at the funeral home?

Did you hear the one about the man who was hit on the head and fell into a deep coma? He stayed that way for such a long time that people thought he was dead.  They sent him to a funeral home and stuck him in a coffin.  At two o'clock in the morning, all alone in a dimly lit room, he sat up and looked around.  "What is going on here?" he asked.  "If I'm alive, why am I in this casket? And if I'm dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?"

CS Lewis on praise

I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise...the world rings with praise - lovers praising their (spouses), readers their favorite poets, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game - praise of weather, wines, dishes, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers...The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is its appointed consummation.

CS Lewis, as quoted in "Free of Me," Baker Books, page 137

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Celebrating Reformation 500

This weekend all over the world the church is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  Many churches, even those who do not call themselves, "Lutheran," are making note of what the Reformation meant to the church.

We may sing a little more loudly as we reflect upon the act of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors.  As Luther challenged the teachings of the church he also came to see with crystal clear vision the grace of God.  Luther was thrilled by the teaching that "the just shall live by faith."  Those words freed Luther from the bonds of good works which he did with increasing intensity but without feeling free from the guilt and shame of failing to please a righteous God. And now that great foundational teaching - we are justified by God by grace alone through faith alone in the saving work of Jesus - is the joy that our church proclaims every weekend to anxious souls seeking the encouragement that God is not angry with us but loves us and counts us His children.

Join us at LICL this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  And plan on bringing your kids and grandkids to our annual Trunk or Treat event from 5-7 pm.  Come in costume.  There will be lots of treats and games and fun!  I hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Blessed by the Kramers concert

That's a mighty small picture of a great singing group and family!

LICL was blessed to have the Kramers in concert last night.  This talented family sang for nearly 90 minutes, mixing gospel classics along with some newer Christian songs as well.

These people can play music! Scott, is a multi-talented musician who impressed up with his play on the keyboard and the guitar.  And he does a wonderful Elvis impersonation!

Their daughter, Maria, plays five musical instruments and has some amazing vocal chops too. She was accompanied by her husband of almost one year, Ben, who played a mighty fine bass guitar.

And then there is Rachel, an amazing vocalist in her own right. My dear, sweet wife and I were comparing her talents to Sandi Patti, who was one of Christian music's top artists in the 80's and 90's.
Rachel also spoke between some of the songs, showing her heart of love for her Savior, Jesus.

In spite of the World Series and College Football on television, we enjoyed a good turnout for the concert.  We hope to have them back someday.  If you missed the concert last night, promise yourself you'll make the next Kramers concert.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 27, 2017

BFP (Blast from the Past) 4 years ago today

A blessed Reformation to you!
In Dr. Martin Luther's lectures on Romans 1:17, there is a passage which explores the doctrine of "The Lord, our Righteousness."

In human teachings the righteousness of men is revealed and taught, that is, we are taught who is righteous and in what way he is righteous and becomes righteous before himself and before men.  Only in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, that is, we are taught who is righteous and in what way he is righteous and becomes righteous before God, namely, solely by faith, by which the Word of God is believed.  Thus the last chapter of Mark says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."  For the righteousness of God is the cause of celebration.  And here again the "righteousness of God" must not be accepted as that by which He Himself is righteous in Himself but that by which we are justified in Him, which is done by faith in the Gospel.

Again, writing on Romans 1:17, Luther penned these words: As intensely as I had formerly hated the expression, "righteousness of God," I now loved and praised it as the sweetest of concepts; and so this passage of Paul was actually the portal of Paradise to me.

A blessed Reformation to you all

Thursday, October 26, 2017

One way to know if you are caught up in idolatry

You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.

Anne Lamont from "Bird by Bird," as quoted in "Free of Me." page 50

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's not about me!

My sincere thanks to my friend and sister in Christ, Julie Peapenburg, for sending this devotion to me. I just had to share it with you, my kind readers.

It’s Not About Me
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” Psalms 148:13

Friend to Friend

Some of my Girlfriends in God are not going to like this devotion. I’m not even sure I do. But I’m going to put it out there anyhow. During the month of February, I write devotions on marriage. It is the month of love, and marriages certainly are in shambles all around the world. Each February, I am flooded with e-mails: some are appreciative for the reminders on how to love their husbands; some are filled with hurt because they are in their own struggling marriage, and some are broken-hearted because of shattered dreams. These women are so thankful for the balm of God’s truth in a very tender area of their lives.

But I also receive e-mails from women who are not married, who do not like the attention to marriage at all. They are flat out angry and frustrated because the devotions do not pertain to them. “Don’t you know that all of your readers are not married?”

“Oh honey child,” as my grandmother would say.

I’ve seen the same attitude in church. “I didn’t like that sermon.” “I didn’t like the singing today.” “I couldn’t relate to that teaching.” And on and on we go.

You know what I’ve discovered...it’s not about me. It is all about God. If the pastor is preaching on a topic that is not my struggle, I pray that God will open my eyes to new truths that I’ve never seen. If he is talking about losing a loved one, I pray for those who have lost a loved one recently...even though that might not be my struggle at that particular time. Is the teaching on raising young children? I have a grown son, so I pray for those who are raising the next generation.

One Sunday, I was singing in church. Barely singing, I might add. It was a dry old hymn and I just wasn’t into it. Then I looked at an older woman a few seats down and she had tears trickling down her wrinkled cheeks. She was moved to tears by that old hymn and was taken to the throne room of grace.

“Oh Father,” I prayed. “Please forgive me. This is not about me. It’s not about what I like or don’t like. It is all about You. Truth is truth. Worship is worship. Help my focus be on You and You alone. It’s not about me.

Here’s a truth I want you to underline, memorize and ponderize (I know that is not a real word, but it should be.) Say it out loud: As long as I think the world is all about me, the angrier  and tired-er I will be. The more I realize it is all about God, the happier and freer I will be. (I know tireder is not a word either. I’m just feeling feisty today).

Listen to how David focused on God during worship:

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

So let’s commit to remember together...it’s not about me. It’s all about God.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, please forgive me when I make everything all about me. It’s all about You! I praise You! I thank You! I worship You!

In Jesus’ Name,


The givens

Talent is God-given; be thankful.

Praise is man-given; be humble.

Conceit is self-given; be careful.

Dave Driscoll, as quoted in "Quiet Strength." by Tony Dungy, page 215

Monday, October 23, 2017

The thought for the day

Whenever we put anything before God, it's only a matter of time before it turns on us.

Sharon Hodde Miller, from her book, "Free of Me," (Baker Books), page 26

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do not pass go until...

Anyone who has played Monopoly has landed on that spot that said, "Do not pass go, do not collect 100 dollars."  Then it's off to jail until you can set yourself free.

In the Epistle Lesson for this Sunday, the apostle Paul shows us that there is something very important, something we should make sure we do before we get on with our day.  What is it? Join us at Life in Christ tomorrow and find out.  We have worship at 8 and 11 am (and also a service today at 5 pm).  God's powerful Word & friendly people - it's the right mix to come and see us this weekend at LICL!

Reading People

Ever wonder why you are you? Why you connect with some people but not all people? Ever want to get inside the head of your spouse, kids, friends, co-workers to better understand who they are?

"Reading People" by Anne Bogel (Baker Books) is one of the best books I've read this year.  Bogel is a gifted and engaging writer and her transparency and honesty is refreshing.  She writes of her struggles to understand her own personality and that of her family.  What she learned can help us all.

This could have been a highly technical book but Bogel takes complicated systems and methods and breaks them down so that a layman can understand them.  She breaks down some of the myths regarding introverts and extroverts. She whets your appetite to know more about tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, The Clifton StrengthsFinder, and something I'd not heard of before, The Enneagram. She shows how using the Five Love Languages can really help to build healthy, loving relationships and breaks down what it means to have and understand the highly sensitive person living in your home.

If you have ever wanted to know... your personality type, determine if you can change certain aspects of your personality, live a happier and more fulfilling life with those you love (and maybe with those that you don't like so much), "Reading People" by Anne Bogel should be a definite addition to your "must read" list!

Friday, October 20, 2017

What if...

What if...
This is the manuscript from the sermon I proclaimed last Sunday at Life in Christ.  The sermon itself was 15 minutes long.

            Do not be anxious about anything.  Well, I guess that’s easy for Paul to say.  But what about you and me.  What about those of us who seem to have been stricken with the worry gene.  On our recent vacation, it was determined that we would do some snorkeling.  Anxiety set in.  I don’t know how to swim.  Dogs laugh at me when I try to dogpaddle, just to stay afloat.

            Don’t be anxious about anything.  It’s hard not to be anxious when you just don’t know how to care for your aging parents.  Or when a mysterious mole appears on your back. Or when your once conscientious child no longer seems to care about school or church or anything. 

            Anxiety ruins our sleep, our health.  It wrecks our concentration.  It can turn the most mild mannered person into a jittery, nail-biting mess.

            And with worry and anxiety comes guilt.  You know that it makes no sense to let yourself become anxious.  Jesus taught that if God clothes the flowers in the fields and feeds even the most insignificant sparrow, can’t He take care of you too? And you respond, “Yes, Lord! I know you love me and you take care of me every day! Forgive me when I act as if I don’t believe it.”

            I was in a meeting earlier this week and the ideas were coming fast and furious.  And they were good ideas, ideas that our church should consider as a part of extending our outreach.  But all I could think was, “My schedule is pretty full as it is.  How in the world could I possible see to it that all these other things get done too?” Finally, I had to call a halt.  “I’m getting stressed out!” It was too much for me.  My anxiety was running as hot as those plates they serve at Abuelo’s.

            Is that how it is for some of you.  You see your plate as being full, so to speak.  But at work you’re assigned three new tasks.  How will it all get done? Or, you’re a stay at home mom or dad.  You managed getting through the summer – barely.  But now the kids are in school, there’s now teams and practices to take the kids to, there are school projects that must get done – maybe that night! Suddenly, you feel stressed out! The worry gene kicks in.  The anxiety seems as thick as the smoke from a California wildfire.  What are you going to do?

            Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”  But that’s not all he says, is it?  “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

            So, what if we “worry warts” would do what Paul has suggested.  What if when we feel anxiety starting to build up to stop, drop to our knees or in a chair and pray about what we’re feeling? What if when we begin to feel stress pulling us down that we silently ask the Lord to lift us up and keep our minds focused on His love and mercy?

            Do not be anxious about anything but in everything…  Here is some good news – nothing that happens in our lives is insignificant to God.  We tend to categorized troubles. We reason, “Why bother God with some of the easy trials we face? We can take care of those.”  On the other hand, God says, “Bring it all to me.  The blown engine and the skinned knee.  The overdrawn account and the lost book bag.”  Jesus taught, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  So, with that kind of encouragement, bring everything to the Lord.

            Paul says by prayer and petition….  For many of us, we learned to pray at a very young age.  My parents taught my sister and I “Come Lord, Jesus, be our guest…”  And there was, “Now I lay me down to sleep…”  And, of course, there was the Lord’s Prayer.  I felt very good when I could pray that prayer without any help.

            I heard of one parent of who decided to teach the Lord’s Prayer to his son.  Each night the parent would add one petition with the hope that in a few weeks the boy could say the prayer without help.  One night the boy said, “I think I’ve can do it.”  So, he started out, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and away he went.  The child was doing so well until he prayed, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from email…”

            What if we would just devote ourselves to prayer.  Instead, of becoming overwhelmed by the tasks of the day, what might happen if we prayed to God first.  Is that not the example Jesus set for you and me?  Mark 1:35 – “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”  If Jesus thought that it was important enough to make an appointment to pray to His Father, wouldn’t we be wise to do the same?

            Don’t be anxious but by prayer and petition…  That word, petition, in the Greek, carries the meaning to “make a request for a specific benefit.”  I know that when I feel overcome by anxiety my mind seems to race at a thousand miles an hour.  It hard to think clearly.  It’s difficult to make a decision.

            What if, when caught up in the whirlwind of worry, we just stopped, took a couple of deep breaths and then spoke to God and made some specific requests?

            “Dear Lord, I have a doctor’s appointment today at 9 am about the results of my c-scan.  I fear it’s cancer.  Help me to calm down.  There is nothing the doctor will tell me that you and I can’t handle together.  And if I can’t handle it, you’ll take it all on yourself.  I ask that I receive a good report.  I pray that it is not cancer.  I ask that I would be blessed with good health.  I pray for the strength to accept whatever may come my way.  May Your will be done.  Amen.”

            Or, “Jesus, you know I have an important job interview this afternoon at 3 pm.  Enable me to relax.  Give me peace.  I need this job.  Open the door for me, please.  Let me leave there today with a job offer in hand.  Thank you for hearing my prayer, Jesus.  May Your will always be done in my life.  Amen.”

            Picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He is on His knees, His cloak pulled tightly around his body.  He is suffering anxiety like no one has ever suffered.  In a halting voice, He offers a very specific prayer – “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  And then Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will but as you will.”

            So, if Jesus can make specific requests to the Father, can’t we do the same? And if Jesus submitted Himself to the Father’s will, can’t we do the same too?

            Do not be anxious about anything…but by prayer…with thanksgiving.  Paul is teaching us that when we come to God in prayer and have made specific requests about those things that worry us so, wrap up those prayers with a bow of thanksgiving.

            I just recently celebrated a birthday.  And I was surprised and humbled by the thoughtfulness of those who gave me cards and gifts.  I was truly grateful for their love and care.  I hope that I expressed my heartfelt thanks to them.

            How much more does our God deserve our thanks.  Isn’t it just a little more than surprising that, given our rebellious behavior, that God would send His one and only Son to be our Savior.  Who else can offer a gift like that. One that we don’t even deserve.  And when we examine our lives and see our sin and selfishness and all those times when we didn’t live for God but only for ourselves, well, aren’t we humbled that God loves us anyway?  We’ve given God plenty of reasons to shake us off like so many dust particles off His feet.  Instead, He puts on us Jesus’ perfect robe of righteousness.  He makes us ready to enter His kingdom.  Someone once said, “A prayer without thanksgiving is like a bird without wings.  It’s hard to get off the ground.”  So, pray, pray specifically, but do so with thanksgiving.

            Now, what would happen if us “nervous nellies” would do just as Paul has taught us? What if, the next time we feel that our hearts are going to burst because of the pressure we’re feeling, we would take a deep breath or two, sit or kneel, and tell God what’s happening with us and be specific about it.  What might happen as a result of our time of prayer?

            How does the word, “peace,” sound to you?  Paul wrote: “And the peace of God, that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

            What a wonderful promise that is.  No longer living each day in a panic.  Instead, having the peace of God come over you, like a warm blanket that covers you on a cold night. 

            This peace is also a gift of God.  Peace is delivered by Jesus Christ.  Our sins are forgiven.  Our salvation is certain.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love.  We have His Word that He will answer our prayers.  We can leave our cares and concerns with the Father and trust that His watchful and loving eyes will never leave us as we go through our day.

            Well, I don’t snorkel very well.  But not all of my time at the beach was wasted.  At the Black Sand Beach on the road to Hona, I picked up this black stone.  I’ve decided it will be my “anxious for nothing” stone.  This doesn’t mean that with this stone with my pocket, I won’t ever feel anxious or worried.  But when I begin to feel like that, I’m going to reach in my pocket and hold onto this stone.  I pray that it will remind me to take a deep breath or two and then remember these words: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

BFP (blast from the past) one year ago today

Through the Word, then, the individual is brought into a personal and saving relationship with Christ; through the Word he is brought into personal union with Christ; through the Word he is built up and more and more perfected in Christ; and through the Word the whole body of believers, the church, is gathered, edified, and kept unto the end.

"The Lutheran Pastor," page 24

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quote of the day

The truth will set you free...but first it will make you miserable.

Richard Rohr, as quoted in "Reading People," by Anne Bogel.  Rohr's comment is related to the idea of learning to know one's self and then having courage to change those things about yourself that you want to change.  When you understand who you are - strengths, weaknesses, why you think and react the way you do - only then can you begin the work of becoming the true "you."

Bogel's book is excellent and she is quite transparent in describing her quest for better understanding herself and through that work to become the better person she wants to be.  She also a very engaging writer and takes a topic that could have become quite technical and puts it all down in layman's terms. A good read!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A prayer of repentance and faith

Almighty God, unto You all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from You no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy Name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Catching my breath

It was a pretty wild weekend for me.

Saturday morning was devoted to getting the house ready for a birthday party - my grandson, Will, celebrated his 2nd birthday.  That began at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I left the party at 4 pm to head down to church for our Saturday service.  I preached and served communion to the faithful.  At 6:30 we did the rehearsal for Melissa and Rich's wedding and that was followed by a dinner that was held in our Christian Life Center hall.  There must have been 50 people there including several that had traveled from Holland (family on Melissa's side).  By the team the hall and kitchen had been cleaned up it was almost 10 pm.  On Saturday night that's my bedtime!

On Sunday, I preached at 8 and 11 am and had a very interesting Bible class as we did another segment on Martin Luther.  Great discussion by the group made for a very fast hour.  Then we readied the sanctuary for the wedding.  At 2 pm the doors leading into the Sanctuary opened and Rich got to see his beautiful bride.  Melissa was gorgeous and so was the wedding.

Picture taking took almost an hour giving me enough time to run home, change clothes, pick up Sherri and head over the the wedding reception.  We stayed through the dinner, dances and toasts and then decided it was time to leave.  I've learned that people party more hearty when the pastor isn't around!

I finished my evening by going over to visit one of our members who is on hospice care and seemingly doesn't have much time to live.  Her family and I were comforted by her consistent confession of faith in Jesus Christ and could rejoice that "Whoever believes in (Jesus) will not perish but have eternal life."  My pillow felt wonderful as I went to sleep that night.

So yesterday? Sherri had a class to teach and I had the house all to myself.  I spent a lot of time reading a book for review from Baker Publishing (review coming soon!).  In the afternoon I watched a documentary about filmmaker, Steven Spielberg.  I had forgotten that he spent part of his formative years living with his family  in Phoenix.  Oh, I think there was a nap in there somewhere - maybe while the baseball game was on???

Going over my schedule it looks as if this week will be very busy.  It is good to have meaningful work.  Though the hours are long for clergy, the opportunity to be a part of the lives of others and to be able to offer encouragement through the Gospel makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What if...

is the title of this week's sermon.  In Philippians, chapter 4, Paul writes: "Be anxious about nothing." Sounds simple.  But those of us who are prone to worry and fret find Paul's words challenging. However, Paul follows up his words with some thoughts about how a person might deal with their anxiety.  What if we took Paul seriously and followed his advice.  If you are one who is often overcome with anxiety, come and join us.

I'll be preaching at all three services - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 11 am.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

The Quotable Luther

This month's Lutheran Witness is all about the 500th celebration of the Reformation.  There are also a number of articles about Martin Luther including one called "The Quotable Luther." Featured are a series of quotes which are attributed to the Great Reformer.  A number of them I'd never read.  Are you familiar with the following?

"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."

"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."

"The law says 'do this' and it is never done. Grace says 'believe in this' and everything is already done."

And my favorite...

"Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!"

I'll drink to that! But right now I have to get back to my Guatemalan coffee!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Books on the night stand

In case you're interested, here's what I'm reading right now...

'Reading People" by Anne Bogel.  This is a book that was sent to me from Baker Books for review.  I did not know of Anne Bogel but I'm really enjoying her writing style and learning from her new book.  "Reading People" takes a look at the various resources available today that can help each of us understand ourselves and also better understand the people around us.  Have you ever wondered why you are "you?" This book can help.

"Beatlemania! The Real Story of the Beatles UK Tours 1963-65" by Martin Creasy.  This is a well researched book that tell the story of how Beatlemania descended on the UK and ultimately upon the USA and the rest of the world.  You'll read of how the Beatles started at the bottom of the concert bill and in short order became the headliners.  Creasy offers a different perspective on Beatlemania that is refreshing.

"Rave On, The Biography of Buddy Holly" by Philip Norman.  Norman has written biographies on John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elton John and the Rolling Stones, just to name a few.  This bio was penned in 1996.  It is well researched and shows Norman's passion for the young guitar player with the black horn-rimmed glasses from Abilene Texas.  As you read you begin to understand why singer Don McLean called the day Buddy Holly died as "the day the music died."

Each year I set a goal to read 24 books.  So far I've polished off 30 books so I'm glad I've met my goal.  And I've got a good two and a half months to add to the list.  Gotta go! Time to read!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Come, holy Fire, comfort true

Come, holy Fire, comfort true
 Grant us the will Your work to do
And in Your service to abide
 Let trials turn us not aside
Lord, by Your pow'r prepare each heart
 And to our weakness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend
 Through life and death to You, our Lord, ascend.
Alleluia, alleluia!

"Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord," LSB #497, third stanza written by Martin Luther

Hope is a look away

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  (Philippians 4:6)

Don't measure the size of the mountain; talk to the One who can move it.  Instead of carrying the world on your shoulders, talk to the One who holds the universe on His. Hope is a look away.

Max Lucado, from his book, "Traveling Light"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Top Ten Signs You Are In For A Long Sermon

I didn't put this list together but I found it pretty amusing.

10) There's a case of bottled water beside the pulpit in a cooler

9) The pews have camper hookups

8) You overhear the pastor telling the sound man to have a few dozen extra cd's on hand to record the sermon

7) The preacher has brought a snack to the pulpit

6) The preacher breaks for an intermission

5) The bulletins have pizza delivery menus

4) When the preacher asks the deacon to bring in his notes, the deacon rolls in a filing cabinet

3) The choir loft is furnished with La-Z-Boys

2) Instead of taking off his watch and laying it on the pulpit, the preacher turns up with a four-foot-hourglass

And the number one sign you are in for a long sermon?

1) The minister says, "You'll be out in time to watch the Super Bowl," and it's only October!

Suffering from a kind of homesickness

The Bible never belittles disappointment...but it does add one key word: temporary. What we feel now, we will not always feel.  Our disappointment is itself a sign, an aching, a hunger for something better. And faith is, in the end, a kind of homesickness - a home we have never visited but have never once stopped longing for.

Philip Yancey, quoted in "A Place Called Heaven," page 13

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

5 Takeaways from Matt Maher's "Echoes"

I received for my birthday the latest release from Matt Maher.  "Echoes" is a worthy addition to his musical canon and here are five short takeaways from the project.

1) The influence of Scripture.  You see how Maher's study of Scripture influences his writings.  One example - in "The Least of These," Maher draws from Matthew 25. He sings, "I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was weary. You let me in." 

2) The influence of classic hymnody.  It's a treat to see how "Just As I Am" and "Oh, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" inspire Maher to point the listener to God's grace.

3) "What a Friend" will be a great concert opener.  As you listen to the intro you can imagine an arena filled with people on their feet, clapping in rhythm, rejoicing as Maher sings, "What a Friend we have in Jesus, east to west my sins are gone.  I see grace in every horizon, and forever and ever His heart is my home."

4) Collaborations.  As with previous releases, Maher partners with folks like Chris Tomlin, Mia Fields, Ed Cash, Matt Redman, Laura Story and others. How helpful it must be to be able to bounce ideas off of other talented people.

5) Concise songs.  A pet peeve of mine is listening to songs which could have ended after three minutes or so but then drag on for another two to three minutes with a chorus being endlessly repeated or a guitar solo that seems to run on forever.  Maher demonstrates that songs can be effective without being repetitive. 

Matt Maher gives voice to the feelings of my heart.  Seek out "Echoes" and be blessed by its words and music.

BFP (A blast from the past) 10/10/12

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don't send that letter!

There used to be an old business axiom that whenever you write a letter during the heat of an angry moment, take the letter and put it in a desk drawer, wait 24 hours, then reread the letter.  More often than not, after having a chance to cool off, you would be more inclined to drop the letter in the garbage can or run it through the paper shredder than put it in the mail.

Too bad the late John Lennon didn't know that axiom.  I've read that a new book of Lennon's letter will soon be published.  Although Lennon could be quite humorous and very eloquent with the written word, it seems that many of the vicious and hurtful letter that he wrote to some within the Beatles family will be included in the collection.

Anyone familiar with Beatles lore is well aware of how nasty and mean-spirited their break-up was.  It seems that those still alive have been able to put behind them the drama of their acrimonious break-up and have been able to focus on their friendships, their love for music and the joy that their music gave to so many.

To release a such a book now seems to akin to picking off a scab from a wound.  What good can come from publishing these letters now?  Do we all want to be reminded again of how vicious and crude and insulting John Lennon could be when he was angry? That is not an aspect of his personality that we would ever celebrate.  I think such a book could tarnish Lennon's legacy.

Things written or said in the heat of anger are usually never helpful.  Luther, in his explanation to the 8th Commandment, wrote that we should defend our neighbor and speak well of him or her and put on everything done the best construction (or explain it in the kindest way).  In the Large Catechism, Luther began his teaching on the 8th Commandment by writing, "Over and above our own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we still have another treasure - honor and good reputation."   To write or speak slanderous things or to speak outright lies against our neighbor can harm or ruin a person's reputation and good name.  God's Will for you and me is that we not harm anyone, friend or enemy.  What Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:12 is good for us all: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Too bad John Lennon didn't make use of his desk drawer.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Come, Lord Jesus!

            Of all the prayers we teach our children and grandchildren, this one (next to the Lord’s Prayer) may be the most beloved:

Come, Lord Jesus
Be our guest.
And let these gifts
to us be blessed.

            Not only does this little prayer invite Jesus to be our unseen guest as we give thanks and partake of the gifts He gives for our nourishment, “Come, Lord Jesus” also reminds us that:

            * Jesus will come again on the Last Day with great power and glory
            * Jesus will come to judge, as we say in the Creed, “the living and the dead”
            * Jesus will come at a time when we least expect Him
            * Jesus will come and we, His people, will rejoice as our hope - eternal life - is realized in Jesus

            When we become adults, sometimes we set aside the prayers we prayed as a child.  Not so with this one.  Its words express the longing of every believing heart. And so we pray, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Loving My Actual Christmas

We've all said it - "This Christmas season is going to be different.  No more getting caught up in the Christmas rush.  No more getting over committed to parties and activities and events.  No more waiting until the last minute to shop or cook or decorate.  I'm not going to fall into the same old traps and get totally stressed out at Christmas!"

As Doctor Phil might ask, "How's that working for you?"

At Christmas, what we pledge to do and what actually happens are often quite different.  We get angry at ourselves (and the people around us).  We become frustrated that our hope for really pondering and celebrating the birth of the Christ child gets lost in the clutter and chaos of the season.

Alexandra Kuykendall has come to your rescue!

Her new book, "Loving My Actual Christmas," (Baker Books) offers some wonderful ideas on how you can order your life and focus on the seasons of Advent and Christmas.  Working from the four week Advent themes - Hope, Love, Joy & Peace - Kuykendall shares her personal experiment on making the season meaningful.

She is open and honest about the challenge of not falling into the trap of the Christmas rush.  She shows how to intentionally practice the four Advent themes so that Christmas becomes a time of faith and family.  Kuykendall also provides some tips for putting everything she's written about into practice.  I found her scheduling principles (page 105 ff) to be particularly helpful.

My dear, sweet wife is asking to read the book too.  If you've felt that your Christmas holiday season hasn't been everything you've wanted it to be, grab a copy of "Loving My Actual Christmas" and let Alexandra Kuykendall encourage you!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Today, I will live today.
Yesterday has passed.
Tomorrow is not yet.
I'm left with today.
So, today, I will live for today.
Relive yesterday? No.
I will learn from it.
I will seek mercy from it.
I will take joy in it.
But I won't live in it.
The sun has set on yesterday.
The sun has yet to rise on tomorrow.
Worry about the future? To what gain.
It deserves another glance, nothing more.
I can't change tomorrow until tomorrow.
Today, I will live today.
I will face today's challenges with today's strength.
I will dance today's waltz with today's music.
I will celebrate today's opportunities with today's hope.

Max Lucado, "Anxious for Nothing"

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Give thanks; don't fret

Worry refuses to share the heart with gratitude. One heartfelt thank-you will suck the oxygen out of worry's world.

"Anxious for Nothing," page 96