Monday, December 24, 2018

Time once again for our Christmas blog vacation!

Lots of activity around the old homestead today.  The whole family will be here this afternoon to eat, maybe open one Christmas present and later head to church for Christmas eve services.

Why don't you join us - 7 or 9 pm.  It's always a special time when the lights go down, the candles are lit and the congregation sings "Silent Night."

This is the last blog entry for the year.  Thanks to you all for checking in.  We had more readers than in previous years.  Close to a hundred of you every day took time to read Cross Thoughts.  I hope you've been encouraged and helped and, on occasion, even had a chuckle or two.  If so, then I'll feel that it's mission accomplished!

I'll return on January 8.  Until then, God bless you this Christmas season.  And have a blessed new year!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

You're too small!

Kids hate to hear those words, right? We adults don't like those words either. Hearing that we're too small, not smart enough, not gifted enough, not influential enough really hurts, doesn't it? God has a remedy for our "small-ness!" I'll be preaching this weekend at Life in Christ - today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  Join us for worship as we continue to prepare for a birthday celebration - that of the Christ child!

Have a blessed weekend!

What to do during Advent

This Advent season it's time to kneel a little closer to Jesus' crib and beneath His cross...there (we'll) hear the best news ever of how God sent Jesus to bring double payment for my sins.

Richard E. Lauersdorf, "Together with Jesus," December 3 devotion

Friday, December 21, 2018

What Christmas is all about

Linus gets it.  Join us at Life in Christ on Monday evening - 7 and 9 pm - to hear the story that Linus was so willing to proclaim.  Join us as we learn about the gift God gives just "for you."

Thursday, December 20, 2018

But you knew this already, right?

      Santa lives at the North Pole.
      JESUS is everywhere.
      Santa rides in a sleigh
      JESUS rides on the wind and walks on the water.
      Santa comes but once a year
      JESUS is an ever present help.
      Santa fills your stockings with goodies
      JESUS supplies all your needs.
      You have to stand in line to see Santa
      JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.
      Santa lets you sit on his lap
      JESUS lets you rest in His arms.
      Santa doesn't know your name, all he can say is "Hi little boy or girl, What's your name?"
      JESUS knew our name before we did.Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too.He knows our history and future and He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.
      Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly
      JESUS has a heart full of love.
      All Santa can offer is HO HO HO
      JESUS offers health, help and hope.
      Santa says "You better not cry"
      JESUS says "Cast all your cares on me for I care for you.
      Santa's little helpers make toys
      JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and builds mansions.
      Santa may make you chuckle but
      JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.
      While Santa puts gifts under your tree
      JESUS became our gift and died on the tree.
      It's obvious there is really no comparison.

      We need to remember WHO Christmas is all about.

      Jesus is still the reason for the season.

      Yes, Jesus is better, he is even better than Santa Claus!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Jesus lives up to His name

Matthew 1:21
She will give birth to a son,
And you will give Him the name Jesus,
Because He will save His people from their sins.

            How were you named?  After a parent or grandparent?  In honor of a family friend or close acquaintance?  Were your parents looking for a unique or one-of-a-kind name?  Was it because of the special meaning behind your name?

            When it came to their first born, Mary and Joseph did not have any input into the choice of the name.  God the Father already had a name chosen.  The angel informs Joseph that the baby conceived in Mary will be named Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.”

            The name Jesus means “the Lord saves.”  Our Savior God lives up to His name.  The apostle Peter said as much when he proclaimed: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  Salvation was the mission of the tiny baby whose birth we will soon celebrate.  Like the Samaritans we, too, exclaim: “We know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  That’s what makes the name Jesus special to us.  The Lord saves you!

Monday, December 17, 2018

A matter of faith

The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe in the God we believe in.

RC Sproul

A prayer for Advent

Lord God, we praise You that You comforted Your people with the promise of the Redeemer. We praise You that in the fullness of time You sent Your Son as the Redeemer. We praise You that You gave promise that You will send Him again to judge the world in righteousness.

Open our hearts to receive our Redeemer now as He comes to us in Word and Sacrament. Open our eyes in awareness of His rule in our lives by His grace.

Make Advent a blessing to us as we welcome our King in faith and love. We lift up our heads to welcome Him anew. Fill us with gladness as He comes to us. Amen.

Lutheran Book of Prayer, page 55 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Peacemaking Church

I really admire Curtis Heffelfinger, author of "The Peacemaking Church."

His honesty and transparency about dealing with church conflict - much of which he, himself, created - was refreshing.  Here was a pastor willing to admit his mistakes in dealing with people and offering suggestions and ideas how others could keep from making the same mistakes.

Why should pastors and church leaders read this book.  Because conflict in the church is inevitable. Churches are not made up of perfect people but of sinners - and that includes the pastor. Heffelfinger describes "The Peacemaking Church" as sometime like preventative medicine.  It's what you do to prevent disagreements and conflict from spinning into full-scale war in the church.

I also appreciated how Heffelfinger continually emphasized that it's "Jesus'" church and not ours. Remembering this key point should cause pastors, leaders and members to take care in dealing with change, difficult decisions and differing opinions that regularly take place among church members. A united church, walking together as one, is what Jesus has called us to be. Heffelfinger describes all the ways this can take place.

Every pastor should have this book in their library.  It's that important.

Book provided by Baker Books

We light the "joy" candle!

We light three candles this weekend on the Advent wreath, the third being the pink or "joy" candle. Paul writes to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always! The Lord is near!" Today, the Lord is as near as His Word of forgiveness and His body and blood in the Holy Supper.  Immanuel - God with us! Now, that's a reason for joy!

Today, worship at 5 pm.

Tomorrow, worship at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.

Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Top Ten Things Vice President Pence was thinking during the Trump, Schumer & Pelosi dust up

We all saw that little tiff at the White House earlier this week.  Vice President Mike Pence was strangely silent.  Did you wonder what he might have been thinking while the “discussion” was going on? Well, here you go!

“What’s that verse in 2 Timothy? ‘Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen’.”

“How can I sit still for my vice-presidential portrait with all this yelling and screaming going on?”

“I wonder how much hairspray President Trump uses to get that look?”

“If this were Indiana we’d just go outside and settle this with a good old fistfight.”

“I don’t care if they date back to 1860.  These old chairs are really hard on a guy’s back.”

“Is this office really oval? An egg is an oval shape.  Why don’t they call it the “egg office?”  Must mention this to the President.”

“I wonder how much hairspray Nancy Pelosi uses to get that look?”

‘So this is what it is like to be a fly on the wall!”

“Isn’t my only responsibility to go to funerals?”

And the number one thing Vice President Pence was thinking during the Trump, Schumer, and Pelosi dust up was:

“I’m hungry.”

Getting in God's way

The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us.

A.W. Tozer, as quoted in "The New You," page 23

The hereafter?

The Pastor came to visit the other day. He said that at my advanced age I should be thinking of the hereafter.

I told him, "Oh, I do it all the time." 

"No matter where I am - in the living room, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I am always asking myself: 'Now, what am I here after?'"

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Looking Unto Jesus

            The controversy here in town regarding the Phoenix Suns' request for expensive upgrades for the arena they play in got me to thinking about how much I used to love basketball.

            I fell in love with basketball back in 1968 when I watched for the first time Pistol Pete Maravich.  I was in high school then and Pistol Pete was the player I wanted to be.  I loved his floppy socks and long hair.  I marveled at his behind the back and through the legs passes.  I cheered every time I read that he had set another college basketball scoring record.  Pistol Pete was the first college athlete to earn a million dollar contract.  I was certain that he would become the greatest basketball player ever.

            In the pros Pistol Pete continued to dazzle fans with his play on the basketball court.  But off the court he was a troubled and confused man.  Burdened by impossibly high expectations set by himself, his father, his coaches and the press, Pistol Pete was unable to attain the greatness he desired.  In order to soothe himself, he turned to alcohol.  He sought peace and contentment in a number of different religions and philosophies but every path he traveled led to a dead end.

            Then Jesus Christ came into his life.  In Christ, Pete Maravich received the peace, contentment and joy that he had sought all his life.  He became a bold and confident witness for the Lord.  Because he was Pistol Pete, people were willing to listen to his story.  Pete kept point to Jesus – to the Lord’s forgiveness and grace and love.

            One day in early January 1988, I heard the shocking news – Pistol Pete had passed away at the age of 40 of a rare heart ailment.  He has just finished playing in a pickup basketball game when he suddenly collapsed and died.  As he lay on the court, someone noticed the T-shirt Pete had been wearing.  It read, “Looking unto Jesus,” inspired by the New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 2. 

            In the New International Version of the Bible, that verse reads like this: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

            Why should we keep “looking unto Jesus?”   Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith.  Faith must have an object – our faith is rooted in Jesus, the only One who could write the story of our salvation.  For the joy of carrying out the will of His Heavenly Father, the Son of God suffered the shame and humiliation of becoming sin for us.  Jesus was punished for our disobedience.  He paid in full the debt we owed to God for our lack of faith and love.  Jesus suffered and died so that we would not perish but have eternal life.  And our Lord is still at work for us.  He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, pleading and praying for us before the Father.

            In his day, Pistol Pete was a true celebrity.  People sought after him in the same way that folks today gush over musicians, movie stars and the like.  But unlike many modern day athletes, Pete Maravich was not all about promoting his new basketball shoe and maneuvering for a brand new contract.  His focus in life was all about his relationship with His Lord and Savior.  What better message to convey to the world than this one: looking unto Jesus. The perfect message for Advent, Christmas and every day!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

When we pray...

Let our Father be in heaven: join Him there through your words. Defy gravity and stand beside Him. That's the action of God in prayer...

Daniel E. Paavola, "Our Way Home," page 37

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Remembering Aunt Jeanie

My aunt Jeanie fell asleep in Jesus last evening.  She had undergone successful surgery on her shoulder.  But then there were complications and her condition worsened quite quickly. When asked how she felt, I understand that her answer was, "I'm ready to go home to see my mother and my sisters." God was merciful to her, answered her prayer and brought her home to rest.

She was the cool aunt.  Never raised her voice.  Never seemed to be in a bad mood.  Always had a smile for you.  With Aunt Jeanie you felt acceptance.  She was so nice you would do anything for her.

Yet, she was a strong lady.  Raised eight kids mostly on her own.  Never heard her complain. Somehow, she made it look easy, raising her gang of eight.  I know it wasn't easy. But she did it and those kids, my cousins, were fiercely loyal to their mom.

Aunt Jeanie was a child of God.  She was raised in the church and never left it. Her joy was to hear of God's love for her in Jesus Christ and to come to the altar to receive the Lord's Supper. A number of years ago my family and I were visiting her and her clan and on Sunday we all went to church together. As we stood waiting outside the entrance we suddenly heard this loud roar in the parking lot.  It was Aunt Jeanie, driving her sports car, sans muffler.  What an entrance.  She hopped out, adjusted her wig, and went in to worship. That's a memory I won't soon forget.

She was a faithful saint, a humble and sweet person.  Because of the promises we recite in the Creed - I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting -  we have the certain hope of being reunited on that Last Day when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. Look for my aunt.  She won't need that wig.  But she will have that beautiful smile.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Apostles Creed as a prayer

Why is the Creed included in morning prayers? Isn't it rather just a statement of belief? It is a statement of belief, of course...but when we speak it in the presence of God who has made us His own children in Baptism and has made our bodies into His temple, then it is our prayer as well.  We are simply saying back to Him in summary what He has said to us; and our confession of what He has said to us is a plea that He keep us in this faith - since it is not of our own invention but of His revealing.

"Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey," pages 31-32

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A prayer before worship

Lord God, revealed to Moses in a burning bush; to Israel in a cloudy pillar; to Isaiah on a lofty throne: help us in our worship to stand before You as on holy ground, seek the company of Your grace, hear and obey the voice of Your Word. Remove from us all hindrances to proper confession and forgiveness, to attentive hearing and obedience, to sincere praise and thanksgiving, that we may go forth with Your benediction; through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The New Elder's Handbook

In my 22 years as a parish pastor I've said and I've heard others say, "We need to do a better job of training our elders." The truth is that many churches either elect or appoint men to elders boards, give them a list of names and then say, "Go! Be an elder!"

One of the reasons why many churches see so much turnover on their elders boards is because guys get frustrated because they're not sure what to do.  Greg Schaft and Arthur Kok's new book provides help.

"The New Elder's Handbook" provides a practical guide for training elders.  For the pastor who wants to train elders but doesn't have the time to develop the needed materials, Scharf and Kok have solved the problem.  Coming out of their own experience, "The New Elders Handbook" offers a step-by-step guide for identifying, training and encouraging elders.

I can see this book working well as a year-long study with a pastor and his elders board.  It would be well worth the time spent in reading and studying "The New Elders Handbook."

Book provided for review by Baker Books

A Big Apple memory

My dear, sweet wife and I in New York's Central Park.  We, like lots of other tourists have come to Strawberry Fields, the place that honors former Beatle, John Lennon. Today is the anniversary of Lennon's death.

That was the first stop on a tour that took us to 30 Rockfeller Plaza, St.Patrick's Cathedral, The new World Trade Center, a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty and other famous spots.  It was an exhausting day but well worth it.  Sherri and I wouldn't mind another trip to the Big Apple.

The only trip I'm taking today is down to church to preach at 5 pm.  Join us, won't you.  Or stop by Life in Christ tomorrow - 8, 9:30 or 11 am - for worship.  We'd love to see you!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

God is good & God is wise

God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be confused, and if I cannot trace His hand I can always trust His heart.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," page 52

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Our Life in Christ

I love it anytime I come across something that uses the phrase "Life in Christ."  Here's one example from William Weedon's excellent book, "Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey."

All of life is lived from the standpoint of our baptism.  It is the start and ending of our day, that event that began our new life in Christ and will, on the day of our death, complete it.

page 36

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Aesop said

When all is said and done, more is said than done.

From, "Joining Jesus - Show Me How," by Greg Finke, page 51

We sin...

So when we confess that we are by nature sinful, we are saying what the Word of God declares to be true about our fallen human nature. We are in effect saying not that we are sinners because we sin, but rather that we sin because we are sinners.

"Trust, Praise, Serve and Obey," page 80

Monday, December 3, 2018

What church do you belong to?

Dave Barry never fails to make me laugh!

To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son's school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as "Winter Wonderland," "Frosty the Snowman," and  - this is a real song - "Suzy Snowflake," all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.

From an article in Chicago Tribune Magazine, July 28, 1991

Saturday, December 1, 2018

All Life in Priceless

I really appreciated this devotion from Portals of Prayer - November 29:

Depression has been called the "silent killer," because those who suffer this devastating illness often do so with little or no visible symptoms. Intense internal torment is tearing them apart, but they hide it well. Overwhelmed by hopelessness and helplessness, some see suicide as the only way to relive the emotional anguish.

Jesus' promise shines a bright light into the darkness of depression. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for all. By His suffering on the cross, He shows the depressed person and all of us that we are worth every second of pain.  He willingly suffered.

If you are deep in the pit of despair, call on Jesus to lift you up and surround you with His love. His victory over death is His promise that one day, the disease of depression will be destroyed in the resurrection of all flesh and it will never again harm you.  You have been redeemed not with silver or gold but with the holy, precious blood of Jesus, who loves you so much.  In Him, you have abundant life now and eternally in heaven.

"Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us...And in our day when hell itself assails us, Grant us Your peace." (LSB 659:3).  Amen.

Stop me if you've heard this one

"Pilot to tower...pilot to tower...I'm 300 miles from land...600 feet over water...running out of fuel...please instruct!"

"Tower to pilot...tower to pilot...repeat after me...Our Father who art in heaven....."

What that has to do with this weekend's worship I have no idea!

However, we start a brand new church year this weekend.  Worship today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  I'm starting a new sermon series - "Christmas Spirit - the right way!" - so come and check it out. 

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Meet the Band!

My birthday this year was extra special.  Three excellent musicians - Pete on lead guitar, Dan on drums and Ron on bass - invited me to join them in playing Beatles music. For nearly two hours we jammed and played everything from "A Hard Days Night" to "Yesterday." We had so much fun and really sounded good! So, we're ready to play wedding receptions, store openings and Elks and American Legion Halls. Yes, invite us to play for your venue and you'll soon be singing, "Yeah, yeah, yeah!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Christmas tradition continued

Last night Sherri and I and some friends from church traveled to Grand Canyon University for their seventh presentation of the Messiah, Handel's great masterpiece.  We learned that of all the great works composed by masters like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and others, the Messiah is the only classical musical piece that remains continually performed. Amazing!

Have you been to GCU's multi-purpose auditorium? It's primary used is for basketball but the venue holds concerts, conferences and many other events. It's primary drawback? Seating.

To set in a bleacher seat is torture, especially if you have long legs like me.  These seats make flying coach on an airplane feel like first class.  I was so uncomfortable it was hard to concentrate on the music.

Fortunately, when the second half began, the people seated to my left had moved.  I was able to pivot in the seat, stretch out my legs and finally felt comfortable.

Coincidentally, the music got much better. Ha! "The Hallelujah Chorus" was performed with great power and "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" brought tears to my eyes. The beauty of Handel's confession of the Christ cannot be matched.  It never fails to help me rejoice in Jesus, my Savior.

Sherri and I started this tradition many years ago.  With few exceptions (our South Carolina years) we have managed to attend a performance of the Messiah each Advent season.  Handel's magnum opus never fails to put us in the Christmas spirit - God's way!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Grace and Mercy defined

What is mercy? How does it differ from grace? The two terms are frequently synonymous; but where there is a distinction between the two, it appears that grace is a loving response when love is undeserved, and mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one whom love is showered upon. Grace answers to the undeserving; mercy answers to the miserable.

D A Carson, "A Study of Matthew 5-10", page 29  

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Blast From the Past - Nov. 26, 2012

Another story from Mitch Albom, "Have a Little Faith."

The pastor of the little country church began his sermon with a stirring reminder: "Everyone in this church is going to die!" The minister looked around and he noticed a man in the front row with a huge smile on his face.  The minister asked, "Why are you so amused?"  The man answered, "I'm not from this parish.  I'm just visiting my sister for the weekend."

Page 231

Jesus calls us friends!

It's no accident that Jesus said to His followers, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15). He also expresses that precious sentiment to you as you walk in faith. You are not just a name on Jesus' church membership list. You are merely a face in the crowd of Christ's believers. You're not an imperfect and needy burden Jesus has to lug through life. You are Jesus' friend. 

"Greater love has no one than this," Jesus said, "that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). Jesus proved His bond of friendship with you by doing just that.  He died for you, not because you were so noble,but because you were so needy. Jesus loved you at your lowest point, and His is alive to continue loving you during your deepest need. Jesus is your true friend who understands you and walks patiently with you. Your Savior not only understands the grief you can express, but He also understands your groans too deep for words. Jesus doesn't rush you through your pain; He rushes to you and stays with you.

From "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," page 155

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount

Over the past couple of months Baker Books has been offering updated versions of some of D.A. Carson's earlier writings.

This has been a great blessing for those who are serious about living out the Christian life.

Carson points out in his revised book that the Christian life is countercultural.  Jesus has called believers to walk a different path and take a different view of this world than how popular culture sees it.

It's been said that the Sermon on the Mount takes about 15 minutes to read.  But scholars and theologians and members of the church have puzzled over Jesus' words for 2000 years.

Carson's approach is, as you would expect, scholarly and yet he writes in such a way that the average man or women in the pew can gain a tighter grasp on what was said by Jesus in His most famous sermon.

Carson does a wonderful job of explaining what Jesus meant when we said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are those who hunger and search for righteousness."  In fact, it would be worth the cost of the book just to read the section about the Sermon on the Mount.

This is not a book that would be read in a couple of nights.  But that's alright - it will be worth the time to read and savor this book.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The significance of Absolution

In nearly every Lutheran worship service, confession and absolution is the first thing that's found in the liturgy.  This is not by accident.  We arrived to worship carrying a boat load of sins - things that we've done and things we've left undone.  To have that burden lifted at the beginning of the service readies our hearts to receive the other gifts of God that the service delivers.

William Weedon, in his book, "Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey," shares these thoughts about the significance of absolution:

It is the truth that God speaks to us about Himself and what He has done about the disaster inside each of us. We call that truth the Absolution. It is when God justifies the sinner, declaring her or him to be righteous.

This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year.  In just a week the season of Advent and a brand new church year awaits to greet us.  We invite you to join us at Life in Christ - today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2018

What are you thankful for?

That was the question someone asked me while at church yesterday.

I thought about it all day yesterday.

And in no particular order...

Thankful for the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  That Jesus would "save a wretch like me" is amazing. In baptism I became one of God's own children, forgiven of my sins and filled with the Holy Spirit. Since that moment, God has generously given me His Word and Supper to nourish and nurture faith to trust and rely on Him more and more.

Thankful for Life in Christ Church. In 14 years God has created a wonderful church family that joyfully receives His gifts and trusts in His promises. Such wonderful friends and fellow soldiers in the Lord's army.

Thankful for those in our church who have been patient with me as I've struggled with depression the past three years.  There are many times when I'm not myself. It's so frustrating.  And yet, many have offered their support and prayers and have affirmed my ministry to them.

Thankful for my dear, sweet wife. In Proverbs 31 we read: A wife of noble character who can find? The writer must have met Sherri. I can't imagine life without her.

Thankful for my three kids. As their Dad, I tend to still think of them as "kids." But they are not. What has happened in their lives, the people they've become, the things they've accomplished - thank you, Lord, for how you've loved and blessed them.

Thankful for my seven grandkids. Nothing puts a smile on my face faster than hearing one of them call me "Poppa."

Thankful for Sherri's folks, Bill and Betty.  They've reached their 90th year and life is so hard for them.  They are frustrated by what they can no longer do. They'd be very glad if the Lord would call them to come and rest in His arms. I appreciate their faithfulness.  And I'm thankful for caregivers like Michele Colla who give Bill and Betty so much of their time.

Thankful for our church Administrative Assistant, Connie Kanzler.  Connie has seen me at my best and my worst and has never stopped being my friend. Like my dear, sweet wife, Connie models the love of Jesus better than anyone I know.

Thankful for our pets. We said "goodbye" to our beloved cat, Tiddy, a couple of months ago. He was the cat who followed me around like a dog.  Our present cat, Glory, is just that - a cat.  She is mostly interested in ensuring that her food bowl is full and that she has a warm place to lay.  And now we have a new pet, Jake.  He's a Border/Terrier mix and is the perfect dog for my non-dog loving wife. It took Jake about 12 minutes to make himself right at home.

Thankful for all the "First Article" gifts that God has given to me and my family.  We want for nothing and have been blessed with far more than we deserve. It sometimes sounds trite but it's true - "God is good!"

Well, I've gone on far too long.  I'm afraid that reading this blog post is like having to watch someone's family movies of their vacation trip.  So I'll stop here.

But I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving!  And, if you're in the Peoria area, hope to see you at worship this weekend!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Where to look when giving thanks

When Jesus fed the five thousand, He took bread and looked up to heaven (Luke 9:16).  By that simple action, He reminded the disciples where to look.

From "Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey," pages 101-102


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A prayer for thanksgiving

Heavenly Father,
 from whom come all good and perfect gifts,
 from whom come mercies new each day,
 from whom come blessings beyond measure:

Accept our thanksgiving
 for protection and those who provide it
 for daily bread and those who prepare it
 for clothing and those who manufacture it
 for family and those dear to us
 for friends and those associated with us
 for jobs and those working with us
 for social security and support programs

We confess that we think too little
 about the fact that we deserve nothing
 about the many who serve us
 about the blessings of Your Spirit

We pray You
 forgive our ingratitude
 open our eyes to behold Your goodness
 fill our hearts with thankfulness
 make us respond in appreciation
 help us to serve in love

We thank You, through Christ, our Lord,
 Your best gift to us.  Amen.

God's will is...

Sweet Gospel from William Weedon: God's will is your forgiveness.  God's will is that His forgiveness ring in your ears so that you believe and rejoice that the blood of His Son has answered for your every sin...

From "Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey," page 90

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Be the church to your neighbors

Wise advice from Greg Finke: The good news is that Jesus has uniquely ripened the culture for the church to once again go and be the Church in our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. If the culture won't come to our church buildings, the Church can go to them and embody the very things for which they are longing. That's actually how Jesus had always designed His Church to operate, being the people through whom the grace and truth of God is experienced by others in real life.

From "Joining Jesus on His Mission," page 43

Monday, November 19, 2018

Be nice to the Pastor's wife

A few years ago I received three copies of a Hallmark gift book, "A Laugh a Day."  Apparently, I looked like needed a good belly laugh.

I was flipping through the book the other day and I found this quote:

Say something nice to your pastor's wife. She has a hard job for which she is not paid.

October is Pastors Appreciation Month.  Maybe November should be Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month.  Many pastors wives work both inside and outside the home.  Many are expected to be completely involved in the life of the congregation.  As one person said to me, "We get two for one - the pastor's wife is like an unpaid staff member."

What an attitude!

So, give some kudos to the pastor's wife the next time you see her.  So often, the focus is on the pastor. Give some love to his wife.  She'll probably be surprised.  But she'll really appreciate it!

Missing Tiddy Boy

That's Tiddy Boy, one of the most loving cats we've ever had.  I still miss him jumping up in my lap, curling himself into a furry ball and going to sleep. He also had the habit of crossing his front legs, as you can see above. In a world where unconditional love is rare, we received that love from this wonderful cat.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Meeting Matt Maher!

The good-looking guy standing between Sherri and me is singer/songwriter/musician Matt Maher. We got to meet him at his concert a couple of months ago.  Couldn't believe I was standing next to the guy who wrote "Christ Is Risen," "Abide With Me," and "All the People Said 'Amen'." So glad that his songs point to Jesus Christ as the victor over sin and the grave.

Notice that I tried to rock my skinny jeans but finished a poor second to Matt!

Your refuge, your hiding place

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to Him,
For God is our refuge

            There was a chill in the air.  Not that it was particularly cold.  It was the kind of chill a person feels when fear and evil are nearby.  The disciples wrapped their cloaks around their bodies just a bit tighter and drifted off to sleep. 

            Sleep was not possible for Jesus.  He was wide awake and acutely aware of the events that were about to unfold.  Jesus is experiencing the kind of human agony that you and I might experience.  It was the gut-wrenching feeling you get when the call comes telling that a loved one has died…a child has been injured…a friend has been jailed.  What does a person do when undergoing what some call “the dark night of the soul?”  You do what Jesus did.  You pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father.

            You tell the Lord exactly how you feel.  Jesus did.  You tell the Lord exactly what you want to have happen.  Jesus did.  You tell the Lord that no matter what happens, you want what’s best – that God’s will be done in your life.  Jesus did.

            My friends, follow the example of Jesus.  Heed the advice of the Psalmist.  Pour out your heart to God.  Share with Him your joys and sorrows, fears and frustrations.  Flee to Him – He is your refuge.  Trust in Him – He loves you and knows what’s best for you

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wake up, Jake! Wake up!

This is our new dog, Jake.  He's a Border/Terrier mix.  We rescued him from Animal Control about two weeks ago.  As you can see, he's quite comfortable in his new home.

Bulletin Bloopers

I thought I'd seen them all but...

Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions.  She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.

Reminder: Housing is needed for the visiting missions drama team next week. If you can put up with these performers for a day or two, please notify the pastor.

Our youth basketball team is back in action Friday night at 8 pm in the Rec Center. Come out and watch us stomp Sacred Heart of Mary.

Our church will host a potluck dinner tonight, featuring live music. This promises to be a memorable evening for both the young and the young in heat.

The Ladies' Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. Lunch will be served in the Fellowship Hall after the Ladies are done with the B.S.

Don't forget our annual Bargain Basement Fund Raiser, to be held in the Upper Hall next Sunday.

Fasting Group meets for breakfast Saturdays at Pancake Plaza.

Until next time, that's all folks!

What day is it?

On Thursday I went through an out-patient surgical procedure.  Since then I can't seem to remember what day it is.

Yesterday, I made a blog post about the importance of worship.  I also made an invitation to attend worship, noting that worship would begin today at 5 pm.

Only one problem - yesterday, I now realize, was Friday.  So, my invitation was a day off.

I hope no one showed up at 5 o'clock only to find the church locked up tight.

So, just reread yesterday's blog - all the stuff I wrote is good for today.

Have a blessed weekend (it is the weekend, right?)!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Basics for Believers

Baker Books has been in the process of presenting updated versions of some of theologian/author, D.A. Carson's publications. "Basics for Believers," is for those who are serious about the Christian walk.

Carson uses Paul's letter to the Philippians to show what this Christian walk looks like. He writes that the cross of Christ Jesus must always be central to the Christian's life.  In the cross we learn what the Gospel is all about.  The Gospel forms us as we make it the central focus of our lives.  Carson does a wonderful job of unpacking Philippians 2:5-11, describing Jesus' self denial so that He might carry out His Father's will. The majestic song of praise found in verses 9-11, Carson calls, "The Son's Vindication, showing that the Father accepted Jesus' sacrifice for sin and ensuring that "every knee shall bow" to Jesus on the Last Day.

Carson doesn't shy away from the topic of suffering, which Paul writes about to the Philippians.  He describes what this suffering looks like for the Christian, which is an important aspect of being a disciple of Jesus.  And it is through Jesus, Carson explains, that we receive the power to continue on in faith in spite of what pain or difficulty might come our way.

This is a marvelous book and if you're looking for a guide to what the Christian walk entails, look no further than "Basics for Believers."

Book supplied for review by Baker Books.

Mark Twain wisdom

Anyone who has grabbed a bull by the tail knows five or six more things than someone who has not.

Bring a friend to church Sunday

Actually, every Sunday should be about bringing a friend to church.  Even more so when you consider...

Today, there are twice as many Lutherans in Ethiopia as there are in the US.

There are now more Baptists in Nagaland (an eastern state in India) than there are in the southern states in the US.

There were more Christians worshiping in China last Sunday than there were in the US or in all of Europe!  (Source: "Joining Jesus on His Mission" page 42).

Amazing, isn't it?

Besides being a people so blessed with so much, we have more Christian tools available than anywhere else - more Bibles to choose from, more Bible studies to access, more Christian plaques, jewelry, artwork, you name it!

So, why are so many Americans forsaking Christ and His church?

The reasons are many.  But there is one thing we can do - bring a friend to church.

Ok, they might say "no." They might come once and never return. It doesn't matter.

An invitation to that person, if offered sincerely and without the feeling that you've got an ulterior motive, says, "I care about you.  I want you to have what I have."

So bring a friend to church.  At Life in Christ, we worship today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.

Think about it.  Pray about it.  Invite a friend to come with you to church. 

Who knows what God will do.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fix your eyes on Jesus

God urges you to fix your eyes on Jesus. Heaven invites you to set the lens of your heart on the heart of the Savior and make Him the object of your life.

Max Lucado, 'Grace for the Moment,' page 348

A New Pair of Glasses

Give me the insight
O Lord
to see
when my work
or other individuals
are not the problem
but I am
Prevent me from 
running scared
distrusting people
heading for hopelessness
so blinded by burdens
of my own
that I blame others
rather than myself
Give me the eyes
to recognize
the trusted friends
I have 
but most of all
the Friend of sinners
Forgive my myopia
and restore the utopia
of a clearer vision
of my work
my comrades
and you
Give me
the spectacles
of your Spirit!

"Prayers for People Under Pressure," Donald L. Deffner, page 87

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The real power of prayer

I really appreciated these words from Pastor Michael Newman:

Jesus also bid His disciples to pray. The power of prayer is not as much in your speaking as it is in God's listening. Implicit in prayer is the promise that God hears you and responds. When you are overcome by anxiety, you can cast your cares upon your Lord and Savior, being confident that He will carry the burden and lighten the load.

From "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," page 192

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Known By the Master

             For three and a half years I served as a pastor of a Lutheran church on Hilton Head Island, S.C.  Hilton Head is a beautiful area to live, work and play.  Many folks from the Midwest and the East Coast retire there.  People love the beach, the beautiful weather and the friendly people. 

            And many of them play golf.  Hilton Head Island is 12 miles long and 5 miles wide.  It also features a couple of dozen world-class golf courses.  There are that many more off island in the community of Bluffton.  Hilton Head Island is also home for an annual PGA tour event, usually held after the Masters.  This is a PGA tour event and the locals love to come out and watch the best players in the world tee it up.  The Harbor Town golf course is one of the most beautiful in the country. While living in Hilton Head I had the opportunity to see the tournament in person.  

            I got to thinking the other day of an event I attended while living in Hilton Head.  I was one of more than 650 people gathered for the Christian Heritage Breakfast to hear the testimony of a champion golfer, Larry Mize.

            He’s a fellow who had a wonderful career on the PGA tour.  But in the golfing world he’ll always be known as the one who sank a 140-foot chip shot during a playoff with Greg Norman to win the biggest tournament of them all – The Masters.

            We sat listening, totally captivated by Mize’s description of how he snatched victory from the man who was considered to be golf’s best player at that time.  But after having told us about his marvelous and surprising feat, Mize made this statement: “I am known as the man who won the Masters.  But I’d rather be known as the man who was won by The Master, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save me from death and give me eternal life.” 

            How are you known by your friends, neighbors and the community?  Recognized as a successful business person?  Praised by others as a faithful community volunteer?  Lauded as the best golfer at the club?

            Or are you known as a Christian business person?  Are you identified as a follower of Jesus who happens to do volunteer work?  At the club are you known as the missionary who does some of his best work walking down the 18th fairway?

            In the time of Jesus, a master was recognized as one who had absolute ownership and uncontrolled power.  Your master held your life in the palm of his hand.

            In Jesus, we have a Master like no other.  He does not consider us His servants and subjects.  He calls us His friends.  He treats us perfectly.  He knows us completely.  Jesus knows our names, our thoughts, and those times when trouble pays us a call.  He treats us with compassion, giving us just what we need when we need it.  He will never let us slip from His hands.  He is all this and even more.
            He is the Master who lays down His life for His servants, suffering their punishment, paying their penalty and freeing them from the guilt of sin and the power of death.  Jesus does all this while showing His mighty power – willingly laying down His life and taking it up again.

            This, my friends, is the kind of Master we joyfully worship, serve and adore.  Can there be anything better than being known, like Larry Mize, as a child of the Master?

Monday, November 12, 2018

The prayer for the day

Lord God, in a constantly changing world we look to You as our rock of hope. Hear us as we pour out our hearts to You, and give us grace and secure protection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

From "For All the Saints," page 627

Down Memory Lane at Concordia University - Wisconsin

A picture of the chancel in the chapel at Concordia University - Wisconsin.  Sherri and I worshiped there when we attended the Parish Nurses convention last May.  The sound of the organ (below) sent chills down your spine.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

You will have witness

We are coming to the close of our fall sermon series, "Unshakable Hope."  We've learned that when we stand on God's promises, we stand on solid ground. In times of weakness, God's Word provides strength. Fear is banished by peace. Depression crumbles while hope stands strong. In a time of such uncertainty in our world, unshakable hope is what we need the most.  God gives that hope to us in great abundance.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He promised His disciples that they would receive Holy Spirit power to tell of His resurrection and His defeat of the devil and sin and death.  When Pentecost came, the disciples were changed people.  They fearlessly proclaimed the risen Christ despite threats of prison and death.The transformation is amazing and could have only come by God.

We have access to this power too.  In baptism, our sins were washed away and we received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Through the work of the Spirit we believe in Jesus; such faith justifies us before the Father and we get the joy of witnessing the salvation of the Son for all those who believe.  We do this faithfully remembering that God works the transformation from unbelief to faith.  Our joy is to share and witness Jesus with those who need to know and believe in Him.

Come and hear more about this power God gives so that we can tell what we have seen and heard about Jesus.  Worship with us today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  Hope to see you at LICL!

Friday, November 9, 2018

It's a miracle! Today's funny!

At the pearly gates, St. Peter greeted a minister and congressman and gave them their room assignments.
      "Pastor, here are the keys to one of our nicest efficiency units. And for you, Mr. Congressman, the keys to our finest penthouse suite."
      "This is unfair!" cried the minister.
      "Listen," St. Peter said, "ministers are a dime a dozen up here, but this is the first congressman we've ever seen."

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Preaching to those who mean the most

Any Sunday that I preach at Life in Christ, I receive generous comments from hearers who appreciated and/or were blessed by the message.

Such feedback is gratefully received.  It is a privilege to proclaim God's Word so to know that something was said that encourages a person to keep on living out their new life in Christ is special.

But when the feedback comes from one of your own kids, it is extra meaningful.

My youngest daughter was in town for three and a half weeks.  She left for home on Wednesday. During that time she was able to worship with us three times. On the day she left I received a text from her.

Among the things she wrote was something to the effect that the sermons I preached she was going to listen to over and over once she got home because "they gave her hope."

She and her family are going through some trials right now. She was blessed to be reminded that God's promises can give us unshakable hope when circumstances seem bleak.

What father doesn't want to help their kids? Mine will tell you that I'm not the always the most helpful guy.  I can't repair a car or fix a leaky faucet.  I can't cook them a meal or offer good financial advice.

But I can give them God's Word. At times that doesn't seem like so much.  But I was glad to be reminded by one of my kids that what I can do is often what they need the most.

And that makes me glad.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Giving thanks for the little things

Only he who gives thanks for the little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts,. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.

We pray for the big things, and forget to give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from "Life Together," as found in "A Continual Feast."

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Put the Gospel first!

Baker Books has sent me a number of books to review from author and theologian, D.A. Carson.  I'm working my through "Basics for Believers," a study of Paul's letter to the Philippians.  I was especially struck by this paragraph included in the chapter, "Put the Gospel first."

Put the Gospel first.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, such a valuation of the Gospel ought not to be the exception for us, but the rule.  We are talking about the good news that reconciles lost men and women to the eternal God. We are confessing the Gospel: that God Himself has provided a Redeemer who died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to Himself. Without this Gospel we are cut off, without hope in this world or the next, and utterly undone. Compared with this good news, what could possibly compete. Put the Gospel first.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Prayer Regarding Vocation

Since most folks begin their work week on Monday, here is a prayer for you on the theme "Vocation."

Lord of my life, I ask Your blessing on my daily life and especially on my work. My work is good because Your hand is upon it. Do not let me turn my work to selfish purposes. Forgive me when I fail.

Help me to remember that You are still Lord when I feel discouraged and useless or when I am tense and angry. Help me to remember that You are still Lord when I am satisfied and pleased with my accomplishments.

Take my work into Your own hands. Give blessing to all I do and say. Use what I accomplish as a blessing to others, for Jesus' sake.  Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 180

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Five Marks of a Man

Brian Tome, pastor of Crossroads, the fasting growing church in the USA, has written a highly accessible book challenging guys to grow up!

In "The Five Marks of a Man," Tome makes a contrast between men who act and behave like boys and those who seek to live fully as the men God has created.  In 24 short, easy to read chapters, Tome describes how men can live with purpose, put others before themselves, carry out their different vocations with integrity and provide protection and care for those around them.

It seems to me that this is a book that is not to be read quickly.  Men, you'll be challenged, as you read each chapter, to take inventory of your life.  You'll be asking yourself questions like, "Do I always seek the spotlight or do I take great joy in serving others? Am I content to spend an hour in church or do I love the Lord and seek to share this love with others?"

Tome has an engaging style of writing.  He gets men.  Guys, if you're feeling like you could be a whole lot more than you are, you'll want to read "The Five Marks of a Man."

Book provided for review by Baker Books

Joy comes in the morning

Tomorrow's sermon is about...Kleenex. Well, not really.  But Kleenex is often needed when tears are shed.  We'll explore God's promise in Psalm 30:5 and describe a place where you'll find no Kleenex boxes - none whatsoever.  So, join us! Tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  Or if you fancy a Saturday service, we meet today for worship at 5 pm.  Hope to see you at Life in Christ!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Is there baseball in heaven?

One day a couple of old guys were wondering if there's baseball in heaven.  They promised each other that the first to die would somehow let the other one know if there is baseball in heaven. A week later one of them died. And a week after that, his friend recognized his voice coming from the clouds. "Joe, I've got some good news and some bad news," the disembodied voice reports.  "The good news is that there is a baseball team in heaven.  The bad news is that you're pitching on Friday!"

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Six pounds down - ??????? to go

A few weeks ago I got on the bathroom scales and got the shock of my life. I weighed more than I ever have in my life (I won't tell you how much!). In a way, this was no surprise.  When it seems that the buttons and zippers on your clothes are about to explode, well, that's not a good look.  Something had to be done.

A diet takes discipline.  And that's what I dreaded.  Being disciplined is extremely hard, especially after you've been an undisciplined foodie! Like many people, chocolate is my downfall.  And, it was a real disappointment that even though you can switch to something that is good for you - dark chocolate - you can still gain wait! To modify a phrase from the Rolling Stones - "You can't always eat what you want!"

So, a month ago I modified my diet.  Small portions.  Less sugar.  More fruits and - I can't believe I'm writing this - vegetables. Abstaining from my favorite adult beverages. Oh, the pain of it all!

I also began a walking regiment. I walk at least 25 minutes six days a week.  Depending on the day I'll squeeze in a second walk.  With trusty iPod and earbuds on hand I can get a pretty good pace going.  Maybe I'll speed walk a 5 K (or not).

I hope that as I lose the weight my back will begin feeling better.  It seems to ache all the time and I'm sure the extra weight I've been carrying hasn't helped.  A pain-free back would be a real blessing!

The First Article to the Apostles' Creed reminds us that our bodies are a gift from our Creator God. I haven't treated this body so well of late.  So, I pray, that the Lord will help me be disciplined as I seek to keep dropping the pounds - whether I like it or not!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

One good reason to tithe

The tithe in the Old Testament first and foremost confessed that God is the giver of all. It is only giving back to Him what He is.

"Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey," page 106

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

At the Cavern

I just finished reading of couple of Kenneth Womack's books about the Beatles.  I have over 100 volumes devoted to the Beatles in my library so I feel like I'm pretty informed about the Fab Four.  But Womack offered some insights and information I had not read before.  Womack holds a doctorate degree and is a college professor.  But he has written mounds of information about the Beatles music and their impact on our culture.

During our 2011 renewal trip to Europe we spent a glorious day in Liverpool.  One of our stops just had to be the Cavern, made famous because of the many song sets the Beatles played there.  I'm wearing a shirt of John, Paul, George and Ringo that was given to me by Mike Schutt, one of our members.  It was a day I won't soon forget!

Monday, October 29, 2018

What to do first thing in the morning

To make it your habit to stand up in the morning and open your mouth, proclaiming, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," is tantamount to shouting out to all creation, "I am baptized! I have been raised with Christ! My sins are buried in His tomb. I am a child of the resurrection!"

"Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey," William Weedon, page 29 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Signs your church has sold out to corporate sponsors

- Taco Bell's talking dog now reading announcements.

- In Christmas play, Joseph seen drinking can of Coke.

- Greeters all dressed like Mr. Goodwrench.

- Personal pew licenses now sold.

- Baptismals include dolphin show from Sea World.

- Statue of Moses seen holding keys to a Jeep.

- The 12 disciples replaced by Disney characters.

I didn't put this list together but it gave me a laugh!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

What life is like when you worship the one true God

The First Commandment itself is the undercurrent beneath each of the other commandments to such an extent that the rest of the commandments describe what life really looks like when a person has no other gods but the real One.

William Weedon, "Thank, Praise, Serve & Obey," page 133

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What a dog can teach us

We recently said "goodbye" to our cat, Tiddy. We joked that he had dog-like qualities.  He followed me around from the time I got home from work until the time we went to bed.  I didn't see him in the morning - he liked to "sleep in."

With retirement nearer than it has ever been I'm thinking about what I'd like to do for my "third career." The man I consider my mentor from Concordia Seminary, Glenn Nielsen, has a Golden Retriever who has been trained to be a "comfort dog."  These dogs often go to hospitals and nursing homes or wherever disaster or heartache has taken place.  Comfort dogs offer unconditional love and usually help the hurting by their gentle nature and willingness to be loved on.

I'm not sure when I'll put this plan in place.  I don't think it would be fair to get a dog while I'm still working full time.  But, if the opportunity to have a dog arose soon I don't think I could pass it up.  So, we'll see.

Robert Benchley is a humorist and has had things to say about dogs.  I particularly liked this observation: A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Jesus might have said to you today

To me (Jesus) said: "Stay close to Me,
 I am your rock and castle
Your ransom I Myself will be;
 For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours and you are Mine
 And where I am you may remain
The foe shall not divide us

From "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice"
Lutheran Service Book, #556, verse seven

Monday, October 22, 2018

Switch On Your Brain Every Day

Dr. Caroline Leaf is well known for her books that teach the importance of how the way we think effects the way we live.  With wellness in the forefront of mental and physical care, Dr. Leaf has been helpful to many who have desired a better, more fulfilled life.

Dr. Leaf's latest,"Switch On Your Brain Every Day," contains a year's worth of readings designed to encourage a person, especially those who have read one or more of her books.  I'm not sure that the book would be that helpful for first-time readers, although the daily readings could encourage someone to read one of her other books to delve more deeply into her thoughts and ideas.

Book supplied by Baker Books for review

Yogi Berra wisdom

You should always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Jesus prays for you

During his earthly life, Jesus faced every trouble imaginable.  So, when you bring your troubles to Him He knows exactly how you feel.  Not only that, He intercedes on your behalf before the Father's throne of grace and mercy.  Come and hear the good news this Sunday - 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  We also have a service this afternoon at 5 pm.  We'd like to see you at Life in Christ!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Prayers requested

Dear Friendly Blog Readers,

Would you pray for my mother-in-law, Betty Landis? She was hospitalized yesterday with internal bleeding.  A procedure was done last night but the source of the bleeding was not found.  We are waiting to see Betty's doctors to learn might be done for her.  Pray for her healing and that God would comfort and be with her husband, Bill; daughters Sherri and Carrie and the rest of the family.

Thank you for your prayers!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A 16th Century Prayer

We thank You, O God, for Your Holy Spirit, who incites us to true knowledge of You.  We humbly entreat Your for Your Son's sake to illumine our hearts with Your Holy Spirit that we may truly call upon You, know You, sincerely believe in You, give thanks for You, and obey. Let not the light of Your gospel be taken from us through deceitful illusions. Direct us in all our affairs with the voice of Your counsel, for Your Son has promised that You would give Your Holy Spirit to those who ask. Grant this, O God, for Your holy name's sake.  To You, with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory forever.  Amen.

Philip Melanchthon, from "For All the Saints," page 1003

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Keeping Company With God

            How do you define the word “prayer?”  My own personal favorite definition of prayer comes from author James Houston who quotes the early church father, Clement of Alexandria: “prayer is keeping company with God.”

            My parents used to say to me all the time, “George, you’ll be known by the company you keep.”  I can’t say that I really believed them until my best friend in high school got himself in trouble.”

            He and I were best buddies.  Throughout junior high and the first couple of years of high school we were inseparable.  We both enjoyed sports and played on the same teams.  We liked the same style of music.  We both liked to laugh and joke around.  But then we grew apart.  He began hanging out with guys who were into drugs and that was something I just wasn’t going to do.  Then one day a friend called with the bad news – my best buddy had just been busted by some undercover policemen.  The next day at school, it seemed that everyone wanted to talk to me about my friend’s problem.  When I protested, they said, “You were his best friend, surely you knew what was going on.”  From that incident I learned that it is important to watch with whom you keep company.

            Maybe that’s why I like Clement’s definition of prayer the best: prayer is keeping company with God.  Such an attitude leads us to look at prayer differently.  It’s not “have-to” but “want-to.”  It’s involving God in my life as I would a best friend – sharing concerns, relating stories, confessing frustrations and shortcomings, offering words of praise and thanks.  To pray is to build upon the relationship you have with your Heavenly Father.

            What’s most amazing is that God wants to have this relationship with you.  God initiated this friendship at your baptism.  He came to you, though you had nothing to offer, and made you His very own.  He cleaned you up with the washing of water in the Word; clothed you with His royal robe of righteousness; promised to give you an inheritance that will never rust or expire.  If that’s not enough, the Holy Spirit began a good work in you, creating and preserving a trusting faith in the One who now calls you His child.

            Think of your best friend for a moment.  Why is that person so special to you?  Is it something you have in common? Is it because you can count on the advice and counsel of this friend? That this friend will speak the truth to you, even when it isn’t easy to listen? Is it because you can say things to this person that you could never say or reveal to anyone else?  Is it because your best friend is willing to accept you just as you are?

            Now think of God the Father.  Think of the God who wants to keep company with you.  He speaks to you as you read His Word.  God the Father points to His Son as the author of your salvation. You hear His Word of forgiveness.  You embrace His counsel for daily living.  You discover that encouraging Word that lifts you up from your feelings of despair and depression.
In prayer, you can say whatever you want to God – He’s all ears as you open up your heart to Him.  He understands what your life is all about and He cares for you – His compassion is greater than you can possibly imagine.  When it comes to time, God will give you all the time you need.  And you have something in common – God the Father sent His only Son to be your Redeemer from sin and eternal death.  Through faith, you have embraced God’s Son to be your Redeemer and Lord.

            You can keep no better company than living each day in an intimate relationship with God.  Listen to God. Open up the Bible every day. And open your heart and mind to trust and believe in those timeless truths that give life – now and for eternity.

And then, pray.  Pray continually.  Pray in faith.  Pray with joy and thanksgiving.  You have a Father who loves you, a Savior who died and rose again for you, a Spirit who calls you to faith and assists you in your prayer life before your Lord.  What a friendship to have!  What company to keep!  Pray!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

God has a hope and a future for you

I really appreciated what Sheila Walsh had to say in her new book, "It's OK Not To Be OK."

All of Scripture makes one thing clear: when God begins something He already has the end in mind.

Page 178

Monday, October 15, 2018

God is...

            When you are confused about the future, go to your Jehovah-raah, your caring shepherd.  When you are anxious about provision, talk to Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides.  Are your challenges too great?  Seek the help of Jehovah-shalom, the Lord is peace.  Is your body sick? Are your emotions weak?  Jehovah-rophe, the Lord who heals you will see you now.  Do you feel like a soldier stranded behind enemy lines?  Take refuge in Jehovah-nissi, the Lord my banner.

            Meditating on the names of God reminds you of the character of God.  Take these names and bury them in your heart.

            God is:
            The shepherd who guides,
            The Lord who provides,
            The voice who brings peace in the storm
            The physician who heals the sick, and
            The banner that guides the soldiers.

            From the Great House of God by
            Max Lucado

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Unconditional love from a blessed friend

That's me with my our cat, Tiddy.  He originally belonged to my youngest daughter, Katie.  She needed to find a new home for Tiddy when her first child was born.  My dear, sweet wife and I are a sucker for cats and so Tiddy came to live with us.

Sherri called him a "COG."  A cat who acts like a dog! When I came home from work, Tiddy would follow me around just as a dog would.  I never got him to fetch a ball.  But he had no problem crawling up on my belly so that he could purr while I rubbed the back of his neck.

Tiddy had been ill for several months. This morning Sherri found him suffering from what appeared to be stroke-like symptoms. We took him to our vet and learned that there was really nothing that could be done for him.  We said our goodbyes and held him until the very end.

There are those who do not believe that our pets will join us in heaven. The Bible doesn't specifically say one way or the other.  But if this sinful world is going to be replaced by "a new heaven and new earth," isn't is reasonable to believe that among all the other things that God will have redeemed and made new in creation our pets will be in that place too.

We'll know when we get there. But I won't be surprised to see Tiddy Boy just waiting to follow me around.

It's Okay Not To Be Okay

Read this book if you are...
 Still feeling the pain from a messy divorce
Ruined your marriage after having a fling you knew was wrong
 Enslaved to alcohol, drugs, pornography, (fill in the blank)
Rejected for not having the right look, the right job, the right stuff
 Embarrassed by your inability to stop buying things when you already have three or four of those things
 Feeling there is something wrong with you because you suffer from anxiety and depression

Sheila Walsh knows what it's like to be flawed or feel like a failure.  But the title of her new book dispenses hope.  She continually points to Jesus as the One who loves us in spite of our brokenness. God's grace permeates every page. If you feel like no one gets you, you've got a friend in Sheila Walsh.  Do yourself a favor and get her new book, "It's Okay Not To Be Okay."