Friday, June 22, 2018

Hallelujah!

A man bought a donkey from a preacher. The preacher told the man that this donkey had been trained in a very unique way, (being the donkey of a preacher). The only way to make the donkey go, is to say,

"Hallelujah!"

The only way to make the donkey stop, is to say, "Amen!"

The man was pleased with his purchase and immediately got on the animal to try out the preacher's instructions.

"Hallelujah!" shouted the man. The donkey began to trot. "Amen!" shouted the man. The donkey stopped immediately.

"This is great!" said the man. With a "Hallelujah", he rode off very proud of his new purchase.

The man traveled for a long time through some mountains. Soon he was heading towards a cliff. He could not remember the word to make the donkey stop.

"Stop," said the man. "Halt!" he cried. The donkey just kept going.

"Oh, no...

'Bible...Church!...Please Stop!!," shouted the man. The donkey just began to trot faster. He was getting closer and closer to the cliff edge.

Finally, in desperation, the man said a prayer..."Please, dear Lord.

Please make this donkey stop before I go off the end of this mountain, In Jesus name, AMEN."

The donkey came to an abrupt stop just one step from the edge of the cliff.


"HALLELUJAH!", shouted the man.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What love does

Everywhere love turns it finds burdens to carry and ways to help. To love means to wish another person good from the heart. It means to seek what is best for the other person.

Martin Luther, "Faith Alone" devotional book, June 20 entry

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Are You A Pew Potato?



 My dear, sweet wife accuses me of being a couch potato.  I hate to admit it but I’m guilty as charged.
           
I’d rather watch Phil Mickelson tee it up instead of playing 18 holes myself.  I’d rather watch a professional fisherman haul in a big catfish instead of bating a hook and trying it myself.  I’d rather watch a home improvement program instead of trying to find my tool box (it’s the red box covered with cobwebs) instead of trying to build or repair something myself.
            
But lately this couch potato has been thinking that it’s time to get off the couch!
            
Why the change of heart? When you get right down to it, it’s much more fun participating than watching…it’s more healthier to be actively involved than passively sitting on the fence…it’s better to be on the playing field instead of being in the bleachers.  You get my drift, right?
            
Golf caddy, Neil Oxman, gets it.  He says, “I tell my friends that if you are a sports fan and you caddy at a PGA tour event it will change your life forever.  There is absolutely no other way to be that close to a sport without actually playing it.  You can’t go on a field at a baseball game…when you caddy you are on the field…it is an amazing feeling to be there.”
            
I’m convinced – being a part of the game is so much better than being a couch potato.  I’m sure it beats being a pew potato too.
            
What’s a pew potato? This is someone who watches what goes on at church, admires and even rejoices at the mission and ministry of the church but warms a pew or seat each Sunday without ever getting involved.
            
My friend, Randy, used to be a pew potato.  He was a member of a fairly large church and he found it was real easy to blend in to the crowd and let others serve or do important tasks.
            
Then Randy was given the chance to help plant a new mission church in a nearby community.  In this new congregation, pew potatoes were not allowed.  Everyone was expected to use their gifts and abilities to glorify God and to help others.
            
As the new church began to reach people and grow, Randy discovered the gift of leadership by organizing church members into groups so that Sunday morning worship went smoothly.  He found that he had the gift of teaching and enjoyed spending time with the older youth of the church.  He learned that he had the gift to comfort and counsel and people who were dealing with troubles and challenges in their life appreciated the time and the prayers that Randy offered them.
            
Randy found out how exciting it was to be an active servant instead of a passive pew sitter.  His service to the Lord’s church changed his life.  God blessed Randy in ways he could have never imagined.  All because he raised his hand to a simple request – how would you like to help more people get to know Jesus?
            
Have you gotten a little too comfortable seated on your favorite pew? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a gentle poke in the ribs.  When there’s a need for volunteers, raise your hand.  When there’s an invitation to go on a mission trip, pack your bag.  God just might work through you to change the life of another person.

From "Wake Up With The Word" 2013

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A prayer for those in a hurry

In the name of Jesus Christ, who was never in a hurry, we pray, O God, that You will slow us down, for we know that we live too fast. With all of eternity before us, make us take time to live - time to get acquainted with You, time to enjoy Your blessings, and time to know each other.

Peter Marshall, as quoted in "Patches of Godlight"

A Prayer for Patient Endurance

Gracious God, I am troubled and disheartened. Time is a heavy burden for me. I grow weary, discouraged, and fearful because of my problems. Yet I know You can rescue me from my confusion. You set the stars to move in precise rhythm, and You can bring order to my affairs. To You a thousand years are but a day, and You can give me the patience to live today as a day of grace. To You one day can be as a thousand years, and You can help me live today with the hope and patience of eternity.

In Jesus Christ, Your Son, You have begun the new age of life and immortality.  In Him give me courage and strength.  Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 199

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Power of Vision

One way to judge the popularity and effectiveness of a publication is to see how many editions have been printed.

It would appear "The Power of Vision" by George Barna is very popular and very effective.

It may be that although most pastors and church workers want to do ministry with a clear vision of God's plan, that vision is elusive. Barna defines vision, teaches the reader how not to confuse vision with mission, ways that a ministry can prosper by having a well defined ministry, and providing materials which can help any ministry or church group define and implement a statement of vision.

Concerned that the ministry you lead is without a clear vision.  A good start to changing is to grab a copy of "The Power of Vision."

Our Advocate

If I have some time after lunch and before I need to get back to work, I've been reading Michael Newman's book, "Hope When Your Heart Breaks."  The book was designed for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones to look to the One who gives hope - Jesus.  I have really appreciated the insights Newman shares.  Here he offers a different take on a familiar story, that of Mary and Martha.

Martha told Jesus the next step He should take, but Jesus wasn't taken in by Martha's worries and control.  Jesus sees a bigger picture and seeks a greater purpose.  Martha may have been preparing lunch, but Jesus was preparing an eternal banquet.  Martha railed at Mary's fault, but Jesus rejoiced in Mary's faith.  So, He answered Martha.

To Mary, it may not have even mattered what Jesus said. In her split second of utter humiliation, Jesus didn't let the feeling linger. He didn't hesitate or allow the awkwardness to prevail. Before Mary's face could become flush with hurt feelings, Jesus filled the gap. He leaped to her defense, stepped in to help, and showed He cared. At what appeared to be the point for her greatest failure, Mary saw the Son of God advocating for her.

He does the same for you. You may feel like you want to disappear, but Jesus insists on being your companion when you are most vulnerable. He calls you a worthy friend. The apostle John knew what it was like to be brushed off and embarrassed. But he also knew Jesus. Later in his life, John reflected honestly about sin and failure. He said, "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). We have an advocate. John experienced Jesus' caring defense.  Mary did too. When Jesus Christ the Righteous One speaks up for you, there is not one who can speak against you. (pages 35-36)

So, go throughout your week knowing that you have an advocate.  Jesus has got your back!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Top Ten "Too Much Information" Facebook Posts

10) In a relationship with Bob...for 12 minutes

9) Happy 15th Anniversary to my beloved.  We've been married 20 years but 15 of them have been happy.

8) No longer in a relationship with Bob...he isn't into long term relationships

7) Boxers or briefs or commando.  I'm trying to decide for my four year old

6) I locked myself out of the house today.  Somehow, the cat managed to set the place on fire. LOL!

5) It's ridiculous that people can't express their own opinions. Poor Roseanne!

4) I'm sitting down with a plate of caviar, a bottle of bubbly and I'm going to watch "Cops"

3) I'm looking for a good urologist. Any suggestions?

2) I want to thank my wonderful, loving husband for emptying out the kitty litter.  You're the best, Babe!

1) I'm bored.

I've got World Cup Fever!

It's just a mild case at this point.  But I'm sure the fever will be building throughout the next 30 days or so.

The World Cup is bigger than the Super Bowl, World Series or the NBA Finals.  Football (only in a few countries is it call "Soccer") is the world's sport.  Right now it's half time between Argentina and Iceland.  Tied 1-1.  Iceland is as large as the state of Maine.  Everyone in Argentina plays football.  But the game is very competitive and with a break or two, Iceland could win! Gotta type quickly so I can get back to the game!

Today at 5 pm we'll have worship at Life in Christ.  Tomorrow worship takes place at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  Come and see us.  Spending time in God's House is the perfect antidote to World Cup Fever!

Have a great day!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Did you hear the one about the middle-aged guy and the state trooper?

There was a middle-aged guy who bought a brand new Mercedes convertible SLK.

He took off down the road, flooring it to 80 mph and enjoyed the wind blowing through what little hair he had left on his head.  "This is great," he thought as he passed car after car.

Then he looked in his rear view mirror and there was a highway patrol trooper behind him, blue lights flashing and siren blaring.

"I can get away from him with no problem," thought the man and he floored it, flying down the road at over 100 mph.

Then he thought, "What am I doing? I'm too old for this kind of thing."  So he pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the state trooper to catch up with him.

The trooper walked up to the Mercedes and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes.  If you can give me a good reason why you were speeding like that, I'll let you go."

The man explained, "Last week my wife ran off with a state trooper and I thought you were bringing her back." 

The trooper replied, "Have a nice day!"

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Paul teaches us how to overcome evil


            A friend of mine had been wronged by another person.  When I asked my friend how he was going to handle the situation he replied, “George, I don’t get mad; I get even!”

            That is often our first response when someone has slandered us or taken advantage of us or has hurt us in some way.  We’d like to pay them back and make them feel the pain that we’ve suffered.  We’d like for them to know a sleepless night or an upset stomach or a throbbing headache.  We even begin to think that we won’t really be happy until we’ve gotten some kind of revenge. 

            The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to have his service to the Lord be criticized and condemned.  He knew what it was like to suffer punishment for no good reason.  He knew what it was like to be on the run from enemies and their evil plans.  If anyone ever had reason to want to “get even,” it was Paul.

            If you get a chance today, read Romans, chapter 12.  Paul has a lot to say about living out the new life we have in Christ Jesus.  He encourages his readers (including you and me) to “bless those who persecute you,” and “do not repay evil for evil.”  How can we live in this way?  Only through the power of the Lord who enables us to set aside worldly patterns and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  After you’ve finished the reading, ask the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming power in your life so that you might become a “living sacrifice” who continually seeks God’s will for daily living.  Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. And have a great day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Luther's Morning Prayer for Children

Last week I was asked to lead the opening prayer at our annual Vacation Bible School. I was told that the kids had been trying to pray Luther's Morning Prayer but that it had been too difficult for most of them to say.

So, I went to the Internet to see if I could find a children's version of the prayer and I did! Unfortunately, I failed to note the site where I found the prayer so I can't give credit where credit is due.  Here it goes...

Thank you, God, through Your dear Son

 That with the Spirit, three in one

You kept me safe all through the night

 And I awoke to see the light

Be with me throughout the day

 Let nothing evil pass my way

May You be pleased with all I do

 This life on earth, I live for You

My soul and body and all things

 I trust to You, You are my King

Your holy angel keep me near

 The evil one I will not fear

Amen!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

For Acceptance of Self

Father, teach me to trust the Spirit You have breathed into me. Give me grace to believe Your Word, by which I am made Your child. Help me to understand that I belong to You, even though I am undeserving of Your love.

Help me to see Your judgment and mercy in the suffering and death and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ. Cause me to accept again the new life in Christ which You have given me by faith. Enable me to live without despair and without pride. Lead me to know with joy that You accept me as a whole human being.

Father, teach me one more thing.  Show me that in this new life You give I no longer have to build walls of fear to protect myself from others. Help me to live cheerfully and generously, so that others may receive You through Christ's Word and work in me and begin to live in You. Bless me and keep me for Jesus' sake.  Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 177, 1970 edition, Concordia Publishing House

Monday, June 11, 2018

A quick answer indeed!


            In 2011, on our summer European trip, my wife and I want to travel by train from Leipzig, Germany to Wittenberg, Germany, the home of Martin Luther and the place where the Reformation of the church has its beginnings.  There was just one problem: our travel agent told us there was no train from Leipzig to Wittenberg.  We would have to travel all the way to Berlin, Germany, change trains and then double back to Wittenberg.  None of this made sense to us but we accepted it as part of traveling in a foreign country.
            Sunday morning came and we board the train.  We heard the conductor call out the route we would take which included a number of cities including…yes, Wittenberg.  I talked to a train official and asked if Sherri and I could simply leave the train at the Wittenberg stop and not travel all the way to Berlin.  He said to me, “Of course you can!”  Sherri and I rejoiced.  Wittenberg was having a special festival and now we would be able to attend.  We were so excited at our good fortune.
            We loved traveling by train, seeing the German countryside and what seemed like miles and miles of land producing all kinds of good crops.  Every village was picturesque and seemingly at the center of each one stood a church with a steeple and cross for everyone to see.
            Finally, we heard the Wittenberg stop called out.  We grabbed our luggage and stepped off onto the platform.  The train blew its horn and off it went.
            Then it hit us – there wasn’t a single soul at the train station.  The information booth was closed.  We could see in the distance where the city of Wittenberg was – we just didn’t know how we were going to get there.
            Suddenly it seemed as though good fortune had come through.  A taxi drove by.  I flagged the fellow down and asked if we could get a ride.  The driver told us he was occupied and that I should call for a taxi to pick us up.
            That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  I was having a terrible time making international phone calls.  You’ve had salespeople explain to you how simple something is to do or use, right? Well, it wasn't simple using my newfangled phone and I wondered how long it would take for me to make a call.
            As I started dialing the number, Sherri prayed out loud, saying simply: “Lord, we need a taxi.”  No sooner had she said the words than I turned around and behind me was a taxi! We didn’t even hear it pull up to the curb.  The driver asked us if we were going to town and we said, “Yes!” And just like that, we were enjoying the festival in Wittenberg.
            On our ride into town, Sherri and I couldn’t help but keep looking at each other and smiling.  We were thinking the same thing: “God is good!”  We needed help and the Lord heard our call and provided the help we needed, almost instantly.  Amazing.
            God doesn’t promise to answer every prayer that quickly.  In fact, we experience times when the Lord seems to take His time to get back to us.  Still, as disciples of the Lord, we do not despair.  Instead, we come in Jesus’ name, in confident faith that our Lord will answer in His perfect time and according to His perfect will.  1 John 5:14 tells us: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
            Isn’t that great.  God hears us…even when we need a ride into town!

From a "Wake Up With the Word" devotion from 2011

Saturday, June 9, 2018

High and tight on the sides, please

Seven or eight years ago I gave up...on my hair.  It had been in full retreat for awhile and each day it got more difficult spreading the remain strands around on top of my head.  My youngest daughter is a hairdresser and she urged me to take the plunge and go for the buzz cut.

A few days after the deed was done I wondered why I hadn't done it years ago.  It didn't really change my appearance all that much and it was so much easier.  No hair blowers.  No hair spray.  Easy!

Later, for my birthday, I received my own hair clippers.  Katie gave me a few lessons on how to do the cut myself and away I went.  And I don't think I did a bad job.

But I've had those weekends where so much was going on that I couldn't find the time to cut my hair.  Even though there isn't much, it does look a little unkempt.  So, today, I'm going to visit JJ's Barber Shop.

My son-in-law, Josh, lives in Wisconsin.  But any time he's here visiting he heads to JJ's.  Apparently it's an old fashioned shop.  No loud rock music, no hair cutters covered with tattoos and piercings. Sounds like my kind of place.

I'll report to you friendly readers next week on how it goes.

Today, we worship at LICL at 5 pm.  Holy Communion will be celebrated.  Tomorrow, we worship at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  My sermon title is "What Have You Done?" My little group will play at 9:30 and our VBS kids will sing two songs at 11 am.  The house should be rocking by then!

Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A prayer based on the first petition

Father, You name is holy in itself. We praise You through the gracious work of Your Holy Son, who cleansed us. Holy is your name and holy is the work of Your Son. Cause us to live holy lives as we follow Him.

From "Our Way Home," by Dan Paavola, page 66

Hey! That's my seat!

Why are church people kind, polite and sweet-spirited - until you try and sit in their pew?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Give it up!

Don't recall where I found this Martin Luther quote.  It emphasizes the importance of "holding loosely" the things of this life.

Many things I have tried to grasp, and have lost. That which I have placed in God's hands I still have.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Thankful for learning the basics

During my first year at Seminary I attended my first Homiletics class.  It was taught by Rev. Dr. Glenn Nielsen, who inspired me to try and become a good proclaimer of God's Word. Dr. Nielsen could stand in the middle of our class and practically create a sermon on the spot! It was amazing to me.

One day I asked him how he did it.  His answer? "By learning all the things I'm teaching you in this first class."

What was he teaching us? The basics. He warned us at the beginning of the class that we were going to do a lot of what might seem like tedious work.  But by picking a text, studying the text by looking at the Sunday in which the text is being used, looking at the text in the original Hebrew or Greek language, doing a word study, seeing how that key word is used in other verses, finding the doctrine being taught in the text and looking at commentaries, one would be ready to write down the goal of the sermon and then write the manuscript.

It was tedious work.  But by the time I left Dr. Nielsen's class and along with the other Homiletics classes to took, I had down the basics of writing a sermon.

Fast forward about 21 years later.  Last week I had two sermons to write.  One was for Gerry Schemers' memorial service.  I had been very close to Gerry and I knew that it would be an emotional service for me.  I worked on the sermon Tuesday and Wednesday; the service was on Thursday.

Along came Friday and I need to write another sermon.  Since I hate writing on Saturday (too much pressure for me) I was determined to get something down on paper.  The text was the last verses of Mark, chapter two where Jesus rocks the boat of the Pharisees, so to speak, by declaring Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath.

I remembered something I had heard in a video Bible study - Mark, chapter two is a series of confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees.  That thought caused me to think of something I had recently read about how fight or flight were the two basic options a person had when finding themselves in a threatening situation or confrontation.  In looking at all the confrontations in the chapter it became clear that Jesus was fighting on our behalf.  Jesus has the authority to forgive sin - our sin.  Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath - a Sabbath in which He gives us rest.

Jesus doesn't flee - from His confrontations with the Pharisees but He doesn't flee from His appointment to suffer and die for our sins at the cross.  Jesus lets nothing stand in his way from redeeming us from eternal death and punishment.

With all of that information, I could write.

Looking back at the manuscript, I saw thoughts that could have been better developed and realized that a couple of points could have been strengthened.  But I did produce a sermon.  It seemed to preach well, based on the feedback I received. 

And it wouldn't have happened if I had not learned the basics.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Better than all the riches in the world!

Some books are so good that you just have to read them again and again.  I'm on my second reading of Dan Paavola's exceptionally great book, "Our Way Home." Paavola offers a fresh new way of looking at the Lord's Prayer.  Not only does the reader gain new insights into the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, Paavola's book is helpful for bringing new life to your prayer and devotional life. It's that good!

Paavola quotes Martin Luther a number of time (which I like) so here is something Paavola captured from the Large Catechism:

Therefore, there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord's Prayer. We pray it daily (Matthew 6:11) because it has this excellent testimony, that God loves to hear it.  We ought not to surrender this for all the riches of the world.  Taken from "Concordia," part three, paragraph 23.

I remember talking with a person from my first congregation who surprised me by saying, "I've moved on from the Lord's Prayer.  My own prayers are of more value to me." It's a good thing I'm not Martin Luther for Luther probably would have cuffed this person upside the head, as the say. Yes, we have specific petitions which we offer to God in prayer.  But, my friendly readers, do not forsake the Lord's Prayer. It gives voice to our heart and is music to the Father's ears.

Paavola's book "Our Way Home" is available from Concordia Publishing House

Saturday, June 2, 2018

It's June already?

Wow! Has time kicked it up a notch? I blinked and June is here. What happened to me in May?

Celebrated the 1st Anniversary of our Memory Cafe (a ministry for those suffering from memory loss issues and their caregivers)

Saw the play "Godspell" with the Greens

Traveled to Wisconsin to visit with my youngest daughter and her family and to attend at Parish Nurses conference (Pastors could attend for free - it was one of the best conferences I've ever attended)

Officiated at a wedding (where the bride was 20 minutes late - giving us all a slight heart attack)

Preached at the Memorial Service for our dear sister in Christ, Gerry Schemers

Now what? I'll get back to you in 30 days.  In the meantime:

Worship with us this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  I'll be preaching at all three Sunday services and the sermon is titled, "Fight or Flight."  Read Mark, chapter two and you'll know what I'm getting at.  Also, my little group will be providing the music at the 9:30 service.

Get June off to a fine start - join us for worship this weekend!

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Letter to Gerry

Gerry Schemers was a charter member of our church.  She fell asleep in Jesus a week ago today.  We held her memorial service yesterday and my message took the form of a letter to Gerry.


            Dear Gerry,

            I have so many sweet memories of you.  Visiting with you in my office.  Talking about your kids and grandkids – you loved them so much.  Talking about your job – you were continually amazed that God could use you at the pharamacy, sharing His love with others.  And, of course, talking about loneliness and how you missed your husband, Bill, who had gone to be with Jesus.  Your family tried hard to fill the void but it still hurt to be on your own. 

But the memories I enjoy the most are connected with the illustrious Bulletin Bunch, you gals who folded bulletins, stapled newsletters, stuffed envelopes and did whatever else that needed to be done.  Those Fridays were fun days, weren’t they?  I would be sitting at my desk working when suddenly I would hear the sound of whooping and hollering and hee-hawing coming out of Room 1.  You and Virginia, Yvonne, Georgie and Elaine got to do an important task for our church and you ladies had a blast doing it.

            One thing I noticed was that you all talked about everything.  No subject was off limits.  At times, we men didn’t need to be around.  Yes, you guys talked about everything and that included the topic of death.

            On day you all were talking about what you wanted your memorial service to be like.  I still wonder how that subject come up? Anyway, I walked in as Virginia was saying that she wanted her memorial service to be a celebration.  She was going to be in heaven and it would be a happy place and so she wanted her family and friends to share her happiness.  And I think the other ladies agreed with her.

            So, it was a huge surprise when you said that you hoped that everyone, at your passing, would be sad and there would be lots of tears.  When we pressed you, Gerry, you said that you hoped that everyone would miss you and that would bring a lot of tears.

            Gerry, to this day I’m not entirely sure that you were serious when you described your hoped-for funeral.  After all, you once threatened to dance on top of the worktable.  But we do miss you.  And there have been lots of tears shed.

            Those tears began as your health started to deteriorate.  It was hard to see you suffer.  Your eyes were giving you fits.  Getting around became harder and harder.  You got frustrated when your memory seemed to be failing.  The last couple of years for you were difficult to say the least.

            Many more tears were shed during the three last weeks of your life.  You were having such difficulty breathing.  It was a struggle.  It was hard to watch.  Your family hated to see you suffer.  It broke their hearts.  They wept.  Kleenex came out to wipe away the tears.  Gerry, in those final 12 hours they never left your side.  They were there for you.  Even in the midst of their sadness, they were there for you.

            Your church family wept for you too.  You’ve been an important part of Life in Christ for so many years.  Yes, you worked with the Bulletin Bunch.  But you did so much more, and I doubt that you even realized it.

            The word “faithful” describes your participation in worship.  When you were well you never missed a Sunday.  You found joy in worshiping the Lord with your church family.  You confessed Jesus as your personal Savior.  You were glad to hear the good news of God’s love for you in His Son.  You never tired of hearing that Jesus paid for your sins at the cross, and in exchange, dressed you in His royal robe of righteousness.  Dressed in Jesus’ clothes, you could be certain that you were holy and right before God and that there was a place for you in His kingdom of glory.

            Yes, Gerry, you were faithful.  The last year or so it was hard for you to come to church.  But it brought us all so much joy to see you coming Sunday morning with Dick and Sharon.  How easy it would have been for you to have said, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll be going to church.  I hurt too much.” You were tempted to do so and we all would have understood.  But you came! You heard God’s Holy Word.  You received God’s Holy Supper.  You made the effort, Gerry! It was a powerful witness to us all.

            So, on this day, Gerry, there are tears.  And, we certainly have feelings of sadness.  But these feelings are tempered by something far greater.  You are at peace.  You no longer hurt.  Breathing is no longer a struggle.  You rest in the arms of your Savior, Jesus.  So even in our sadness, we have reason to be happy.  And we are.

            Gerry, the next time I see you, my first question will be this – did you see any Kleenex in God’s kingdom? I’ll bet you didn’t!

            We have so much to look forward to.  Jesus is going to come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.  Unbelievers will receive judgment.  Believers will receive an invitation to join God in His kingdom. 

            It will be amazing, Gerry.  God will be with us.  He is going to pitch His tent among us and we will enjoy His company.  The apostle Paul once wrote that in this life we don’t see things clearly; it’s like looking in a hazy mirror.  But in heaven, you won’t have any trouble with your eyes, Gerry.  Your vision will be perfect, and you will see God.  You probably won’t be able to take your eyes off Him.

            Meanwhile, there’s not a Kleenex in sight.  They aren’t needed in heaven.  God is going to elimate all the stuff that caused us to cry in this life.  We won’t weep over the death of people we love – no death in heaven.  And if there is no death, there is no reason to mourn, right? Pain can make us cry.  We hurt, and we cry out for relief.  In heaven, God is going to take that away from us too.  That body of yours that ached all the time.  That body that caused you to cry the last time I saw You, Gerry.  It won’t hurt anymore.  No tears – no Kleenex in heaven.  None whatsoever.

            Jesus says, “I am making everything new!”  This is a wonderful promise our Savior makes to us.  We all desire to live happy lives.  We all seek an uncomplicated life.  But no one has a problem-free, happy-all-the-time kind of life.  We deal with disease and divorce.  We struggle with finances or failing health.  Jesus once told his followers that they would have trouble in this world.  But then Jesus said, “I have overcome the world!”

            That’s what Jesus did.  For you, Gerry.  For me.  For everyone.  He defeated death in His resurrection from the dead.  He defeated sin by paying for it all at the cross and those sins will never be charged to us again.  He defeated the devil and will put Satan away for good on the Last Day.  Everything that threatened our happiness in this life, Jesus has overcome.  And He shares His victory.  His victory is your victory. 

            Well, Gerry, I better close this letter for now.  But I do so with the confidence that I will see you again.  We’ll know each other.  We might even give each other a big hug.  You’ll do the same with your family.  Gathered around the throne of Jesus, we will worship with all our might.  Our joy will have no limits.  Happy won’t begin to describe the feeling of being with Jesus for eternity.  We will be absent of just one thing.  No more tears.  No more tears.

            Your friend in Christ,

            George

            Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Middle

A few years ago a USA Today reviewer called ABC's "The Middle," the network's "sweetest show." The setting was not LA or NYC but middle America in a fictitious place - Orson, Indiana. Mom and Dad struggled to make ends meet and the kids were less than perfect (and unlike most sitcoms, not smarter than their parents). The show never achieved the popularly of "Modern Family," but the audience for "The Middle" was loyal and devoted to the show.  Although it took us an extra week or so to get to it, my dear, sweet wife and I watched the finale Tuesday night and we weren't disappointed.

In fact, I think it might have been the best finale for any program I've ever watched.  The episode dealt with a real-life issue - a child leaves the nest for something bigger and better.  After some confusion over the start date regarding a new job, the Heck family decide to take a road trip to Denver.  Sue wants to have "a moment," and each member of the family have their moment - not sickly sweet but heart-felt to be sure. The show ends with young Brick (not so young anymore) whispering one last time, "the middle," as the car drives off into the distance.

"The Middle" was must-see TV in the Spicer house.  I appreciated the fact that the show wasn't afraid to show the Heck family as church-goers.  The episodes where Rev. Tim Tom made an appearance were often funny and poignant. Now that we've discovered "Last Man Standing" in reruns (and to appear with new episodes this fall), the void left by "The Middle" has been filled.  Fortunately, the Hallmark Channel is showing "The Middle" in reruns so that will give me a chance to watch one more time ABC's "sweetest show."

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Today's thought from Luther

Therefore, when you view the nails piercing through His hands, firmly believe it is your work. Do you see His crown of thorns? Believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts.

from "Martin Luther in His Own Words," page 117

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Question That Demands an Answer


            There are some questions that are hard to answer. 

            When my mother asked, “George, did you take the last cookie?  You know you were supposed to save that for your father,” I usually found myself tongue-tied.  When my high school basketball coach asked, “George, are you happy with your playing time,” I said nothing, having been taught by my parents to respect your elders, even, for instance, when you weren’t happy with the number of minutes you spent on the basketball floor.  Or when members of my former congregation asked me, “You’re not going to take that call to that church in Arizona, are you?” I just smiled, not wanting to acknowledge that I was planning to take that call to that church in Arizona, Life in Christ.

            But there are questions that demand an answer.  We find one such question in St. John’s Gospel, chapter six.  Jesus has had something of a verbal sparring match with a large crowd of Galileans.  Many in the crowd believed that a person had to do good works to become righteous before God.  Jesus taught them that faith in the One whom God had sent was what was needed.  Many who stood at the edge of the sea of Galilee believed that the promised Messiah would come down from heaven accompanied by great signs and wonders.  Jesus taught them that the Messiah had already come and was ready to give them more than just a wonderful meal of bread and fish.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

            By the time Jesus had finished, John reports that many of the Lord’s disciples found this teaching hard to swallow.  They said, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?” Then John gives us the sorry news: “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

            As Peter, James and John and the rest stood and looked at the backs of those who were returning to their homes, Jesus broke the silence with a simple question.  But it was a question that demanded an answer: “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

            Simon Peter gives an answer for the ages, the answer that every follower of Jesus Christ wants to have on their lips: “Lord, to whom shall we go.  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

            We know that the 12 disciples failed Jesus on more than one occasion.  They were often slow to act on the faith they had in the Lord.  But on this occasion, Peter answered with trusting faith.  Why would he and the others even think about following anyone else  ?  They believed that Jesus’ words gave life, everlasting life.  Jesus’ words had the power to forgive sin.  His words could change a hard heart into a soft one, beating with faith and trust.  Yes, Jesus’ teachings could be challenging and hard to understand.  But Peter and the other disciples were certain of one thing – there was no other teacher or priest or emperor who could give them what they wanted and needed the most.  The disciples wanted to know that they were right with God and had eternal life.  Jesus’ words were filled with the Spirit and with life.

            This week someone may ask you why you believe in Jesus or why you go to church or why you take your faith so seriously.  If you’re not sure how to answer, use Peter’s answer.  You, too, can say, “Who else would I put my faith in?  Jesus has the words of eternal life.”  That’s the best response to a question that really demands an answer.  

From a "Wake Up With the Word" radio devotion

Saturday, May 26, 2018

My family, a conference and a busy weekend

The past seven days have been a mixture of down time, learning and getting back to work.

At this time last Saturday we were flying to Appleton, WI to be with my youngest daughter and her family and to celebrate the third birthday of my grandson, Duke.  We had a wonderful celebration.  Duke cracks me up with his antics.  His big party was Sunday afternoon and his gifts were guns, guns, guns.  There were all kinds of nerf-shooting guns; apparently Duke has been watching too many army movies with his older brother.  Green Bay is a wonderful place to visit in the summer time.  We're just sorry that we won't be there this 4th of July to see their tremendous fireworks display - 1st rate!

Sherri and I also attended a Parish Nurses Conference that was held on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin.  The conference was as good, if not better, than many pastor conferences I've attended over the years.  The break out sessions were very informative and best of all, I got to meet and hear Rev. Dr. Dan Paavola.

Dr. Paavola is the author of "Our Way Home," a book in which he takes a unique look at the Lord's Prayer.  Not only will this book give you new insight into the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, it could also revolutionize your prayer life.  Dr. Paavola is a creative writer who weaves personal stories into solid Lutheran doctrine which produces a highly readable and informative book.  He preached at the chapel service on Wednesday and on Thursday presented a session on the word "steadfast" as found in the Scriptures.  He is an energetic, creative speaker; I could have listened to him all day! Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of "Our Way Home." You'll be happy that you did.

Got back home Thursday evening and spent most of Friday preparing for a wedding that I'll do today at 2 pm.  Ryan and Nyree are a wonderful couple and they were a joy to work with as we did pre-marital counseling together.  I'm excited for them as they start this new season of their lives.

Then at 5 pm I'll be preaching at the communion service we'll offer.  In fact, I'll be preaching at all the Sunday services too - 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  Tomorrow is Holy Trinity Sunday and I'll explain how your baptism connects you to the Triune God.  Do come and join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, May 25, 2018

A fish tale

Saint Peter halted a man at the entrance to heaven.  "I'm sorry," Peter said to the man, "but I cannot admit you.  You've told too many lies."

The man smiled and replied, "Come on, give me a break.  After all, you were once a fisherman yourself!"

From "A Laugh A Day," day 321

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A good reminder

The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 40:8

Friday, May 18, 2018

Today’s Latin lesson

Veni, vidi,Visa.

(We came, we saw, we went shopping).

Jan Barett

Extreme measures don't often work!

      Big Ed seemed to always fall asleep during the Sunday sermon. His wife was fed up and decided to deal with the embarrassing situation.
      The next Sunday when he fell asleep, she quietly removed some pungent Limburger cheese from a ziplock bag in her purse and passed it under his nose.
      Groggily startled, Big Ed blurted out, "No, Helen, no—don't kiss me now."


From swapmeetdave.com

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor is in Need of Money

10) Rents his stole out for sponsorships.

9) Keeps a tip cup on the pulpit.

8) People notice an Uber sticker on his car.

7) Rents himself out for children's birthday parties as "Brother Billy, the really righteous balloon man!"

6) Charges $5 per bedside prayer.

5) Sells vials of water from the Dead Sea collected on his Holy Land Trip.

4) Preaches every sermon on 1 Timothy 5:18 - "The worker deserves his wages."

3) The voice you hear at the stadium calling out, "Cold beer here!" sounds suspiciously like the pastor's.

2) Tells parents bringing kids for baptism, "Water costs extra."

And the number one sign that your pastor is in need of money:

1) Misses church to work a double shift at IHOP.

Good works are good!

We Lutheran are sometimes afraid to speak much of good works for fear that our readers might start thinking that our good works contribute to salvation in Jesus.  We don't do good works to be saved but do good works because we are saved! Last Monday, I read the following from the "Treasure of Daily Prayer," quoting the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

We have already frequently testified that repentance should produce good fruit. These good fruit are what the commandments teach: prayer, thanksgiving, the confession of the Gospel, teaching the Gospel, obeying parents and rulers, and being faithful to one's calling.  We should not kill, not hold onto hatred, be we should be forgiving and give to the needy, so far as we can according to our means. We should not commit sexual sins or adultery, but should hold in check, bridle, and chastise the flesh, not as a repayment of eternal punishment but so as not to obey the devil or offend the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we should speak the truth. These fruit have God's command and should be produced for the sake of God's glory and command.  They have their rewards also.

Page 312

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A priceless piece of art

My grandson, Luke, was asked in first or second grade (I don't remember which) what he wanted to be when he became a grown up.  His answer was "an airplane pilot."  When the teacher asked why, "Then I could fly around the world and tell people about Jesus!"

My daughter found the above drawing in Luke's backpack when he came home from school one day.  When she asked him about it, Luke said, "We had to do an art project in class. I finished early so I decided to do my own project." I still have that drawing. I give thanks to God for the work the Holy Spirit is doing in giving and strengthening Luke's faith in His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Good Thing to be in God's Hands


A Good Thing to be in God’s Hands

            Emmitt and Gloria.  They were members of the church I served in South Carolina.  I visited them every four to six weeks.  They were what we commonly classify as “shut-ins.”  Gloria had been afflicted with a severe case of arthritis.  Emmitt was suffering from dementia.  The two of them faced challenges the likes of which I’ve never seen.  And they faced them together.

            Emmitt and Gloria were a team.  They supported and cared for each other.  Love filled their home.  Although Emmitt couldn’t say the word, “love,” he demonstrated his love for Gloria in many practical ways.  Emmitt cleared the dishes from the table and put them in the dish washer.  He emptied out the dryer and folded and put away their clothes.  He gathered up the garbage cans and put them in the big container out in the garage.

            And it was out in the garage where Emmitt stumbled and fell and broke his right hip.  Off to the hospital he went for emergency surgery.  At that moment, these two loving, caring teammates and lovebirds were separated, never to live together again.

            Emmitt’s surgery went well but he began to experience complications almost immediately.  Gloria kept a full-time vigil at Emmitt’s beside, even though stiff chairs and uncomfortable cots caused her unrelenting pain.  Twice she called me at home.  “The doctor doesn’t think Emmitt has long to live,” she would say.  “Will you come?”  I did and each time Gloria and I were amazed at how Emmitt would bounce back.  And as he did, we would wonder, “What does God have in mind in all of this?  Why is Emmitt still here?”

            We got the answer a few days later.  I had stopped by the hospital to check in our Emmitt.  Gloria and I were talking when suddenly Emmitt grabbed me by my left hand.  His grip was strong.  He pulled himself up to a sitting position, looked me straight in the eye and said in a clear, strong voice, “It is a good thing to be in the hands of God.”

            Gloria and I looked at each other in complete amazement.  I had never gotten more than a “yes” or “no” from Emmitt in the entire time I had ministered to him.  Gloria later told me that she couldn’t remember the last time she had heard a complete sentence from her husband.  That Emmitt has spoken out like that brought Gloria an indescrible joy.  The message ministered to her heart…and to mine.

            Looking back on that incident, Emmitt was simply echoing the words of God Himself through Isaiah the prophet: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

            Where do any of us want to be when our health fails us?  When stress overwhelms us?  When trouble visits us?  We want to know that God is near, that He will wrap His everlasting arms of love around us, to comfort and to help.  According to Isaiah, that’s what God does.  Listen to this: (God) tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.

            That good news was Gloria’s comfort.  A few days later, Emmitt passed into eternity.  Tears of sadness were shed.  But Gloria’s heart was filled with the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes when you know that it is a good thing to be in the hands of God.  Thank you, Emmitt, for reminding us of this glorious truth.

A "Wake Up With the Word" flashback from 2013    

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happiness, disappointment and weekend worship

Happy news yesterday - Last Man Standing is coming back! This was a highly rated television show that featured Tim Allen and Nancy Travis.  It was cleverly written with lots of laugh-out-loud moments in each show.  But ABC cancelled the series a year ago.  It is believed that the network disliked Allen conservative political views and the jokes made at the expense of the liberal side.  Now, Fox has picked up the program and it's new season will take place this fall.

My dear, sweet wife and I have an end-of-the-evening routine.  We grab a low-cal chocolate bar and watch a show.  First, it was Everybody Loves Raymond, then Cheers, then The Middle and now Last Man Standing.  It is a funny show.  I'd forgotten how good Tim Allen is.  So, I'm really looking forward to the series resuming in the Fall.

My disappointment? Wonderful friends from church took us to Godspell on Thursday evening.  Other than the song, "Day by Day," I knew nothing about the play.  And there were reasons to be impressed.  They got right many of the stories of Jesus and the parables He taught.  The Lord's Supper scene even included the words from Matthew's Gospel, "Shed for the forgiveness of sins." Sp of the songs weren't that great but the cast brought much energy to the show.

However, following the crucifixion scene, Jesus is carried away, the cast sing a song about the brotherhood of men and that's it - the end! No resurrection! We enjoyed our evening with our friends very much.  The play was a huge disappointment and I cannot recommend it at all.

And now the weekend - we have worship today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  The first and third services on Sunday feature traditional hymns; the middle service utilizes modern Christian songs.  Come and join us this Sunday - every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  Take that Godspell!

Friday, May 11, 2018

With apologies to my Baptist friends

Several churches in the South decided to hold union services. The leader was a Baptist and proud of his denomination.
      "How many Baptists are here?" he asked on the first night of the revival?
      All except one little old lady raised their hands.
      "Lady, what are you?" asked the leader.
      "I'm a Methodist," meekly replied the lady.
      "Why are you a Methodist?" queried the leader?
      "Well," replied the little old lady, "my grandparents were Methodists, my mother was a Methodist, and my late husband was a Methodist."
      "Well," retorted the leader, "just supposing all your relatives had been morons, what would that have made you?"
      "Oh, I see. A Baptist, I suppose," the lady replied meekly


From swapmeetdave.com

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Ascension of Our Lord

Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of our Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe.  Jesus' ascension to the Father is HIs entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of HIs state of humiliation. Jesus no sits at the right hand of God, which Luther correctly taught is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time. Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space. He is with us as true God and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established: His Word and His Sacraments. We mortals in those means of grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.

From "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 301-02

Top Ten Things a Pastor Should Not Say When Visiting the Hospital

10) I hear the doctors won't eat the food in this hospital

9) You hope to leave by tomorrow? I wouldn't count on it!

8) Those hospital gowns really don't cover much, do they?

7) Bummer of a scar!

6) Did you remind the doctor to count all the sponges before they closed you up?

5) Did you hear about the malpractice suit brought up against your surgeon?

4) That guy delivering the meal - didn't I see him on Cops? He put up a fight!

3) Man, you look terrible!

2) You know they call this hospital the Mrsa capital of America

and the number one thing a pastor shouldn't say when visiting the hospital...

1) I'm sorry but I don't have a Bible verse for what you've got.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A morning prayer

It's amazing a how much stuff a pastor can collect in 21 years of ministry! Last night I was going through some boxes stored in my closet and found pictures, plaques, and other gifts from people I've served over the years.  As I dug through one box I discovered a prayer that I had had framed.  It was on the wall near my desk in my office.  It's a wonderful prayer written by a great man, the Christian pastor, apologist and author, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

O Heavenly Father

I praise and thank You

For the peace of the night

I praise and thank You for this new day

I praise and thank You for all Your goodness

and faithfulness throughout my life

You have granted me many blessings;

Now let me also accept

what is hard from Your hand

You will lay on me no more than I can bear

You make all things work together for good

for Your children.  Amen

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hello, old friend

Some Bible verses are like old friends.  You read them, study them, perhaps memorize them and call on them when you have a need or desire a word of encouragement.

During yesterday's reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (published by Concordia Publishing House), the psalm reading for the day was Psalm 103:6-14.  A number of years ago, when Life in Christ was handing out Bible verses on cards for memorization, verse 12 was one that we put to memory. 

However, the entire psalm is worth memorization.  A psalm of David, it reminds us of God's provision - the things we need to sustain life but also the forgiveness He gives for our sins.  David describes the glory of God - exactly who He is.  And the psalm reminds that although everything is passing away in this life, the love of God is "from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him," (verse 17a).

Enjoy and be blessed by reading these verses:

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

 He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;

as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.

 As a father shows compassion to His children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.

For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ok, we're cranking up the air!

What is the world is going on with this world! It's May - why are we getting July temps?

Since Dave Muncey retired I have no answers about the weather but we know it's going to be hot.  However, we have sent a team of engineers to LICL to adjust the thermostats so that it is nice and cool for church this weekend.

Don't believe me? Well, come and check it out.  Today at 5 pm (my group, the Spicer group - also know as St. Peter's Lovely Hearts Club Band and Cleaning Service will be playing) or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  It will be cold* so join us!

*blankets not provided

Friday, May 4, 2018

Poor Charlie Brown

Words from our favorite lovable loser...Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong." Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."

From "A Laugh A Day," day 314

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Join us today for prayer

The first Thursday in May is the National Day of Prayer.  We have used this day at LICL to encourage our members to be faithful in reaching out to the Lord in prayer.

Today, our sanctuary will be open for anyone who would like to have a quiet time to pray.  We have all kinds of resources that people can pick up in the Narthex to assist them as they pray.  If you've not done this before, stop by the church today.

This evening, at 7 pm, a Service of Anointing and Prayer will take place.  A philosopher once said, "Life is lived forward but understood backward." It's that idea that I want to explore in my message. Also, there will be a point in the service where people will be invited to come forward for a time to express individual concerns and, if they'd like, to be anointed with oil. Those who have attended this service in the past have found it to be encouraging and helpful.  And it is a service in which no offering is taken.  Imagine that - a service without an offering!

So, stop by the church during the day to pray or join us later this evening for worship. Blessings!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Luther on baptism

In this way one sees what a great, excellent thing Baptism is.  It delivers us from the devil's jaws and make us God's own. It suppresses and takes away sin and then daily strengthens the new man. It is working and always continues working until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory.

From "Concordia," - The Large Catechism -  page 437

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

On forgiveness

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. What a liberation when you can forgive.

Corrie ten Boom, "Oh How He Loves You."

Monday, April 30, 2018

An important distinction

We aren't sinners because we sin.  We sin because we are sinners.

From "Reading Romans with Luther," page 25

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Things I did and did not like in Israel

In no particular order...

I did like floating in the Dead Sea.  It's the lowest place on earth and the water is 33 percent salt.  I was told that even I could float in the water and it was true!

I did not swallow any of the Dead Sea water.  We were all warned that if we managed to suck some of that water into our bellies, our bellies would not like it one bit!

I did like sailing on a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee.  We all looked over the water and imagined Jesus calming the sea with just a couple of words or inviting Peter to come out and walk on the water.

I did not really care for the St. Peter's fish we ate at a restaurant later that day.  The fish comes out whole, complete with its beedy little eye staring at you. The white meat was very tender though.

I did like - really like - our guide, Yorum Black.  He was a former military officer who transitioned into leading groups throughout the Holy Land.  He enlightened us with his knowledge of the various sites we visited and he did so with humor and charm.

I did not like the pushy tourists we encountered during our trip.  The idea of being patient and waiting your turn just does not register with so many people.  There were times when it felt like we were in a scrum at a rugby match, with all the pushing and shoving we encountered.

Finally, I will like being back with my church family this weekend.  I'm preaching at all four services and am planing on sharing a little bit about our trip and some of the things we learned.  I promise I won't bore you by sharing, say, 400 pictures of the trip (that event will take place another day!).

So, join us this Saturday at 5 pm or Sunday at 8, 9:30 or 11 am as we worship our risen Savior.

Shalom!


Friday, April 27, 2018

A working vacation? Oh, much more than that!

I was telling a friend about our recent Holy Land trip and they commented,"Sounds like you had a working vacation." I guess that is somewhat true.  But then I thought - who gets to speak about Jesus' miracles and share His teachings and do so in the places where He won the victory for us over sin, death, Satan and the grave?

Well, me, for one.

Could I have been any more blessed?

Nope!

Praise the Lord for such a wonderful opportunity!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What shall the sermon be about this weekend?

Israel, perhaps? I'm afraid that worshippers here at Life in Christ will be hearing me start my sermons this way for the months ahead: "On my recent trip to Israel..."

The truth is that I got back to the office yesterday and so I'm playing "catch up."  There isn't time to select a text, meditate and pray upon it, research it and then write a manuscript.  So, I'm thinking that I will utilize some of the devotional materials I developed for the trip and offer them as the sermon.

The joy for me is that when I write about Jonah finding a boat in Joffa, I will remember standing at the dock, looking out into the Mediterranean Sea.  When I talk about that night Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, I'll have in my mind those olive trees that I saw and took pictures of.  When I tell the story of Jesus reinstating Peter to ministry (see John 21), I'll just think of that beautiful morning we stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee at the village of Tabgha.

My biggest disappointment in the trip was the lack of reflective time we had at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem.  The crowds were so enormous that there was no way to spend quality time in these places.  It was rush in, take a picture or two, and move on.

I expressed my feelings to my dear, sweet wife and her observation helped me put things in perspective.  Sherri said, "Who is this Jesus, that 2000 years after His death and resurrection, can draw crowds like these?" And she was right.  Those who believe that the stories of Jesus are just fairy tales are so wrong.  Those who say that Jesus was a good teacher but nothing more are sadly mistaken.

Yes, Jesus still draws a crowd.  And I was so glad to be a part of it for 10 days, 10 unforgettable days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

There is no place like home...

but if you have to be away from home, the Holy Land is a wonderful place to visit.

Our group left our hotel at 3:30 am in Jerusalem.  After a very thorough screening process at Ben Gurion airport, we boarded our plane and left at 6:30 am to fly to Munich.  Again, the screening process was quite extensive and after a three hour layover, we began the 9:55 long (and I mean long) trip to Denver.

The crew on the plane kept us well fed and watered but that part of the trip was tough - coming and going.  It is very difficult to sleep on a plane.  The seats are not comfortable, leg room has disappeared on most planes, and woe be to you should you have someone who wants to recline their seat.  You feel trapped! The only good thing was that we had unlimited movies available and I think most of our group took advantage of the benefit. I watched the Churchill movie,"Darkest Hour" and found it riveting.

We bemoaned the five hour layover in Denver but it turned out to be a blessing. By the time we got through security, customs, picked up our bags, rechecked our bags and went through security again, it took just over two hours.  I just kept reminding myself that if all of this was necessary to catch someone intent on doing harm on an airplane, it was worth it.

Our plane touched down in Phoenix at 8 am last night.  Some of us did not sleep on the plane; we estimated that we'd been awake nearly 25 hours.  By the time we got home, both Sherri and I were exhausted and she was ill; some of our travelers shared a bug during the trip but it seems that Sherri got the worst of it and she hasn't felt any better today.  Praying for a good night's sleep and a better day tomorrow for her.

Obviously, we have many stories and pictures to share.  I hope to do so in the days ahead.  Needless to say, it was the trip of a lifetime; I'm sure I'll never travel to another place that was as important as the Holy Land.  I walked where Jesus walked. I touched parts of buildings where Jesus had been present.  I stuck my feet in the same water that Jesus calmed and invited Peter to come to Him. 

I pray that I never forget any of it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Turning out the light for now

Well, this will be my last post for the next couple of weeks. Today, we're taking care of last minute details, packing our bags and checking them twice, and feeling the anticipation growing as we look forward to visiting the Holy Land.

When I return I hope to share some fantastic insights and relate as to how God used the trip to bless me and all of our travelers.  Keep us in your prayers.  And God be with you all!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Go slow!

I've been thinking a lot about our upcoming trip.  And I resolved to try and do something during these upcoming 10 days.  Go slow.

We're going to see much of the Holy Land during our time there.  Our tour company will keep us busy all day, every day.  And that's a good thing.

But I don't want to rush.  I want to go slow when we get to Nazareth.  I want to savor the view from the Mount of the Beatitudes.  I want to take in Capernaum, touch the stones that heard the voice of Jesus teach with authority.  I want to cherish every moment on the Sea of Galilee as I feel the spray of the water touch my face.  I want to stand quietly and reflect on the tug of war that took place between the Father and the Son in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I want to take as much time as possible in giving thanks to my Savior while standing at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the most important place on earth!

Realistically, I'll have to travel at the same pace as our group and guide.  But I'm guessing that this is a once in a lifetime trip.  And I want to make every moment count as I spend 10 days in Jesus' earthly backyard.

Lord, help me to go slow.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Four more sleeps!

My grandson, Drew, has an interesting way to do a countdown.  Whether it's going on a trip or celebrating a birthday, he counts down the days by the number of times he'll go to sleep before the big event or trip happens.  He and his family came out to visit us at Easter.  Nearly every day we would talk on the phone and he would say, "Papa, Nana, only 9 more sleeps...6 more sleeps...3 more sleeps..."  You get the picture.

Me and my dear, sweet wife have only four more sleeps before we board a plane with 33 of our closest friends and travel to the Holy Land.  We still have so much to do and so little time to do it in.  I've been spending this afternoon writing devotions for our evening gatherings after dinner.  I am trying to develop a theme for each day and then to offer a devotion and a prayer starter for the group.  I'm excited about making this trip.  In fact, maybe too excited, too emotional.

I've been looking at pictures from the tour company's website and I find myself tearing up.  What will it be like to visit Nazareth? To see the temple and Peter's home in Capernaum? To baptize some of our group in the Jordan River? To stand in the Garden of Gethsemane.  To visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place where it is believed that Jesus was buried and then rose again on the third day?

I have the sense that it just might be too overwhelming.  To walk in the places where my Lord and Savior walked.  To be in the very locations where Jesus taught and performed miracles and, more importantly, redeemed me from sin and hell.  To be among the trees that surrounded Jesus as He prayed, "Father, if it is Your will, let this cup be taken from me.  Yet, not as I will but as You will."

So much left to do.  But, oh, the blessings that are going to come!

Would you pray for me and for our group? Please pray for safe travel and protection.  Pray that our group would travel well together, be patient and support one another.  Pray that God will be at work in our hearts, strengthening faith so that we grow ever closer to the Lord who loves us so much He gave His Son to be our Savior - my Savior - from sin and death and the devil.  Your prayers are greatly welcomed!