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."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A soggy invitation

To come and join us this weekend for worship.  Saturday at 5 pm or Sunday at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.

A little rain won't hurt you.  So, come!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The joy of being let off the hook

Charlie Brown comes running up to Linus, shouting hysterically, "I FOUND IT! I FOUND MY LIBRARY BOOK! I LOOKED IN THE REFRIGERATOR AND THERE IT WAS! I FOUND IT!"

Linus replies, "That's great, Charlie Brown."


As Linus walks on he observes, "In all the world there is nothing more inspiring than the sight of someone who has just been taken off the hook!"

This humorous cartoon left me wondering, "When was the last time I celebrated being left off the hook?"

My sins separated me from God.  But that separation didn't last forever.  Jesus came into this world to fulfill His Father's mission.  The perfect Jesus took the sins from the imperfect me and paid for them with His sacrificial death.  His glorious resurrection makes me certain that the Father accepted Jesus' payment. Now, through the gift of faith, I receive God's Word of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life.

So go crazy today! Through faith in Jesus you've been taken off the hook! That's reason enough to celebrate, right?

Just watch how loudly you celebrate.  You don't want to scare your spouse, kids, cat or dog.  You don't want them to think you're nuts!

Have a joy-filled day in Jesus!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

God knows what he is doing

When God wants to drill a man and thrill a man and skill a man
 When God wants to mold a man, to play the noblest part
When He yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man
 That all the world should be amazed
Watch His methods, watch His ways
 How He ruthlessly perfects what He royally elects
How He hammers him and hurts him
 And with mighty blows converts him into shapes and forms of clay
Which only God can understand
 While man's tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands
Yet God bends but never breaks when man's good He undertakes
 How He uses whom He chooses
And with mighty power infuses Him
 With every act induced him to try His splendor out
God knows what He's about


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Mercy Seat

Scripture teaches us that God has set up two seats. One is the judgment seat for those who are proud and don't acknowledge or want to confess their sins. The other is the mercy seat for the poor, timid consciences who feel their sins and confess them, who despair of His judgment and who hope to find 
God's kindness.

In Romans 3:25, Paul says this mercy seat is Christ. God has given this seat to us as a place where we can find refuge because we cannot withstand God's judgment on our own. I want to find my refuge there too, for I have done and am still doing too little. I keep singing against God's law even after my justification and sanctification. My heart and conscience, no matter how pure they might appear to others, will count for nothing there. But they will be covered with a vaulted ceiling called mercy and forgiveness of sins.  It will serve as a strong protection and defense for me.  My heart and conscience will crawl under it and be safe. 

...Therefore, God Himself has established this mercy seat. He is the One who directs us away from the judgment seat and towards the mercy seat.

"Faith Alone," Martin Luther, October 9

Is it worth it to wait?

The world may say waiting is a waste, but God uses waiting to grow hope.

Michael W. Newman, "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," page 135

Eric Metaxas on Marriage

Eric Metaxas is a best selling author and broadcaster.  His biographies on Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were extensively researched and masterfully written.  In the August 4 edition of "World Magazine" Mataxas was interviewed on the subject of compassion.  Metaxas does a nice job of differentiating the way conservatives and liberals define and practice compassion.

Metaxas was then asked the following question: Does delayed marriage make us less compassionate?

I can say that living in New York City, where everyone tends to get married late if they get married at all, you start seeing the sadness.  Many people say, "If I had to do it all over, I wish I had got married. I bought the lie that the culture was selling in every magazine and every TV program: 'No, I shouldn't get married and have kids. That's just some kind of enslavement. I want to be free'." It rarely works out that way. As a culture we're just beginning to see the downside of what's been called freedom.

Anytime we look for freedom outside of Christ Jesus, we are bound to become enslaved.  Jesus said, "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." Jesus has set us free from sin, free from guilt, free from anxiety and worry, free from wondering about the future. We are free to offer compassion to others, not because the culture or a political party says its the right thing to do. We offer compassion because it was first extended to us through the love of Jesus who gave His life so that we might have life.

Have a blessed day today. May God give you the opportunity to show the compassion of Jesus to someone who needs to know love and help without strings attached.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey

I've just started reading William Weedon's book, "Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey."  The title is taken from Luther's explanation to the First Article of the Apostles' Creed.  Weedon's focus is how practicing piety, the development of Godly habits, gives a believer freedom to joyfully live in Christ Jesus.

While going through the introduction, I was pleased to read what Weedon wrote about Luther's Small Catechism:
I am convinced that Luther's little handbook has been grossly misused among us.  We have isolated it from life, attempted to extract doctrine from it, and then teach that doctrine as mere information.  We have ignored the vital context the book explicitly describes over and over again.  The Small Catechism was not written for and was never meant to live in a classroom! Confining it there results in its true genius being ignored, or worse, subverted.  The heading of each of the Chief Parts that Luther wrote teach us where the catechism lives, "As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household."

I love to hunt for books at Goodwill or Savers (yes, I'm cheap!).  Nothing bothers me more than to find a Small Catechism sitting along side hundreds of other books.  How we need to teach young and older adults that a Catechism is not a textbook but a lifebook! The latest version from Concordia Publishing House is filled with additional helps and addresses many issues of today, such as life and sexuality issues.  And as an additional benefit, the Catechism helps to show that what our church believes and teaches is based solely on God's Word.

So, you might want to order a copy of Weedon's new book.  And make sure your Catechism is always handy.  It's not a matter of when you need it.  You will need it and appreciate its value as a help to live out your new life in Christ!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A fresh weekend...a fresh sermon

We continue our sermon series, "Unshakable Hope" this Sunday.  I'll be speaking on 1 Peter 5:5 - "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  In the sermon I'll get to talk a little bit about a dear friend of mine, Jim Peterson. He and I met when we worked together at a local radio station. Some people you never forget.  For me, Jim was one of those guys.

Worship today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am. Classes for all ages at 9:30 am. Come and join us this weekend!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

To whom can you give cooties, er, kudos this week?

            As I remember it, some girls in the first grade could make a guy’s life miserable.  I remember walking down the hallway to my classroom when a bunch of girls started yelling, “Ooh, stay away from George.  He’s been bitten with the cooties bug.  He's got cooties! Cooties! And it wasn’t true.  I’ve never been bit by a cooties bug.  Never had cooties.  Trust me!  Still, once you’ve been identified as having cooties, you just know that life will be miserable in first grade for at least the rest of the day!

            As I said before, I’ve never, ever had cooties.  But there is one bug I’d like to be infected with.  That’s the kudos bug.
            Never heard of it?  Let me ask you – have you ever been recognized for a job well done…received praise for going the extra mile in serving another person…singled out for having helped another person when they needed you?  Then you’ve received a kudos.  Somebody lifted you up, built you up and made you feel special.  That’s something I’d like to spread to my family and friends and church family – kudos.

            In fact, according to the apostle Paul, one of the best uses of our time, until the Last Day when our Lord and Savior returns for His church, is to give kudos to each other.  Since we don’t know the day of the Lord, Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

            One kudos contains more power than a jet engine.  Praise a child and you’ll most like see a smile that could light up Las Vegas.  Honor a teenage and self-esteem shoots up higher than Old Faithful.  Recognize a fellow believer in Christ for selfless service and you’ll fill a heart with peace and joy.

            Some folks are too taken with themselves to be kudos dispensers.  These are the people who like to remind you that the project wouldn’t have gotten done without their superior knowledge or costly sacrifice of time and energy.  Have you ever noticed that such people rarely wear hats – it’s too difficult to find a size that will fit their swollen heads!

            Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Knowledge puffs up; love builds up.”  Love builds others up like a strong and mighty wall.  Isn’t that what Jesus does in our lives?  Jesus forgives us as we confess our sins.  Jesus teaches us and we want to do His will.  Jesus feeds us His supper and faith is strengthened.  From a heart overflowing with love, Jesus builds us up. 

            Who do you know whose heart overflows with the love of Jesus?  Is it your spouse who gladly puts your needs ahead of everything else?  Is it a friend at church who happily takes on the tasks nobody else wants to deal with?  Is it the neighbor across the street who is eager to help out when you need an extra pair of hands?

            Maybe this is the week to get infected with kudos.  But don’t worry - the cure is easy –you get over kudos by giving them away.  So do it!  Ask Jesus to help you see those people in your life who would be blessed by a word of praise from you.  Pass the cooties, eh, I mean, the kudos bug around this week!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

God always remembers you

God always remembers you. Always. And He is always present, always close. If you can't locate Him in your loss, His comforting presence can be found in His Word. If you can't see Him as you suffer sadness, His promised presence prevails in you through your Baptism. If you feel He is too far away when your heart is broken, He steps into your life over and over again in His Holy Meal, inviting you to "take and eat, take and drink" His body and His blood for your strength and forgiveness.

I appreciate how the author, Michael W. Newman, focuses our attention on those places where we can be sure that God is near to us - Scriptures, Baptism, Lord's Supper.  Where can you find these things for sure? Worship! See why being in church every Sunday is so important? God doesn't forget you but invites you to be about these various means in which He comes to you with to bring peace and love.

Quote from "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," page 128

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Baptism - a divine, blessed, fruitful and gracious water

Here you see again how highly and preciously we should value Baptism, because in it we receive such an unspeakable treasure. This also proves that it cannot be ordinary, mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing. But the Word does it and, as I said above, so does the fact that God's name is included in Baptism. Where God's name is, there must also be life and salvation (Psalm 54:1). So Baptism may certainly be called a divine, blessed, fruitful and gracious water. Such power is given to Baptism by the Word that it is a washing of new birth, as St. Paul also calls it in Titus 3:5.

Martin Luther, from the Large Catechism, page 452 in Concordia ~ The Lutheran Confessions

It's OK to take a break

God values us whether we're busy or not. While He is pleased when we serve Him by sharing His Gospel, or helping people in need, or encouraging or teaching or just being a friend, God doesn't place value on us just by our being busy. He loves us all, no matter how much or little we may do.
But if we are really busy, we need to take time to rest. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Jesus' rest is wonderful. It isn't necessary to be active all the time. We are God's valued and loved people even when we are taking a break. Jesus taught His disciples to take ample rest from their work, especially when busyness becomes a burden. 

What are you busy with these days? Does it accomplish very much? Would you want to show Jesus what you're doing, or would you be embarrassed if He showed up? What kind of burden might you give to Jesus to make your day easier? Do you just need some plain old rest? Then come to Jesus and He'll refresh your soul and body.

Rev. Bob Tasker, taken from an email by Pastor Don Ginkel

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Prayer Appointed for the Week

O God, You declare Your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity. Grant me the fullness of Your grace, that I, running to obtain Your promises, may become a partaker of Your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

From The Divine Hours, page 602

Matt Maher in concert!

I've attended my share of concerts over the years.  But when you have the chance to listen to someone who helps you express the feelings of your heart, it's special.  That's what Matt Maher does for me.

Sherri and I traveled to Gilbert last night to see Matt Maher at the Grove Church.  He did not disappoint.  In fact, it was like attending a greatest hits concert. "Christ Is Risen"..."Because He Lives (Amen)"..."Lord, I Need You"...and on and on. 

Sherri and I got to meet him for a moment prior to the concert.  He couldn't have been nicer to us. I remember when I was once as thin as he is.  That was about 40 years ago!

All the way home Sherri and I talked about how blessed we were by Maher's amazing music. Long after Maher is gone, the church is going to be singing his music - think about that!

And as we turned off the bedroom light, I fell asleep quietly singing, "Your grace is enough, Your grace is enough, Your grace is enough for me..."

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Unshackled Hope from the 5:16

Our sermon series called Unshackled Hope continues this Sunday as we focus on James 5:16 - "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Join us as we explore this promise from the Lord.

This afternoon worship takes place at 5 pm; tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  Join us!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor Is Wild About Books

Keep your eyes open for these important signs...

10) Can't resist the urge to rearrange the bookshelves of every home he visits

9) A plaque on his desk reads, "Kindles are for sissies!"

8) When asked, "How many books do you need?" his answer is, "Just one more"

7) For troubled members he suggests "bibilotherapy"

6) Can't stop laughing after he tells his pest exterminator to spray for "bookworms"

5) One bookshelf in his office is devoted to his prize collection of 113 pairs of bookends

4) Instantly knows when any of his books are out of order; didn't notice that his dog died

3) His office desk is made up entirely of "Luther's Works"

2) Knocked a picture of his wife and a book from a shelf at the same time. Breathed a sigh of relief when he caught the book

And the number one sign your pastor is wild about books...

1) Names his twin sons, "Barnes" and "Noble!"

Thursday, September 27, 2018

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
 On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
 And pour contempt on all my pride

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
 Save in the death of Christ, my God
All the vain things that charm me most
 I sacrifice them to His blood

See, from His head, His hands, His feet
 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet
 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
 That were a tribute far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
 Demands my soul, my life, my all

Don't let people stress you out!

So how do we cope with the unknown future, the fear of how things will turn out, and the fear of how others will think of us? We do it by realizing we have control only over the choices we make in governance of ourselves and therefore focusing our energy on choosing to do what we believe is the healthiest, most reasonable, and most appropriate choice given the information we have at the time in any given situation.

Then - and here are three big keys to reducing stress - we 1) surrender our outcomes to a higher power; 2) evaluate the results and learn from the experience; 3) set other people free to think or feel any way they want about us, accept other's responses as evidence of their character, and make decisions based on the evidence on how we will interact with them in the future.

Timothy R. Jennings, "The Aging Brain," pages 156-157

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Thinking about Abbey Road

It was on this date in 1969 that the Beatles released the last album they recorded together, "Abbey Road," named after the street where the EMI recording studios they used were located. 

I remember getting out of school that day and jumping in my car to head home.  Switching on the radio, I heard, "Coming up next - the new Beatles album. and we'll play it in its entirety." I listened to side one while in the car and when the station took a break to switch to side two, I ran in the house, set up a small tape recorder to listen and tape the second side.

I was thrilled with Abbey Road.  It seemed that every time the Beatles released a new album, they had broken new ground, so to speak.  The musical arrangements, the song writing, the artwork - every album better than the last one.  When I finally bought the album, it didn't leave my turntable for a long time.

Sherri and I have had the opportunity to visit Abbey Road twice - once in 2004 and again in 2011.  Here we are making our way along the famous crosswalk - the same one the Beatles strolled across as the made the cover for the album.  I shed my shoes as did Paul McCartney on the original cover.

Representing Jesus Christ

A room-service waiter at a Marriott hotel learned that the sister of a guest had just died. The waiter, named Charles, bought a sympathy card, had hotel staff members sign it, and gave it to the distraught guest with a slice of hot apple pie.

The guest later wrote a letter to the president of the Marriott Hotels. It said, in part, "Mr. Marriott, I'll never meet you. And I don't need to meet you. That's because I met Charles. I know what you stand for...I want to assure you that as long as I live, I will stay at your hotels. And I will tell my friends to stay at your hotels."

I'm not sure where I read this story - I think it came from "Leadership" magazine.  No matter. What's important is this - because of the compassion of a lowly waiter, the Marriott Hotel chain now has a customer for life!

There's a message in this story for each of us. Just as Charles the waiter was a representative of Mr. Marriott, so are believers in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul calls us "Christ's ambassadors," (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). Every day the Lord gives us abundant opportunities to influence lives, to help a hurting soul, to offer a soothing word to a searching man of woman, boy or girl.

And when we share God's Word with someone, the Holy Spirit works faith to believe and trust God for forgiveness and eternal life. Then, another ambassador for Jesus has been placed in the "field."

Maybe a good prayer today goes something like this: "Lord, make me more like Charles, ready to show and share Your love with people today.  Amen."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A collect for the anxious

Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly; and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

From "The Divine Hours - Prayers for Summertime," by Phyllis Tickle

Friday, September 21, 2018

Today's funny - never heard this one before!

      A few minutes before the services started, the townspeople were sitting in their pews and talking. Suddenly, Satan appeared at the front of the church. Everyone started screaming and running for the front entrance, trampling each other in a frantic effort to get away from evil incarnate.
      Soon everyone had exited the church except for one elderly gentleman who sat calmly in his pew without moving, seeming oblivious to the fact that God's ultimate enemy was in his presence. So Satan walked up to the old man and said, "Don't you know who I am?"
      The man replied, "Yep, sure do."
      "Aren't you afraid of me?" Satan asked.
      "Nope, sure ain't," said the man.
      "Don't you realize I can kill you with a word?" asked Satan.
      "Don't doubt it for a minute," returned the old man, in an even tone.
      "Did you know that I could cause you profound, horrifying, physical AGONY... for all eternity?" persisted Satan.
      "Yep," was the calm reply.
      "And you're still not afraid?" asked Satan.
      More than a little perturbed, Satan asked, "Well, why aren't you afraid of me?"
      The man calmly replied, "Been married to your sister for the last 48 years.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

When we pray...

When we pray, we engage with the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  We pray to the Father, we pray together with the Son, and we pray by the power of the Holy Spirit.  What we do when we pray depends entirely on what the Son gives us in His Word and on what the Spirit does with us through our faith in Christ.

John Kleinig, "Grace Upon Grace," page 167

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stacks of Books for Sale!

For the next couple of days our Lutheran Women in Mission ministry will be working to turn our Fellowship Hall into a Book Warehouse!

Each year our LWM hold a big fundraiser.  Monies raised are then used to support outreach ministries in our community and the world.  This year they are selling books.

Apparently, they have thousands of books to display.  Most prices run anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars.  Books will be set up according to catagory so if you love to read fiction, you'll easily find that section.  The same is true for the rest of the books.

Additionally, there will be tons of puzzles, DVD's, and CD's for sale too.  Something for everyone!

If you love to read, this is the event for you.  Bring your reading friends! Bring boxes so you can easily carry out your purchases.  And remember, all the monies raised will be used to support those who are sharing Jesus Christ with the searching and lost.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Coming to the cross of Christ

Every time I come to Jesus' cross it is with a heavy heart and a burden of guilt weighing me down. I know I have sinned and I know the sentence with which God punishes the sinner. My only hope is to plead for mercy. In an amazing display of love Jesus never turns me away. Nor does He ever tell me I have exceeded my limit for forgiveness. Neither does He demand to see some positive improvements before He can assure me my sins are removed. I come with filthy hands, a blackened heart, and a desperate plea for mercy, and Jesus purifies me from all my sins. It sets my heart soaring to know I can stand before Him deserving only judgment but receiving only mercy.

From WELS Mobile, Daily Devotional, September 16, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

I'm going to see Paul McCartney!

Ok, in my last post I mentioned that occasionally I would talk about personal stuff.

Today is that day. I'm going to see Paul McCartney!  Yeah, yeah, yeah!!

Late last week, one of my friends at church, Diana Strahl, sent me a text saying that advanced tickets for a Paul McCartney concert were going on sale Monday morning, Sept. 17.

What concert? I hadn't read or heard of McCartney coming to Phoenix.  It was all news to me, the guy who trolls the internet looking for any McCartney or Beatles news.  I must be slipping.

Then, last Saturday, I see the ad for the concert in the local paper.  I begin trying to figure out how we could get tickets.  They needed to be purchased online and they needed to be purchased fast because this concert is going to sell out fast.  Sherri sat quietly listening to me going on and on about my dilemma. Little did I know...

Yesterday, we celebrated two birthdays - mine and my grandson, Ethan. As we opened presents, a tie box lay before me. A tie? But when I opened the box I found not a tie but a poem.  It read like this:

To my dear, sweet husband:
 To make a baby it takes nine months long
But who would wait such a time to hear a song?
 We know you would travel afar to listen to your fave
And even though he's quite old, millions still rave
 We wonder will this be the last stage call
Of the magical mystery tour of Sir Paul
 I hope these tickets speak to your love language of gifts
And the long wait doesn't cause you to be miffed
 There is lots of time for the anticipation to build
May my prayers for a year of joy and excitement be fulfilled

Then I look at the second sheet and there they are - the tickets! Paul McCartney - The Freshen Up Tour, Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at 8 pm.  Wow, oh, wow!

The next question - "how did you get the tickets when they don't go on sale until tomorrow?"

Sherri explained that another of our friends at church, Connie Baker, told her that there was a pre-sale for holders of a certain credit card before Monday.  So, my dear, sweet wife went online and snagged two of the tickets.

In my sermon yesterday, I talked about all the waiting we seem to do each day.  Now, my waiting skills will be put to the test.  Obviously, I'd like to see Sir Paul tomorrow.

Since that won't happen, I'll have to do the next best thing - listen to his new music project!
His first number one album in over 30 years!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Cross Thoughts

I've been at this blog for seven years.  It seemed like it was more than ready for a name.

So, welcome to Cross Thoughts!

When I began to think about what I really want this blog to be about, my first thought was pretty obvious - Jesus.

Jesus...the Way and the Truth and the Life.  Jesus...the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.  Jesus...the Vine who, through faith, enables believers to bear much fruit.

Jesus, the One who was crucified...nailed to a cross...raised from the dead...for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

From time to time I'll post some personal stuff.  It's hard not to write about your kids and grand kids. And personal interests like reading, music and sports will pop up on occasion.

But mostly what you'll find on this blog is stuff about Jesus.  All designed to encourage you in your new life in Christ.  God has given you life.  Those who believe have a blessed inheritance that will be received in full in heaven.

But life can also be hard. Lose a job and suffer both embarrassment and a missing paycheck. Lose a loved one and suffer grief and upheaval. Lose a relationship and suffer pain and hurt.

Where can we find encouragement and hope and the will to keep on going in these times of loss?

Jesus...the Cross...His Word...Your Baptism...His Holy Supper.

God uses these means to help and encourage us. My task is to point us to these grace-filled gifts with every entry.

So, again, welcome to Cross Thoughts!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I'd Rather Be Reading

Anne Bogel gets me. She gets the person who would rather read than eat. Who doesn't know the meaning of "just one more chapter." When asked, "How many books do you need," answers, "Just one more."

Bogel not only loves to read; she knows how to write as well. In her new book, "I'd Rather Be Reading" she offers 21 short chapters on topics readers often fuss over - the struggle of recommending a book to a friend...dealing with those books on the shelves not yet read...what to do when exhausting all book shelf space...not being afraid of going back to a book that you couldn't find much reason for reading the first time.

Having trouble arranging your book shelves? Bogel has some tips. Never read the acknowledgements section in a book? Bogel says it's worth the time. Never heard the term 'bibliotherapy?" Check it out on page 60.

I don't seem to find too many friends who enjoy reading the way I do. That's why I like Anne Bogel so much. She gets me. And I was glad to get and read "I'd Rather Be Reading."

Book provided for review by Baker Books

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remembering September 11, 2001

On August 30, my dear, sweet wife and I. along with our friends, Dan and Janelle, visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.  It was an awe inspiring visit.  This is a reflection of the new World Trade Center #1 standing tall and proud.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Putting life into God's hands

I thank You, Lord Jesus, for showing me that this life is not a struggle for survival, as if I have to constantly keep an eye on the little I have or watch out for others.  Instead, You give me that right and privilege to serve, and every day You give me new possibilities to bring joy to someone else. To wander down Your path and serve for Your sake is a greater fortune than all I could scrape together by toiling, struggling and stressing if I took my life in my own hands. Instead, I put my life into Your hands and I thank You for that.  Amen.

Bo Giertz, "To Life With Christ," page 589

Unshakable Hope

This weekend we begin a new sermon/Bible study series, "Unshakable Hope." Is your hope meter dangling close to the "E?" Do you need to be reminded of where hope can be available for you? Join us at: 

  Saturday - 5pm

  Sunday - 8, 9:30 & 11 am

God's best to you this weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Reading Goal Achieved!

Every year I set out to read 24 books.  Two books a month.  Two weeks per book. Sounds easy enough, right?

While on vacation the last couple of weeks I read Thom Rainer's little book, "I Will," which offers tips and encouragement on how a person can be a faithful servant in the church.  When I added that title to the list - viola! That was number 24!

Given that I'm a clergy person, one might expect that all my reading would be of the religious variety. Such titles are on the list.  I've been blessed to read two great biographies from Eric Metaxas - "Martin Luther," and "Bonhoeffer." Dan Paavola's unique presentation on the Lord's Prayer - "Our Way Home" - has greatly enriched my prayer life and DA Carson's "The Farewell Discourse and the Final Prayer of Jesus" shed new light on those last minutes Jesus spent with the apostles according to the Gospel writer, John.

But I've read some good fiction too.  I've become a fan of Diana Galbadon's "Outlander" series of books. She knows how to write a captivating yarn. And I had fun reading "Belgravia," from Julian Fellows, the creator and writer of the "Downton Abbey" television series.

So, here we are in early September.  I wonder how many more books I can read before the end of the year?  I learned about author Daniel Silva, from of all things, a Costco magazine.  He writes thrillers and I'm already hooked on his book, "The English Girl."  And I review books for Baker Books on my blog so I'm sure they will have some titles coming out in the fall that I will want to read.

As I'm sure you can understand, ministry is stressful.  Over the years I've discovered that setting down with a good book enables me to relax and put the concerns of ministry on the back burner, so to speak.  I've got a full day and evening ahead of me.  But if I get home early enough tonight, I'll have but one thought - "Where's that book!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Giertz on love

In 2009 a couple from our church gave me a copy of a devotional book by Bo Giertz.  I decided to turn back to it this summer and have once again been blessed by his wonderful way of pointing the reader to see, perhaps anew, the lovely Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Here are a few entries from my journey that encouraged me.  Maybe they'll do the same for you.

That's what God's love is. It loves sinners like us, who are hopelessly separated from this divine love. (page 545)

God shows us exactly the thing God's love wants to give us when He sacrificed the dearest thing He had. (page 546)

(Jesus) became one with us when He took our sins upon Himself. His love drowned our sins. (page 547)

Monday, September 3, 2018

God does work all things for our good

My weakness, that is, my quadriplegia, is my greatest asset because it forces me into the arms of Christ every single morning when I get up.  Joni Eareckson Tara, quoted in “Sing,” page 45

My depression, which I hate, forces me to rely and trust Jesus because often it’s often the only thing I can do.

How about you? Is there something painful in your life that could be to your advantage if you would throw yourself in the arms of Christ?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

More than just music

Worship isn’t primarily about music, techniques, songs or methodology. It’s about our hearts. It’s about what and who we love more than anything.

Bob Kaitlin, quoted in “Sing,” by Keith&Kristyn Getty

So worship at Life in Christ. — 8, 9:30,11am,

Friday, August 31, 2018

It’s more than closing the back door

Someone who is in a small group in the church is five times more likely to remain active in the church than someone who is only attending worship services.

Think of the implications of this statistic. That person in a small group is five times more likely to be in ministry. Five times more likely to share their faith. Five times more likely to have a deeper knowledge of the Bible. Five times more likely to hear the gospel.

So the issue is not simply about closing the back door. It’s about believers having a closer walk with Christ. It’s about churches becoming healthier as a group.

From “I Will — Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian” by Thom Rainer, page 43

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Think, Learn, Succeed

"Are you succeeding or just surviving?" All of us want our lives to count for something.  We want to feel as though we've lived up to our full potential. And yet there are times when it seems that the best we can do is just get through another day.

Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her new book, "Think, Learn, Succeed," believes that we can leave the "same old-same old" life behind by understanding how the mind works.  In doing so, Leaf writes, a person can "redefine your past, reimagine your present, and realize your future."

If you are adverse to change, you should probably not read this book.  Because Dr. Leaf will challenge readers to do just that - change your mindset.  She takes on established thinking and, in many cases, turns it upside down.  And if you've ever felt that you're not as gifted or as intelligent than others, Dr. Leaf offers hope and encouragement.  She makes it clear throughout the book - you can learn to learn.

Ready to change your mindset? Read this book.

I had a black dog, his name was depression

Luther’s Morning Prayer

I thank You, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Your holy angels be with me, that the evil foe have no power over me. Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Just Plain Exhausted

I'm tired Lord

just plain exhausted

But now let me not
just dwell on my weariness
but on Your strength
Direct me to
Your Holy Word
O You who were
wearied for our sakes
even to the cross
Let me find my refuge
in You
Send Your holy angels
to minister to me
and bear me up
Refresh renew and strengthen me
Give me the peace
the world cannot give
Restore to me
the joy of Your salvation
You have promised
You will come
Abide with me then 
till I find my final rest
in You

Donald Deffner, "Prayers For People Under Pressure," page 88

Friday, August 24, 2018

What to do when you can't get out of bed

As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, these words brought comfort and reassurance.

If you feel like you like you can't get out of bed, take a deep breath and let God know.  Admit your heartbreak. Confess your sadness. Pour out your heart to God. Lie in the darkness and ask Him for help. Embrace your dark night of the soul. Let Jesus know that He'd better do something because you can't do anything.  Lean hard into God's arms; when you do, you will be embraced by grace.

Take life one heartbeat at a time. Let each step be enough. Lean on a trusted friend or a compassionate counselor who can share the burdens of your heart and soul. Ask God to open doors of help and restoration. Patiently watch and wait.

Then, don't fret about the future. Resist thinking about tomorrow. Fight the urge to fast-forward to what your life may be like in the long haul. Press pause on worrying about how or if your feelings of woe will be fixed. There's a better way. When you can't get out of bed, fall into the care of the One who knows how to bring you through the worst wilderness. You may not get over it, but God will get you through it.

Michael W. Newman, "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," page 112, published by Concordia Publishing House

Thursday, August 23, 2018

How do you pray?

Jeremiah stood before God to pray for his people (Jer. 18:20)

  Peter knelt to pray (Acts 9:40)

Nehemiah sat down when he prayed (Neh. 1:4)

  Abraham prostrated himself while praying (Gen. 17:3)

Ezekiel prayed in a loud voice (Ezek. 11:13)

  Hannah prayed silently to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:13)

Paul prayed and sang in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:15)

  David prayed in the morning (Psalm 5:3)

Isaac prayed out in his field in the evening (Gen. 24:63)

  Daniel prayed in his house three times a day (Dan. 6:10)

Anna prayed night and day in the temple (Luke 2:37)

What does all this prove?

  There are lots of ways to pray.


Unshakable Hope

           I am known in some circles as a “second-career” pastor.  In my first life, I spent 17 years in radio broadcasting.  I began as a weekend announcer and worked my way up the ranks.  As I progressed I became the general manager of a radio broadcast group.  It took me from behind the microphone and put me in charge of programming, administration and sales.  And as general manager, I was the trouble-shooter.  If one of our stations had something unusual come up, I was the guy who got the call.

            That why I wasn’t too concerned when one of our managers called my office one day to say, “George, I hope you’re setting down.  We have a problem at the station.”  With confidence in my voice, I calmly asked, “What’s going on?”  The manager answered, “One of our radio towers just came down.”

            I sat down.

            I prided myself on being able to handle any situation, to keep my cool while everyone else was braking out in a cold sweat.  But this was one problem that couldn’t be solved with a phone call or a brief trip.  Losing a radio tower meant a loss of power and coverage and, more importantly, a loss of needed revenues.

            For a brief moment the situation seemed hopeless.  And I felt sick.

            That’s how it is when we live without hope.  Confidence in the future disappears.  Faith in dealing with present circumstances vanishes.  Our expectations crumble just like a damaged radio tower.

            After you finish reading this, why don’t you take a little inventory…of your life.  An honest look might reveal some area of your life that needs to be changed.  Maybe a bad temper needs to be curbed.  Or some lustful thoughts need to be extinguished.  Or harsh words need to be swallowed.

            You say, “I’ve tried to change but it’s hopeless.”  Maybe you should set down.  Or better yet, drop to your knees and ask the God of hope to be at work in your heart today and this week.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit you are God’s new creation.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”  God began this process in your life at your baptism.  Titus 3:5 tells us, “(God) saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  And God continues this work through His Gospel of grace as you hear, read and meditate on His Holy Word.  The Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 

            Beginning September 9, Life in Christ will offer a sermon/Bible study series called, “Unshakable Hope,” based on the new book by Max Lucado.  During his many years of ministry, Lucado has discovered that nothing brings more hope to a hurting or confused or lost person like the promises that God makes in the Scriptures.  Hope can be restored when life feels hopeless.  It happens when the Holy Spirit, working through that Word, gives the needed assurance that nothing can separate any of us from God’s love.

            I hope (there’s that word again!) that you will join us starting on September 9th.  All of us can use a little hope, right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What happens when you throw yourself in Jesus' arms?

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian, who hid Jews in her home during World War II and was eventually arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis, recognized (God's) love. Two decades after her release she gave hundreds of devotional messages via radio in the Netherlands. In one of them she says,"When you throw an empty bottle in an ocean, it will immediately fill with with water and be surrounded by ocean water. If you throw yourself in Jesus' arms in complete surrender, you will be filled and surrounded by an ocean of God's love."

From, "Craving Connection," page 91

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Planning Small Groups With Purpose

How do you creates a small church feel when your church has thousands of members?

Steve Gladen can tell you how.

His new book, "Planning Small Groups With Purpose," has the subtitle, "A Field Tested Guide To Design and Grow Your Ministry."  Gladden has been the pastor of the small group ministry at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church for 20 years.  For churches with struggling small groups or wanting to begin such a ministry, Gladden's book is a useful tool.

This book lives up to its name - it is a planning guide for developing a small group ministry. It was created so that small groups fit a congregation's particular makeup and purpose instead of simply copying what Saddleback did.  The book is best suited for use by a ministry team but it can't be implemented in a session or two.  But, given the time and attention, "Planning Small Groups With Purpose," is a helpful guide for planting small groups in any church. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

Here's a little tidbit from Bo Giertz...

Who is my neighbor? Someone I can reach with my service. I become his neighbor.  Just like the Samaritan, of whom Jesus said: Go and do likewise.

From "To Live With Christ," page 595

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Encourage Your Pastor (by the Babylon Bee)

The Babylon Bee is a fantastic satirical presence on the web.  They never fail to bust my gut.  But now they're stealing my Top Ten List idea! I'm mean, who are these people to take my original idea and use it for their own good! (Oh, wait a minute.  I stole the idea from the Letterman show. Oops!). Anyway, here's their list (and remember - it's satire!)

10) Just tell him he's worthless

9) Conk out in the front row

8) Belittle his wife

7) Make sure he knows he's not John Piper (or whoever the big shot is in your church body)

6) Write him an anonymous critical letter

5) Drop the F-bomb

4) Make sure he knows you would be volunteering more if literally everything else weren't more important to you.

3) Call his sermon a "speech"

2) Quietly change churches without letting anyone know

1) Ask him what book of the Bible the church has been studying for the last three years.

For the full content of this list, go on the internet and google "Babylon Bee."  Then, be prepared to laugh!

Another weekend, another opportunity to worship

Hi gang! We've almost survived another week of heat and humidity.  Although it seems hard to fathom right now, this too shall pass. However, do not pass on the opportunity to worship your generous God this weekend.

If you don't have a church home, try ours! Here's the worship schedule for this weekend at LICL:

Saturday @ 5 pm

Sunday @ 8, 9:30 & 11 am

We also have a Fellowship event this Sunday - A potato bar with all the fixins with ice creme sundaes.  There will be games and other activities taking place as well. And, we keep the Fellowship Hall cool! So, come and join us!

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Top 10 Signs You're At A Bad Church Council Meeting

I've been very blessed at Life in Christ with outstanding lay leadership.  Other pastors haven't been as fortunate.  You know the council meeting isn't going well when:

10) All financial decisions are decided by rock, paper, scissors

9) The council president has a conniption when the secretary tells him she doesn't have the minutes because "her dog ate them"

8) One member makes a motion to punch another member in the mouth. Motion carried.

7) The meeting doesn't begin with prayer but with a loyalty oath to the council president

6) A call comes in from the IRS that your treasurer won't be attending the meeting

5) The member at large responds to every proposal with "we've never done it that way before!"

4) The gavel of leadership is passed down from Homer Johnson to Homer Johnson Jr.

3) The congregational president goes after the pastor on his Twitter account

2) The council votes to move their meetings to Chili's because of their quiet meeting room and Tuesday half-price chicken wings

And the number one sign you're at a bad church council meeting?

1) The "minutes" are called "hours"

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit

This time three years ago, my dear, sweet wife and I traveled to St. Louis to attend a training seminar at the headquarters of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.  While we were there some in our group had a chance to see the Synodical President's Office. 

I thought I had died and gone to heaven! President Matthew Harrison's office was full of books, books, books, crosses, and mementos collected from his many travels. The crucifix above hung on the wall behind his desk. I was so busy taking pictures I didn't hear how Harrison came to own this cross.  But as you can see, it was captivating and beautiful. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The uniquness of God's love

God loves you just the way you are. If you think His love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don't confuse God's love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes.  Not so with God's love. He loves you right where you are.

Max Lucado

A prayer for 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 to selfish purposes. Forgive me when I fail.

Help me to remember that You are still Lord when I feel discouraged and useless when I am tense and angry. Help me to remember 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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Thoughts on love

That's what God's love is. It loves sinners like us, who are hopelessly separated from this Divine love.

God shows exactly the thing God's love wants to give us when He sacrificed the dearest thing He had.

From "To Live With Christ." pages 545-46

Monday, August 13, 2018

High Impact Teams

One of the biggest challenges in the church is creating and developing ministry teams that work together. It's hard work to bring a group of people together to pursue agreed to goals and objectives.

Lance Witt is referred to as a pastor's pastor.  He understands the challenges that pastors, leaders and their teams face.  His new book, "High Impact Teams," is a welcomed and needed reference tool that will benefit any ministry team.

Witt is very candid about describing the mistakes he made while in ministry.  Most importantly, he learned from those mistakes and one of the goals of "High Impact Teams" is helping ministry leaders and teams avoid those mistakes.

The book covers a gamut of subjects, from how leaders define what success should look like to how to have a difficult conversation resulting in a win-win for both individuals.  Although any pastor or ministry leader would find reading the book helpful, Witt has designed the book for use in a group or team setting with discussion questions following each chapter.

I found the book highly accessible and easy to read. I particularly like reading books by those who write from experience.  That is just one of the reasons to read "High Impact Teams."

Have an enemy? Here's a comforting thought

It is not that with God we have no enemies, but that along with our enemies we have God.

Dan Paavola, "Our Way Home," page 149

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Short and sweet

Worship with us this weekend at Life in Christ.

Today at 5 pm.

Tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.

That is all!


Friday, August 10, 2018

Top Nine Ways Churches Drive Away First-time Guests

Unfriendly church members

Unsafe and unclean children's areas

No place to get information

Bad church websites

Poor signage

Insider church language

Boring or bad service

Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew

Dirty facilities

The list was taken from Thom Rainer's book, "I Will."  The focus of the book is on encouraging church members to think less about what they want from the church and, instead, consider what they can give to the church.  Rainer, however, also provides some thoughts on what a church needs to do to encourage first time guests to make a second visit.  Reviewing the list, it seems like church leaders shouldn't even need to be told that a messy or unkept children's classes or play areas are a huge turnoff for parents.  Making people move from "your" seat is just plain rude. I wonder what kind of a difference it would make for more churches if they took this list seriously?

One answer - maybe more people would hear about the love of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The grass isn't always greener on the other side

Ever asked God, "What is Your plan for me? Where do You want me to serve You?"

Sometimes we can get very frustrated doing what we're doing.  We're certain that real satisfaction lies with the next job or next opportunity.  Well, there is no harm in exploring future options.

But while you check out other things also realize that God has you where you are right now for a reason. Sometimes, when we focus all our efforts in doing the best where we are at, we begin to discover the fulfillment we'd been seeking all along.

I like the comments below from Pastor Colin Smith. 

"Focus your best effort on what God has given you to do right now. It’s easy to waste your life, always looking at the next thing, but the best place to flourish is where God has set you down. Whatever God has given you to do, do it with all your heart! My pastor used to say, 'Colin, there are no perfect places. The best place to flourish is where God has set you now'."

Smith's comments really resonated with me because I've fallen into the trap of thinking that "the grass is greener on the other side." And sometimes that really is true.  But often that new job or opportunity doesn't work out the way we hoped it would. We didn't get what we were looking for. Peace and satisfaction are not found in a new job, relationship or hobby.  What we're looking for can be found only in Jesus Christ.  

This is why the apostle Paul writes in Colossians, chapter three: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly...and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Come Back Effect

How does the saying go? "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."  Wise words the church needs to embrace!  You can have the best band or organist.  You can have an inspiring speaker. You can have the nicest facility.  But if your church lacks hospitality, first time visitors might not make a second appearance.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  Jason Young & Jonathan Malm have written a new book, "The Come Back Effect," that every pastor and church leader needs to read.  Implementing their suggestions could make the difference for your church as it reaches people with the good news of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and the certainty of eternal life.

According to Young and Malm, having hospitality greeters is not a church program.  It's a culture - a culture of hospitality - that must be introduced and cultivated.  A spirit of hospitality is something that is felt by first time guests. 

Another important point stressed in the book is that hospitality is "valued from the top down." It's an important guiding principle stressed by the pastor; it's a ministry that is equipped with resources from church leadership; it's having team leaders valuing the volunteers who make or break the culture of hospitality in a church.

If your church has lots of first time "tire kickers," who never show up again, "The Come Back Effect" is the book your leadership needs to read  - today!

Book provided for review by Baker Books.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Wise words from Yogi Berra

If you're a person of my generation, you can't help but remember the New York Yankees.  In the 60's they were described as the Bronx Bombers and the middle of their lineup featured Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  The Yankees were fixtures in the World Series.  You either loved or hated them.

However, nearly everyone loved their catcher, Yogi Berra.  He was a great hitter and very good behind the plate.  But it was what Yogi said when his catcher's mask came off that made him endearing.

Yogi was once asked by a teammate, "What time is it?"  Yogi answered, "Right now?" You gotta love it.  Anyway, here are Yogi's wise words for the day:

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

I think Yogi would agree that you should also go to church this weekend.  Why not Life in Christ? Worship today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  You'll hear more wise words.  Just not from Yogi.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Top Ten Things The Pastor Is Doing When He Steps Out Of A Service

Ever wonder what the pastor is doing when he steps away from the service for a moment? Probably one of these things:

10) Looking for the service bulletin he forgot

9) Taking a call from his Fantasy Football League Commissioner

8) Trying to find the Tall, Non-Fat Latte with Carmel Drizzle that he left in the Narthex

7) Grabbing a quick donut from the kitchen

6) Praying that the organist will kick it up a notch

5) Going to the cry cry

4) To wake up the people at the sound board

3) Perform CPR...on his sermon

2) Practicing his Joel Osteen inspired smile

And the number one thing the pastor is doing when he steps out of a service:

1) Going to pay for his Uber Eats delivery of his Scrambled Egg McMuffin!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Christian Way

Something to think about today...

The Christian way is different; harder and easier.  Christ says, "give me all.  I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you... no half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down...Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit.  I will give you a new self instead. I will give you Myself; my own will shall become yours."

CS Lewis from "The Joyful Christian"

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First pray, then tip

            I was listening to a Christian radio program not too long ago when the speaker said something that was totally unexpected.  “Christians,” the pastor said, “we’ve got to get our act together about tipping.  When you eat out at a restaurant, don’t leave a Christian tract as a tip.  Most servers work hard and aren’t paid very much.  It’s the tips they earn that pay their bills.  Do the Christian thing – give those servers a good tip.  Leave the tracts at home.  You’ll give a much better Christian witness if you leave a good sized tip!”

            If my two daughters had been listening with me, I’m sure they would have been singing out, “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”  Both of them worked in restaurants while they were in school and encountered all kinds of folks.  One night I’d hear about a couple who had a simple meal and then left a very generous tip.  Next time, one of the girls would call to say that they served a party of 12 who demanded an extraordinary amount of time and energy and then ended up leaving a $10 dollar tip.  They also received as tips, business cards, coupons and, yes, Christian tracts.  As one of my daughters told me, “Dad, you can’t spend a tract!”

            So let me say, yes, Christians should tip generously for good service.  Leaving a tract instead of a tip probably doesn’t create a very good impression for a hard-working server.  But I also believe that if we Christians want to offer a positive witness for the sake of Jesus Christ, there is something else we can do besides leaving a good tip.  When our food is served, we need to pray.

            Specifically, we need to offer a table prayer before we eat the food served to us.  We ask God to bless our meals at home, don’t we?  Why not in a nice restaurant or our favorite burger joint?  If we’re eating out, it’s because God has blessed us with the means to enjoy a meal away from home.  All the more reason to give thanks to God for His many blessings.  Besides, when you just take a moment to bow your head and offer a word of thanks to God for your food, you identify yourself as a follower of Christ Jesus.

            When our kids were growing up, we taught them this simple prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.  And let these gifts to us be blessed.  Amen.  In Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, he offers a wonderful table prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Psalm 118, verse one provides a good but simple prayer: O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.  And some people have memorized Psalm 145:15-16 as a table prayer: The eyes of all look to You (O Lord), and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

            If you’ve never prayed in public at a restaurant before, it might seem a little awkward at first.  But don’t let that keep you from giving a positive witness of your Christian faith to your server and those around you.  And, if you have children, you’ll be teaching them how to let that little light of their faith in Jesus shine out to others.
            If you don’t have a table prayer, consider one of the prayers I offered a moment ago.  If you or your family have a favorite prayer of blessing, then use it.  You’ll enjoy giving testimony of your faith in Christ Jesus.  Remember: pray first…then tip.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

One memory from an amazing trip!

My dear, sweet wife and me at the Sea of Galilee which visiting Capernaum in April of this year. How many times did Jesus push away from this shore line in a boat after having spent time in His adopted hometown?

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Aging Brain

The sub-title of this book is, "Proven Steps To Prevent Dementia And Sharpen Your Mind." That's the hope-filled message Dr. Timothy Jennings offers in his new book, "The Aging Mind."

The steps are surprising simple! They are, for the most part, the same ones that promote good health - exercise...develop good dietary habits...stop smoking...limit alcohol consumption...get plenty of rest...learn to deal with stress...practice forgiveness and either begin or strengthen your relationship with God.

At times, the medical jargon was way over my head.  But the book primarily offers practical advice and tips to ward off memory loss and enjoy life for as long as you live with a healthy mind.  I highly recommend this book!

Book supplied for review by Baker Books.