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!

Blessings!

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 room...to 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.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A prayer for the church

Our church - Life in Christ - meets this weekend for worship.  Join us today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.

Dear Holy Spirit, we ask You for the fullness of Your gifts. May they pour down over us here in our church. Demolish and remove everything that hinders us from receiving everything that You have to give us. Allow us to see how pitiful our cowardice and pettiness is, and show us Christ in all His glory. Make us small and pour in spirit, and let us live in Your mercy without being pompous. Make us rich in Your own way with the gifts You have waiting for each of us so that we will be useful, joyous, and edifying for Your Church.  

From, "To Live With Christ," page 520, Concordia Publishing House

Friday, July 27, 2018

Do something about this storm!

The passenger jet had hardly taken off before it was being violently tossed around by turbulence.

One passenger was so spooked she grabbed the hand of the person sitting next to her.  When she noticed that he was a pastor, she said, "Reverend, you're a man of God.  Can't you do something about this storm?"

The pastor replied, "I'm sorry but I'm in sales, not management!"

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Praying for Steve Keim and his family too

The new columnist of the local paper's sports page, Kent Somers, offered an interesting perspective on the story of the arrest on July 4th of Arizona Cardinals General Manager, Steve Keim. 

Keim was suspended from his job for five weeks, fined $200,000 and sentenced to two days in jail for DUI.  It was reported that Keim had a blood alcohol content of more than double the legal limit.

During this time away, among other things, Keim is receiving counseling.  As Somers noted in his column, this might be an incident of a person using terrible judgment.  "Or," as Somers writes, "it might be a symptom of struggles elsewhere in his life. Only he and the people closest to him know that."

I'm glad that Keim is receiving help.  I hope his family is as well.

I would imagine they are dealing with embarrassment. How hard is it to face people after Daddy's video of his arrest is all over social media? Their must be anger over his amazing lack of judgment and putting his job and livelihood at risk. I would imagine that there are deep feelings of pain. Why wasn't Keim with his family.  Isn't 4th of July a time for backyard bar-b-q's and fireworks and the like?

I know that anyone can make a mistake. None of us is perfect.  And, as Somers writes, there might be other concerns at work that none of us know about. 

So, we need to pray for Keim.  We need to also pray for his family. 

I pray that Keim's family have a support system.  I pray that there are people who are loving them and holding them up during this difficult time. I don't know if they are people of faith, but I pray that, if possible, they might turn to a pastor or friend who can bring to them the comfort and peace that Jesus talks about in Matthew 11. And I pray that the Lord will use this awful and embarrassing situation to work the good that He can accomplish when things look their absolute worst.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Faith's Best Friend



             It is one of the most familiar and beloved stories in the Gospels.  Jesus is stopped by a group of elders of the church.  They come to Jesus with a heartfelt request.  They ask the Lord to consider healing the servant of a centurion, a Roman soldier, an uncircumcised man.  These Jewish religious leaders point out that the centurion deserves to have this favor granted.  This soldier, in charge of a 100 men, has been a real friend to the Jewish nation and even helped with the construction of the synagogue.  It seems that without any hesitation, Jesus agrees to go and see the centurion’s sick servant.

            They are not far from their destination when the centurion does something that simply is amazing to Jesus.  The centurion has a message for the Lord.  He says, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.  But say the word and my servant will be healed.”

            The Gospel writers make it clear that Jesus is not impressed by power or possessions or prestige.  But the Lord marvels whenever He sees faith at work in the life of a person.  Of the centurion, Jesus says, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  And then Luke concludes the story with these words, “Then the men who had been sent (to Jesus) returned to the house and found the servant well.

            Now surely this is a story of faith.  Only faith in Jesus could say, “But You, Lord, just say the word, just one word from You, and my servant will be healed.”  But I want you to notice something else about this story.  When faith resides, you will also find humility.

            Remember what the Jewish elders said to Jesus: “This man (the centurion) deserves to have you (heal his servant).”  Contrast that attitude with the centurion who said to Jesus, “I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.”  That’s humility talking.

            In fact, you might say that humility is faith’s best friend.  Humility comes to live in those hearts that recognize the damaging effect of sin and the need for the forgiveness and grace that only God can give through Christ.  It was humility that led the apostle Paul to write to young Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

            It was the knowledge of his unrighteous standing before God that led Paul to hold onto Jesus with all his might.  Jesus was Paul’s hope, his only hope through which he might receive peace with God and joy for daily living.  As Paul emptied himself of his pride, his intellect, and his resume of good deeds, the Holy Spirit filled the apostle’s heart with faith and humility and covered Paul with the very righteousness of the Lord.  Our prideful hearts are focused on only one thing – lifting ourselves up before family and friends and even God.  Humility receives all things from God. God gives us forgiveness for Jesus’ sake and sets us on the path of righteous living.  The Lord lifts us up.
            
           Real humility, Godly humility is always a gift of God’s grace to us.  Humility doesn’t think in terms of “what I deserve from God,” but always looks to God in faith and gratefully receives the good and wonderful blessings God offers His faithful children.  May you, too, cling to Jesus in true repentance and faith.  Receive God’s gifts with humility – faith’s best friend.

Monday, July 23, 2018

When God's Ways Make No Sense

You prayed for healing but it didn't come. You prayed for a new job but got the door slammed shut in your face. You prayed for your contract on the new home to be accepted but it was denied. You needed these things to happen.  You trusted God that the healing, new job, new home would happened just as you envisioned.  All these things seemed to make sense for you.  So what do you do when God doesn't respond as you asked.  What do you do when God's ways make no sense?

Dr. Larry Crabb has often asked the same question.  In his new book, "When God's Ways Make No Sense," he explores some of the different ways God's people respond to such disappointment and also offers a way for the believer to keep on believing that God is still there, in their lives, even when it seems that He has left that believer all alone.

His example of the prophet, Habakkuk, as someone who learned to "tremble and trust" offered a new way of thinking about how to respond when God's ways seem not to make any sense to us. I especially appreciated his transparency; it was helpful to me that his struggles in understanding God were ones I, too, have experienced.  Which made it all the more enjoyable to read, "When God's Ways Make No Sense."

Book provided for review by Baker Books

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It's Saturday but Sunday's coming!

Another weekend, another opportunity for worship.  And you can worship throughout the weekend at LICL!

Saturday - 5 pm

Sunday - 8, 9:30, 11 am

Pick a service and join us and have a great weekend!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Did you hear the one about the note the pastor received?

The pastor was 20 minutes in his sermon with no sign of wrapping up any time soon.

While preaching was going on, one of the members remembered that she had left the Sunday dinner in the gas range with the flame on high.

She hastily wrote a note and gave it to her husband, who was an usher.  Then she left for home.

For reasons which were not entirely clear, the woman's husband thought that his wife had written the note for the pastor.  So, he walked up the side aisle and laid the note on the pulpit.

The pastor paused and smiled as he read the note.  But the smile didn't last long.  With a scowl on his face, he scanned the congregation, trying to identify the person who would write such a note.

The note read, "Please hurry home and shut off the gas."

From the Cybersalt website

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Bible verse worth memorizing

Isaiah 51:12 a - I, even I, am He who comforts you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Missing my buddy, Howie

This is my buddy, Howie.  He belonged to my youngest daughter and her family.  But Howie felt like he belonged to me.

Katie rescued him back in 2008.  Howie quickly became a fixture at our house every Sunday. He and I would tussle with one of his stuffed toys. I would sneak different food items off my plate for him to eat (yes, I know - very bad!). I also taught him how to sit up and shake.  That only took about 200 dog biscuits. Thinking back on it, Howie probably figured out how to do all that stuff after a few tries - but I think he milked it so he could keep those dog biscuits coming!

Howie passed away yesterday.  He gave me much joy and unconditional love.  I believe that Martin Luther thought that our pets would join us in heaven.  After all, they are part of God's creating work. What a joy it would be that along with everything else that heaven will be, that I would have my cat, Hope, sitting on my lap, and Howie snuggled up on my side.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

An Anchor When We're Afraid

I very much appreciated this devotion, written by Adam Holz

Are you a worrier? I am. I wrestle with anxiety almost daily. I worry about big things. I worry about small things. Sometimes, it seems like I worry about everything. Once in my teens, I called the police when my parents were four hours late getting home.

Scripture repeatedly tells us not to be afraid. Because of God's goodness and power, and because He sent Jesus to die for us and His Holy Spirit to guide us, our fears don't have to rule our lives. We may well face hard things, but God has promised to be with us through it all.

One passage that has helped me profoundly in fearful moments is Isaiah 51:12-16.  Here, God reminded His people, who had endured tremendous suffering, that He was still with them, and that His comforting presence is the ultimate reality. No matter how bad things may seem, "I, even I, am He who comforts you," He told them through the prophet Isaiah. (verse 12).

I love that promise. Those eight words have been an emotion-steadying anchor for my soul. I've clung to this promise repeatedly when life has felt overwhelming, when my own "constant terror" (verse 13) has felt oppressive. Through this passage, God reminds me to life my eyes from my fears and in faith and dependence to look to the One who "stretches out the heavens" (verse 13) - the One who promises to comfort us.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Faith Sees



            Author Chuck Swindoll tells a funny story about a 9 year old boy named Danny who came flying out of his classroom at the end of the Sunday school hour at church.  He stood on the patio looking for his mom or dad.  Finally, he spotted his father and ran up to him.  Danny’s dad asked, “Hey, did you learn anything in your class today?”
            
           Danny replied, “Yeah, Dad, it was neat.  We heard the story about Moses and God’s people crossing the Red Sea.”  Danny’s dad smiled and said, “I like that story.  Tell it to me.”
            
           So Danny explained, “Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them.  So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea.  The
Egyptian Army was getting closer and closer.  So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Air Force to bomb the Egyptians.  While this was happening, the Navy built a special bridge so the people could cross the water.  And they made it!”
            
           Danny’s dad was shocked.  He asked, “It that the way your teacher taught you the story?” Danny shook his head and said, “No, not exactly, but if I told you the way they told it to us, Dad, you’d never believe it!”
            
           That’s just it, isn’t it? Some of the things in the Bible do seem hard to believe.  Such amazing things are just beyond our imagination or ability so some people simply dismiss them as fables, something that is made up but not true.
            
           You and I might feel that way except for one important gift that God has given to us – the gift of faith.  We come into the world blind – spiritually blind.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
            
           But the Holy Spirit works through the Gospel of Christ, fills us with faith to believe, and pours out all the spiritual blessings that come to a believer in Christ.  Now, our eyes are opened and we can see what the spiritually blind cannot see – the power, the majesty, the grace and the mercy of God.
            
           Just as a young child takes his father’s word, because that child trusts his father, we as children of God, trust our heavenly Father’s Word.  You might say that “faith sees.”
            
           Faith sees that it is nothing for God, almighty and powerful, to create the world in six days.  Faith sees that the God who created the world, could easily give Moses the power to part the water so that the Israelites could flee to safety.  Faith sees that God can do what no one else has ever done – be born by a virgin mother.  Faith sees that the child born to the virgin – his name is Jesus – came for only one purpose, the redemption of the world.  Faith sees Jesus on the cross, not dying the death of a misfit or a martyr, but paying for the sins of the world and winning salvation for all who believe.  Faith sees this Jesus on Easter morning rise from the dead and worships Him as the victorious Savior who gives forgiveness, righteousness and salvation.
            
          To the spiritually dead, all that I have just mentioned is nothing but foolishness.  But with the eyes of faith, what seems like foolishness is simply the fantastic work of a God who is still in control and who always sees those who belong to Him.  God watching you and me? It’s amazing but it’s true.  We know this because through God’s precious gift, faith sees.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Time to encourage one another

The writer to the Hebrews put it like this: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (10:25).

So, come and be encouraged this weekend during worship at Life in Christ.  Today at 5 pm; tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am. 

God bless your day!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Did you hear the one about the long-winded preacher?

After a particularly long and boring sermon, the parishioners filed past the pastor in silence. Toward the end of the line was a regular attendee who always had a positive comment about the sermon.

The fellow said, "Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the mercy of God."

The pastor was thrilled.  He replied, "No one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why."

The fellow answered, "Because it endured forever."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A beautiful baptismal font and cross


A couple of pictures from our April trip to the Holy Land.  On our last day in Jerusalem, Sherri and I found a Lutheran church. With most of the signage being in Hebrew we had a difficult time learning much about its origin.  I did gather that the church was being supported by the ELCA and other church bodies.

The top picture is of the baptismal font with a cross behind it.  The font sat in its own space, on the lectern side of the chancel.  The cross was an amazing display of art.  It depicts Jesus rising through the water after being baptized by John in the Jordan river. I didn't take a close enough look at the cross to see if it could be used as a processional cross.  Nevertheless, it was beautiful.

This church wasn't on our list of places we would visit while in Jerusalem.  But we were glad to have found this place of worship.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A prayer for wisdom and maturity

Lord God, You revealed in Jesus Christ that Your foolishness exceeds the wisdom of men, and Your weakness is greater than their strength. Give me the grace and wisdom to understand that in Your gentleness there is power, in Your kindness there is might, in Your forgiveness there is life. Keep me from the folly of relying on my own power or my own purpose. Help me to see that wisdom is born and grows to maturity through faith in Christ. Grant me confidence in Your mercy and hope in Your promises.

I pray in the name of Him who is Wisdom. Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 200

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

On the nightstand

I love to read and usually have more than one book going at a time.  Here's what I'm reading right now - maybe you'll see something here that you'd like to read.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.  This book was released in 2010 but I didn't read it at the time.  I had read some other Bonhoeffer stuff and didn't think I needed to plow through a 600 page book.  But I was taken with Metaxas' biography on Martin Luther so I picked up the paperback copy of "Bonhoeffer." I've just started reading but am excited to see what revelations I can pick up from Metaxas' research.

The Aging Brain by Dr. Timothy Jennings. Jennings offers what he calls "proven steps" to hold off or prevent dementia. Seems filled with useful tips.

When God Makes No Sense by Dr. Larry Crabb.  The author tackles a subject that most, if not all, Christians have had to deal with at one time or another in their lives.  Have just started the book and can't wait to really dig into it.

Our Way Home by Daniel Paavola.  I'm actually reading this book a second time.  I plowed through this book way too fast the first time.  I really want to savor "Our Way Home."  Paavola's insights into the Lord's Prayer make it a must-read book.

An Unhurried Leader by Alan Fadling.  Speaking of being in a hurry, a friend recommended I take a look at this book.  The book teaches how Jesus sets the pace for your life.  This is help I can use.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Eyewitness Acounts


            I’m a sports fan and since moving back to Phoenix in January 2005, I’ve been rooting for all of the Valley’s sports teams.  The Cardinals, the Suns, the D-Backs and ASU sports – I watch them all.

            I've followed the St. Louis baseball Cardinals since moving there in 1988.  But in the past couple of years I've been paying more and more attention to the D-Backs.  I like their new front office executives and their manager seems to be top-notch.  When we attended the Cardinals & D-Backs game on the 4th of July I found myself pulling for Paul Goldschmidt and the guys!

            However, if you were a Cardinals fan, a must-read was the book, “Three Nights in August,” by noted author, Buzz Bissinger.  The book is about a three game series that took place in 2003 between the Cards and their biggest rivals, the Chicago Cubs.  Bissinger gives us the opportunity to see a baseball game through the eyes of the manager.  From the stands, we see the players on the field.  Bissinger lets us view the game from the dugout.  We see the game from the manager’s perspective.  We learn why and how LaRussa plots strategy and makes decisions during the game.  The book provides an eyewitness account of what it is like to manage a baseball team during an important series.  I just had to read this book!

            The Bible was written by people who were eyewitnesses or by those who were able to speak and learn from the people who saw the things God did and heard the things God said.  The gospel writer Luke puts it like this: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”  Luke, not an eyewitness himself, received testimony from those who were eyewitnesses and were dedicated to telling others about Jesus.  Luke wasn’t interested in the opinions others had about Christ.  He wanted to write about the facts regarding Jesus’ teachings and miracles, His suffering, death and resurrection.  He wanted to get it right.  And so he spoke to those who had seen and heard Jesus.  He spoke to eyewitnesses.

            The apostle Peter, in his second letter, teaches that we can trust the accounts we’ve heard about Jesus because “we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”  Just think of some of the things Peter saw after he responded to Jesus’ call to be a “fisher of men.”  Peter witnessed Jesus raising the synagogue ruler’s daughter from the dead; he saw the glorified Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; he looked on as Jesus suffered at the hands of Pontius Pilate; he saw the crucified Jesus and the resurrected Jesus.  Peter was an eyewitness of all these things.
            
           It’s these eyewitness accounts that help us to truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  It gives testimony that the Father is the maker and creator of all things; that the Son suffered, died and rose again so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life; that the Spirit moved the writers to record all these things so that you, too, might believe that God’s promises of forgiveness and salvation are real and that they are for you.  If you are a follower of Christ Jesus or if your desire to know Jesus as the only Savior and Lord, grab your Bible.  It’s a must-read!

A "Wake Up With The Word" devotion for 2009

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Forgiveness heals us

Other research has demonstrated the healing power of forgiveness, which is not letting someone off the hook or trusting an abuser or forgetting the past.  Forgiveness is resolving the bitterness, resentment, anger, and frustration, within oneself.  Forgiveness is removing the physiological thorn that causes ongoing emotional pain and chronic activation of the body's stress pathways.  In other words, forgiveness heals the one who was wronged; it done not change the one who did wrong.  For those who forgive, a history of significant life stress was not a predictor of poor mental health. In women who were abused by their spouses, it was those who not only  set boundaries and put an end to the abuse but also forgave who experienced resolution of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Forgiving those who wrong us is healing to us!

Timothy R. Jennings, "The Aging Brain," pages 40-41

Ready for worship!

The band is rehearsing to be ready for tomorrow's 9:30 am service.  Now, all we need to do is to fill up all those seats.  Won't you join us?

Services - today at 5 pm; tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hello? This is the IRS

A pastor was at his desk working on his sermon when the phone rang.

The stern voice on the other end of the line said, "I'm calling from the Internal Revenue Service. Is a Jonathan Jones a member of your congregation?"

The pastor replied, "Yes! Jonathan is a faithful member of our church.  He attends church every Sunday with his family and volunteers anytime we need his help."

The IRS rep said, "Very interesting.  Do you happen to know if he supports your church financially?"

The pastor answered, "Well, I have no knowledge of the giving habits of our members.  But considering how faithful Jonathan is, I would think he financially supports our church."

Then the IRS rep asked, "Do you know if Mr. Jones gave the church a $10,000 gift?"

The pastor paused for a moment and then said, "If he hasn't, he will!"

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Let's do the twist, like we did last summer!

While we were in Green Bay visiting my youngest daughter and her family, we did a little shopping one afternoon.  Sherri is showing grandson, Duke, how to do the twist.  As you can see, Duke is mesmerized. 

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

We were of worth, we are still of worth...

One of our Deacons, Gale Cynova, brought back a large amount of material from the Lutherans for Life table while he and others from Life in Christ attended the Pacific Southwest District Convention.  While reviewing the material Sherri and I discovered a Confession of Faith, written for Lutherans for Life by Dr. Richard Eyre of Concordia University, Mequon, Wisconsin.  It reads like this:

We who follow Jesus Christ face our suffering and dying differently than others do. We look to the Cross of Jesus Christ for hope and guidance and ultimately to the Risen Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). We, who belong to Christ through baptism, do not measure a person's worth by the "quality" of life as limited by illness, disability, or aging. We were of worth when helpless as infants in our baptism God made us His (Romans 6:4), and we are still of worth in God's care of us when helpless as patients at the end of life (Romans 14:7-8). We care about the dying, disabled, or elderly and attempt to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). We bear witness to a better way, the way of the Cross of Jesus Christ in which God comes to care for us first by His suffering and dying (Hebrews 2:10) and then in our suffering and dying (Romans 8:28).

Saturday, June 30, 2018

How to keep the Third Commandment

Martin Luther explains it for us in the Small Catechism:

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

Join us at Life in Christ this weekend to hear God's Word read and proclaimed to you.  Saturday worship is at 5 pm; Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Did you hear the one about the substitute Sunday school teacher?

The Sunday school was going to be one teacher short so a substitute was found.  She was told that everything she needed for her class was in a supply cabinet.  The cabinet was locked but she was given the combination to open the lock.

When she got to church she couldn't get the lock to open.  Maybe she had forgotten the combination. She walked down to the pastor's office to see if he could help.  The pastor said he could.

Standing in front of the supply cabinet the pastor turned the dial on the lock.  He turned the dial to the right and then to the left.  But then he stopped.  After a few moments, the pastor looked heavenward, briefly whispered, and then turned the dial and the lock came open.

The substitute teacher was amazed.  She said, "Pastor, what a blessing to see you pray like that.  I'm in awe of your faith."

The pastor replied, "It was nothing, really.  The combination is on a piece of tape on the ceiling."

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What good works demonstrate

We Lutheran are sometimes accused by other church bodies of overemphasizing the doctrine of justification at the expense of sanctification.  We take seriously verses like those from Ephesians2:8-9 - For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. 

These verses proclaim such good news! Salvation comes by grace...through faith...a gift from God!

And yet, what does Paul write in verse 10? For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Good works and deeds are important.  They don't bring or even contribute to our salvation.  But such works are a result of our salvation.  And notice that while important, we can't even claim these works of love and service because God created them for us Himself.

Martin Luther helped the church get justification right.  Still, listen to Luther as he explains what good works demonstrates: Where there are no good works, there is no faith.  If works and love do not blossom forth, it is not genuine faith, the Gospel has not yet gained a foothold, and Christ is not rightly known.

So, pray today for the opportunity to serve your neighbor, not because you have to but do so in response to the gift that God has given you - forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ, your Savior!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Way Out

Every temptation

that has come my way

is the kind

that normally comes

to people

For God keeps his promises

and He will not allow me

to be tempted

beyond my power

to resist

but at the time

I am tempted

He will give me

the strength to endure it

and so provide me

with 

a way out

From "Prayers For People Under Pressure," page 41

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

When you feel cast aside

God never rejects you. Nothing will separate you from His love. The certain words of Romans 8 underscore that God will not cast you aside - even if you feel He has: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). 

No loss or rejection you suffer indicates abandonment by God. He is committed to you for the long haul. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6,8)... If anyone understands feeling cast aside, Jesus does. And be assured, the One who broke rejection's very personal and crushing power when He rose from the dead will take you with Him out of rejection to new hope and life. To Jesus, helping you when you feel cast aside is personal, very personal.

From "Hope When Your Heart Breaks," by Michael W. Newman, pages 39-40

Monday, June 25, 2018

Doing to the least of these


            There is a legend that tells about the time when Ireland was ruled by a king who had no sons.  The king desired to have an heir so he sent out his couriers to post signs with a very important message all through his kingdom.  The message advised that qualified young men were being encouraged to apply for an interview with the king as a possible successor to the throne.  However, those who apply must have two important qualifications.  They must (1) love God and (2) love people.
            One young man saw the signs and he knew in his heart that he loved both God and people.  However, he was so poor that he had no clothes that would be presentable to the king and he didn’t have the money to make the long journey to the castle.  The young man begged and borrowed until he at last had the money for the appropriate clothes and to cover the expenses of his trip.
            He had been traveling for a number of days until finally he could see, in the distance, the castle.  Soon he would have his audience with the king.  In the next instant the young man happened upon a poor beggar, sitting alone by the side of the road.  The beggar sat trembling, covered only in rags.  The beggar reached out to the young man.  He barely whispered, “I’m hungry and I’m cold.  Can you help me?”
            The young man was so moved by the needs of the poor beggar that he immediately stripped off his new clothes and exchanged them for the rags of the beggar.  Without a second thought he gave the beggar all his money.  And he helped the beggar up and sent the poor man on his way.
            At first the young man thought he would turn around and go home.  But he was so close to the castle.  And he had no money to get himself back home anyway.  He decided to go ahead and meet the king.
            Surprisingly, he was granted entrance to the castle.  He was escorted to the throne room and it was there that the young man got the shock of his life.  He looked into the eyes of the king and exclaimed, “You…you were the beggar by the side of the road.”  The king nodded his head, “yes.”  The young man asked, “Why did you do this to me?” 
            The king replied, “I had to find out if you do love, if you really love God and people.  I knew that if I came to you as king, you would have been impressed by my crown of gold and my regal robes.  You would have done anything to impress me but I wouldn’t have known what was in your heart.  So I came to you as a beggar, with no claims on you at all.  And I found out by the way you treated me that you do love God and you love people.  That’s what I needed to know.  You, young man, will be my successor.  You will have my kingdom.”
            When I first heard this legend, I couldn’t help by think of what is called the Greatest Commandment in the Bible.  When Jesus was asked this question, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
            When you show love to your neighbor, you show your love for God.  When you love God, you show His love to others.  So here’s your assignment for today – love God! Your neighbor will be grateful.

From a "Wake Up With The Word" devotional written in 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Top 10 Signs Your Pastor Has World Cup Fever

Is your pastor a soccer-nut? If so, watch for these signs:

10) Names his new born son, "Pele"

9) Gives his wife a copy of "Soccer for Dummies" for her birthday

8) Announces "All sins are forgivable.  What is not forgivable is the USA failing to qualify for the World Cup!"

7) Ends a prayer, "Goal! Er, Amen"

6) During children's message, asks the kids, "Who's better? Messi or Ronaldo?"

5) Claims Adam and Eve would not have fallen to the devil's temptation if they had formed a 4-4-3 formation

4) Issues a red card to an usher who fails to seat late arriving guests

3) Replaces image of a shell on baptismal certificate with image of a soccer ball

2) Adds 3 additional minutes to the service because of excessive noise by several children

And the number one sign your pastor has World Cup Fever?

1) Changes his name to Alexi Lalas


I checked and it's working

I'm talking about the air conditioning, of course.  We'll have a cool place for you to worship this weekend.

So, join us - Saturday at 5 pm or Sunday at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.

Have a fine day!

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