Thursday, March 22, 2018

How to know slow

Our church board meetings have a "what is said here, stays here," understanding.  But our congregational president, Bill Stipp, said something that cracked me up and I just had to share it.

There is nothing slower than a two floor elevator.

Now you know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Through faith we are joined with Christ

One of the best books I've read in recent years is John Kleinig's "Grace Upon Grace." I discovered some journal entries I made while reading the book so I wanted to share some of Kleinig's thoughts with you.  Hopefully, they will be an encouragement to you.

When the people who had been miraculously fed by Jesus with five loaves of bread and two small fish asked how they could do the work of God, Jesus gave them a strange answer: He said by believing in God the Father. His work would be done in them and through them (John 6:28-29). How then do we do the of God through faith? How do we become "co-workers with God" (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:1; 1 Thess. 3:2)? Through faith we are joined with Christ and His mission on earth; we work with Christ by using our faith to pray together with Him to God the Father. We do not do the work of God on earth in prayer; rather, His work is done in and through us by prayer )Matt. 18:19; 21:21-22).

In John 14:12-14, Jesus gives these amazing promises: "Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater work than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in MY name, this will I do that the Father be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."

We continue the divine work of Jesus and perform the greater miracles of the new age where those who we born blind to God receive sight and those who were once dead in sin are raised to eternal life. And we accomplish this by prayer to God the Father in the name of Jesus.

When we pray for others and ourselves, we continue the work of Jesus.  It is, in fact, the most important work we ever do...When we pray for God's support and guidance in our work and the people we work with, we live by His grace and rely on Him to do His work through us.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Son died to please the Father

As we begin to look forward to Holy Week, author and professor D.A. Carson offers this reminder:

Jesus chose not to die only because He loved us, as wonderful as that thought is, but because He loved the Father and desired above all to do His (the Father's) will.

From "Farewell Discourse/Final Prayer of Jesus," page 100

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Cross and Christian Ministry

The sub-title of the reprint of this book by D.A. Carson is "Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians."

At first glance it would seem that 1 Corinthians would be the last book of the Bible in which pastors and church leaders could find leadership ideas.

But what New Testament church needed leadership more than the church at Corinth?

So, Carson utilized this often troubled church to show how the cross of Christ has power to change the focus of any congregation or ministry group.

The book is broken into five sections: The Cross and Preaching...and the Holy Spirit...and Factionalsim...and Christian Leadership...and the World Christian.  The book would be a good one for pastors and church leaders to study together.  Fortunately, at the end of each section are questions for review and reflection.

Like his previous book on the last hours Jesus spent with His disciples, as reported by St. John, again Carson make Jesus and the cross the focal point which makes for a very helpful and inspiring read.  Any church or church leaders facing challenges in bringing people together to do mission and ministry together would be blessed and helped by reading "The Cross and Christian Ministry."

Book provided by Baker Books for review.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pastor Etiquette has a word for parents

The good pastor believes that children should sit with their parents during the worship service.  This should be the case until the child turns 30 years of age.  Exceptions include those children who are married and have children of their own. Then the parents have become grandparents and those grandparents will let the grandkids do anything in the service which ticks off Pastor Etiquette. The other exception are those who are in the military.  For such children we simply say, "Thank you for your service," and let them sit anywhere they want (except in Pastor Etiquette's chair, of course).

Now that we have that out of the way, here's our worship schedule for this weekend:

Saturday at 5 pm

Sunday at 8 am, 9:30 am, and 11 am.  The sermon title is: "Amazed! Getting What We Should Have Asked For In The First Place!"

Now, with a sermon title that long, don't you think you should be in church this Sunday? Of course you should! See you there at LICL!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Did you hear the one about the atheist and the preacher?

Atheist: "Do you honestly believe that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish?"
Preacher: "I don't know, sir, but when I get to heaven, I'll ask him."
Atheist: "But suppose he isn't in heaven?"
Preacher: "Then you ask him."

Found this at a site called

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Jesus lives in us!

I just sent this little quote out to our church's Prayer Team so I thought I'd share it with you as well.

As long as we live here on earth, we will encounter temptation after temptation, trouble after trouble. But Jesus lives in us; His cross and life have become our death and new life in our Baptism. We are - right now - in the process of overcoming the worst the world can throw at us.

Jane Fryer in "Today's Light Bible," page 1710

One difference between Law and Gospel

Picked up this little gem from RJ Grunewald:

Like the Law, the Gospel is also necessary; unlike the Law, the Gospel doesn't make any demands. The Gospel makes only promises.

From "Reading Romans with Luther" page 49

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Psalm 5

The first three verses from Psalm 5 seem to set the tone of a time of prayer with the Lord:

Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.

  Give attention to the sound of my cry, my God and my Lord, for to you do I pray.

O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Each morning offer your petitions and praises to God and then watch to see what He does.  He is certain to hear you and probably surprise you.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Our thought for the day

Only when we hear the bad news that makes us cry out, "Lord, have mercy," are we able to hear the Good News of "It it finished!"

RJ Gruenwald, "Reading Romans with Luther," page 52

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pastor Etiquette Is Watching

There are a couple of things that Pastor Etiquette hates to see.  First, watching one of his Elders reading the bulletin while the sermon is being preached!  Also, it riles up PE when two of the Ushers are filling out their brackets for March Madness when they should be collecting the offering! A word to the wise - Pastor Etiquette is watching!

In fact, he'll be preaching at all four services this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  The message is entitled, "Amazing - A Costly Love That Cost Us Nothing!"

Come and join us, won't you? Have a blessed day!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The preacher and the septic tank

      An inexperienced preacher was to hold a graveside burial service at a pauper's cemetery for an indigent man with no family or friends. Not knowing where the cemetery was, he made several wrong turns and got lost. When he eventually arrived an hour late, the hearse was nowhere in sight, the backhoe was next to the open hole, and the workmen were sitting under a tree eating lunch.

     The diligent young pastor went to the open grave and found the vault lid already in place. Feeling guilty because of his tardiness, he preached an impassioned and lengthy service, sending the deceased to the great beyond in style.

     As he returned to his car, he overheard one of the workman say to the other, "I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years and I ain't never seen anything like that." 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Putting two and two together

In preparing a Bible study yesterday I came across something the apostle James wrote in chapter five of his Epistle.  The last part of verse 16 is translated in the ESV as: "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it it working."

Now we know that only God has the power to heal and to save.  What then makes our prayers so powerful?

Jesus explains it in John 9:31: "If anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him."

So, our prayers make a difference.  God gives us His undivided attention as we offer our petitions.  He considers our requests.  He does what is best for each one of us. 

Pray, my friends.  Make your requests to God.  Pray "not my will but Your will, O Lord, be done." Trust that the God who gave you a Savior will also give you the time of day and more as you open your heart to Him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Original sin is like...

Another gem from Martin Luther:

The original sin in a man is like his beard, though shaved off today, so that a man is very smooth around his mouth, yet grows again by tomorrow morning... Just as original sin remains in us and bestires itself as long as we live, but we must resist it and always cut off its hair. From "Being Lutheran," by Trevor Sutton, page 3.

How do we cut of this beard, so to speak? By daily repentance and faith. We acknowledge what original sin has caused us to do (commit actual sins every day), seek God's forgiveness and rejoice that through the Gospel the Lord forgives sin and causes the Holy Spirit to do His sanctifying work in our lives.

So, time to shave!

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Monday, March 5, 2018

That kid warms my heart!

Is there anything better than a grandchild who thinks your swell?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Great Weekend Weather to Go to Church

Snowbirds and spring training friends, rejoice! The weatherman is your friend! Beautiful skies and warm (but not too warm) afternoons are in the forecast.  This is great going-to-church weather!

Yes, plan to sit on the outfield grass at your favorite spring training field.  But also plan to join us for worship!

Saturday at 5 pm.

Sunday at 8 am (hymns), 9:30 am (modern music), 11 am (hymns). 

All services feature the traditional liturgy of the church.

All those who wear their favorite team's garb get in free!

Actually, you get in free no matter what you're wearing!

Come and see us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, March 2, 2018

It's probably Dad

Two boys were walking home from church after hearing a strong preaching on the devil. One said to the other, "What do you think about all this Satan stuff?"

The other boy replied, "Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It's probably just your dad"  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Throwback Thursday at Magnolia Market

It was about two years ago that Sherri and I added the the economic well being of Waco, TX by spending the morning shopping at the Magnolia Market.  We are huge fans of Chip and Joanna Gaines' tv program, "Fixer Upper."  While we were there we met Joanna's mother but, alas, no Chip or Joanna sightings.

I'm thinking of some way to work the "Fixer Upper" idea into my sermon this Sunday which caused me to look up the pictures.  My dear, sweet wife and I had a great time visiting the city.  We especially laughed at the T-shirts and caps that said, "Keep Waco Wacko."

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Farewell Discourse & Final Prayer of Jesus

In short, this book is a gem.

Dr. D.A. Carson has edited a number of scholarly works and essays and has compiled them into a readable book, appropriate for the seminary professor, pastor or layman.  He tackles St. John, chapters 14 through 17, where John provides a behind-the-scenes look at Jesus giving His disciples words of comfort, aid and hope, as the Lord prepares for His passion to begin.

Carson breaks down the words of Jesus often used in funeral messages from John 14:1-6.  He sheds new light on Jesus', "I am the way and the truth and the life," showing what the Lord meant as He talked to confused disciples.  Carson explains how the Father and the Son take care of the disciples - then and now - by sending the Holy Spirit, who makes clear the work of the Trinity.  Carson's discussion on what Jesus meant when He said to the disciples, "My peace I leave with you..." is a masterpiece.  He explains how this peace is vertical (with God), horizontal (peace with your neighbor) and personal (peace in your own heart).

I am just scratching the surface of what this book has to offer.  What I loved most about the book is that you find Jesus on every page - comforting, assuring and praying for His disciples (and that includes you and me!).  Find this book, mark it up, write what you've learned in your Bible.  Again, D.A. Carson has produced a gem!

Book provided by Baker Books for review.

Delight yourself in the Lord!

What do you take pleasure in?

An Arizona sunset? A long-distance phone call from an old friend? Balancing a grandchild on your knee? Having the entire family at the dinner table for a meal?

Do you know that God wants to have a relationship with you in which you take pleasure in Him?

The psalmist David writes in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord. This you can do in so many ways.  You can take pleasure...being in God's house to receive His gifts of grace...kneeling at the communion rail to feast on Christ's body and blood for the forgiveness of the assurance of God's love as found in the Gospels...celebrating old friendships and making new ones with Christ at the being used by the Lord through meaningful service in the church.

A word from Holy Scripture can bring delight in the Lord. Lyrics from a great old hymn or a modern new one can produce a feeling of pleasure and contentment as we sing praises to our great and mighty God for His blessings. To take pleasure in your relationship with the Lord is to give thanks to God for His unlimited mercy and grace.

Psalm 37:4 comes with a promise - "and He will give you the desires of your heart." Don't misunderstand - this is not the promise of God's blank check with which you can do or have anything you want. David is simply noting that when a believer takes pleasure in their Lord, they seek to make His will their will and constantly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that their life is in line with the life that God gives - the new life through faith in Christ.

As you read, meditate and pray over this week's readings, heed the advice of the psalmist - Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Did you see the one that said...

One of our regular visitors gave me a manila envelope as she left services last Sunday.  She said, "There's something inside that will give you a chuckle." She had printed off from the internet a bunch of church signs with catchy sayings: "Catch up with Jesus - Lettuce Praise and Relish Him." But included in the material was some signs I hadn't seen before.

From an Anglican Church

Adam and Eve
The First People
 Not To Read the Apple
Terms and Conditions

A Catholic Church Sign

Too Hot To Keep
Changing Sign
Sin Bad Jesus Good
Details Inside

A Presbyterian Church posted:

If You Are
Praying For Snow
Please Stop (they were snowed in)

A Baptist Church chipped in with this:

Whoever Stole
Our AC Unites Keep
One It Is Hot
Where You're Going

And finally from UCC Church

Tweet Others
As You Would
Like To Be Tweeted

Have a blessed day!

Monday, February 26, 2018

The World Hates

I am continuing to work through DA Carson's gem of a book, "The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus."  His focus is on John, chapters 14-17 and in chapter 15, Jesus spends some time talking with His disciples about the opposition they will receive from an unbelieving world.  Carson goes on to make this observation:

Nowhere is the world's hatred more clearly set forth than in those many people who judge themselves to be "liberal" but who are most illiberal when it comes to Christian absolutes. Them demonstrate their forbearance and large-hearted goodness when they confront diverse opinions, varied lifestyles, and even idiotic practices.  But if some Christian claims that Christianity is exclusive (as Jesus insisted), or that moral absolutes exist because they are grounded in the character of God (as the Bible teaches), or that there is a hell to be shunned as well as a heaven to be gained, the most intemperate language is used to excoriate the poor fool.  The world hates.

Page 133 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

4, count them, 4 opportunities to worship!

If it's the weekend, then it's time to plan to worship.  At Life in Christ you've got four services to choose from.

Today at 5 pm - communion will be celebrated.

Tomorrow at 8 am - my sermon series, "Amazed!" continues at all services.

Tomorrow at 9:30 am - our new service with modern Christian music and communion.

Tomorrow at 11 am - communion will be celebrated.

Which one works best for you? Chose one and then come and join us at Life in Christ!

Friday, February 23, 2018

What does God look like?

A Sunday school teacher had given an arts and crafts assignment to her class.  As she walked around the room she stopped one little girl what she was drawing.

The girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God."

The Sunday school replied, "No one knows what God looks like."

The girl replied, "They will in a minute!"

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wow! What a hockey game!

My dear, sweet wife and I had eaten our low-cal chocolate bars and it was time to turn out the lights and get some shut-eye, as they say.  But as I laid there, I kept thinking about what I was missing - Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin skiing in the Alpine combined event.

I was impressed how Shiffrin came back after a disappointing performance in the slalom, her best event.  She nabbed the silver medal.  Von, who raced last, hit a gate with the tip of her ski and was unable to complete the run.

With that done I was ready to head to bed.  But first I thought I should check in on the USA/Canada Women's Gold Medal hockey game.

It was in the third period, the Americans had tied the game and they were really taking the action to Canada.  Had it not been by stout goaltending from the Canadian goalie the Americans would have put the game away.

The 20 minute overtime period was equally exciting and, again, the American had their chances but couldn't score. 

The game would end with a shoot-out and I was quite concerned.  Even though the USA had really controlled the 3rd period and overtime, anything can happen in a shoot-out.  And the USA had a 20 year-old goal keeper in the pipes.

The teams were tied after five shots.  America went ahead with a beautiful goal that got past Canada's excellent goaltender.  Then Canada sent out their best scorer.  She tried to go through the legs of Maddie Rooney, the 20 year-old USA goaltender, but was turned aside.  With that the USA overcame years of disappointment (they had finished second to Canada in the last four Olympics) and celebrated - they were gold medalists!

It gave me a warm feeling to see the players celebrating - it was pure joy!  Watching them stand as a team while the Star Spangled Banner played gave me goosebumps.

But the most impressive things of all - the players were singing the National Anthem!

It frustrates me to see so many of our gold medalists remain mute while the anthem is being played.  You happens it over and over again.  And then you watch many athletes from other countries singing to their anthems with gusto and you can't help but wonder what is wrong with so many from our teams.

Not these ladies.  They sang with pure joy.  They looked proud to be Americans.  They represented their country well.  And I was glad to see it, even if it was past 1 am when I went to bed! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Love Thy Body by Nancy R. Pearcey

As a Orthodox Christian it's easy to feel out-of-step with the liberal world-view that permeates our culture today.  Nancy Pearcey can help you to better understand what is happening.

Her new book, "Love Thy Body" gets to the heart of today's life and sexuality issues.  She explains how the pro-abortion side has shifted the argument from conception to personhood.  She shows how when a person is no longer thought of as "human" but as a "person" then it becomes quite easy to accept abortion and euthanasia as acceptable, even normal.  Pearcy explains how the "hook-up" culture has turned sex into a non-emotional act which demeans the gift which God gave in sexuality.  She also shows why we should be concerned as the courts get involved in matters of sexuality and how they take a non-Biblical viewpoint, allowing a person to decide who they are no matter what kind of body they have.

"Love Thy Body" is well-researched and also is easy to read.  Pearcey concludes by offering ways Christian individuals and families can be beacons of light and hope in a world full of darkness and evil. The opportunities to minister to the lonely and disillusioned may present themselves sooner than we think.

This book was supplied by Baker Books for review.

A reflection on Psalm 32

This morning I want to share a couple of thoughts from Martin Luther on Psalm 32.  You might read the psalm before going forward with the post but it's up to you:-).

The 32nd Psalm is an exemplary psalm of instruction that teaches us what sin is, and how one might be freed from it and be righteous before God. Our reason does not know what sin is and tries to make satisfaction for it with works. but the psalmist says that even saints are sinners. They cannot become holy or blessed except by confessing themselves as sinners before God, knowing that they are regarded as righteous only from the grace of God, apart from any service or work.

In short, our righteousness is called (in plain language) the forgiveness of our sins. Or, as it says here: "sins not counted," "sins covered," "sins not to be seen." Here stand the clear plain words: All the saints are sinners and remain sinners. But they are holy because god in His grace neither sees nor counts these sins, but forgets, forgives and covers them. There is thus no distinction between the saints and the non-saints. They are sinners alike and all sin daily, only that the sins of the holy are not counted but covered; and the sins of the unholy are not covered but counted.

Martin Luther, "Reading the Psalms with Luther," CPH 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

My Lord, my love, is crucified

I came across some poetry from Charles Wesley yesterday while reading my devotional book.  I don't know if these are hymn lyrics - I don't recognize them from any hymn I know. But I was taken by how Wesley ended each stanza.

O Lord divine, what hast thou done?
 The Incarnate God hath died for me!
The Father's coeternal Son
 Bore all my sins upon the tree!
The Son of God for me hath died
 My Lord, my Love, is crucified.

Behold Him, all ye that pass by
 The bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Savior die,
 And say, was ever grief like his?
Come, feel with me His blood applied:
 My Lord, my Love, is crucified. Amen.

Lent is the time that we are given the opportunity to see again with fresh eyes that sacrifice God - that's right, God - made to atone for all our sins.  May your observance of Lent cause you to fall in love all over again with your Lord and Savior.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Be a gift to someone today

I just finished reading Ann Voskamp's lovely book, "Be the Gift." The book is filled with examples of different ways an individual can be a gift by offering something of themselves to someone else.

I thought the book was best summarized by a comment a woman made after burying her husband.  She said, This is all I know now about living: every moment is a gift with each other - and every moment we get to be a gift to each other.  This is all there is.

To whom can you be a "gift" today?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Say that again?

Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together during church services. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had enough. “You're not supposed to talk out loud in church.”

“Why? Who's going to stop me?” Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, “See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

No regrets following Jesus

            Have you ever had second thoughts about something or someone?  Ever wish you’d taken more time before you bought the new car…or said “yes” when asked to go on a date…or accepting the new assignment at work?  When the car breaks down or the date is a waste of time or the new assignment causes headaches and bellyaches, it’s so easy to second guess yourself about the decision you made.

            The people who received and read the letter to the Hebrews were having second thoughts.  They had converted from Judaism to Christianity.  The good news of God’s love in Christ Jesus had made their hearts glad.  But their decision to embrace Christ as Savior brought derision and scorn from those who had rejected the Lord’s forgiveness and love.  They lashed out at these new Christians in both word and deed.  For the new converts, there was the possibility of facing persecution and even death for the faith.

            The letter to the Hebrews was designed to help the Jewish converts deal with their doubts.  However, this is a letter from which we can all benefit.  You might even want to spend some time during Lent doing an in-depth study of this New Testament book. Using the inspired Word of God, the writer shows how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises of the prophets.  In times of persecution and struggle, whether 2000 years ago or today, Hebrews teaches us that there only one Lord and Savior to whom we can place our trust.  Trust in Jesus and walk with Him – there is no reason to ever look back!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A prayer for Ash Wednesday

Almighty God, You have created us out of the dust of the earth; grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, so we may remember that only by Your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.


The church is like...

The church is the inn and the infirmary for those who are sick and in need of being made well. But heaven is the palace of the healthy and the righteous.

Martin Luther

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

On the last day of the Epiphany season

Lord, transfigure our perception, With the purest light that shines
 And recast our life's intentions, To the shape of Your designs
Till we seek no other glory, Than what lies past Calvary's hill
 And our living and our dying, And our rising by Your will

From "Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory" verse three
Lutheran Service Book, #416

Saturday, February 10, 2018

At least it wasn't the flu

The last few days for me didn't go according to plan.

I had appointments to keep and people to meet and a practice on top of it all.

None of it happened.

Wednesday afternoon I started to feel...something.  Scratchy throat. Bit of a headache.  I pounded the zinc and the Airborn and went to be figuring I'd be just fine in the morning.

Except I wasn't.

I tried to go to work.  I thought, 'I'll just push through this and I'll be fine."

That thinking lasted about an hour.

Home I went and into the bed I got.

My dear, sweet wife was most concerned.  We both had avoided the flu and she was certain I'd brought it home.

But I never became feverish.  Just tired and achy.

This morning has started out much better.  I believe another day of rest and lots of Sherri's tea and I'll be ready to go tomorrow.  However, if you are ill, here are some things to do, taken from

 Already sick?
Here are four things you can do to get better, according to Jeff Robertson, MD, and chief medical officer for health insurer Regence.
Take some alone time
This is the when youll want to shy away from company. Stay home and take care of yourself.
Watch your symptoms
If it goes from simple sniffles to raging sickness, contact your doctor. Your cold may have escalated to the flu.
Drink, drink, drink
Dehydration can easily occur (especially if you are running a fever or vomiting). If youre unable to keep fluids down, contact your physician.
Nows not the time to save up
Dispose of all used tissues. As easy as it is to grab whatever is on the nightstand (including crumpled Kleenex), dont! You may be furthering the cold.

To keep from getting anyone else's bug remember to wash, wash, wash those hands! Also, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and don't double dip.  In fact, don't even single dip - unless you're the only one using the dip!

Oh, there is one more thing you can do.  Come to church at LICL this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm or Sunday at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.  I'm not guaranteeing that you won't catch the flu.  But, come.  Call it spiritual immunization!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Happy birthday to Sherri, happy birthday to you!

Today, my dear, sweet wife celebrates her birthday. We thank God for the blessing she is in our lives. Loving wife, nurturing mother, cool "Nana," and the best pastor's wife ever! Happy birthday, sweetie! Love you bunches!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What Jesus does for you

I have long admired Joni Eareckson Tada.  She broke her neck in a diving accident as a teenager and has been confined to a wheel chair ever since.  But her steadfast faith in Jesus never fails to encourage. She was once quoted as saying, "Even a person in a wheel chair can walk with Jesus." While working through Ann Voskamp's "Be the Gift," I found this quote from Joni.  Boy, does she nail Jesus!

(Jesus) went without comfort so that you might have it. He postponed joy so that you might share it. He willingly chose isolation so that you might never be alone in your hurts and sorrows.  (page 124)

Lord Jesus, thank You for the comfort You provide, especially in times of disappointment and loss. There is nothing I have experienced or will experience that You have not already faced. Thank You for giving me true joy that can never be extinguished by life's circumstances. Thank You for Your promise to never leave us in the lurch, so to speak, but to always be near us to guide us through this life and to bring us to eternal life. All praise to You for Your amazing grace and tender mercy.  Amen.

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I love Your house!

One Sunday, the pastor of a church in Florida gathered the children in front of the altar for a children's message.  He began by asking the question, "What does the word 'holy' mean?"

After a short pause, a little girl raised her hand.  She answered, "Being holy means that you do what your mother asked you to do the first time!"

Children's messages are just one of the reasons I love being in church on Sunday. You never know what priceless answers you just might get to one of your questions.

But the main reason I love being in the Lord's house on Sunday is because this is the place where we encounter our gracious and merciful God.

David says as much in Psalm 27:4 - One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.

In Psalm 84, a choir sings - Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

As the pilgrims made their way to the Temple during times of religious celebration, they would sing - I rejoiced with those who said to me: "Let us go to the house of the Lord."  (Psalm 122:1)

Not only is the Lord present in His house, He showers His people with rich gifts of grace - His Word of forgiveness, His very body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion, the rich renewal of the Holy Spirit who comes to each of us in the Gospel.

I pray that every time you approach the doors of your church, you breath a silent word of praise - I love the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells!  (Psalm 26:8)

Monday, February 5, 2018

That game was super!

Super Bowl Sunday - it's kind of like a national holiday, right? In our family it's been customary to have the kids and grand kids over, place a spread of food on the dining room table, graze at the table all day and then finally settle down to watch the big game.

This year was different.  Our youngest daughter lives in Wisconsin.  Our oldest daughter and her family and plans with another family who have become good friends.  A couple from our church invited us to their house to watch the game but then we got a call from my son who said his two kids really wanted to see Papa and Nanny.  How do you say "no" to that request.

We were all pretty certain that the Patriots would win the game.  And when they fell behind we were sure of it.  Remember the big deficit they made up last year to beat the Falcons? Tom Brady, who has broken my heart more than once, is a big game clutch player.  I don't bet against him.

But even after the Patriots took the lead late in the game, Philly did not fold.  They Foles! Nick Foles, their back up quarterback, a guy who was thinking of retirement about a year ago, led them on the game wining drive.  He even caught a touchdown pass on a play called "the Philly special."  Apparently, when the play was called in the huddle the players couldn't help but smile.  They had run the play six times in practice and it worked every time.  It was a gutsy call on fourth down and one yard to go but it worked! Foles was votes MVP of the game. 

Since Philadelphia has a great quarterback coming back next year, maybe the Cardinals should put Foles on their radar.  Just saying.

None of the commercials stood out to me.  Truth is, I was so caught up in the game.  The first responder commercial I saw was impressive.  I saw Eli Manning and some of the Giants players doing some dancing.  The rest seemed pretty forgettable to me.

Justin Timberlake? Now I know I'm really old because I couldn't understand a word he sang and couldn't figure out what the big deal is about him.  But I was assured by my daughter in law that JT (as he is called) is a big deal!

What was more impressive to me was how the Eagles coach and two of his players demonstrated their Christian faith by giving Jesus praise on national television.  I'm sure that Jesus had nothing to do with the Eagles victory.  But I read on a church sign that there are 33 mentions of eagles in the Bible and none about patriots. 

Draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dreaming With God

Sarah Beth Marr's, "Dreaming With God," is a book which is not just to be read.  It is to be lived.

Marr, a former professional ballet dancer, was taught to dream.  And she did just that.  But life has a way of throwing cold water on our dreams sometime and Marr wondered if there was a better way to see dreams fulfilled.

She discovered the answer is "yes," when we recognize that God has the power to see us through to the fulfillment of those dreams as we place our faith and trust in Him.  As Marr teaches, sometimes God will ask us to be patient and to live our daily lives believing that the One who created the heaven and the earth can also see us through to the realization of our hopes and dreams.

A nice feature of the book is that at the end of each chapter there is a section called, "Prayer, Scripture and Reflection."  This is not a book that is to be devoured in a single sitting.  "Dreaming With God" will be most enjoyable as the reader prays and meditates on the material and the Scriptures shared.

In doing so, the reader will ultimately find themselves dreaming and dancing with God.  What better thing could there be?

My life isn't so bad after all

We all have those moments in life when because of certain circumstances we feel like life is pretty awful.

You or someone you love suffers an illness.  Your child gets in trouble.  You do something really stupid. Finances get stretched to the limit. There's a death in the family.

It's pretty easy to throw yourself a pity party and in the process convince yourself that nobody has a life that's worse than yours.

Until you discover someone who does.

My week was pretty tough.  But it was nothing like what Nate Lipinski and his family has gone through.

You might have either heard or read about Nate's wife, Christin.  She's the 36 year old wife, mother to three beautiful kids, and school teacher who came down with a serious staph infection.  30 percent of her skin has been removed from the left side of her body.  She is deeply sedated and has undergone 11 surgeries in an effort to stop the infection from spreading.  She is presently at the Maricopa County Burn Unit where doctors and staff are working hard to deal with the aftermath of all these surgeries.

I spent an hour with Nate yesterday.  I was amazed at how well he is dealing with his wife's illness. Even in spite of all that has happened Nate remains hopeful that Christin is making a full recovery.

Our congregation took a free-will offering last weekend for the Lipinski's and the final total was just over $2800.  For me the offering was just one more example of just how generous our people are.

Won't you join us in praying for Christin, Nate, and the children? God loves to hear His people pray.

You can also join us for worship this weekend.  5 pm today for our blended music service; 8 and 11 am with traditional hymns; 9:30 am with modern Christian songs.

Make your Sunday "super" by worshiping at LICL!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Top 10 Signs You're Reading a Bad Bible Translation

I was looking through the CBD catalog last week and I was struck by the multitude of pages devoted to the sale of Bibles.  I remember way back when, as they say, that the only choices you had with buying a Bible was getting one with or without the concordance.  But now, wow! There are study Bibles, thin-line Bibles, giant print Bibles, the archaeology Bible, the counseling Bible, the Max Lucado study notes Bible, the Chuck Swindoll study notes Bible and on and on it goes.  And that's not counting the variety of Bibles you can download on your favorite mobile device.  So, with all of that in mind, here's a list that you can use to guide you when you purchase your next Bible.

10) Renames the Epistle of James, "The Book of Straw"

9) In a startling switch, the words of Satan are printed in "hellish red"

8) Pontius Pilot?

7) In a nod to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament must be read from right to left

6) Replaces concordance with recipes from the kitchen of Martha of Bethany

5) Endorsed by Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and Larry the Cable Guy

4) One version published in a notebook binder so you can remove any Scriptures you don't like

3) Proverbs 13:14 now reads, "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life but God helps those who help themselves"

2) Eschewing bookstores, version can be purchased wherever fine wine and liquor are sold

And the number one sign that you're reading a bad Bible translation is...

1) The name is the Living Standard International Inclusive Inspirational Interlinear Study Bible or better known as the TLSIIIISB version!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Make me brand new

Where does the new life in Christ come from? Author Tim Wesemann points the way:

Why do I put the cross at arm's length?
 When Jesus went to such great lengths to save me?
 Why am I blind to those with great needs
 When Jesus gave me sight and all that I need?
 Why am I such a stumbling block
 To God's faithful chosen who live on the Rock?

Change me.  Forgive me.  Make me brand new.
 Wash me.  Absolve me.  I'll follow You.
 Jesus, redeem me.  Make me brand new.
 Spirit, renew me, Make my heart true.

It's time to run to Calvary's cross -
 There to find hope and forgiveness in Jesus.
 Why He died for me boggles my mind,
 But my Spirit-created faith say than You.
 Why I cling to the cross of Christ now
 Is because He changed me.  Christ made me brand new.

Change me.  Forgive me.  Make me brand new.
 Wash me. Absolve me.  I'll follow You.
 Jesus, redeem me.  Make me brand new.
 Spirit, renew me, Make my heart true.

From "Seasons Under the Sun," published by Concordia Publishing House

Monday, January 29, 2018

On Pills and Needles

Rick Van Warner tells the story of his son's descent into drug use and opioid addiction in his new book, "On Pills and Needles."  (Baker Books)

It was a fascinating but difficult book to read.

Van Warner spent thousands and thousands of dollars in an effort to help his son overcome his addiction.  Nothing worked.  The boy would stay clean for a few days or even a few weeks but then his addiction would rear its ugly head, so to speak, and then Van Warner's family would once again be thrown into chaos.

Van Warner reveals how America is in the opioid mess it is in by exposing how drug companies market drugs like Oxycontin, all in the name of the almighty dollar.  He shows how local, state and the national government have contributed to this growing problem by failing to take effective action to get opioids off the streets.

You get a first hand glimpse into how difficult it is to overcome an addiction.  You heart goes out to Van Warner and his wife and family as they try to cope with a son and brother who can't be trusted and seems bent on destroying his own life.

In the end, Van Warner discovers that his son doesn't need 12 step recovery groups or expensive rehab facilities.  Love, understanding and open and honest communication was what finally helped his son overcome his addiction and a four-year long nightmare.

I appreciated Van Warner's candid honesty.  He freely admits his own mistakes in dealing with his son and the effect it had on his wife and family.  That he and his wife survived the stress on their marriage is amazing.

Is this a "happily ever after" book? There are no guarantees but the book ends on a hopeful note.  And that is enough to ask.

Book provided by Baker Books for review. 

Today's post from Scary Mommy

Every heard of Scary Mommy? It is a blog which features pregnancy advice and parenting tips for imperfect people.  My dear, sweet wife follows Scary Mommy on Instagram and found something that was posted recently to be completely hysterical. It struck a chord with us because we are grandparents.  Even if you're not, you'll still get a chuckle (and a heads up for when you become a grandparent!).

Grandparents of one grand child: Of course we'll watch them.  Be there is five minutes.

Grandparents of multiple grandchildren: Let me check my schedule.  How long will you be gone? Will they already be asleep when we get them? Are they going to do that annoying thing they always do?

We have seven grandkids now and we love spending time with them.  But we did find it easier when there was two of us and only one of them! After we've spent time watching two or three of them, we do find the recovery time is equal to the number of children watched.  One grandchild - one day.  Two grandchildren - two days. Seven grandchildren - two to three day hospital stay! (Just joking!)

Seriously, God has greatly blessed Sherri and I with seven beautiful grandchildren.  Each child is unique.  Each child is special.  I worry sometimes about the world they are going to inherit. Life is so much more difficult and challenging than it was when I was growing up in the fifties and early sixties. I pray every day that God will bless, protect and care for those precious lives. It's a comfort to know that God is faithful and we can trust Him.

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Blown Away By Jesus

"Blown away," was the way my friend, Bill, described himself when someone took their Gideon's Bible and shared Jesus with him.  This weekend I'll tell the story of the impact that made on Bill's life. 

Come and learn more.  Worship takes place today at 5 pm with a communion service; Sunday services are at 8 and 11 am with traditional hymns and at 9:30 am and featuring Modern Christian songs.

Hope to see you at Life in Christ this weekend!

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Top Ten Blast from the Past!

Top 10 Signs That You're At A Bad Wedding

10) When just before the service the groom asks to go to the bathroom...and never comes back.

9) When instead of saying, "You may kiss the bride," the pastor says, "Get 'er done!"

8) When the groom and the bride's father get into a fist fight as the bride is given away.

7) When the photographer is asking people, "Anybody got some Kodak film?"

6) When the bride is escorted down the aisle to the tune of "Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted."

5) When the invitation indicates that the reception is being held at the Golden Corral.

4) When the music at the reception is being provided by "Al Jones and his Happy Accordian."

3) When the pastor asks the groom for the license and the groom replies, "Hunting or fishing?"

2) When the service stops just before the vows are said because the bride goes into labor.

And the number one sign that you're at a bad wedding:

1) When the service begins late because the groom couldn't make bail!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Building the Body

A fit church is like a fit body.  So say Gary L. McIntosh and Phil Stevenson in their new book, "Building the Body."

The authors have taken 12 characteristics which they believe can lead a church to become healthy and fit.  They emphasize the importance of evangelism and witness.  They show how crucial pastoral and personal leadership is to the church.  They highlight how people are seeking community and demonstrate how churches can make connections with both members and those interested in the church.

Each chapter offers practical advice on what a church can do to become more fit.  Whether it's a new church plant or a large mega-church, McIntosh and Stevenson give a multitude of ideas for churches to consider.

My only concern is that the importance of the study and knowledge of the Word of God is not mentioned.  Jesus said, "Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it."  But that admonition doesn't show up in this book.  Maybe the authors assumed that we all know the importance of God's Word and so it wasn't all that important to emphasize it.  The truth is that the 12 characteristics upon which this book is built all have the roots in God's Word.  It's too bad the Bible study, both personal study and in groups, didn't make the cut.

Book provided for review by Baker Books

I'm a little hacked off this morning!

Well, it's another year of losing for our Phoenix Suns.  The ownership is asking fans to be patient - give our young players some time, they say, and in a year or two or three we'll have a winning, playoff-contending team.

But I watch these young players and they are so inconsistent.  One night they show promise and the next night they show nothing.  All of them.

Except one.

Devin Booker is a joy and delight to watch.  Only 21 years old, he is the best player on the Suns and one of the best players in the league.

But not good enough to be an All-Star.  Really?

He's eighth in the league in scoring, has improved statistically in every other category and is usually the marked man by his opponents.  And still he's good for 25 points a game.

Booker was overlooked for the All-Star game.  The reason given was that the Suns are a losing team.  If you want to be selected to the All-Star team you have to be on a winning team. So Booker will have to watch the game from the bleachers.

I'm glad Jesus doesn't rejects losers.

I think about Matthew the tax collector. He was considered a loser by just about everyone.  Jewish tax collectors collecting monies from fellow Jews.  It was well known that many tax collectors took advantage of their position, collecting more than was required and keeping the extra for themselves.

Had Jesus met and talked with Matthew at one time or another? Were they acquainted? We don't know but look at Jesus in chapter nine of Matthew's Gospel.  Jesus goes up to the tax collector and says two words: "Follow Me." With that, Matthew hands in his resignation and goes off with Jesus.

In the next scene, Jesus is hanging out with Matthew and his friends, mostly other tax collectors. The scene greatly offends the religious elites, the Pharisees.  They ask the disciples, "Why does the teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" In other words, why does Jesus hang out with losers, the lowest of the low in society?

Jesus answer is simple and full of good news - "For I came not to call the righteous but sinners."

Jesus came for sinners.  He came for tax collectors and for people like you and me.  People who fail to keep God's commands.  People who regularly fail to trust in God and trust more in ourselves or others. People who somehow think that their works of righteousness make a person acceptable before God.

God says, "There is no one righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10).  But Jesus reaches out to those of us who "have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).

The self-righteous, those who like the Pharisees who believe that their imperfect works and deeds should somehow impress a perfect God, aren't interested in Jesus or His Word of forgiveness and salvation.  They believe they are winners who need no Savior.

But us losers - those of us who know that we have nothing to offer a holy God and would be condemned for our sins - are the ones who Jesus seeks out. 

He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become righteous before God. (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Even today, most people aspire to hang out with the winners in society - the rich, the powerful, the influential.

But Jesus seeks out us losers, dies in our place, rises from the dead on the third day to declare victory over sin and death and the devil, gives us His perfect righteousness, and assures us that we have a place in the kingdom of God.

One day, Devin Booker will make the All-Star team.  One day it will happen.

You and me? We don't have to wait to receive the goodness and mercy of Jesus.  It's ours now! All the gifts of God are given to us every time we come into His House.  We already have our inheritance.  We'll enjoy it in full when Jesus comes again and gathers all believers together and takes us to our heavenly home.

Isn't it great to be a winner - in Jesus!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

We interrupt this blog for a commercial!

Hello everyone!

I wanted to take a moment to let you fine readers know that my dear, sweet wife is leading an exercise/lifestyle group Wednesday mornings at Life in Christ.

At 10 am, she will teach all those who come how to do balance and stretching exercises "without killing yourself." (my words, not hers) And all of this will be done to the sound of upbeat Christian music (she's spent hours finding just the right songs!).

Then, at 11 am, the group sits down to talk about healthy lifestyle goals.  Some may want to build endurance and others may need encouragement in sticking to a diet.  During this hour a lot of support and help will be offered.

Most of all, Sherri wants all those who come to have fun and leave feeling like some positive steps were taken to improve health and life.

The sessions will take place in the Christian Life Center. And, it's free! So, come!

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog...

Monday, January 22, 2018

A good thought for the day

If today were your last, would you do what you're doing? Or would you love more, give more, forgive more? Then do so! Forgive and give as if it were your last opportunity.  Love like there's no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.

Max Lucado, as quoted in Ann Voskamp's "Be the Gift," page 108

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Seven reasons why you might want to come to church this weekend

First, it's supposed to be colder this weekend in Phoenix but our church will be nice and comfy. Feel free to let me know if your church is nice and comfy, too.

Second, we are told the donuts here will be really fresh.

Third, perhaps your favorite football team is in the playoffs this weekend.  You need to pray for them (not that God cares in the least).

Fourth, if you're a Cardinals fan, you know we need a quarterback fast.  You need to pray about this (see above to ascertain God's interest in this matter).

Fifth, the government may be shut down but God will continue to provide His gifts of forgiveness of sins, peace for troubled hearts, assurance of His love and the promise that heaven's gates are wide open for those who die in the Lord (aren't we glad that heaven is not under the control of the US Congress!).

Sixth, Starz' is having a free weekend of programming.  But I've checked out the list of programs and movies and there is nothing worth watching.  Come to church instead.

Seventh, did I say the donuts would be fresh?

I could list more reasons but you get the drift, right? Join us at LICL - today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8, 9;30 and 11 am (by the way, the response to the new 9:30 service has been very positive.  The combination of liturgy and modern Christian music seems to be a good mix - check it out!)

God bless your weekend!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Two Words

It is such a comfort
to me,
such a source
of hope
and strength
and daily joy.
It gives me reason
to get up in the morning
and to press on
when I am discouraged
and weak
and lonely
and afraid.
It gives me reason
to face with courage
the struggles within
and the difficulties without.
It reminds me
that I can stand
before You
as I am,
completely unafraid
and ask of You
what I have asked before
and will ask again:
Your forgiveness
and Your help.
What gives me this
What offers me this
It is this one thing.
I know for certain
that there are
two words
that I’ll never hear.
I know that You will never
look me in the eye
and say to me,
“Go away!”
You will not send me
from Your presence.
You will not drive me
from Your grace.
You will not separate me
from Your glory.
You will not eliminate me
from Your promises.
You will never
send me away.
Because Your anger
was borne by Another.
Because my separation
was carried by Him.
Because He was
sent away, I will never
I will never be.
So, in weakness,
and sin,
I stand before You once more
with courage,
and joy,
because I know
that in all the
dark things that
may be whispered to me
in this dark and fallen world
there are two words I will never hear.

And so with gratitude and joy
I get up to face the day
but as I do, I do it
without fear.
By Paul Tripp

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Time to get the dictionary!

I am better than 2/3 of the way through Eric Metaxas' magnificent biography on Martin Luther.  Every evening I look forward to going home so I can cozy up with this book.

But I just ran across a sentence that is going to force me to grab the dictionary.  Here's the sentence:
No one wished people to be puffed up with religious pride, but neither should one invite Dionysus with his thrysus into St. Peter's to lead maenads in bacchanalian revelry.

Even spell check is questioning maenads!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Your God is Too Glorious

If you enjoyed and were blessed by the writings of Brenning Manning, then you will like author, Chad Bird.

Bird has experienced the highs and lows of life.  He has been exalted and he has been broken.  He has experienced first hand what can happen when a person takes control of their own life.  And he has experience the grace of God who can put back together through forgiveness and love what has been broken.

Bird's new book, "Your God is Too Glorious," tells stories of toothless truck drivers and homeless, pregnant women left out and the street.  The truck driver becomes a tool in which God shows how He uses the least to preached the greatest sermons.  He uses the homeless, pregnant woman as one to whom His grace can be poured into and then writes of how it was done.  If you appreciate a good story teller, you'll like Chad Bird.

This is an author who really knows how to use words.  By use of his stories and by sharing his own experiences, Chad Bird shows us that our gracious God is really more glorious than we can possible imagine. 

Book for review provided by Baker Book House.

Jesus isn't worried about our reputation

Growing up my parents had a few favorite mantras.  My Dad was always worried about my future.  His life had not been very easy and he wanted better for me.  One of his favorite sayings was, "Hard work now makes for an easy life later."  I don't know if that's true in every case.  But looking at life of my father-in-law, Bill Landis, my Dad's saying was certainly true.  Bill was a tireless worker, a wise investor, and never complained about doing hard jobs, or "the dirty work" as it is often called.  Bill was able to retire at age 58 and spent many glorious years living in Prescott.  He had the time and the finances to be able to do what he wanted to do - his hard work made for a easier and much more enjoyable life later.

Another saying my folks had was, "Don't let your reputation be ruined by someone else's reputation." My Dad and Mom were constantly worried about the friends I hung out with and the company I kept. They wanted me to know that if I hung out with guys that were trouble makers or were disrespectful to others, I would be branded the same.  I objected, of course.  "I'm not like that!" I would say. It wasn't until one of my friends was busted for selling marijuana that I learned that my folks were right. After the bust, kids at school would say things like, "You must have been a user too.  You hung out with him all the time." In spite of my denials, my friends wouldn't believe me.  My reputation had been damaged.

It's this idea being careful about the company you keep that makes our relationship with Jesus so special.  Remember what happened when Jesus called Matthew to "Follow me?" Matthew celebrated by having a gathering of his friends to meet and break bread with Jesus. The religious leaders saw what was going on and were appalled. "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" The Pharisees would never eat with such people.  Their reputations as holy and righteous people would be sullied.

Did this bother Jesus?  He told the Pharisees, "I came not to call the righteous but sinners." Jesus worried not one whit about what the religious elites thought of Him.  More important than his reputation was the condition of the people around Him.  Those who were sinful He called to repentance. Those who were outcasts He reached out to and had compassion on them. Through His teaching of the Word of God, Jesus was changing the reputations of those who the Pharisees would have nothing to do with.  These outcasts were welcomed into the kingdom of God.  Through faith they had been given new life from the One who is the way and the truth and the life - Jesus!

That's good news for you and me, isn't it? Each of us has a reputation that is less than stellar. We, too, have thought of ourselves better than others.  Each of us has a closet full of sinful skeletons that we'd rather no one know about.  And if we were exposed - how fast do you think family and friends would run to distance themselves from us, so that their reputations would remain intact.

RJ Grunewald, in his fine book, "Reading Romans with Luther," makes this observation: Our Savior doesn't worry whether our reputation might damage His. He knows exactly what our reputation will do to His reputation. He justifies us, the ungodly, because it is His reputation that changes us - it's His work that makes us righteous.  (page 19).

Go ahead and be careful about the company you keep.  Hang out with Jesus.  Read His Word. Receive His Supper. You have no better friend.  There is no better company than Jesus.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A soldier of the cross

            The story is told that during the early day of the Civil War a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  He could not prove that the charges were unfounded and was declared guilty and condemned to die as a deserter.  An appeal was made on the soldier’s behalf and, as fate would have it, the paperwork ended up on President Lincoln’s desk.  The president was moved by the appeal and signed a pardon, freeing the soldier.  Then the man did a most surprising thing.  He reenlisted, returned to service and fought the entirety of the war on the side of the North.  Tragically, he was killed just as the war was coming to its conclusion.  In looking for some identification, found within the breast pocket of the soldier was the signed pardon of the president.

            In verses one and two of chapter five, Paul describes the “not guilty” verdict we have received by being declared “justified by faith.”  God’s pardon of our sins has given us “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Jesus’ victorious battle over sin, death and hell has brought peace for all who trust in the Lord.  We can live life without fear of God’s punishment.  We can enlist in the Lord’s service as soldiers of the cross.  We can arm ourselves for battle with the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Holy Word.  We can share the Word with those whose hearts are troubled and confused.  May the rich grace of God move you to faithful service as a soldier of the cross of Christ Jesus!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Very proud of my big ol son!

Permit be to brag a bit.  My son, Eric, above center, ran in the Rock and Roll Marathon yesterday.  He trained for four and half months, ran over 400 training miles, forsook favorite foods like pizza, all in preparation for yesterday's big day. He started out at the 11 minute pace that he thought would be best, actually increased his pace at mile 12, "hit the wall" as they say at mile 17, and gutted out the remaining miles. This was a "bucket list" item for him and it felt really good to check "marathon" off the list.

However, Eric didn't feel so great afterward.  His belly was upset and his legs were killing him.  I had hoped to leave church after the 11 am service and get to the finish line in time but the group he was in went out early and so Sherri advised me not to try.  Traffic and parking in Tempe at the finish line was pretty dense and crazy.

I was able to follow Eric's last miles by use of an app that was provided by the Rock and Roll Marathon.  Even though I couldn't see him, the app showed his progress on the course and gave information on miles run, time of each mile and approximate finish time.

Sherri left after the 9:30 am service, picked up Eric's wife, Christina, and their kids and made it to Tempe with time to spare.  It was a pretty special moment when Eric crossed the finish line.  The crowd there cheered everyone who finished which was a pretty cool thing to do.

I met them back at Eric's house.  We had a little celebration with, what else, pizza! Christina's back was really hurting - a result of too much exercise (which can be bad for your health) - so Sherri and I spend a lot of time with the kids outside while Eric and Christina relaxed indoors.

I couldn't be more proud of Eric than I am right now.  I admire that he set such a lofty goal and had the discipline to do the training and preparation to be ready for the big day.  He's not a runner, per se, so completing the marathon was quite an accomplishment.

When I asked him if this was the first of many marathons, he wearily smiled at me and said, "First and last!"

Don't blame him a bit.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

What are you going to be doing this weekend?

Have you got big plans? Taking a hike? Visiting a museum? Getting a jump on spring cleaning? You've got plans? So do I!

Today at noon we'll hold a Memorial Service for one of our members.  In the afternoon I'll practice guitar and review my sermon for the new 9:30 am service.  My dear, sweet wife and I are fans of the BBC/PBS show, "Call the Midwife" and we're working on season five right now.  I'm sure we'll watch an episode or two in the evening.

Tomorrow is another big day at church.  Worship at 8, 9:30, and 11 am.  My sermon at 9:30 am deals with the importance of listening, really hearing and listening to God's Word.  I'm pretty happy with the message and hopeful that it will encourage the hearers to make a new year's resolution - listen to God speak through His Word.

When I've visited with the last worshipper at the 11 am service, I'll change my clothes and head over to Tempe.  My son is running his first (and he says his last) marathon.  He's been training for several months now and has run over 400 practice miles! As he says, 26.2 miles to go.

Whatever your plans might be, I hope you'll be including worship and Bible study as part of the agenda.  Come and join us this weekend at LICL - Saturday at 5 & Sunday at 8, 9:30 & 11 am.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Show and Tell

A kindergarten teacher gave her students an assignment - to bring something to class that represented their religion.

The next day the first student stood up and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is the Star of David."

The next student stood up and said, "My name is Mary and I am Catholic and this is a Crucifix."

The third student stood up and said, "My name is Danny and I am Lutheran and this is a donut and a cup of coffee."

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

He is ours and we are His

I discovered this beautiful paragraph which reading an Epiphany sermon by the sainted Normal Nagel.

The delight and pleasure of God are in His beloved Son, and that is where we are too.  What is ours in His; what is His is ours.  So God delights in us too.  If our hearts would take this in, Martin Luther said, they would burst for joy into a hundred thousand pieces.  In a world that is given over to sin, death and the devil, there is one point where the delight of God dwells. "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."  That is where we are in solidarity with Jesus.  With Jesus there is God's delight.  God, Christ, you - all together like one thing.

My reading list for 2017

How much time do you spend reading? Do you prefer paper or reading off of your tablet? Do you listen to books being read on your way to or from work? That counts too! Did you read one book this year that changed or effected your life in some way?

I set out each year to read 24 book - 2 a month.  I met my goal and then some - 38 was the final tally. What does this mean? It may mean that when I should have been helping my dear, sweet wife with something around the house, I was somewhere reading another book.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites- maybe you'll find something that you might want to spend time with in the new year.

"Outlander" by Diane Galbadon. This is the first in a popular series of books.  It's one of two books that I read that focused on time travel and once I got started reading "Outlander" I hated to stop.

"Breaking Through Depression" by Donald P. Hall. A helpful, hope-filled book. If you struggle with depression, Hall offers good wisdom, advice and encouragement.

"A Change of Heart" by Phillip Gulley.  No one weaves a better tale than this popular author from Indiana.

"Katharina and Martin Luther" by Michelle DeRusha.  One of the best books I read last year.  The author provides keen insight into the marriage between the former nun and the great reformer.

"11-22-63" by Stephen King.  A friend recommended this book to me.  It's about a person going back in time to attempt the prevent the assassination of President John Kennedy. A massive book which was worth every minute I gave to it.

"Unscripted" by Ernie Johnson Jr.  Also on my "best book I read this year" list.  Johnson is a sports broadcaster who writes about his life and how his wife introduced him to Jesus.

"The Babes in the Woods" by Ruth Rendell.  Along with PD James, Rendell is my favorite author of detective fiction.  I have to read at least one Rendell book a year.  This one did not disappoint.

"Good dog. Stay" by Anna Quindlen.  A short but heart-warming book about man's best friend as told by a masterful writer.

"Mickey Mantle-America's Prodigal Son" by Tony Castro.  Growing up, Mantle was my favorite baseball player.  I enjoyed reading Castro's well-researched book about Mantle's life.

"Martin Luther in His Own Words" by Kilcrese and Lutzer.  2017 was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  Baker Books offered this outstanding book of Luther's writings as a way of introducing the great reformer to those who might not know him well.

"Being Lutheran" by Trevor Sutton.  This book serves as a good introduction to Lutheranism and also a great reminder to Lutherans on why the theology and practice of the Lutheran Church makes a difference in one's spiritual life.

"The Complete Farside" by Gary Larson.  This two volume set contains every cartoon Larson drew. I really miss his daily cartoons.  They were clever, funny, and confusing (sometimes).

"America at the Crossroads" by George Barna.  The author is a researcher and he doesn't like what he sees regarding the future of the church.  Every pastor and church leader needs to read this book.

"The Boys of Winter" by Wayne Coffey.  The story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team and how they upset the mighty Soviet Union team in what some call the greatest sports event ever played.

"Rawhide Down" by Del Quinton Wilber.  A minute by minute account about the attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan.  Well done.

"The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Sherri and I love their program, "Fixer Upper." Their life story is equally fun and fascinating.

"Dreaming the Beatles" by Rob Sheffield.  The author describes well why the Beatles are still so popular, even though they stopped touring and making records years ago.

"Anxious for Nothing" by Max Lucado.  One of his best, Lucado zeros in on the reason why people are so anxious and fearful and how one finds hope with dealing with their worries in Christ Jesus.

"Rave On - the Biography of Buddy Holly" by Phillip Norman.  I didn't realize why Holly had a massive effect on the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Who and others until I read Norman's book.  A life ended much too soon.

"Honest Duty" by Chesley Sullenberger.  The first hand account of the man who landed an airplane in the Hudson River and lived to tell about it.

So, that's it for 2017.  Already the books are piling up on my night stand so if you'll excuse me, I have a book to read!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Do you practice idolatry?

While on vacation I read a fine CPH book entitled, "Reading Romans With Luther." The book features an interesting concept, picking on the themes upon which the apostle Paul writes, and including Martin Luther's thoughts on those themes.

One chapter focused on the trouble we have with letting the old man - that sinful nature inside of each of us that wants its own way - have full reign in our lives.  The following quote from author and speaker, Louie Giglio, gave me lots of food for thought, as they say.  Maybe it will do the same for you:

You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money and your loyalty. At the end of that trail you'll find a throne; and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what is of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship.

Page 32

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

God bless your speaking this day!

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Ever watch a pastor pray before he begins his sermon? He may be praying the verse above. All week long the pastor has studied, wrestled with and meditated upon a text of Holy Scripture. Then the writing and rewriting of the manuscript or outline takes place. Finally, the day comes for the pastor to proclaim the word of God to the flock.  As he looks out at the people who have gathered, he recognizes those who have suffered disappointment, who struggle with destructive habits, who are going through times of testing and doubt.  So the pastor prays this psalm verse.  It's what all pastors want - that their words would proclaim the forgiveness, salvation and peace that only
God can give.  And that God would be pleased with their meditation and preaching.

But this verse is not just for pastors. It serves as an excellent prayer for every believer in Christ Jesus. We all want God's Words on our lips. Who knows when we might be able to speak His Word of encouragement to someone who has lost a job, or speak His Word of comfort to a friend awaiting test results from a doctor, or speak His Word of compassion to a church member who is overwhelmed with the details of daily life.

We can speak of our God, our Rock, our strength.  Remember Jesus' Word to the apostle Paul? "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." We can speak of God our Redeemer, our Savior. Remember the "new song" of the Saints in heaven? "You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God...."

As you meditate upon God's Word to you in the Psalms, look for those verses that you can place on your lips and speak to others.  God bless your speaking this day!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Back from Blog Vacation

Happy new year! Are you ready for 2018!

We had the most well attended Christmas services that we've ever had at LICL.  Honestly, I don't know where all the cars were parked for our 7 pm service on Christmas Eve.  The ushers worked hard to set up extra chairs for the overflow crowd.  The music was wonderful and I was able to bring to conclusion my sermon series, "Moving Toward the Manger."

During that service, our Congregational President, Bill Stipp, gave to Pastor Marcus and me a Christmas gift from the congregation.  One thing I can say about our church family - they are extremely generous!  And it's not just at Christmas.  Our church family supports Sherri and me every day of the year with their prayers, their words of encouragement, and their faithfulness in worship, study and service.  This month I'm celebrating my 13th year of ministry with this congregation. Sherri and I praise God every day for the privilege of being a part of Life in Christ Lutheran!

The rest of the week between Christmas and New Year gave some time for us to celebrate the holiday with the entire family.  My youngest daughter and her fam were here from Green Bay; combined with the rest of the kids and grandkids the noise level in our home reached airplane noise levels. Well, maybe not that loud but pretty close!

We began the new year with a trip to California.  Our kids told their kids that their big Christmas gift was going to Disneyland.  Sherri and I hadn't been there in about 30 years.  Wow! How that place has changed! We spent two days there and the grandkids had a blast.  But we were all pretty exhausted by Tuesday evening.  From there we traveled south to Dana Point and spent parts of Wednesday and Thursday at the beach.  Again, the kids had a ball.  I find it interesting that you do not have to teach kids how to have fun at the beach. The minute we arrived the grandkids had out the buckets and shovels and the sand began to fly!  The weather was unusually nice for the first week in January so we adults enjoyed chilling out in the sun while the kids had their fun.

This weekend we began our new worship schedule, adding a third service at 9:30 am.  We had a band that played modern Christian music (and they were fantastic!).  But it's not "a praise and worship service" as most understand the term.  The music was built around and served the liturgy - God's Word.  It is a unique service and I believe it compliments the two traditional services we have at 8 and 11 am.  The schedule ran smoothly and their were not too many hickups, so to speak.  Pastor Andersen's class did not have the video he had planned to use - for some reason the equipment, that worked on Saturday, would not work on Sunday.  We will get that fixed.

I pray that you wonderful readers had a fine Christmas celebration and are looking forward to being on the receiving end of God's abundant and rich blessings.  As the psalmist tells us, "Our times are in Your hand, O Lord."  And there is no better place to be.