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.