Monday, April 30, 2018

An important distinction

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

From "Reading Romans with Luther," page 25

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Things I did and did not like in Israel

In no particular order...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, April 27, 2018

A working vacation? Oh, much more than that!

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

Well, me, for one.

Could I have been any more blessed?


Praise the Lord for such a wonderful opportunity!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What shall the sermon be about this weekend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

There is no place like home...

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pray that I never forget any of it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Turning out the light for now

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Go slow!

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

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

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

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

Lord, help me to go slow.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Four more sleeps!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Law drives us to Jesus

Or, as RJ Grunewald puts it: The Law doesn't make us better.  It makes us turn to the One (Jesus) who can.

From "Reading Romans with Luther," page 52

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Big plans this weekend?

I hope they include worship.  If you don't have a church home, come and visit us at LICL.  We have a service this afternoon at 5 pm and three services tomorrow - 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  I'll be preaching at all the Sunday services and my little group will provide the music at the 9:30 service.  Check us out - we like making new friends!

Have a blessed weekend!!

Friday, April 6, 2018

The dog was Catholic?

      Muldoon lived alone in the Irish countryside with only a pet dog for company. One day the dog died, and Muldoon went to the parish priest and asked, "Father, me dog is dead. Could ya' be saying' a mass for the poor creature?"
      Father Patrick replied, "I'm afraid not; we cannot have services for an animal in the church. But there are some Baptists down the lane, and there's no tellin' what they believe. Maybe they'll do something for the creature."
      Muldoon said, "I'll go right away Father. Do ya' think $5,000 is enough to donate to them for the service?"
      Father Patrick exclaimed, "Sweet Mary, Mother of Jesus! Why did ya' not tell me the dog was Catholic?


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What is bitterness?

Picked up this nifty little quote yesterday while reading the Tebow book:

Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies – Tremper Longman III & Mark L. Strauss

You’ve heard of pre & post millennialism.  But what is amillennialism? You’ve been given a festschrift to read and you wonder, “What is a festschrift?”  You’re asked, “What’s the different between “Gehenna” and “Sheol?”  Tremper Longman and Mark Strauss have come to your rescue.

“The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies” should find a valuable place on the desk of any student, teacher or pastor.  Over 500 different Biblical terms and topics are covered with short, clearly written definitions.  Someone asks you about the “Jesus Seminar” and you wonder if it’s still around? This dictionary will give you all you need to know to be able to answer the question.  Really, you’ll find yourself picking up this dictionary, turning to a random page, and finding 30 minutes have flown by before you know it.  This is an excellent resource!

Book provided for review by Baker Books

A thrilling Easter Sunday

Alleulia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Some observations about the day:

50 early birds came for the sunrise service.

Kevin's group played so well.  Their version of "Christ Is Risen" set the tone for the entire service.

It was hard to concentrate during the 6:30 service.  Must have been the smell of bacon!

It was a joy to visit with so many guests in between services.

The breakfast our Fellowship Committee and youth hosted had to have been the best in town! They served everything you would want in a breakfast and it was delicious!

Our 8:30 and 10:30 services featured the best music we've ever presented.  Dale and Rich on trumpet, played with Annie on the hymns; Annie and Dale accompanied the Bell Choir on a beautiful new arrangement of "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today;" the Adult Choir knocked their song out of the park, so to speak; Annie and Jan offered a beautiful offertory.  The music simply could not have been better and it helped us all celebrate our Lord's resurrection with great, great joy!

The kids had a very successful egg hunt.  Made me wish that we had an egg hunt for adults.  After all, I like Double Bubble gum too.

Many worshippers told me how touched they were by the "Amazed" video that played prior to the sermon. The music bed, "Your Grace Still Amazes Me," was perfect.

Over 700 came to our weekend services.  We were pleased to proclaim the Gospel to so many.  We made some new friends and hope to see them again.