Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Middle

A few years ago a USA Today reviewer called ABC's "The Middle," the network's "sweetest show." The setting was not LA or NYC but middle America in a fictitious place - Orson, Indiana. Mom and Dad struggled to make ends meet and the kids were less than perfect (and unlike most sitcoms, not smarter than their parents). The show never achieved the popularly of "Modern Family," but the audience for "The Middle" was loyal and devoted to the show.  Although it took us an extra week or so to get to it, my dear, sweet wife and I watched the finale Tuesday night and we weren't disappointed.

In fact, I think it might have been the best finale for any program I've ever watched.  The episode dealt with a real-life issue - a child leaves the nest for something bigger and better.  After some confusion over the start date regarding a new job, the Heck family decide to take a road trip to Denver.  Sue wants to have "a moment," and each member of the family have their moment - not sickly sweet but heart-felt to be sure. The show ends with young Brick (not so young anymore) whispering one last time, "the middle," as the car drives off into the distance.

"The Middle" was must-see TV in the Spicer house.  I appreciated the fact that the show wasn't afraid to show the Heck family as church-goers.  The episodes where Rev. Tim Tom made an appearance were often funny and poignant. Now that we've discovered "Last Man Standing" in reruns (and to appear with new episodes this fall), the void left by "The Middle" has been filled.  Fortunately, the Hallmark Channel is showing "The Middle" in reruns so that will give me a chance to watch one more time ABC's "sweetest show."

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Today's thought from Luther

Therefore, when you view the nails piercing through His hands, firmly believe it is your work. Do you see His crown of thorns? Believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts.

from "Martin Luther in His Own Words," page 117

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Question That Demands an Answer

            There are some questions that are hard to answer. 

            When my mother asked, “George, did you take the last cookie?  You know you were supposed to save that for your father,” I usually found myself tongue-tied.  When my high school basketball coach asked, “George, are you happy with your playing time,” I said nothing, having been taught by my parents to respect your elders, even, for instance, when you weren’t happy with the number of minutes you spent on the basketball floor.  Or when members of my former congregation asked me, “You’re not going to take that call to that church in Arizona, are you?” I just smiled, not wanting to acknowledge that I was planning to take that call to that church in Arizona, Life in Christ.

            But there are questions that demand an answer.  We find one such question in St. John’s Gospel, chapter six.  Jesus has had something of a verbal sparring match with a large crowd of Galileans.  Many in the crowd believed that a person had to do good works to become righteous before God.  Jesus taught them that faith in the One whom God had sent was what was needed.  Many who stood at the edge of the sea of Galilee believed that the promised Messiah would come down from heaven accompanied by great signs and wonders.  Jesus taught them that the Messiah had already come and was ready to give them more than just a wonderful meal of bread and fish.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

            By the time Jesus had finished, John reports that many of the Lord’s disciples found this teaching hard to swallow.  They said, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?” Then John gives us the sorry news: “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

            As Peter, James and John and the rest stood and looked at the backs of those who were returning to their homes, Jesus broke the silence with a simple question.  But it was a question that demanded an answer: “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

            Simon Peter gives an answer for the ages, the answer that every follower of Jesus Christ wants to have on their lips: “Lord, to whom shall we go.  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

            We know that the 12 disciples failed Jesus on more than one occasion.  They were often slow to act on the faith they had in the Lord.  But on this occasion, Peter answered with trusting faith.  Why would he and the others even think about following anyone else  ?  They believed that Jesus’ words gave life, everlasting life.  Jesus’ words had the power to forgive sin.  His words could change a hard heart into a soft one, beating with faith and trust.  Yes, Jesus’ teachings could be challenging and hard to understand.  But Peter and the other disciples were certain of one thing – there was no other teacher or priest or emperor who could give them what they wanted and needed the most.  The disciples wanted to know that they were right with God and had eternal life.  Jesus’ words were filled with the Spirit and with life.

            This week someone may ask you why you believe in Jesus or why you go to church or why you take your faith so seriously.  If you’re not sure how to answer, use Peter’s answer.  You, too, can say, “Who else would I put my faith in?  Jesus has the words of eternal life.”  That’s the best response to a question that really demands an answer.  

From a "Wake Up With the Word" radio devotion

Saturday, May 26, 2018

My family, a conference and a busy weekend

The past seven days have been a mixture of down time, learning and getting back to work.

At this time last Saturday we were flying to Appleton, WI to be with my youngest daughter and her family and to celebrate the third birthday of my grandson, Duke.  We had a wonderful celebration.  Duke cracks me up with his antics.  His big party was Sunday afternoon and his gifts were guns, guns, guns.  There were all kinds of nerf-shooting guns; apparently Duke has been watching too many army movies with his older brother.  Green Bay is a wonderful place to visit in the summer time.  We're just sorry that we won't be there this 4th of July to see their tremendous fireworks display - 1st rate!

Sherri and I also attended a Parish Nurses Conference that was held on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin.  The conference was as good, if not better, than many pastor conferences I've attended over the years.  The break out sessions were very informative and best of all, I got to meet and hear Rev. Dr. Dan Paavola.

Dr. Paavola is the author of "Our Way Home," a book in which he takes a unique look at the Lord's Prayer.  Not only will this book give you new insight into the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, it could also revolutionize your prayer life.  Dr. Paavola is a creative writer who weaves personal stories into solid Lutheran doctrine which produces a highly readable and informative book.  He preached at the chapel service on Wednesday and on Thursday presented a session on the word "steadfast" as found in the Scriptures.  He is an energetic, creative speaker; I could have listened to him all day! Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of "Our Way Home." You'll be happy that you did.

Got back home Thursday evening and spent most of Friday preparing for a wedding that I'll do today at 2 pm.  Ryan and Nyree are a wonderful couple and they were a joy to work with as we did pre-marital counseling together.  I'm excited for them as they start this new season of their lives.

Then at 5 pm I'll be preaching at the communion service we'll offer.  In fact, I'll be preaching at all the Sunday services too - 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  Tomorrow is Holy Trinity Sunday and I'll explain how your baptism connects you to the Triune God.  Do come and join us this weekend at LICL!

Friday, May 25, 2018

A fish tale

Saint Peter halted a man at the entrance to heaven.  "I'm sorry," Peter said to the man, "but I cannot admit you.  You've told too many lies."

The man smiled and replied, "Come on, give me a break.  After all, you were once a fisherman yourself!"

From "A Laugh A Day," day 321

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A good reminder

The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 40:8

Friday, May 18, 2018

Today’s Latin lesson

Veni, vidi,Visa.

(We came, we saw, we went shopping).

Jan Barett

Extreme measures don't often work!

      Big Ed seemed to always fall asleep during the Sunday sermon. His wife was fed up and decided to deal with the embarrassing situation.
      The next Sunday when he fell asleep, she quietly removed some pungent Limburger cheese from a ziplock bag in her purse and passed it under his nose.
      Groggily startled, Big Ed blurted out, "No, Helen, no—don't kiss me now."


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor is in Need of Money

10) Rents his stole out for sponsorships.

9) Keeps a tip cup on the pulpit.

8) People notice an Uber sticker on his car.

7) Rents himself out for children's birthday parties as "Brother Billy, the really righteous balloon man!"

6) Charges $5 per bedside prayer.

5) Sells vials of water from the Dead Sea collected on his Holy Land Trip.

4) Preaches every sermon on 1 Timothy 5:18 - "The worker deserves his wages."

3) The voice you hear at the stadium calling out, "Cold beer here!" sounds suspiciously like the pastor's.

2) Tells parents bringing kids for baptism, "Water costs extra."

And the number one sign that your pastor is in need of money:

1) Misses church to work a double shift at IHOP.

Good works are good!

We Lutheran are sometimes afraid to speak much of good works for fear that our readers might start thinking that our good works contribute to salvation in Jesus.  We don't do good works to be saved but do good works because we are saved! Last Monday, I read the following from the "Treasure of Daily Prayer," quoting the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

We have already frequently testified that repentance should produce good fruit. These good fruit are what the commandments teach: prayer, thanksgiving, the confession of the Gospel, teaching the Gospel, obeying parents and rulers, and being faithful to one's calling.  We should not kill, not hold onto hatred, be we should be forgiving and give to the needy, so far as we can according to our means. We should not commit sexual sins or adultery, but should hold in check, bridle, and chastise the flesh, not as a repayment of eternal punishment but so as not to obey the devil or offend the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we should speak the truth. These fruit have God's command and should be produced for the sake of God's glory and command.  They have their rewards also.

Page 312

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A priceless piece of art

My grandson, Luke, was asked in first or second grade (I don't remember which) what he wanted to be when he became a grown up.  His answer was "an airplane pilot."  When the teacher asked why, "Then I could fly around the world and tell people about Jesus!"

My daughter found the above drawing in Luke's backpack when he came home from school one day.  When she asked him about it, Luke said, "We had to do an art project in class. I finished early so I decided to do my own project." I still have that drawing. I give thanks to God for the work the Holy Spirit is doing in giving and strengthening Luke's faith in His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Good Thing to be in God's Hands

A Good Thing to be in God’s Hands

            Emmitt and Gloria.  They were members of the church I served in South Carolina.  I visited them every four to six weeks.  They were what we commonly classify as “shut-ins.”  Gloria had been afflicted with a severe case of arthritis.  Emmitt was suffering from dementia.  The two of them faced challenges the likes of which I’ve never seen.  And they faced them together.

            Emmitt and Gloria were a team.  They supported and cared for each other.  Love filled their home.  Although Emmitt couldn’t say the word, “love,” he demonstrated his love for Gloria in many practical ways.  Emmitt cleared the dishes from the table and put them in the dish washer.  He emptied out the dryer and folded and put away their clothes.  He gathered up the garbage cans and put them in the big container out in the garage.

            And it was out in the garage where Emmitt stumbled and fell and broke his right hip.  Off to the hospital he went for emergency surgery.  At that moment, these two loving, caring teammates and lovebirds were separated, never to live together again.

            Emmitt’s surgery went well but he began to experience complications almost immediately.  Gloria kept a full-time vigil at Emmitt’s beside, even though stiff chairs and uncomfortable cots caused her unrelenting pain.  Twice she called me at home.  “The doctor doesn’t think Emmitt has long to live,” she would say.  “Will you come?”  I did and each time Gloria and I were amazed at how Emmitt would bounce back.  And as he did, we would wonder, “What does God have in mind in all of this?  Why is Emmitt still here?”

            We got the answer a few days later.  I had stopped by the hospital to check in our Emmitt.  Gloria and I were talking when suddenly Emmitt grabbed me by my left hand.  His grip was strong.  He pulled himself up to a sitting position, looked me straight in the eye and said in a clear, strong voice, “It is a good thing to be in the hands of God.”

            Gloria and I looked at each other in complete amazement.  I had never gotten more than a “yes” or “no” from Emmitt in the entire time I had ministered to him.  Gloria later told me that she couldn’t remember the last time she had heard a complete sentence from her husband.  That Emmitt has spoken out like that brought Gloria an indescrible joy.  The message ministered to her heart…and to mine.

            Looking back on that incident, Emmitt was simply echoing the words of God Himself through Isaiah the prophet: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

            Where do any of us want to be when our health fails us?  When stress overwhelms us?  When trouble visits us?  We want to know that God is near, that He will wrap His everlasting arms of love around us, to comfort and to help.  According to Isaiah, that’s what God does.  Listen to this: (God) tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.

            That good news was Gloria’s comfort.  A few days later, Emmitt passed into eternity.  Tears of sadness were shed.  But Gloria’s heart was filled with the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes when you know that it is a good thing to be in the hands of God.  Thank you, Emmitt, for reminding us of this glorious truth.

A "Wake Up With the Word" flashback from 2013    

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happiness, disappointment and weekend worship

Happy news yesterday - Last Man Standing is coming back! This was a highly rated television show that featured Tim Allen and Nancy Travis.  It was cleverly written with lots of laugh-out-loud moments in each show.  But ABC cancelled the series a year ago.  It is believed that the network disliked Allen conservative political views and the jokes made at the expense of the liberal side.  Now, Fox has picked up the program and it's new season will take place this fall.

My dear, sweet wife and I have an end-of-the-evening routine.  We grab a low-cal chocolate bar and watch a show.  First, it was Everybody Loves Raymond, then Cheers, then The Middle and now Last Man Standing.  It is a funny show.  I'd forgotten how good Tim Allen is.  So, I'm really looking forward to the series resuming in the Fall.

My disappointment? Wonderful friends from church took us to Godspell on Thursday evening.  Other than the song, "Day by Day," I knew nothing about the play.  And there were reasons to be impressed.  They got right many of the stories of Jesus and the parables He taught.  The Lord's Supper scene even included the words from Matthew's Gospel, "Shed for the forgiveness of sins." Sp of the songs weren't that great but the cast brought much energy to the show.

However, following the crucifixion scene, Jesus is carried away, the cast sing a song about the brotherhood of men and that's it - the end! No resurrection! We enjoyed our evening with our friends very much.  The play was a huge disappointment and I cannot recommend it at all.

And now the weekend - we have worship today at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  The first and third services on Sunday feature traditional hymns; the middle service utilizes modern Christian songs.  Come and join us this Sunday - every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  Take that Godspell!

Friday, May 11, 2018

With apologies to my Baptist friends

Several churches in the South decided to hold union services. The leader was a Baptist and proud of his denomination.
      "How many Baptists are here?" he asked on the first night of the revival?
      All except one little old lady raised their hands.
      "Lady, what are you?" asked the leader.
      "I'm a Methodist," meekly replied the lady.
      "Why are you a Methodist?" queried the leader?
      "Well," replied the little old lady, "my grandparents were Methodists, my mother was a Methodist, and my late husband was a Methodist."
      "Well," retorted the leader, "just supposing all your relatives had been morons, what would that have made you?"
      "Oh, I see. A Baptist, I suppose," the lady replied meekly


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Ascension of Our Lord

Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of our Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe.  Jesus' ascension to the Father is HIs entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of HIs state of humiliation. Jesus no sits at the right hand of God, which Luther correctly taught is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time. Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space. He is with us as true God and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established: His Word and His Sacraments. We mortals in those means of grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.

From "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 301-02

Top Ten Things a Pastor Should Not Say When Visiting the Hospital

10) I hear the doctors won't eat the food in this hospital

9) You hope to leave by tomorrow? I wouldn't count on it!

8) Those hospital gowns really don't cover much, do they?

7) Bummer of a scar!

6) Did you remind the doctor to count all the sponges before they closed you up?

5) Did you hear about the malpractice suit brought up against your surgeon?

4) That guy delivering the meal - didn't I see him on Cops? He put up a fight!

3) Man, you look terrible!

2) You know they call this hospital the Mrsa capital of America

and the number one thing a pastor shouldn't say when visiting the hospital...

1) I'm sorry but I don't have a Bible verse for what you've got.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A morning prayer

It's amazing a how much stuff a pastor can collect in 21 years of ministry! Last night I was going through some boxes stored in my closet and found pictures, plaques, and other gifts from people I've served over the years.  As I dug through one box I discovered a prayer that I had had framed.  It was on the wall near my desk in my office.  It's a wonderful prayer written by a great man, the Christian pastor, apologist and author, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

O Heavenly Father

I praise and thank You

For the peace of the night

I praise and thank You for this new day

I praise and thank You for all Your goodness

and faithfulness throughout my life

You have granted me many blessings;

Now let me also accept

what is hard from Your hand

You will lay on me no more than I can bear

You make all things work together for good

for Your children.  Amen

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hello, old friend

Some Bible verses are like old friends.  You read them, study them, perhaps memorize them and call on them when you have a need or desire a word of encouragement.

During yesterday's reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (published by Concordia Publishing House), the psalm reading for the day was Psalm 103:6-14.  A number of years ago, when Life in Christ was handing out Bible verses on cards for memorization, verse 12 was one that we put to memory. 

However, the entire psalm is worth memorization.  A psalm of David, it reminds us of God's provision - the things we need to sustain life but also the forgiveness He gives for our sins.  David describes the glory of God - exactly who He is.  And the psalm reminds that although everything is passing away in this life, the love of God is "from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him," (verse 17a).

Enjoy and be blessed by reading these verses:

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

 He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;

as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.

 As a father shows compassion to His children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.

For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ok, we're cranking up the air!

What is the world is going on with this world! It's May - why are we getting July temps?

Since Dave Muncey retired I have no answers about the weather but we know it's going to be hot.  However, we have sent a team of engineers to LICL to adjust the thermostats so that it is nice and cool for church this weekend.

Don't believe me? Well, come and check it out.  Today at 5 pm (my group, the Spicer group - also know as St. Peter's Lovely Hearts Club Band and Cleaning Service will be playing) or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  It will be cold* so join us!

*blankets not provided

Friday, May 4, 2018

Poor Charlie Brown

Words from our favorite lovable loser...Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong." Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."

From "A Laugh A Day," day 314

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Join us today for prayer

The first Thursday in May is the National Day of Prayer.  We have used this day at LICL to encourage our members to be faithful in reaching out to the Lord in prayer.

Today, our sanctuary will be open for anyone who would like to have a quiet time to pray.  We have all kinds of resources that people can pick up in the Narthex to assist them as they pray.  If you've not done this before, stop by the church today.

This evening, at 7 pm, a Service of Anointing and Prayer will take place.  A philosopher once said, "Life is lived forward but understood backward." It's that idea that I want to explore in my message. Also, there will be a point in the service where people will be invited to come forward for a time to express individual concerns and, if they'd like, to be anointed with oil. Those who have attended this service in the past have found it to be encouraging and helpful.  And it is a service in which no offering is taken.  Imagine that - a service without an offering!

So, stop by the church during the day to pray or join us later this evening for worship. Blessings!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Luther on baptism

In this way one sees what a great, excellent thing Baptism is.  It delivers us from the devil's jaws and make us God's own. It suppresses and takes away sin and then daily strengthens the new man. It is working and always continues working until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory.

From "Concordia," - The Large Catechism -  page 437

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

On forgiveness

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. What a liberation when you can forgive.

Corrie ten Boom, "Oh How He Loves You."