Saturday, June 30, 2018

How to keep the Third Commandment

Martin Luther explains it for us in the Small Catechism:

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

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

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, June 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What good works demonstrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Way Out

Every temptation

that has come my way

is the kind

that normally comes

to people

For God keeps his promises

and He will not allow me

to be tempted

beyond my power

to resist

but at the time

I am tempted

He will give me

the strength to endure it

and so provide me


a way out

From "Prayers For People Under Pressure," page 41

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

When you feel cast aside

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

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

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Doing to the least of these

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

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Top 10 Signs Your Pastor Has World Cup Fever

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

10) Names his new born son, "Pele"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Changes his name to Alexi Lalas

I checked and it's working

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

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

Have a fine day!

Friday, June 22, 2018


A man bought a donkey from a preacher. The preacher told the man that this donkey had been trained in a very unique way, (being the donkey of a preacher). The only way to make the donkey go, is to say,


The only way to make the donkey stop, is to say, "Amen!"

The man was pleased with his purchase and immediately got on the animal to try out the preacher's instructions.

"Hallelujah!" shouted the man. The donkey began to trot. "Amen!" shouted the man. The donkey stopped immediately.

"This is great!" said the man. With a "Hallelujah", he rode off very proud of his new purchase.

The man traveled for a long time through some mountains. Soon he was heading towards a cliff. He could not remember the word to make the donkey stop.

"Stop," said the man. "Halt!" he cried. The donkey just kept going.

"Oh, no...

'Bible...Church!...Please Stop!!," shouted the man. The donkey just began to trot faster. He was getting closer and closer to the cliff edge.

Finally, in desperation, the man said a prayer..."Please, dear Lord.

Please make this donkey stop before I go off the end of this mountain, In Jesus name, AMEN."

The donkey came to an abrupt stop just one step from the edge of the cliff.

"HALLELUJAH!", shouted the man.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What love does

Everywhere love turns it finds burdens to carry and ways to help. To love means to wish another person good from the heart. It means to seek what is best for the other person.

Martin Luther, "Faith Alone" devotional book, June 20 entry

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Are You A Pew Potato?

 My dear, sweet wife accuses me of being a couch potato.  I hate to admit it but I’m guilty as charged.
I’d rather watch Phil Mickelson tee it up instead of playing 18 holes myself.  I’d rather watch a professional fisherman haul in a big catfish instead of bating a hook and trying it myself.  I’d rather watch a home improvement program instead of trying to find my tool box (it’s the red box covered with cobwebs) instead of trying to build or repair something myself.
But lately this couch potato has been thinking that it’s time to get off the couch!
Why the change of heart? When you get right down to it, it’s much more fun participating than watching…it’s more healthier to be actively involved than passively sitting on the fence…it’s better to be on the playing field instead of being in the bleachers.  You get my drift, right?
Golf caddy, Neil Oxman, gets it.  He says, “I tell my friends that if you are a sports fan and you caddy at a PGA tour event it will change your life forever.  There is absolutely no other way to be that close to a sport without actually playing it.  You can’t go on a field at a baseball game…when you caddy you are on the field…it is an amazing feeling to be there.”
I’m convinced – being a part of the game is so much better than being a couch potato.  I’m sure it beats being a pew potato too.
What’s a pew potato? This is someone who watches what goes on at church, admires and even rejoices at the mission and ministry of the church but warms a pew or seat each Sunday without ever getting involved.
My friend, Randy, used to be a pew potato.  He was a member of a fairly large church and he found it was real easy to blend in to the crowd and let others serve or do important tasks.
Then Randy was given the chance to help plant a new mission church in a nearby community.  In this new congregation, pew potatoes were not allowed.  Everyone was expected to use their gifts and abilities to glorify God and to help others.
As the new church began to reach people and grow, Randy discovered the gift of leadership by organizing church members into groups so that Sunday morning worship went smoothly.  He found that he had the gift of teaching and enjoyed spending time with the older youth of the church.  He learned that he had the gift to comfort and counsel and people who were dealing with troubles and challenges in their life appreciated the time and the prayers that Randy offered them.
Randy found out how exciting it was to be an active servant instead of a passive pew sitter.  His service to the Lord’s church changed his life.  God blessed Randy in ways he could have never imagined.  All because he raised his hand to a simple request – how would you like to help more people get to know Jesus?
Have you gotten a little too comfortable seated on your favorite pew? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a gentle poke in the ribs.  When there’s a need for volunteers, raise your hand.  When there’s an invitation to go on a mission trip, pack your bag.  God just might work through you to change the life of another person.

From "Wake Up With The Word" 2013

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A prayer for those in a hurry

In the name of Jesus Christ, who was never in a hurry, we pray, O God, that You will slow us down, for we know that we live too fast. With all of eternity before us, make us take time to live - time to get acquainted with You, time to enjoy Your blessings, and time to know each other.

Peter Marshall, as quoted in "Patches of Godlight"

A Prayer for Patient Endurance

Gracious God, I am troubled and disheartened. Time is a heavy burden for me. I grow weary, discouraged, and fearful because of my problems. Yet I know You can rescue me from my confusion. You set the stars to move in precise rhythm, and You can bring order to my affairs. To You a thousand years are but a day, and You can give me the patience to live today as a day of grace. To You one day can be as a thousand years, and You can help me live today with the hope and patience of eternity.

In Jesus Christ, Your Son, You have begun the new age of life and immortality.  In Him give me courage and strength.  Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 199

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Power of Vision

One way to judge the popularity and effectiveness of a publication is to see how many editions have been printed.

It would appear "The Power of Vision" by George Barna is very popular and very effective.

It may be that although most pastors and church workers want to do ministry with a clear vision of God's plan, that vision is elusive. Barna defines vision, teaches the reader how not to confuse vision with mission, ways that a ministry can prosper by having a well defined ministry, and providing materials which can help any ministry or church group define and implement a statement of vision.

Concerned that the ministry you lead is without a clear vision.  A good start to changing is to grab a copy of "The Power of Vision."

Our Advocate

If I have some time after lunch and before I need to get back to work, I've been reading Michael Newman's book, "Hope When Your Heart Breaks."  The book was designed for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones to look to the One who gives hope - Jesus.  I have really appreciated the insights Newman shares.  Here he offers a different take on a familiar story, that of Mary and Martha.

Martha told Jesus the next step He should take, but Jesus wasn't taken in by Martha's worries and control.  Jesus sees a bigger picture and seeks a greater purpose.  Martha may have been preparing lunch, but Jesus was preparing an eternal banquet.  Martha railed at Mary's fault, but Jesus rejoiced in Mary's faith.  So, He answered Martha.

To Mary, it may not have even mattered what Jesus said. In her split second of utter humiliation, Jesus didn't let the feeling linger. He didn't hesitate or allow the awkwardness to prevail. Before Mary's face could become flush with hurt feelings, Jesus filled the gap. He leaped to her defense, stepped in to help, and showed He cared. At what appeared to be the point for her greatest failure, Mary saw the Son of God advocating for her.

He does the same for you. You may feel like you want to disappear, but Jesus insists on being your companion when you are most vulnerable. He calls you a worthy friend. The apostle John knew what it was like to be brushed off and embarrassed. But he also knew Jesus. Later in his life, John reflected honestly about sin and failure. He said, "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). We have an advocate. John experienced Jesus' caring defense.  Mary did too. When Jesus Christ the Righteous One speaks up for you, there is not one who can speak against you. (pages 35-36)

So, go throughout your week knowing that you have an advocate.  Jesus has got your back!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Top Ten "Too Much Information" Facebook Posts

10) In a relationship with Bob...for 12 minutes

9) Happy 15th Anniversary to my beloved.  We've been married 20 years but 15 of them have been happy.

8) No longer in a relationship with Bob...he isn't into long term relationships

7) Boxers or briefs or commando.  I'm trying to decide for my four year old

6) I locked myself out of the house today.  Somehow, the cat managed to set the place on fire. LOL!

5) It's ridiculous that people can't express their own opinions. Poor Roseanne!

4) I'm sitting down with a plate of caviar, a bottle of bubbly and I'm going to watch "Cops"

3) I'm looking for a good urologist. Any suggestions?

2) I want to thank my wonderful, loving husband for emptying out the kitty litter.  You're the best, Babe!

1) I'm bored.

I've got World Cup Fever!

It's just a mild case at this point.  But I'm sure the fever will be building throughout the next 30 days or so.

The World Cup is bigger than the Super Bowl, World Series or the NBA Finals.  Football (only in a few countries is it call "Soccer") is the world's sport.  Right now it's half time between Argentina and Iceland.  Tied 1-1.  Iceland is as large as the state of Maine.  Everyone in Argentina plays football.  But the game is very competitive and with a break or two, Iceland could win! Gotta type quickly so I can get back to the game!

Today at 5 pm we'll have worship at Life in Christ.  Tomorrow worship takes place at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  Come and see us.  Spending time in God's House is the perfect antidote to World Cup Fever!

Have a great day!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Did you hear the one about the middle-aged guy and the state trooper?

There was a middle-aged guy who bought a brand new Mercedes convertible SLK.

He took off down the road, flooring it to 80 mph and enjoyed the wind blowing through what little hair he had left on his head.  "This is great," he thought as he passed car after car.

Then he looked in his rear view mirror and there was a highway patrol trooper behind him, blue lights flashing and siren blaring.

"I can get away from him with no problem," thought the man and he floored it, flying down the road at over 100 mph.

Then he thought, "What am I doing? I'm too old for this kind of thing."  So he pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the state trooper to catch up with him.

The trooper walked up to the Mercedes and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes.  If you can give me a good reason why you were speeding like that, I'll let you go."

The man explained, "Last week my wife ran off with a state trooper and I thought you were bringing her back." 

The trooper replied, "Have a nice day!"

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Paul teaches us how to overcome evil

            A friend of mine had been wronged by another person.  When I asked my friend how he was going to handle the situation he replied, “George, I don’t get mad; I get even!”

            That is often our first response when someone has slandered us or taken advantage of us or has hurt us in some way.  We’d like to pay them back and make them feel the pain that we’ve suffered.  We’d like for them to know a sleepless night or an upset stomach or a throbbing headache.  We even begin to think that we won’t really be happy until we’ve gotten some kind of revenge. 

            The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to have his service to the Lord be criticized and condemned.  He knew what it was like to suffer punishment for no good reason.  He knew what it was like to be on the run from enemies and their evil plans.  If anyone ever had reason to want to “get even,” it was Paul.

            If you get a chance today, read Romans, chapter 12.  Paul has a lot to say about living out the new life we have in Christ Jesus.  He encourages his readers (including you and me) to “bless those who persecute you,” and “do not repay evil for evil.”  How can we live in this way?  Only through the power of the Lord who enables us to set aside worldly patterns and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  After you’ve finished the reading, ask the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming power in your life so that you might become a “living sacrifice” who continually seeks God’s will for daily living.  Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. And have a great day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Luther's Morning Prayer for Children

Last week I was asked to lead the opening prayer at our annual Vacation Bible School. I was told that the kids had been trying to pray Luther's Morning Prayer but that it had been too difficult for most of them to say.

So, I went to the Internet to see if I could find a children's version of the prayer and I did! Unfortunately, I failed to note the site where I found the prayer so I can't give credit where credit is due.  Here it goes...

Thank you, God, through Your dear Son

 That with the Spirit, three in one

You kept me safe all through the night

 And I awoke to see the light

Be with me throughout the day

 Let nothing evil pass my way

May You be pleased with all I do

 This life on earth, I live for You

My soul and body and all things

 I trust to You, You are my King

Your holy angel keep me near

 The evil one I will not fear


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

For Acceptance of Self

Father, teach me to trust the Spirit You have breathed into me. Give me grace to believe Your Word, by which I am made Your child. Help me to understand that I belong to You, even though I am undeserving of Your love.

Help me to see Your judgment and mercy in the suffering and death and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ. Cause me to accept again the new life in Christ which You have given me by faith. Enable me to live without despair and without pride. Lead me to know with joy that You accept me as a whole human being.

Father, teach me one more thing.  Show me that in this new life You give I no longer have to build walls of fear to protect myself from others. Help me to live cheerfully and generously, so that others may receive You through Christ's Word and work in me and begin to live in You. Bless me and keep me for Jesus' sake.  Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 177, 1970 edition, Concordia Publishing House

Monday, June 11, 2018

A quick answer indeed!

            In 2011, on our summer European trip, my wife and I want to travel by train from Leipzig, Germany to Wittenberg, Germany, the home of Martin Luther and the place where the Reformation of the church has its beginnings.  There was just one problem: our travel agent told us there was no train from Leipzig to Wittenberg.  We would have to travel all the way to Berlin, Germany, change trains and then double back to Wittenberg.  None of this made sense to us but we accepted it as part of traveling in a foreign country.
            Sunday morning came and we board the train.  We heard the conductor call out the route we would take which included a number of cities including…yes, Wittenberg.  I talked to a train official and asked if Sherri and I could simply leave the train at the Wittenberg stop and not travel all the way to Berlin.  He said to me, “Of course you can!”  Sherri and I rejoiced.  Wittenberg was having a special festival and now we would be able to attend.  We were so excited at our good fortune.
            We loved traveling by train, seeing the German countryside and what seemed like miles and miles of land producing all kinds of good crops.  Every village was picturesque and seemingly at the center of each one stood a church with a steeple and cross for everyone to see.
            Finally, we heard the Wittenberg stop called out.  We grabbed our luggage and stepped off onto the platform.  The train blew its horn and off it went.
            Then it hit us – there wasn’t a single soul at the train station.  The information booth was closed.  We could see in the distance where the city of Wittenberg was – we just didn’t know how we were going to get there.
            Suddenly it seemed as though good fortune had come through.  A taxi drove by.  I flagged the fellow down and asked if we could get a ride.  The driver told us he was occupied and that I should call for a taxi to pick us up.
            That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  I was having a terrible time making international phone calls.  You’ve had salespeople explain to you how simple something is to do or use, right? Well, it wasn't simple using my newfangled phone and I wondered how long it would take for me to make a call.
            As I started dialing the number, Sherri prayed out loud, saying simply: “Lord, we need a taxi.”  No sooner had she said the words than I turned around and behind me was a taxi! We didn’t even hear it pull up to the curb.  The driver asked us if we were going to town and we said, “Yes!” And just like that, we were enjoying the festival in Wittenberg.
            On our ride into town, Sherri and I couldn’t help but keep looking at each other and smiling.  We were thinking the same thing: “God is good!”  We needed help and the Lord heard our call and provided the help we needed, almost instantly.  Amazing.
            God doesn’t promise to answer every prayer that quickly.  In fact, we experience times when the Lord seems to take His time to get back to us.  Still, as disciples of the Lord, we do not despair.  Instead, we come in Jesus’ name, in confident faith that our Lord will answer in His perfect time and according to His perfect will.  1 John 5:14 tells us: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
            Isn’t that great.  God hears us…even when we need a ride into town!

From a "Wake Up With the Word" devotion from 2011

Saturday, June 9, 2018

High and tight on the sides, please

Seven or eight years ago I gave up...on my hair.  It had been in full retreat for awhile and each day it got more difficult spreading the remain strands around on top of my head.  My youngest daughter is a hairdresser and she urged me to take the plunge and go for the buzz cut.

A few days after the deed was done I wondered why I hadn't done it years ago.  It didn't really change my appearance all that much and it was so much easier.  No hair blowers.  No hair spray.  Easy!

Later, for my birthday, I received my own hair clippers.  Katie gave me a few lessons on how to do the cut myself and away I went.  And I don't think I did a bad job.

But I've had those weekends where so much was going on that I couldn't find the time to cut my hair.  Even though there isn't much, it does look a little unkempt.  So, today, I'm going to visit JJ's Barber Shop.

My son-in-law, Josh, lives in Wisconsin.  But any time he's here visiting he heads to JJ's.  Apparently it's an old fashioned shop.  No loud rock music, no hair cutters covered with tattoos and piercings. Sounds like my kind of place.

I'll report to you friendly readers next week on how it goes.

Today, we worship at LICL at 5 pm.  Holy Communion will be celebrated.  Tomorrow, we worship at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  My sermon title is "What Have You Done?" My little group will play at 9:30 and our VBS kids will sing two songs at 11 am.  The house should be rocking by then!

Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A prayer based on the first petition

Father, You name is holy in itself. We praise You through the gracious work of Your Holy Son, who cleansed us. Holy is your name and holy is the work of Your Son. Cause us to live holy lives as we follow Him.

From "Our Way Home," by Dan Paavola, page 66

Hey! That's my seat!

Why are church people kind, polite and sweet-spirited - until you try and sit in their pew?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Give it up!

Don't recall where I found this Martin Luther quote.  It emphasizes the importance of "holding loosely" the things of this life.

Many things I have tried to grasp, and have lost. That which I have placed in God's hands I still have.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Thankful for learning the basics

During my first year at Seminary I attended my first Homiletics class.  It was taught by Rev. Dr. Glenn Nielsen, who inspired me to try and become a good proclaimer of God's Word. Dr. Nielsen could stand in the middle of our class and practically create a sermon on the spot! It was amazing to me.

One day I asked him how he did it.  His answer? "By learning all the things I'm teaching you in this first class."

What was he teaching us? The basics. He warned us at the beginning of the class that we were going to do a lot of what might seem like tedious work.  But by picking a text, studying the text by looking at the Sunday in which the text is being used, looking at the text in the original Hebrew or Greek language, doing a word study, seeing how that key word is used in other verses, finding the doctrine being taught in the text and looking at commentaries, one would be ready to write down the goal of the sermon and then write the manuscript.

It was tedious work.  But by the time I left Dr. Nielsen's class and along with the other Homiletics classes to took, I had down the basics of writing a sermon.

Fast forward about 21 years later.  Last week I had two sermons to write.  One was for Gerry Schemers' memorial service.  I had been very close to Gerry and I knew that it would be an emotional service for me.  I worked on the sermon Tuesday and Wednesday; the service was on Thursday.

Along came Friday and I need to write another sermon.  Since I hate writing on Saturday (too much pressure for me) I was determined to get something down on paper.  The text was the last verses of Mark, chapter two where Jesus rocks the boat of the Pharisees, so to speak, by declaring Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath.

I remembered something I had heard in a video Bible study - Mark, chapter two is a series of confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees.  That thought caused me to think of something I had recently read about how fight or flight were the two basic options a person had when finding themselves in a threatening situation or confrontation.  In looking at all the confrontations in the chapter it became clear that Jesus was fighting on our behalf.  Jesus has the authority to forgive sin - our sin.  Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath - a Sabbath in which He gives us rest.

Jesus doesn't flee - from His confrontations with the Pharisees but He doesn't flee from His appointment to suffer and die for our sins at the cross.  Jesus lets nothing stand in his way from redeeming us from eternal death and punishment.

With all of that information, I could write.

Looking back at the manuscript, I saw thoughts that could have been better developed and realized that a couple of points could have been strengthened.  But I did produce a sermon.  It seemed to preach well, based on the feedback I received. 

And it wouldn't have happened if I had not learned the basics.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Better than all the riches in the world!

Some books are so good that you just have to read them again and again.  I'm on my second reading of Dan Paavola's exceptionally great book, "Our Way Home." Paavola offers a fresh new way of looking at the Lord's Prayer.  Not only does the reader gain new insights into the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, Paavola's book is helpful for bringing new life to your prayer and devotional life. It's that good!

Paavola quotes Martin Luther a number of time (which I like) so here is something Paavola captured from the Large Catechism:

Therefore, there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord's Prayer. We pray it daily (Matthew 6:11) because it has this excellent testimony, that God loves to hear it.  We ought not to surrender this for all the riches of the world.  Taken from "Concordia," part three, paragraph 23.

I remember talking with a person from my first congregation who surprised me by saying, "I've moved on from the Lord's Prayer.  My own prayers are of more value to me." It's a good thing I'm not Martin Luther for Luther probably would have cuffed this person upside the head, as the say. Yes, we have specific petitions which we offer to God in prayer.  But, my friendly readers, do not forsake the Lord's Prayer. It gives voice to our heart and is music to the Father's ears.

Paavola's book "Our Way Home" is available from Concordia Publishing House

Saturday, June 2, 2018

It's June already?

Wow! Has time kicked it up a notch? I blinked and June is here. What happened to me in May?

Celebrated the 1st Anniversary of our Memory Cafe (a ministry for those suffering from memory loss issues and their caregivers)

Saw the play "Godspell" with the Greens

Traveled to Wisconsin to visit with my youngest daughter and her family and to attend at Parish Nurses conference (Pastors could attend for free - it was one of the best conferences I've ever attended)

Officiated at a wedding (where the bride was 20 minutes late - giving us all a slight heart attack)

Preached at the Memorial Service for our dear sister in Christ, Gerry Schemers

Now what? I'll get back to you in 30 days.  In the meantime:

Worship with us this weekend - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 am.  I'll be preaching at all three Sunday services and the sermon is titled, "Fight or Flight."  Read Mark, chapter two and you'll know what I'm getting at.  Also, my little group will be providing the music at the 9:30 service.

Get June off to a fine start - join us for worship this weekend!

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Letter to Gerry

Gerry Schemers was a charter member of our church.  She fell asleep in Jesus a week ago today.  We held her memorial service yesterday and my message took the form of a letter to Gerry.

            Dear Gerry,

            I have so many sweet memories of you.  Visiting with you in my office.  Talking about your kids and grandkids – you loved them so much.  Talking about your job – you were continually amazed that God could use you at the pharamacy, sharing His love with others.  And, of course, talking about loneliness and how you missed your husband, Bill, who had gone to be with Jesus.  Your family tried hard to fill the void but it still hurt to be on your own. 

But the memories I enjoy the most are connected with the illustrious Bulletin Bunch, you gals who folded bulletins, stapled newsletters, stuffed envelopes and did whatever else that needed to be done.  Those Fridays were fun days, weren’t they?  I would be sitting at my desk working when suddenly I would hear the sound of whooping and hollering and hee-hawing coming out of Room 1.  You and Virginia, Yvonne, Georgie and Elaine got to do an important task for our church and you ladies had a blast doing it.

            One thing I noticed was that you all talked about everything.  No subject was off limits.  At times, we men didn’t need to be around.  Yes, you guys talked about everything and that included the topic of death.

            On day you all were talking about what you wanted your memorial service to be like.  I still wonder how that subject come up? Anyway, I walked in as Virginia was saying that she wanted her memorial service to be a celebration.  She was going to be in heaven and it would be a happy place and so she wanted her family and friends to share her happiness.  And I think the other ladies agreed with her.

            So, it was a huge surprise when you said that you hoped that everyone, at your passing, would be sad and there would be lots of tears.  When we pressed you, Gerry, you said that you hoped that everyone would miss you and that would bring a lot of tears.

            Gerry, to this day I’m not entirely sure that you were serious when you described your hoped-for funeral.  After all, you once threatened to dance on top of the worktable.  But we do miss you.  And there have been lots of tears shed.

            Those tears began as your health started to deteriorate.  It was hard to see you suffer.  Your eyes were giving you fits.  Getting around became harder and harder.  You got frustrated when your memory seemed to be failing.  The last couple of years for you were difficult to say the least.

            Many more tears were shed during the three last weeks of your life.  You were having such difficulty breathing.  It was a struggle.  It was hard to watch.  Your family hated to see you suffer.  It broke their hearts.  They wept.  Kleenex came out to wipe away the tears.  Gerry, in those final 12 hours they never left your side.  They were there for you.  Even in the midst of their sadness, they were there for you.

            Your church family wept for you too.  You’ve been an important part of Life in Christ for so many years.  Yes, you worked with the Bulletin Bunch.  But you did so much more, and I doubt that you even realized it.

            The word “faithful” describes your participation in worship.  When you were well you never missed a Sunday.  You found joy in worshiping the Lord with your church family.  You confessed Jesus as your personal Savior.  You were glad to hear the good news of God’s love for you in His Son.  You never tired of hearing that Jesus paid for your sins at the cross, and in exchange, dressed you in His royal robe of righteousness.  Dressed in Jesus’ clothes, you could be certain that you were holy and right before God and that there was a place for you in His kingdom of glory.

            Yes, Gerry, you were faithful.  The last year or so it was hard for you to come to church.  But it brought us all so much joy to see you coming Sunday morning with Dick and Sharon.  How easy it would have been for you to have said, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll be going to church.  I hurt too much.” You were tempted to do so and we all would have understood.  But you came! You heard God’s Holy Word.  You received God’s Holy Supper.  You made the effort, Gerry! It was a powerful witness to us all.

            So, on this day, Gerry, there are tears.  And, we certainly have feelings of sadness.  But these feelings are tempered by something far greater.  You are at peace.  You no longer hurt.  Breathing is no longer a struggle.  You rest in the arms of your Savior, Jesus.  So even in our sadness, we have reason to be happy.  And we are.

            Gerry, the next time I see you, my first question will be this – did you see any Kleenex in God’s kingdom? I’ll bet you didn’t!

            We have so much to look forward to.  Jesus is going to come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.  Unbelievers will receive judgment.  Believers will receive an invitation to join God in His kingdom. 

            It will be amazing, Gerry.  God will be with us.  He is going to pitch His tent among us and we will enjoy His company.  The apostle Paul once wrote that in this life we don’t see things clearly; it’s like looking in a hazy mirror.  But in heaven, you won’t have any trouble with your eyes, Gerry.  Your vision will be perfect, and you will see God.  You probably won’t be able to take your eyes off Him.

            Meanwhile, there’s not a Kleenex in sight.  They aren’t needed in heaven.  God is going to elimate all the stuff that caused us to cry in this life.  We won’t weep over the death of people we love – no death in heaven.  And if there is no death, there is no reason to mourn, right? Pain can make us cry.  We hurt, and we cry out for relief.  In heaven, God is going to take that away from us too.  That body of yours that ached all the time.  That body that caused you to cry the last time I saw You, Gerry.  It won’t hurt anymore.  No tears – no Kleenex in heaven.  None whatsoever.

            Jesus says, “I am making everything new!”  This is a wonderful promise our Savior makes to us.  We all desire to live happy lives.  We all seek an uncomplicated life.  But no one has a problem-free, happy-all-the-time kind of life.  We deal with disease and divorce.  We struggle with finances or failing health.  Jesus once told his followers that they would have trouble in this world.  But then Jesus said, “I have overcome the world!”

            That’s what Jesus did.  For you, Gerry.  For me.  For everyone.  He defeated death in His resurrection from the dead.  He defeated sin by paying for it all at the cross and those sins will never be charged to us again.  He defeated the devil and will put Satan away for good on the Last Day.  Everything that threatened our happiness in this life, Jesus has overcome.  And He shares His victory.  His victory is your victory. 

            Well, Gerry, I better close this letter for now.  But I do so with the confidence that I will see you again.  We’ll know each other.  We might even give each other a big hug.  You’ll do the same with your family.  Gathered around the throne of Jesus, we will worship with all our might.  Our joy will have no limits.  Happy won’t begin to describe the feeling of being with Jesus for eternity.  We will be absent of just one thing.  No more tears.  No more tears.

            Your friend in Christ,