Monday, July 16, 2018

Faith Sees

            Author Chuck Swindoll tells a funny story about a 9 year old boy named Danny who came flying out of his classroom at the end of the Sunday school hour at church.  He stood on the patio looking for his mom or dad.  Finally, he spotted his father and ran up to him.  Danny’s dad asked, “Hey, did you learn anything in your class today?”
           Danny replied, “Yeah, Dad, it was neat.  We heard the story about Moses and God’s people crossing the Red Sea.”  Danny’s dad smiled and said, “I like that story.  Tell it to me.”
           So Danny explained, “Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them.  So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea.  The
Egyptian Army was getting closer and closer.  So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Air Force to bomb the Egyptians.  While this was happening, the Navy built a special bridge so the people could cross the water.  And they made it!”
           Danny’s dad was shocked.  He asked, “It that the way your teacher taught you the story?” Danny shook his head and said, “No, not exactly, but if I told you the way they told it to us, Dad, you’d never believe it!”
           That’s just it, isn’t it? Some of the things in the Bible do seem hard to believe.  Such amazing things are just beyond our imagination or ability so some people simply dismiss them as fables, something that is made up but not true.
           You and I might feel that way except for one important gift that God has given to us – the gift of faith.  We come into the world blind – spiritually blind.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
           But the Holy Spirit works through the Gospel of Christ, fills us with faith to believe, and pours out all the spiritual blessings that come to a believer in Christ.  Now, our eyes are opened and we can see what the spiritually blind cannot see – the power, the majesty, the grace and the mercy of God.
           Just as a young child takes his father’s word, because that child trusts his father, we as children of God, trust our heavenly Father’s Word.  You might say that “faith sees.”
           Faith sees that it is nothing for God, almighty and powerful, to create the world in six days.  Faith sees that the God who created the world, could easily give Moses the power to part the water so that the Israelites could flee to safety.  Faith sees that God can do what no one else has ever done – be born by a virgin mother.  Faith sees that the child born to the virgin – his name is Jesus – came for only one purpose, the redemption of the world.  Faith sees Jesus on the cross, not dying the death of a misfit or a martyr, but paying for the sins of the world and winning salvation for all who believe.  Faith sees this Jesus on Easter morning rise from the dead and worships Him as the victorious Savior who gives forgiveness, righteousness and salvation.
          To the spiritually dead, all that I have just mentioned is nothing but foolishness.  But with the eyes of faith, what seems like foolishness is simply the fantastic work of a God who is still in control and who always sees those who belong to Him.  God watching you and me? It’s amazing but it’s true.  We know this because through God’s precious gift, faith sees.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Time to encourage one another

The writer to the Hebrews put it like this: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (10:25).

So, come and be encouraged this weekend during worship at Life in Christ.  Today at 5 pm; tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11 am. 

God bless your day!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Did you hear the one about the long-winded preacher?

After a particularly long and boring sermon, the parishioners filed past the pastor in silence. Toward the end of the line was a regular attendee who always had a positive comment about the sermon.

The fellow said, "Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the mercy of God."

The pastor was thrilled.  He replied, "No one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why."

The fellow answered, "Because it endured forever."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A beautiful baptismal font and cross

A couple of pictures from our April trip to the Holy Land.  On our last day in Jerusalem, Sherri and I found a Lutheran church. With most of the signage being in Hebrew we had a difficult time learning much about its origin.  I did gather that the church was being supported by the ELCA and other church bodies.

The top picture is of the baptismal font with a cross behind it.  The font sat in its own space, on the lectern side of the chancel.  The cross was an amazing display of art.  It depicts Jesus rising through the water after being baptized by John in the Jordan river. I didn't take a close enough look at the cross to see if it could be used as a processional cross.  Nevertheless, it was beautiful.

This church wasn't on our list of places we would visit while in Jerusalem.  But we were glad to have found this place of worship.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A prayer for wisdom and maturity

Lord God, You revealed in Jesus Christ that Your foolishness exceeds the wisdom of men, and Your weakness is greater than their strength. Give me the grace and wisdom to understand that in Your gentleness there is power, in Your kindness there is might, in Your forgiveness there is life. Keep me from the folly of relying on my own power or my own purpose. Help me to see that wisdom is born and grows to maturity through faith in Christ. Grant me confidence in Your mercy and hope in Your promises.

I pray in the name of Him who is Wisdom. Amen.

From "Lutheran Book of Prayer," page 200

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

On the nightstand

I love to read and usually have more than one book going at a time.  Here's what I'm reading right now - maybe you'll see something here that you'd like to read.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.  This book was released in 2010 but I didn't read it at the time.  I had read some other Bonhoeffer stuff and didn't think I needed to plow through a 600 page book.  But I was taken with Metaxas' biography on Martin Luther so I picked up the paperback copy of "Bonhoeffer." I've just started reading but am excited to see what revelations I can pick up from Metaxas' research.

The Aging Brain by Dr. Timothy Jennings. Jennings offers what he calls "proven steps" to hold off or prevent dementia. Seems filled with useful tips.

When God Makes No Sense by Dr. Larry Crabb.  The author tackles a subject that most, if not all, Christians have had to deal with at one time or another in their lives.  Have just started the book and can't wait to really dig into it.

Our Way Home by Daniel Paavola.  I'm actually reading this book a second time.  I plowed through this book way too fast the first time.  I really want to savor "Our Way Home."  Paavola's insights into the Lord's Prayer make it a must-read book.

An Unhurried Leader by Alan Fadling.  Speaking of being in a hurry, a friend recommended I take a look at this book.  The book teaches how Jesus sets the pace for your life.  This is help I can use.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Eyewitness Acounts

            I’m a sports fan and since moving back to Phoenix in January 2005, I’ve been rooting for all of the Valley’s sports teams.  The Cardinals, the Suns, the D-Backs and ASU sports – I watch them all.

            I've followed the St. Louis baseball Cardinals since moving there in 1988.  But in the past couple of years I've been paying more and more attention to the D-Backs.  I like their new front office executives and their manager seems to be top-notch.  When we attended the Cardinals & D-Backs game on the 4th of July I found myself pulling for Paul Goldschmidt and the guys!

            However, if you were a Cardinals fan, a must-read was the book, “Three Nights in August,” by noted author, Buzz Bissinger.  The book is about a three game series that took place in 2003 between the Cards and their biggest rivals, the Chicago Cubs.  Bissinger gives us the opportunity to see a baseball game through the eyes of the manager.  From the stands, we see the players on the field.  Bissinger lets us view the game from the dugout.  We see the game from the manager’s perspective.  We learn why and how LaRussa plots strategy and makes decisions during the game.  The book provides an eyewitness account of what it is like to manage a baseball team during an important series.  I just had to read this book!

            The Bible was written by people who were eyewitnesses or by those who were able to speak and learn from the people who saw the things God did and heard the things God said.  The gospel writer Luke puts it like this: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”  Luke, not an eyewitness himself, received testimony from those who were eyewitnesses and were dedicated to telling others about Jesus.  Luke wasn’t interested in the opinions others had about Christ.  He wanted to write about the facts regarding Jesus’ teachings and miracles, His suffering, death and resurrection.  He wanted to get it right.  And so he spoke to those who had seen and heard Jesus.  He spoke to eyewitnesses.

            The apostle Peter, in his second letter, teaches that we can trust the accounts we’ve heard about Jesus because “we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”  Just think of some of the things Peter saw after he responded to Jesus’ call to be a “fisher of men.”  Peter witnessed Jesus raising the synagogue ruler’s daughter from the dead; he saw the glorified Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; he looked on as Jesus suffered at the hands of Pontius Pilate; he saw the crucified Jesus and the resurrected Jesus.  Peter was an eyewitness of all these things.
           It’s these eyewitness accounts that help us to truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  It gives testimony that the Father is the maker and creator of all things; that the Son suffered, died and rose again so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life; that the Spirit moved the writers to record all these things so that you, too, might believe that God’s promises of forgiveness and salvation are real and that they are for you.  If you are a follower of Christ Jesus or if your desire to know Jesus as the only Savior and Lord, grab your Bible.  It’s a must-read!

A "Wake Up With The Word" devotion for 2009

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Forgiveness heals us

Other research has demonstrated the healing power of forgiveness, which is not letting someone off the hook or trusting an abuser or forgetting the past.  Forgiveness is resolving the bitterness, resentment, anger, and frustration, within oneself.  Forgiveness is removing the physiological thorn that causes ongoing emotional pain and chronic activation of the body's stress pathways.  In other words, forgiveness heals the one who was wronged; it done not change the one who did wrong.  For those who forgive, a history of significant life stress was not a predictor of poor mental health. In women who were abused by their spouses, it was those who not only  set boundaries and put an end to the abuse but also forgave who experienced resolution of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Forgiving those who wrong us is healing to us!

Timothy R. Jennings, "The Aging Brain," pages 40-41

Ready for worship!

The band is rehearsing to be ready for tomorrow's 9:30 am service.  Now, all we need to do is to fill up all those seats.  Won't you join us?

Services - today at 5 pm; tomorrow at 8, 9:30 and 11.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hello? This is the IRS

A pastor was at his desk working on his sermon when the phone rang.

The stern voice on the other end of the line said, "I'm calling from the Internal Revenue Service. Is a Jonathan Jones a member of your congregation?"

The pastor replied, "Yes! Jonathan is a faithful member of our church.  He attends church every Sunday with his family and volunteers anytime we need his help."

The IRS rep said, "Very interesting.  Do you happen to know if he supports your church financially?"

The pastor answered, "Well, I have no knowledge of the giving habits of our members.  But considering how faithful Jonathan is, I would think he financially supports our church."

Then the IRS rep asked, "Do you know if Mr. Jones gave the church a $10,000 gift?"

The pastor paused for a moment and then said, "If he hasn't, he will!"

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Let's do the twist, like we did last summer!

While we were in Green Bay visiting my youngest daughter and her family, we did a little shopping one afternoon.  Sherri is showing grandson, Duke, how to do the twist.  As you can see, Duke is mesmerized. 

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

We were of worth, we are still of worth...

One of our Deacons, Gale Cynova, brought back a large amount of material from the Lutherans for Life table while he and others from Life in Christ attended the Pacific Southwest District Convention.  While reviewing the material Sherri and I discovered a Confession of Faith, written for Lutherans for Life by Dr. Richard Eyre of Concordia University, Mequon, Wisconsin.  It reads like this:

We who follow Jesus Christ face our suffering and dying differently than others do. We look to the Cross of Jesus Christ for hope and guidance and ultimately to the Risen Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). We, who belong to Christ through baptism, do not measure a person's worth by the "quality" of life as limited by illness, disability, or aging. We were of worth when helpless as infants in our baptism God made us His (Romans 6:4), and we are still of worth in God's care of us when helpless as patients at the end of life (Romans 14:7-8). We care about the dying, disabled, or elderly and attempt to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). We bear witness to a better way, the way of the Cross of Jesus Christ in which God comes to care for us first by His suffering and dying (Hebrews 2:10) and then in our suffering and dying (Romans 8:28).