Tuesday, July 31, 2018

One memory from an amazing trip!

My dear, sweet wife and me at the Sea of Galilee which visiting Capernaum in April of this year. How many times did Jesus push away from this shore line in a boat after having spent time in His adopted hometown?

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Aging Brain

The sub-title of this book is, "Proven Steps To Prevent Dementia And Sharpen Your Mind." That's the hope-filled message Dr. Timothy Jennings offers in his new book, "The Aging Mind."

The steps are surprising simple! They are, for the most part, the same ones that promote good health - exercise...develop good dietary habits...stop smoking...limit alcohol consumption...get plenty of rest...learn to deal with stress...practice forgiveness and either begin or strengthen your relationship with God.

At times, the medical jargon was way over my head.  But the book primarily offers practical advice and tips to ward off memory loss and enjoy life for as long as you live with a healthy mind.  I highly recommend this book!

Book supplied for review by Baker Books.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A prayer for the church

Our church - Life in Christ - meets this weekend for worship.  Join us today at 5 pm or tomorrow at 8, 9:30 or 11 am.

Dear Holy Spirit, we ask You for the fullness of Your gifts. May they pour down over us here in our church. Demolish and remove everything that hinders us from receiving everything that You have to give us. Allow us to see how pitiful our cowardice and pettiness is, and show us Christ in all His glory. Make us small and pour in spirit, and let us live in Your mercy without being pompous. Make us rich in Your own way with the gifts You have waiting for each of us so that we will be useful, joyous, and edifying for Your Church.  

From, "To Live With Christ," page 520, Concordia Publishing House

Friday, July 27, 2018

Do something about this storm!

The passenger jet had hardly taken off before it was being violently tossed around by turbulence.

One passenger was so spooked she grabbed the hand of the person sitting next to her.  When she noticed that he was a pastor, she said, "Reverend, you're a man of God.  Can't you do something about this storm?"

The pastor replied, "I'm sorry but I'm in sales, not management!"

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Praying for Steve Keim and his family too

The new columnist of the local paper's sports page, Kent Somers, offered an interesting perspective on the story of the arrest on July 4th of Arizona Cardinals General Manager, Steve Keim. 

Keim was suspended from his job for five weeks, fined $200,000 and sentenced to two days in jail for DUI.  It was reported that Keim had a blood alcohol content of more than double the legal limit.

During this time away, among other things, Keim is receiving counseling.  As Somers noted in his column, this might be an incident of a person using terrible judgment.  "Or," as Somers writes, "it might be a symptom of struggles elsewhere in his life. Only he and the people closest to him know that."

I'm glad that Keim is receiving help.  I hope his family is as well.

I would imagine they are dealing with embarrassment. How hard is it to face people after Daddy's video of his arrest is all over social media? Their must be anger over his amazing lack of judgment and putting his job and livelihood at risk. I would imagine that there are deep feelings of pain. Why wasn't Keim with his family.  Isn't 4th of July a time for backyard bar-b-q's and fireworks and the like?

I know that anyone can make a mistake. None of us is perfect.  And, as Somers writes, there might be other concerns at work that none of us know about. 

So, we need to pray for Keim.  We need to also pray for his family. 

I pray that Keim's family have a support system.  I pray that there are people who are loving them and holding them up during this difficult time. I don't know if they are people of faith, but I pray that, if possible, they might turn to a pastor or friend who can bring to them the comfort and peace that Jesus talks about in Matthew 11. And I pray that the Lord will use this awful and embarrassing situation to work the good that He can accomplish when things look their absolute worst.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Faith's Best Friend

             It is one of the most familiar and beloved stories in the Gospels.  Jesus is stopped by a group of elders of the church.  They come to Jesus with a heartfelt request.  They ask the Lord to consider healing the servant of a centurion, a Roman soldier, an uncircumcised man.  These Jewish religious leaders point out that the centurion deserves to have this favor granted.  This soldier, in charge of a 100 men, has been a real friend to the Jewish nation and even helped with the construction of the synagogue.  It seems that without any hesitation, Jesus agrees to go and see the centurion’s sick servant.

            They are not far from their destination when the centurion does something that simply is amazing to Jesus.  The centurion has a message for the Lord.  He says, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.  But say the word and my servant will be healed.”

            The Gospel writers make it clear that Jesus is not impressed by power or possessions or prestige.  But the Lord marvels whenever He sees faith at work in the life of a person.  Of the centurion, Jesus says, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  And then Luke concludes the story with these words, “Then the men who had been sent (to Jesus) returned to the house and found the servant well.

            Now surely this is a story of faith.  Only faith in Jesus could say, “But You, Lord, just say the word, just one word from You, and my servant will be healed.”  But I want you to notice something else about this story.  When faith resides, you will also find humility.

            Remember what the Jewish elders said to Jesus: “This man (the centurion) deserves to have you (heal his servant).”  Contrast that attitude with the centurion who said to Jesus, “I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.”  That’s humility talking.

            In fact, you might say that humility is faith’s best friend.  Humility comes to live in those hearts that recognize the damaging effect of sin and the need for the forgiveness and grace that only God can give through Christ.  It was humility that led the apostle Paul to write to young Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

            It was the knowledge of his unrighteous standing before God that led Paul to hold onto Jesus with all his might.  Jesus was Paul’s hope, his only hope through which he might receive peace with God and joy for daily living.  As Paul emptied himself of his pride, his intellect, and his resume of good deeds, the Holy Spirit filled the apostle’s heart with faith and humility and covered Paul with the very righteousness of the Lord.  Our prideful hearts are focused on only one thing – lifting ourselves up before family and friends and even God.  Humility receives all things from God. God gives us forgiveness for Jesus’ sake and sets us on the path of righteous living.  The Lord lifts us up.
           Real humility, Godly humility is always a gift of God’s grace to us.  Humility doesn’t think in terms of “what I deserve from God,” but always looks to God in faith and gratefully receives the good and wonderful blessings God offers His faithful children.  May you, too, cling to Jesus in true repentance and faith.  Receive God’s gifts with humility – faith’s best friend.

Monday, July 23, 2018

When God's Ways Make No Sense

You prayed for healing but it didn't come. You prayed for a new job but got the door slammed shut in your face. You prayed for your contract on the new home to be accepted but it was denied. You needed these things to happen.  You trusted God that the healing, new job, new home would happened just as you envisioned.  All these things seemed to make sense for you.  So what do you do when God doesn't respond as you asked.  What do you do when God's ways make no sense?

Dr. Larry Crabb has often asked the same question.  In his new book, "When God's Ways Make No Sense," he explores some of the different ways God's people respond to such disappointment and also offers a way for the believer to keep on believing that God is still there, in their lives, even when it seems that He has left that believer all alone.

His example of the prophet, Habakkuk, as someone who learned to "tremble and trust" offered a new way of thinking about how to respond when God's ways seem not to make any sense to us. I especially appreciated his transparency; it was helpful to me that his struggles in understanding God were ones I, too, have experienced.  Which made it all the more enjoyable to read, "When God's Ways Make No Sense."

Book provided for review by Baker Books

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It's Saturday but Sunday's coming!

Another weekend, another opportunity for worship.  And you can worship throughout the weekend at LICL!

Saturday - 5 pm

Sunday - 8, 9:30, 11 am

Pick a service and join us and have a great weekend!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Did you hear the one about the note the pastor received?

The pastor was 20 minutes in his sermon with no sign of wrapping up any time soon.

While preaching was going on, one of the members remembered that she had left the Sunday dinner in the gas range with the flame on high.

She hastily wrote a note and gave it to her husband, who was an usher.  Then she left for home.

For reasons which were not entirely clear, the woman's husband thought that his wife had written the note for the pastor.  So, he walked up the side aisle and laid the note on the pulpit.

The pastor paused and smiled as he read the note.  But the smile didn't last long.  With a scowl on his face, he scanned the congregation, trying to identify the person who would write such a note.

The note read, "Please hurry home and shut off the gas."

From the Cybersalt website

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Bible verse worth memorizing

Isaiah 51:12 a - I, even I, am He who comforts you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Missing my buddy, Howie

This is my buddy, Howie.  He belonged to my youngest daughter and her family.  But Howie felt like he belonged to me.

Katie rescued him back in 2008.  Howie quickly became a fixture at our house every Sunday. He and I would tussle with one of his stuffed toys. I would sneak different food items off my plate for him to eat (yes, I know - very bad!). I also taught him how to sit up and shake.  That only took about 200 dog biscuits. Thinking back on it, Howie probably figured out how to do all that stuff after a few tries - but I think he milked it so he could keep those dog biscuits coming!

Howie passed away yesterday.  He gave me much joy and unconditional love.  I believe that Martin Luther thought that our pets would join us in heaven.  After all, they are part of God's creating work. What a joy it would be that along with everything else that heaven will be, that I would have my cat, Hope, sitting on my lap, and Howie snuggled up on my side.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

An Anchor When We're Afraid

I very much appreciated this devotion, written by Adam Holz

Are you a worrier? I am. I wrestle with anxiety almost daily. I worry about big things. I worry about small things. Sometimes, it seems like I worry about everything. Once in my teens, I called the police when my parents were four hours late getting home.

Scripture repeatedly tells us not to be afraid. Because of God's goodness and power, and because He sent Jesus to die for us and His Holy Spirit to guide us, our fears don't have to rule our lives. We may well face hard things, but God has promised to be with us through it all.

One passage that has helped me profoundly in fearful moments is Isaiah 51:12-16.  Here, God reminded His people, who had endured tremendous suffering, that He was still with them, and that His comforting presence is the ultimate reality. No matter how bad things may seem, "I, even I, am He who comforts you," He told them through the prophet Isaiah. (verse 12).

I love that promise. Those eight words have been an emotion-steadying anchor for my soul. I've clung to this promise repeatedly when life has felt overwhelming, when my own "constant terror" (verse 13) has felt oppressive. Through this passage, God reminds me to life my eyes from my fears and in faith and dependence to look to the One who "stretches out the heavens" (verse 13) - the One who promises to comfort us.

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).