Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Did you know that from 1,000 to 1,400 Protestant ministers quit the ministry every month? I was surprised to learn it was that many. It is estimated that 10% of all American pastors are "in crisis" of some kind. Thankfully there is a ministry dedicated to helping those important Christian leaders. 

As the old year closes and a new year of promise approaches, you may be wondering if there is a valuable Christian ministry you might support. I recommend "Shepherd's Canyon Retreat" of Scottsdale, AZ.

Shepherd's Canyon Retreat is dedicated to the restoration of wounded church workers and their spouses. Four couples (8 people, as singles are also welcome) come together for eight days of healing through prayer and the guidance of God's Word under the care of two Christian therapists and a Lutheran chaplain. While this ministry is Lutheran-based, people from other denominations are also welcomed.

If you know of a hurting church worker (pastor, DCE, teacher, missionary, youth worker) who could benefit from Shepherd's Canyon Retreat, please direct them to http://www.ShepherdsCanyonRetreat.org or suggest they call 800-783-3079. The next Shepherd's Canyon Retreat is scheduled for February 16-24, 2010, and I will be present as the Lutheran Chaplain. There are still three openings for that retreat.

If you are interested in becoming a Shepherd's Canyon Retreat "Prayer Partner", please Email Director Dave Anderson at . Dave and Barb Anderson of The Fellowship Ministry are helping church workers find the peace of God through Shepherd's Canyon Retreat. Having somewhat reduced their singing ministry, they are now putting their effort into this valuable work.

You can help a church worker attend Shepherd's Canyon Retreat with a tax deductible gift, sending it to P.O. Box 51510, Phoenix, AZ, 85076. If you have any question about this ministry, including upcoming retreats, please contact Dave Anderson.

Thanks be to God for those who are willing to help heal wounded workers.

Monday, December 21, 2009


There was once a modern man, one of us. He was not a Scrooge, but a kind, decent man. He was generous to his family, and upright with his dealings with other men. And he was looking forward to another Christmas season. However, he did not believe in what he termed "all that incarnation stuff." "It just does not make sense," he said in his mind, too honest to pretend otherwise. He just could not swallow "that Jesus Story," the one about God coming to earth as man.

On Christmas Eve, he told his wife, "I hate to disappoint you, but I just cannot go to church with you tonight." He said he would feel like a hypocrite, that he had much rather stay home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed at home and his family went to church.

Shortly after the family drove away, snow began to fall. He watched at the window as the flurries got heavier and thicker, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read the newspaper. Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound, then another and another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against the living room window, but when he went to the door to investigate, he found a flock of birds floundering in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter, tried flying through his picture window to the light inside.

Well, he could not let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He thought of the barn where his children kept their pony. That would provide a warm shelter if he could direct the birds to it. So he quickly put on a coat and boots and tramped through the snow to the barn.

Once there he opened the doors wide, and turned on a light, but the birds only ignored it. They would not come in. He figured food would entice them in, so he fetched a box of bread crumbs, and sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the lighted doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the crumbs. They just continued to flop helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn and waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm lighted barn.

Suddenly, he realized they were afraid of him. "To them I'm a strange and terrifying creature," he thought. "If only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me so they'd understand that I'm not trying to hurt them, but to help them." But how? Any move he made scared and confused them, they just would not follow. They could not be lead or chased because they feared him.

"If only I could be a bird myself,"
he thought. "If only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language. And tell them not to be afraid and show them the way to the warm and safe barn. But, I'd have to become one of them so they could see and hear and understand."

Just then, church bells began to ring. The bells rang so loudly that he heard them that cold night. Listening to the bells pealing their glad tidings of Christmas, and remembering the story of the birth of a baby, he suddenly understood why God became a man. And he sank to his knees right there in the snow.

Thanks to Paul Harvey for that wonderful story about the meaning of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I just watched a news clip about the women and orphans of Africa's Congo. How can we not give thanks that we are alive and well here in this great and free nation, despite what we may think is wrong with it? This Christmas we have life so much better than millions of oppressed people around the world. Thank you, O God, for life!

This time of year many will see a children's Christmas pageant with its unexpected and charming moments. Who among us cannot recall a childish surprise, such as the time Mary tossed Baby Jesus back into the manger as she went up to sing in the children's choir? (I can still see Baby Jesus sailing into His manger that Christmas Eve.) Or when Mary and a shepherd, brother and sister, got into a wrestling match because she corrected what he'd said. Or when a young Wise Man knelt at the manger and said, "We have brought gifts of gold, common sense and fur." Or when a three year old followed his big sister and brother to the front and recited a poem about rabbits.

Probably that first Christmas had its moments as well. An excited Joseph may have brought the wrong things, as men will do, and Mary may not have always spoken politely as she gave birth. Newborn Baby Jesus surely cried a little in that drafty stable, especially considering the task He had before Him. After such a long journey and the trials of finding a place to stay, the young couple may have given thanks they made it there alive. Surely they marvelled when the shepherds came with their story about the angels.

Our world has problems, many of them severe or even horrible, but it also has God watching over His people, offering them hope for eternal life. The violated Congolese women look forward to a good life in heaven because there is little hope for it here on earth. If your life is good, then give God thanks. If it is not, give thanks that God offers you hope for eternal joy with Him. It comes to believers because of the gift of His Only Son.

Thank you, O God, for eternal life!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Where did the Advent Wreath come from? Who started it and what does it mean? Over 80% of the world's Christians observe the season of Advent, but many Christians don't know much about it. I hope today's WEEKLY MESSAGE will help answer some of these questions.

Origins of the Advent Wreath are from pre-Christian times when circular wreaths of evergreens and candles were used to encourage people during the cold and darkest season of the year to take heart that longer days and warmer weather would soon return. The Christian Church adopted this practice during Advent to encourage people to anticipate better days with the coming of Christ, who had arrived at the first Advent at Christmas, and would come again in glory in the Second Advent to judge all people.

Like many Christian observations, Advent came to be observed gradually over centuries. The weeks prior to the winter solstice became weeks of preparation for the Christian celebration of Christ's birth. Four candles were placed on the Advent Wreath in a circle of evergreens which represent ongoing life. Three candles of purple represented Sundays of repentance, and one rose candle was for rejoicing on the third Advent Sunday. Some Advent Wreaths included a white Christ candle in its center.

Christ is the Light that came into the world to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (John 3:19-21). Recently the Christian church replaced the repentance color purple with blue, the color of hope. In many Christian families, Advent wreaths are lighted before the evening meal during special prayers that invite Christ to return again to bring eternal life to all the faithful.

Like other seasons of the year, Advent is intended to stir up faith in the hearts of believers. It can also help to provoke questions among unbelievers, giving believers the opportunity to share the faith and hope they have in Jesus. If anyone asks you the meaning of Advent, don't be afraid to share your faith in Christ.

Midweek worship services are also held in many churches. This year I am preaching the three Advent services at Trinity Lutheran Church, Casa Grande, AZ, under the theme, “Christ our Prophet, Priest and King.” If you would like copies of my sermons from this series, contact me and I will Email them to you.

A blessed Advent to you all!