Monday, April 30, 2012


Things in our world aren't always what they seem. We may read into the events of life what is not there. On Sunday Carol and I took our son and his family to a trendy Pizza Bistro, and I noticed some of the wait staff wearing T-shirts that said, "Legalize Marijuana." I suppose that message shouldn't have surprised me since the clientele was mostly young, but I didn't particularly like it. Then I re-read the T-shirt and realized it said, "Legalize Marinara." Not the green stuff, the red sauce - a clever slogan that caught my attention!

Things may not be what they seem in our daily life either. Our path of life may get incredibly bumpy. A loved one goes astray, or the doctor says it's cancer, or elected officials disappoint us, or financial worries threaten to overcome us. We may think, "This isn't the path I should be taking. There must be a better way than this!"

That is when we need to be reminded God is with us on the path. When you think your path of life is too steep or harsh, remember God knows the path you are on, and His Son has taken that path already. Matthew 28:20 tells us, "Lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the earth." Joshua 1:9 reminds, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

We can courageously take the path God has given us today, trusting He is with us each step and knows it will bless us. God knows what is on our path already and He will not lead us astray. Out of all possible paths, God knows the best one for us to take and He will be with us to the end.

As the beloved hymn says: 
Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.  
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. 
Leave to thy God to order and provide; 
In every change He faithful will remain. 
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend 
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Monday, April 23, 2012


It's been 100 degrees here the past few April days in Arizona, so it's no surprise that Carol and I have enjoyed watching "Frozen Planet" on the Discovery Channel. Every program showed the amazing abilities of God's adaptable creatures in the Arctic north and Antarctic south.

One episode centered on a mother polar bear and her growing cubs who struggle during the fifty degree summer days and then flourish during the minus fifty degree winter days. Even being from Minnesota didn't help me relate well to those temperature extremes.

Another program showed a variety of Arctic birds helping their little ones fly by flying underneath them to give enough aerial lift so they wouldn't land on the tundra and become lunch for a fox. The parent bird made sure the juvenile made a water landing which would ensure their getting up in the air again to live another day.

We are living on most a wonderful planet, despite what doomsday prophets may tell us. We are residents of a privileged planet God has created which allows humans to prosper and flourish as in no other era of time and on no other planet in the universe. Despite fears of global warming or a weakened America, we live in the most amazing time of history. For this we should give God unceasing thanks. 

We should also be unceasing in our efforts to share the story of Jesus. Yesterday in church we heard Dr. Dale Meyer of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, urge us to do just that. Despite what others may lead us to believe, it is a good time to be a Christian. It is a great time to be a pastor or a layperson and to tell the story of Jesus. It is an outstanding time to let the Holy Spirit do His work of bringing people to faith.

Here it is one hundred degrees during the day and fifty degrees at night - amazing! But sinners worthy of hell made saints by the death and life of Jesus, God's Son - that's eternally amazing! Next week Carol and I return to Colorado. We trust God's amazing grace is with us wherever we go.

 Thanks be to God!

Monday, April 16, 2012


The end of the winter season at an RV park often brings items left next to the garbage dumpsters. These are discarded items that still work, and are left for someone to take and use. The other day as I dropped off some scraps of wood, I picked up a small item sitting on the ground.

It was a nearly new red Dirt Devil hand vacuum. I took it home and as I suspected, it just needed a good cleaning to make it work right. I found it has an adapter for narrow spaces - just what we need for getting dust out of our window tracks.

Then today I drove past the dumpsters and there sat another vacuum, a nearly new black upright, and another Dirt Devil! Again I took it home, emptied the dirt chamber, cleaned the filter, and now we have a better upright than the one we've had. Tomorrow I'll put our old noisy, but still working upright vacuum by the dumpster for someone else to use.

Both of these abandoned items had the same problem - their owners forgot to empty the dirt. This made me think of our need for spiritual cleaning by confession and absolution. If you and I don't get all our sin dirt removed by forgiveness, soon nothing in our life works well.

Calvary is God's eternal garbage dumpster. When Jesus died, He got rid of our sins and the sins of all people. The Bible says He has removed our sins from us " far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12) That makes Jesus our divine Garbage Man, and what He removes is gone forever.

The next time your life seems out of kilter, check whether or not you need to do some personal house-cleaning. John the disciple encourages us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

Jesus empties our Dirt Devil - now there's an interesting concept!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This morning I walked around Palm Creek, our RV park here in Arizona, and was struck at how empty it is right now. From January through March it's mostly full. There are 1900+ spaces here and when it's full, it is home to about 3200 people. During the full days people are everywhere, driving golf carts, biking, walking, golfing and conversing.

But right now, less than two weeks since it was last full, two-thirds of the spaces and homes are empty. 2500 people have left, and that leaves the park feeling really empty.

"Empty" is not a positive word to me. An empty bank account can terrify us. An empty chair means someone has left us. Sometimes we feel empty of emotions, such as when the tears of death or loss drain us. An empty relationship can leave us feeling hopeless. Empty nesters acutely feel the loss of children no longer home. In general, "empty" is not a word we like to hear.

Unless, of course, we consider Christ's tomb. The disciples found it empty. The body was gone. "He is not here - He is risen," said the angel. "Come and see the [empty] place where He lay." (Matthew 28:6) Now "empty" is good - very good!

An empty home can leave us sad, but the empty grave of Christ brings us hope and joy. "Because He lives, we, too, shall live," said one of His disciples. There's nothing negative about "empty" when it means Jesus is alive.

May the empty tomb fill you with joy because you believe CHRIST IS RISEN!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The night before last, on Palm Sunday, April 1, my son's father-in-law passed away very unexpectedly. He had not been feeling well all weekend and thought it was the flu. He had seemed in good health and his passing at age 72 was a shock to all who knew him. He was a quiet Christian man whose father was a Lutheran pastor. He and his wife have lived in Tucson the past forty or more years.

I asked my son whether their small children knew their Grandpa had died. He said they did know because they had heard their Mom crying on the phone and asked why. "But I don't believe they understand what's really happened," he said.

A short time later their six year-old son asked, "Do you think Grandpa likes his new room?" The question stopped my son cold. It seems he had told his son some time ago that when a person dies believing in Jesus, God gives him a new room to live in, a room up in heaven just like he wants it. Thus came his question, "Do you think Grandpa likes his new room?"

My son talked with him about this and then asked him what he would like in his new room in heaven. He said without hesitation, "Escalators, fans and lots of stuffed animals." Those three things have recently fascinated him, and he wanted his room filled with them.

What would you like in your new room? How would you explain a Christian's death to a small child? How would you explain to him the blessings of heaven and eternal life with Jesus? Are you ready for your new room?

This is Holy Week, a time when we are assured once again that Jesus did all that was necessary so that we can all go to the new room God has prepared for us in heaven. This will be a difficult week for the family, but it will also be filled with joy because a Grandpa and Dad, a husband and friend, now has a new heavenly room prepared for Him by Jesus, our Risen Savior.

In my room I want a recliner, a large print Bible, and a door leading to all my loved ones.