Tuesday, October 30, 2012


In view of the "superstorm" that has hit America's Northeast, my already composed message on the meaning of Halloween seemed rather hollow (pardon the pun). So I am starting over with a new direction.
Whenever nature unleashes its power and destruction anywhere in the world, it should make all of us pause to reflect. Carol and I this morning were talking over breakfast in our safe, dry, warm home about the value of living in the middle of our great nation rather than on its coasts.

We know that storms and other natural problems can affect us anywhere, but the idea of a "superstorm" is interesting. Some have called it a "perfect storm," although that adjective seems misleading, considering all the damage and loss of life. "Perfect" leads one to think of goodness, not destruction. One doesn't think of a "perfect death" or "perfect illness." So "superstorm" seems more appropriate than "perfect storm." 

(By the way, my SpellCheck keeps changing it to "superstore." Evidently it doesn't think a storm could be super.) Whatever we call it, the notion is that when several powerful and evil entities come together, their power is increased and greater devastation results. 

If this is true, then Good Friday should be considered the greatest "Superstorm" of all times. On that day, all of the sin, pollution and evil means of human devastation Satan tried to inflict on us met together on Mt. Calvary, all falling on the person of Jesus Christ. 

Holy Scripture tells us when all this evil was placed on Him, that He died, willingly giving up His life on our behalf. There was darkness for several hours, and an earthquake, causing the temple curtain, perhaps two to four inches thick, to tear in half from top to bottom.

Just at the moment when the perfect little white lamb was being sacrificed in the Temple for the sins of the Jewish people, the Perfect Savior of the World was sacrificing Himself on Calvary for the sins of the people of the whole world. 

Satan must have thought he had won, that he had crushed the Holy One of God. But he was badly mistaken. The outcome of Calvary's divine "Superstorm" was victory for all believers of all times who trust that Jesus gave His life for us, "That whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life." (John 3:16). 

The winners of Calvary's "Superstorm" are you and me and all believers in Christ. Because of Him, we come through the storms of life, battered but not defeated, bruised but not drowned. We are the "Super Winners."

Praise be to God who brings us out of natural death and into eternal life.

Monday, October 22, 2012


In a novel I once read (which name I can no longer recall), four men are confessing their sins to one another. On hearing the vile nature of their sins, one of the men exclaims, "How can God let us live? Why doesn't He just kill us to purify His creation?" Another of the men said, "Because God is a potter. He works in mud."
This is literally what God did in Genesis when He formed and shaped the first human being from the dust of the earth. Like a potter, He molded and fashioned him from the clay of the earth into a vessel useful to Himself. 

I wonder how many times God looked at what He'd made and decided to start over before He finally breathed the breath of life into Adam. I also wonder how many of you reading this think He quit too soon and should have tried once more!

God continues to work with dust and mud still today, fashioning us, changing us with hard times and difficult experiences, molding us into the people He wants us to be. He wants us to serve Him and love others, and usually that takes several major and painful changes before we can become the people He wants us to be.

Most of the time, of course, we are difficult projects. Our sin has made our goodness elusive and self-serving. We want to be like God, but God wants us to have fellowship with Himself. He wants humble servants who can make the world He created a good place to live, and we aren't always good at doing that. 

After Adam and Eve sinned, God continued working with our mud, fixing, re-developing and changing us. Finally He decided to start over by sending His only Son into the world. Jesus would die in the mud and muck of our sins that put Him on Calvary's cross so that He could straighten out the messes we have made in this world. 

In gratitude to God for His mercy and faithfulness, we today should consider using our hands, feet and voices to do good for His glory. We are alive on this amazing planet, not to be perfect (Jesus already did that), nor to save the planet (one Savior is all we need). 

Rather, we are here to serve and love Him the best we can, knowing He accepts us and forgives us our failures when we have faith that His Son did all that was needed to earn salvation for us. 

Here's mud in your eye!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Dear friends,
Church members know that when they have spiritual needs, they can go to their pastor. But when a pastor needs help, where does he go? When he needs strength and relief from the struggles of parish ministry or demands of his congregation or family, where does he turn? Each year thousands of valuable pastors do not know where to go, so they leave the ministry, and the whole church suffers.

Now there is a place where struggling pastors can go, a place they can be heard, encouraged and receive spiritual direction. It is called "Shepherd's Canyon Retreat" (http://www.shepherdscanyonretreat.org/), and I have just spent the past week there as staff Worship Leader. This is my second time to do this, and again it has been rewarding to see God's blessings happen.

"Shepherd's Canyon Retreat" is held at "Standing Stones" (http://www.StandingStonesaz.org/), a beautiful newly developed desert conference center 15 miles west of Wickenberg, Arizona, on US 60. Each SCR conference has a maximum of eight participants who meet with trained counselors to examine their personal and professional lives and find how they might serve the Lord and their families in the best way.

Both "Shepherd's Canyon Retreat" and "Standing Stones" are the fulfillment of dreams of Dave and Barb Anderson, musician evangelists of Fellowship Ministries. In their travels they saw pastors and churches suffering from ministry weariness, misunderstanding, malaise and even fear. Too often they heard the stories that led to separation, and so they sought a way to help. The result is "Shepherd's Canyon Retreat".

This is the 23rd SCR retreat, but the first one at "Standing Stones". This lovely 9 acre oasis is truly a gift from God and His people. Now it just needs participants.

The next SCR retreat will be Nov. 6-14, and others are already planned for January and February. If you are a pastor and would like spiritual refreshment and peace, go to the websites for information and phone numbers. You will also see what "Standing Stones" looks like, and the plans they have to make it into a retreat center for other spiritual purposes for 60 or more people.

Where does a pastor go for strength, direction and a better understanding? "Shepherd's Canyon Retreat" is a wonderful place to start. God has given us this fine place, and it is open to all denominations. Now it's up to the Church and its workers to make use of it.

Will you pray for this and encourage others to do the same?

Monday, October 8, 2012


Dear friends,
Yesterday in our Sunday worship service I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, not because worship was that bad, but because it was that good! 

Since retiring five years ago, Carol and I have been members of Grace Lutheran Church, a small mission congregation in Parker, Colorado. Our son Brian is a member there also, so we enjoy our worship together Sundays when we're in Colorado. 

A hundred or more members and guests are present each Sunday in the Assembly Room of Parker Lutheran High School. Last Sunday we joyfully approved a plan to construct a small worship center of our own, hoping to break ground and finish our first building during 2013. 

Since it began ten years ago, Grace Church has brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Parker area in traditional Lutheran services and educational programs. Like all mission churches, it has struggled with member, economic and building issues. But its worship has always brought the hope of Jesus Christ and the joy of Christ's forgiveness to those who come.

Grace Church people sing from the hymnal accompanied by teenagers playing our new piano. Pastor Murphy chants the liturgy and preaches Christ-centered sermons as insightfully as I've ever heard. We are blessed by Holy Communion most Sundays, and it's a rare service without thirty or more children present. Sunday as we sang, "Children of the Heavenly Father," a few dozen little ones bounced up the aisle for Pastor's blessing. At service's end, there was much laughter as teenagers showed how they will raise funds to attend their 2013 Youth Conference. 

And that's when the lump and tear came. You see, I believe our moments of joy in earthly worship are but a glimpse of the sustained joy of perfect worship believers shall have in heaven, as the Psalmist says, "Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness." (Psalm 28:6)

With all the world and national problems so harshly and continually flung at us, there is always the peace and joy that comes with Christ-centered worship. Like all churches, Grace is filled with sinners. But those who leave its doors will have heard their need for Jesus, and the hope He brings us all.

And, like me, maybe others who leave will feel a lump and a tear of joy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Dear friends,
Because this General Election is so very important in the history of our nation, I have decided to state publicly who I am going to vote for and why. This is the only time I will mention politics in this column this year. I am voting for Mitt Romney for President of the United States.

There are some similarities between Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney. Both are solid family men, educated in excellent American universities, and dedicated to serving their nation. Both will use their skills to lead to best of their ability. But there the similarity ends. 

Mitt Romney has vast experience in developing and managing large corporations. We need a president right now who can guide America's economy back on solid ground. Before being elected, Pres. Obama had no such experience. Mitt Romney will show us his birth certificate, high school and college transcripts. He will show us his social security card, law degree, draft notice, medical records and income tax records. He has nothing to hide.

After college, Mitt Romney was an unpaid volunteer campaign worker and intern for eight years. He was an unpaid bishop and state president of his church for ten years. He was an unpaid President of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for three years. He was the unpaid Governor of Massachusetts for four years. For all those activities he took no salary. It wouldn't surprise me if elected President he will take no salary.

Mitt Romney gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity. In 2011, Romney gave over $4 million to charity, nearly 19% of his income. He is a wealthy, self-made man and has given many millions of dollars back to America in terms of money, service and time. 

Through Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm he co-founded, he has provided hundreds of thousands of jobs to Americans. Mitt Romney's background, experience and trustworthiness qualify him to be an proven leader and a loyal citizen, equal to the task of being the kind of President our United States needs right now and for the future.

You may think that Romney is not the best candidate, but he is a known and experienced person. We know for sure what religion he is, and that he won't desecrate the flag, bow down to foreign powers, or practice fiscal irresponsibility. We know he has far more managerial ability to be president of our nation than our current president. 

Romney never took drugs or smoked pot, never got drunk, did not associate with communists or terrorists, and he did not attend a church whose pastor detests the United States. In 1996, when the 14-year-old daughter of a partner at Bain Capital disappeared, Romney closed down the entire firm, set up a command center, enlisted the help of his employees and hired private detectives. The girl was found alive and unharmed in New Jersey shortly thereafter. 

Mitt Romney is not a narcissist. He would rather seek the good of the whole than of his personal situation. When he sees a problem, he sets to work solving it, not for self-aggrandizement or personal gain, and he does not choose his actions by the poll numbers. Mitt Romney does what he does because that’s how he’s wired to work and act. He will be far more fiscally responsible than Pres. Obama has been. 

This is why I am going to vote for Mitt Romney for President of the United States..