Sunday, December 28, 2014


Christmas has many interesting traditional stories that capture the heart. There is one such story written in 1895 by Henry Van Dyke, about a "Fourth Wise Man" named Artaban who had intended to travel with the other three to see the newborn king.

Artaban sets out to meet the others with his treasures, a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl of great price. However, he stops along the way to help a dying man, which makes him late to meet the others. Since he can't cross the desert alone without supplies, he sells one of his treasures to buy camels and supplies for the trip. He finally arrives in Bethlehem, but is too late because the child and His parents have fled to Egypt.

While in Bethlehem Artaban saves the life of a child, but it costs another of his gifts for the baby. He continues traveling to Egypt and other countries as he searches for the new King Jesus and performs other acts of charity along the way. After many years, the "Fourth Wise Man" returns to Jerusalem just in time for the crucifixion.

There Artaban spends his last treasure, the pearl, to ransom a young woman being sold into slavery. He is gravely wounded by a fallen roof tile and believes he has failed in his quest when he hears a voice saying, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me." (Matthew 25:40)  The "Fourth Wise Man," dies in contentment, having finally found his King and knowing his treasures were acceptable to Him.

Despite such legends, humanity has been eternally affected by the true story of Jesus of Nazareth who is God's love in human form. This time of year we often hear bland pronouncements about the "value of all religions" and how people should show love. But there is really only one Faith that tells of a Savior who forgives people and moves them to genuine acts of Christian love.

The conviction that Jesus is the Savior of the world today motivates over two and a quarter billion people worldwide to worship Jesus, born as a child in Bethlehem and visited by the Magi. May you be among those who kneel in your heart before the Christchild.

Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Monday, December 22, 2014


In the wake of last week's international fracas about Sony deciding not to release a new movie when threatened by a nation in the Far East, debaters mostly sided with free speech. Few people realized there had been a similar event a month before in the American Midwest.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, annually holds its fall "Paint the Plow" event, in which students from area schools are invited to paint some of the city's huge snow plow blades with appropriate artwork. This year, however, the event became a battle after an atheist complained.

You see, it was October and with Christmas coming, it wasn't surprising some Christian students decided to paint about Jesus. One plow showed the traditional red and white Coca-Cola logo but read, “Jesus Christ” and quoted John 1:14. The other plow blade displayed a cross and manger and read, “Happy Birthday Jesus.” The artwork was by students from two area Lutheran Schools.

It also wasn't surprising that a local atheist complained to the city attorney that such things were inappropriate on city-owned equipment. “That was a clear endorsement of religion, and it was on city property,” he said. Score one for the Grinch!

But the battle wasn't over. Past students had painted religious themes on those plows, but no one complained. However, faced with a First Amendment battle, concerned city officials told the schools to repaint their artwork. One of the Lutheran principals said there wasn’t time, so the city could paint over the designs themselves.

Letters to the editor began falling like hailstones, so a statement was quickly issued by the city noting this long-standing program had allowed students from all community schools to paint and design the plow blades. Despite the complaint, the students had broken no laws, so their artwork would remain in place. Score a win for Jesus and free speech!

Whoever you are reading this, think how blessed that you can share your faith without fear, at Christmas or any time with a simple "Merry Christmas!" "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given." (Isaiah 9:6) And that child is the Savior of all who turn to Him in faith, even a Grinch!

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Sunday, December 14, 2014


(Parade of Lights, Part Two)

Who guides your footsteps? Who directs your life journey? Who helps you stay on the right road and out of the ditches? How do you know when to begin and when to stop?

The band enters the staging area, ready for its place in the Parade. A hundred students dressed in brightly lit uniforms march quietly forward in formation, each properly holding an instrument as instructed. Almost as one, the band comes to a halt on the side street, ready to move when called. Then the wait begins.

The high school students hold formation for perhaps a quarter hour before some begin milling and whispering. Adults urge them to stay in line, but the wait is long. The Drum Major puts them through a short step routine to keep their interest, but as the wait wears on, restlessness and mumbling begin filling the night. Lights on uniforms dance showing them to be ready, but time moves slowly in the wait.

Suddenly, a snare drummer raps them to attention. "BRAP! BRAP! BRAP!" Within seconds all the bodies step into place, and the drummer snaps into a marching cadence as the shuffling feet and lighted bodies move gently forward. "BRAP!... ... ... BRAP!... ... ..."

Barricades are lifted and the marchers move through to the ever-louder beat, making their quarter turn onto the street. Suddenly, all the drummers pierce the night with a difficult cadence that sends chills through the crowd. The wait is over - it's SHOWTIME! And all the people watch proudly as their award-winning band leads the parade through the streets.

Advent is a time of waiting, children waiting for Christmas, workers waiting for a shift to end, students waiting for Christmas break, and Christians waiting for the promised second coming of their Savior. One day angel drummers will announce the end of the OLD and the start of the NEW. When that day comes, the Divine Drummer will rap the world to attention, and every human being, dead or alive, will know the Lord and His judgment have come, and the New World is set to begin.

Until then, God calls His men and women to a prepared wait. He tends to our needs, He helps direct us on the right path and corrects us when we fall short. Until then, we live hopefully and joyfully, and we show the world the divine love given us all in the Babe of Bethlehem who came to save us from our sins.

"So be it! Come Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)

Monday, December 8, 2014


It was time for the town's "Parade of Lights" to begin. The burgers had been consumed by tailgaters as the sun went down in the settling darkness. Generators powered up tens of thousands of lights on floats built and decorated by youth groups, businesses and local organizations. Santas and reindeer, snowmen and elves, Disney, glitter and glitz lit up the night in bright array.

Decorated units from golf carts to eighteen wheelers lined the mile on both sides of the town's major street, each awaiting its signal to go. Band members dressed in flickering lights with twirler brigades were ready to follow. Parade organizers marshaled people here and there, and finally the parade began. The floats were a magnificent sight on a warm watched by thousands.

One float was unique. It showed children and parents gathered in front of a lighted manger scene, but it had a problem. Lights illuminated the star, the manger and the large wooden candles all around, but there were no lights on the sideboard signs telling who they were. The Holy Family was visible in the dark night, but how would people know who had put them there?

Fortunately, someone came to the rescue. Producing two bright lanterns, a woman handed one to friend and directed her to stand on the other side of the float. As they were directed into the street, each carrier shined her bright light on the sign that said, "Trinity Lutheran Church Preschool." For the length of the parade, the two walking sentinels showed the crowd who knew the real purpose of Christmas.

It is difficult these days to find much of anything that tells us the true reason for CHRISTmas. The CHRISTchild has been overshadowed by the crush of shoppers, parties, red hats, blinking lights and blaring music. But if you look closely, you will still find some hearty CHRISTians shining their lights on the manger and showing the world God's eternal and holy gift in the Lord Jesus.

"Let your light so shine that people may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Last spring I wrote of Pastor Darrell Howanitz's ministry to Hispanics in Eden, Texas, at a holding prison for illegals due to be deported. His Bible Study there has been fruitful and helpful to many.

But now there is a snag. Several months ago, Pastor Howanitz, age 64, was diagnosed with cancer, an aggressive type that has entered his bones. He is still able to preach at his two small churches and lead his Bible class between medical appointments and treatments. Darrell's attitude is still positive, a blessing from God in life and especially now. But he and his wife Wanda live in a parsonage and must make plans for the future.

I met Darrell nearly 40 years ago when I came to a congregation in North Dakota. He said, "Hi, I'm Darrell and I'm going to join your church." I instructed and baptized him and he became a helpful member and my good friend, eventually entering the Lutheran pastoral ministry ten years later.

Darrell has had challenges in his ministry, but he has remained a positive, hopeful servant who loves the Lord and His people. He has used his talents through music, Sign Language, working among mentally disabled people and several years of mission work in the Bahamas and Haiti. I dedicated my Bible Study, The Hopeful Disciple, to Darrell and Wanda. The title describes their ministry and life.

Their two small congregations have been supportive. To prepare for the future, however, they need to move from the parsonage into their own home. Funds are limited, but they've found an estate home where they can live rent-free as long as the elderly owners live. Then they can purchase the home, but needed repairs will cost $10,000 of which they have only a portion. Despite a lot of pain, Darrell is doing some of the work himself.

This servant couple needs a helping hand. Carol and I have decided to contribute to their housing needs and we invite you to join us. We're sending our tax-deductible gift to: Trinity Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 245, Eden, TX 76837, with "Pastor's New House" written on the memo line.

All people need a good place to live, especially God's servants. Our Heavenly Father granted His only Son a place to be born in a manger, and later provided a home through His foster father Joseph. God always provides.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:36, "I was in need and you helped me." Carol and I to invite you to join us in helping with the housing needs of Pastor and Mrs. Howanitz. We can assure you of their gratitude.

Thank you, and may God bless you this Christmas.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Thanksgiving is here and each year I try to think of something new and special for which to give God thanks. This year I thank Him for His little surprises. My summer reading included a short book my sister gave me by SQuire Rushnell, When God Winks At You. It's a series of brief stories about people sensing God's presence through small events. The author says when small coincidences or events surprise you or help you, those are "God Winks," signs He is caring for you. It's where I read about Tim Conway and the white plastic cross he won at a carnival as a boy.

I had a little "God Wink" recently. I was having some tire work done in Colorado when a man and a young woman came into the store, and they reminded me of a family from India I had known years before. That family had come from India to North Dakota in the late 1970's with their two young children about the same age as our sons. They were Christians and became members of my church. I knew they were in the Denver area but I'd lost track of them.

I don't often strike up a conversation with strangers, but I asked this man and woman if they originated from India. He smiled and said, "Yes." I explained about my friends and after a moment he said, "I know that family. The daughter is married to my wife's brother." The young woman said, "I have a photo of her sister and daughter that I can show you," and she produced one on her iPhone. She also said they were on Facebook, so I sent them both messages when I got home. The next day one of them responded.

Even more coincidental was that earlier in that week I had been thinking about that Indian family and wondered where they all were. The three of us at the tire store were glad for our conversation because we were all Christians. It was a "God Wink" for all three of us.

"God winks" are more than coincidence. They are reminders that He is keeping track of us in this life, telling us He is near and guiding us to eternal life through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. God never loses track of His children. We may do so in our busy life, or in our move to a new home or new job or different church. But God never loses track of us. He knows our every foot step.

It reminds me of a child's hymn, "I am Jesus' Little Lamb," which says in its first verse, "For my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my needs and well provides me; Loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name."

Be on watch for any "God Winks" this week and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014


At the end of the Korean War in 1953, a group of POW's emerged from the darkness carrying a 4-foot high crucifix made from firewood and radio wire. Amazingly, it had been made by a Jewish soldier. More amazing was the man, Chaplain Emil Kapaun, in whose honor it was made.

As priest of a small Canadian parish, Fr. Kapaun felt called to the front lines and was assigned as chaplain to the American 8th Cavalry Regiment. The soldiers loved him. He drove hundreds of miles ministering to the fighting men all over the Korean battlefields, helping with the wounded and celebrating eucharist from the hood of his Jeep. He went weeks with little or no sleep, hearing confessions, baptizing, cleaning latrines and ministering to the sick and dying.

On Nov. 2, 1950, the Battle of Unsan pitted a thousand Americans against 10-15,000 communist Chinese. In the ensuing battle, Fr. Kapaun ran into "no-man's land" to minister to the dying. Even after the sound was given to evacuate, he stayed in the midst of the wounded doing his work of mercy. Among the men whose lives he saved was Sgt. Herbert Miller who was about to be killed. Fr. Kapaun pushed the enemy aside and went to Miller's aid. In the "death march" which followed, he carried Sgt. Miller and helped him walk over 80 miles, urging others to carry their fellow soldiers and giving them hope.

As a prisoner Fr. Kapaun kept up his ministry, giving his food to the starving, smuggling in needed drugs and boiling water in a bowl he'd made to help the sick ones . He cleansed their wounds, organized them to get wood and clean the camp and secretly led them in prayers and mass. At his Easter service the men sang so loudly they were punished.

The communists hated him for the hope he gave the men. They forced him to stand naked for hours in the bitter cold and tried in vain to "re-educate" him in communist doctrine. When he got very sick, communists took him to a "death house" hospital where no one who went in came out alive.

Soldiers wept as he was carried out, but he comforted them saying, "Boys, don't worry about me. When I get there I will pray for you." The final act they saw of him was blessing the enemy soldiers praying, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."  He died May 23, 1951.

Fr. Kapaun is the most highly decorated military chaplain in history with fifteen medals and commendations . When he was posthumously given the Medal of Honor in 2013, nine of the men from that POW camp were there, including Sgt. Herbert Miller, the man whose life he'd saved 63 years before.

When the story of human history is over, it will not be the forces of evil, death and darkness which will have the final word. It will be God's love. God's love in Jesus Christ is what moves people such as Fr. Kapaun to share that love and to sacrifice one's self to make the world a better place. The wood and wire crucifix stands today in the Kapaun Memorial Chapel in Seoul, South Korea.

Psalm 23 says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." God is always with us, no matter what kind of evil, through friends, family and even strangers. God is there, not with anger or hatred, not with revenge or death, but with His mercy and eternal life in Jesus.

Chaplain Emil Kapaun, a "Shepherd in Combat Boots."

Monday, November 10, 2014


(Dear friends, I borrowed today's Weekly Message from the November 11 entry in Daily Word From Jesus, my first published book. I offer its message to all.)

November 11 is Veteran's Day. It is also Armistice Day which ended World War One. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 AM, the Armistice was signed ending “the War to End All Wars.” It did not, of course, for there have been many terrible wars since that day. As long as this world exists, wars will continue to be fought.

A historian has estimated that in the four thousand years of recorded human history, only two hundred fifty of those years held no armed conflict somewhere in the world. Humanity lives in a fallen state. The sinful rebellion that began with Adam and Eve will always have an evil effect on us. Only on Judgment Day will the effects of sin in the world end.

That means we will always need Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. There will never be a time in our lives that we do not need Jesus, whether we are an infant or among the aged, whether waking or sleeping. Jesus is our lifeline in turbulent waters and our defense from the forces of evil. He is our Savior who gives us eternal life.

It was not my privilege to serve in the Armed Forces, but many among my family and friends have done so. I give thanks for them each day and pray for their courage, duty and safety. The war we are in today is against radical Islamic terrorists. One and a half million servicemen and women are in uniform today, and many are in combat zones. They are the best trained and equipped soldiers our nation has ever had. But this side of heaven there will never be a time when our nation will not need a strong and well-equipped Armed Forces.

Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” We trust Him and rejoice that He is with us always, in every circumstance, unto the end of the age. We also need to trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus and seek His forgiveness. We can always reach out to Him through His Word and prayer.

Join me in giving thanks to those who serve and have served in America's Armed Forces.

Monday, November 3, 2014


In the early 1900s, Fort Bragg, California, residents threw their household garbage over a cliff to a deserted beach below. For decades people dumped all kinds of refuse there into the ocean, old cars, metal, furniture and mostly household garbage, which included innumerable glass containers.

In the 1940's the area became known as "The Dump," and fires were often lit to burn down the growing trash piles. Finally in 1967, the city leaders wisely closed the area to dumping. Various cleanup programs were undertaken to try to clean up the damage, but without much success.

Over the next thirty years the pounding waves cleansed the beach, breaking down and washing most everything away, everything except the glass and pottery. The ceaseless waves disintegrated the trash but broke up and smoothed the broken glass - tons of it - moving it back and forth along the shore. The broken glass shards remained along the sea shore by the millions, polished by the ceaseless waves until an amazing new beach was formed. The locals noticed this and renamed the area "Glass Beach."

Its sea glass is the product of a long and brutal process. Fragments are tumbled in the water, twenty-four hours a day, bumping and grinding against each other, breaking and fashioning surfaces into a frosty and glistening appearance. As the ocean tumbles the pieces against each other, sand and pebbles join to smooth the rough edges until the sea glass resembles precious gems.

In 1998, the owner of the property suggested that Glass Beach should belong to the public, so in 2002 it became part of MacKerricher State Park. Glass Beach quickly attracted large numbers of tourists. The tinkling sounds of the glass pebbles tumbling together by gentle waves makes a visit there memorable.

Visiting Glass Beach today is unique. Whereas decades ago people dumped their refuse on the shore, now they try to take home glass pieces as souvenirs. How ironic that where it was once illegal to dispose of trash, trash now turned into treasure, today it is illegal to remove even a piece of it.

Maybe at some time you have felt like trash, left behind, dumped overboard or abandoned as worthless. Hopefully the bumps and bruises of life have shaped you well and made you realize you are more valuable. Life may try to dump and grind us, but God considers us His treasures. He believes we so precious that He gave the life of His only Son that we might be with Him forever.

Because of Jesus, we are all God's precious gems!

Monday, October 27, 2014


Tim Conway, comedian and actor, grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a safe and happy town where almost everyone went to church. God was a mysterious presence in his life, and even though he had no proof God existed, everyone said He did, so Tim figured He must.

Every year at the annual Blossom Festival a carnival came to town. Down by the river a magical mini-village sprang up with its giant ferris wheel, booths and the smell of popcorn. Ten year-old Tim had fifty cents in his pocket as he made his way to the midway, five dimes he'd earned on his paper route. After buying a coke and ticket for the ferris wheel, he decided to try his luck at a game booth where he saw a white plastic cross that glowed in the dark. Tim decided he wanted it.

All he had to do was snag one of the plastic ducks with a little fishing pole and get the prize named under it. First dime, first try, he missed the ducks entirely. Second dime, second try, he hooked a duck but only got a cheap charm. Third dime, third try, another cheap thing. Tim wanted that cross but was out of money.

Sad faced, he started walking back home wishing he could have that cross. Then he spotted something shiny next to the sidewalk - another dime! Tim picked it up and started back for the midway and another chance.

This was a big moment, so he sat down under a big maple tree and prayed, "Lord, I would really like that white cross, the one that glows in the dark." He spoke his little prayer slowly, got up and went to the booth. He handed over the dime, concentrated and snagged the first duck with the pole hook. It won him the cross!

"I kept that cross under my pillow until I went to college," Conway later said. "and I still have it." In his subsequent years of uncertainly, from college exams to casting calls, Tim Conway has been bolstered by the assurance he'd gain that day when he prayed. He never forgot the answer to his prayer, nor the God who gave him the cross.

Does God ever seem mysterious and intangible to you? Do you hear He exists, but you're not quite sure? Then watch for a small sign from Him that He does, a sign of His love shown by a cross.

Jesus never fails!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Often in a Bible study someone mentions the many definitions of one word, LOVE. There are seven or eight different ways we use that word in our language.

There is another amazing word in the English language that can have five separate uses: as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition. It is a two-letter word that has more meanings than just about any other word in our language. That word is UP. 

It's easy to understand "regular" UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election? Why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?  Do people still drive UP town?

Listen UP everybody! We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP our shoes, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We also lock UP the house and fix UP the old car. We may might even tell someone to hush UP while we watch the movie called, "UP."

If we are confused, we're UP a creek (without a paddle). At various times, people stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special. And why must a drain be opened UP? Because it is stopped UP.

We seem all mixed UP about UP! We open UP a store in the morning then we close it UP at night. In order to know the many uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. It probably takes UP a quarter of the page and can add UP to thirty or more definitions.

If you are UP to it, try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with dozens of uses. The sun comes UP in the morning, and the moon comes UP at night. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP and when the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP the earth, and when it doesn't rain, the earth dries UP. 

One day God will take all His faithful people UP to heaven because Jesus rose UP from the dead. There in His presence we will lift UP our voices and sing praises to God who has raised us UP. I could play "One UP" with you on this, but I think I'll wrap it UP, because my time is UP!

"Lift UP your eyes and look to the heavens." (Isaiah 40:26)

Monday, October 13, 2014


No matter how great a thought may elevate us to the heights of discovery, there's always something mundane to bring us back to earth. I have been busy this summer writing Bible Studies, three on New Testament books (James, Epistles of Peter and Matthew) and the fourth an overview of the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament titled, Old Testament Disciples.

It's no secret that the OT Prophets are difficult to read. Book after book is a record of God's disappointment with unfaithful people and His prophecies of what is coming because of their sins. Gratefully, His grace and mercy are always there if they repent, but that seems to happen infrequently. Each book has its rich Hebrew name, Ezekiel, Obadiah, Habakkuk and Zephaniah to name a few, and each is a record of God's attempt to turn the hearts of His sinful people before it's too late.

The prophet Haggai caught my attention. His prophecy to Judah came fifteen years after they had returned from exile in Babylon. The people were busy rebuilding their homes and families and businesses, but things weren't going well. Haggai told them it was because they'd been busy with the wrong things. If they would put God's work first and their own needs second, he said, life will be far more productive. God was saying, "First things first!" Great idea for a sermon!

I came out of the office with this exciting news to share with my dear wife. After patiently listening to my "discovery" she smiled and said, "Check the porkchops." "Did you hear what I said?" I asked, and she said, "Yes, every word, Now check the porkchops on the grill or they will burn."

As I begrudgingly checked them, I realized that she as usual, she had a point. No matter how wonderful an idea may be, if the food is burning, we'd better tend to that first. Even the most exciting revelation has its proper place in the line of human need. It was her way of saying, "First things first!" just like Haggai said.

Jesus put us first on the cross. He came to serve us, not to be served. He made sure our needs were served, and then His own. On Calvary He lived the axiom, "First things first." I wrote a sermon on it that turned out well.

Now that I've told you something worthwhile (hopefully), I'd like to suggest you check out my four new Bible Studies on Discipleship at "" One of them might be just what you need for your personal or group Bible study.

Don't forget to check the porkchops!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Today on a lovely Colorado autumn afternoon I finished a project and rewarded myself with coffee and a great carmel roll at the local bakery. I read awhile in a little book I had along, and part of the story was about a farmer feeding his cows hay.

It reminded me of a Sunday afternoon forty-some years ago in my first church up in North Dakota. My wife and our little boys were visiting Art and Peggy and their older kids at their farm on a chilly October afternoon. The little ones had fallen asleep so Art asked, "Want to help me feed the cows?" Well, I'd done that before so we put on our caps, coats and gloves and went outside.

Art had already loaded hay bales on his old truck so he started it up and we lumbered down the road a half mile to a gate where he stopped and unlatched it. The pasture looked empty so I asked, "Where are the cows?" He said, "They'll come." He drove in about a hundred yards, turned off the truck and commenced to honking his horn. Sure enough, in less than a minute fifty or sixty cows came running over a hill. Not walking, running. The cows were hungry and it was a cold day. "They know my horn," Art said, "They know it means lunch."

That sounded like something from John chapter 10 where it says, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me." I told Art that, and he said with a grin, "I don't care much for sheep." I can still remember the way he grinned when he said it, like it was yesterday.

Art's gone to be with the Lord a long time now, but I still exchange Christmas cards with Peggy. Our kids are all grown up, but we still have our memories. I can still see those cows running over the hill and hear Art's voice.

And I am eternally grateful that our children and their families know the voice of their Good Shepherd Jesus and follow Him. I'm thankful they, too, regularly receive His holy meal.

"My sheep follow me, and they follow me and no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 11:27)

Sunday, September 28, 2014


September 29, 2014
Dear friends,Several decades ago two boys were selling newspapers on a Detroit street corner. One of them shouted, "Read all about it!" and then shouted a headline like, "President elected! Read all about it!" The other boy just said in a loud, whiney voice, "Ain't it awful!" He held up an open newspaper and shouted in a pleading voice, "Ain't it awful!"

Which boy do you think sold the most copies? The second one, of course, the one who "awfulized" the news. People stopped to see what was so "awful" about the news, and more bought from him than from the other.

Most will agree that newspapers and news programs "awfulize" the news to get our interest. There's a saying, "No News is Good News." Today's journalist says the opposite: "Good News is No News." The nasty story is always on the front page, while any good news is buried in the back.

Perhaps that's because there is so much news that is awful - wars that won't end, the evil killing the innocent, world disease, drug murders, ugly politics, planet destruction and death. What will tomorrow bring? "Ain't it awful!

Jesus was no stranger to the "awful" side of life. He saw brutality and depravity around Him, but He didn't spend His life preaching about it. His life message was God's marvelous plan that they can have a better life than this world gives them. Jesus "marvelized" our awful world with His love and forgiveness, His hope and peace. No matter how ugly life may look, with Jesus life can be marvelous.

Sin has made our world and its people wallow in the "awful," but Jesus has a solution. He gave His life on the cross so that all who trust Him will not perish, but have eternal life. Sin and Satan "awfulize" life, but Jesus "marvelizes" it.

Pardon my grammar, but "AIN'T THAT GREAT!"

Monday, September 22, 2014


 Can a person get too much of a good thing? What happens when we lose interest because we've become too immersed for too long in something good? Is it possible to lose interest in something we truly value and love?

We visited our grandchildren last week and had supper at the Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, Arizona, where the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ played a song that had been the children's favorite. "Let It Go" is the Oscar-winning song from the animated movie, "Frozen," and last spring our two granddaughters couldn't hear or sing it often enough. Then they played and sang it over and again with energy and joy, but now their interest was gone. "They're tired of it," our daughter-in-law said. "They sang it too many times."

Of course it is true that a person can get too much of a good thing. Steak doesn't taste as good if you have twice a day. Your mother's prize-winning apple pie every meal will grow tiresome. A person can even eat too much chocolate cake!

Our human nature can grow weary of even our most precious possessions. I recall a Seminary class where one of my classmates asked a professor what heaven would be like. The professor's description of endless joy, worship, singing and being in the presence of God provoked the youthful response, "Sounds boring!" Heaven boring? But that's the attitude of weak and sinful people getting too much of a good thing.

Married couples can struggle when the love they had changes. An advice column quoted a woman saying she and her husband still loved each other, but they were no longer "in love" with each other, so they were getting a divorce. But marriage does not consist of constant, unchanging love. The "good thing" this couple had now seemed lost so they wanted to find it again somewhere else.

Does God's love for us change? The Bible emphatically says, "NO!" Despite our loveless, rebellious and foolish acts, God's love for us remains the same. The Bible is filled with examples of God taking back His people, no matter how many times We rebel against Him.

Have we sung our song too many times? Just remember, God will not grow tired of His people, no matter what. And if we grow weary of Him or His people, He says, "I will satisfy the weary soul and every languishing soul I will replenish." (Jeremiah 31:25)  
In Jesus Christ, we can never get too much of a good thing.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I recently took a short trip via our fine air travel system. I don't know why people complain so much about the small problems they encounter in airports. Security clearance, cramped seats, extra fees and even delays are nothing compared to the blessing of being able to board an aircraft and two hours later have gone a thousand miles. The same distance 140 years ago would have taken four days by train, or two months by covered wagon. Truly, air travel is a breeze by any standard of comfort.

The day after returning, however, I did encounter a minor problem. Someone  "hacked" my credit card and charged a bunch of money to United Airlines, probably for a ticket. I had not used my credit card or even taken it out of my wallet the entire trip, so it was probably a random number some crook's computer conjured up. Or else it was a scanner that can read anything in your pocket.

But that was minor too. A quick call to Visa cancelled our account and a pair of new cards was Fed-Exed to our door 24 hours later. A few hours on our phone and computer put the new number into accounts where it was needed. So simple! When it comes to our Visa, Carol and I "Don't Leave Home Without It!" I believe American Express first said that.

Is there anything else we don't leave home without? I'm sure each of us has a few things that go with us everywhere - watch if we wear one, glasses or hearing aids if we need them, wallet or purse contents which vary greatly with each of us. All those are important and yet minor things we carry around.

How about our faith in Jesus? What about our hope for the future? On my trip I had spoken to a Men's Retreat on the theme, "A Hope and A Future in Christ," based on Jeremiah 29:11-14. Jeremiah prophesied at a time when people of Judah were in exile hundreds of miles from home in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah's message was rather amazing, considering the hardships they were facing: "Settle down in your new land, build homes, plant crops, marry the locals and raise families, because God will bless you there. Don't listen to the complainers, but build up and prosper in the land of your exile, and if you are faithful to God, after seventy years God will bring you home again." (Jeremiah 29:5-10, abbreviated paraphrase) Jeremiah would have agreed with Midwesterners who often say, "Make the best of it!"

It's easy to grumble when things don't go our way, but it's far better to trust God and follow His Word. Jeremiah also told them what God said,"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11). Those comforting words have been a blessing for all who trust the God of our salvation and His Son Jesus Christ.

Trust in God - "Don't Leave Home Without It!"

Monday, September 8, 2014


Have you ever been adrift in life? Several weeks ago Carol and I attended a church in north Denver and the pastor's sermon was about being adrift in life. I took notes and found them the other day under a pile on my desk. I often take sermon notes these days, not for use in preaching, but for Weekly Messages like this one!

His message reminded me of a time when we owned a canoe and were learning how to use it. Another couple was with us in their canoe on a river near our North Dakota home. Our afternoon of learning how to handle a canoe quickly turned into a Splash Fest of laughter and getting wet. At one point my wife and I both lost our paddles, and we were drifting until we realized we were "up a creek without a paddle." We tried paddling with our hands, but our experienced friends retrieved our paddles for us. It was a fun memory to recall.

The pastor spoke of four reasons why people might find themselves adrift in life. 1) We may be blaming God for their problems, or 2) we are succumbing to life's negative influences, or 3) we are giving in to harmful temptations that "everyone else is doing," or, 4) we are loving the things of this world way too much. All four of these reasons will drive a wedge between us and God and will eventually cast us adrift in life.

Having given us God's Law that showed us our sins, the pastor then showed us the Gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins and rescued us from being adrift. The pastor then told us how to keep from drifting through God's Word, God's Sacraments and God's Prayer Line. Making regular use of these will keep us from from drifting and closer to God in life. I don't recall he used the phrase, "up a creek without a paddle," but his fine message brought that past incident to mind.

The sermon reminded me of a favorite Bible verse, "Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will make good things happen." (Psalm 37:5)

Are you adrift in life right now? What will you do about it?

Monday, September 1, 2014


I read a story recently about a man who decided to trap a woodchuck that had been doing damage in his garage. He bought a live trap, baited it and the next morning found he had trapped a skunk!

Now he had a worse problem. He looked online for suggestions, but the thought of doing something wrong and causing a "big stink" kept him from even getting close to the trap. About then his son-in-law stop by, surveyed the situation and stepped up to the challenge. He calmly walked to the cage, opened the door and coaxed the skunk out with a few light sprays from a garden hose. Problem solved.

The point of the story is that sometimes our fears can lead us to inaction. We worry so much about what might happen that we fail to step up and do anything. You can see this in our culture: We fear giving offense by our speaking against evil people or actions so we say nothing. We fear our children will be angry with our rules, so we let them get by with wrong behavior. We fear the disapproval of others, so we say nothing when our Christian faith is being trashed.

But there's a time to step up and let the skunk out. The stink of doing nothing can be far worse than doing something, even if it's done poorly. We've become so polite (fearful?) that we think it's safer to do nothing. There's so much false "propriety" around these day that illustrates well the adage, "Stand for nothing and you'll fall for anything."

If you hear God's name being trashed, tell him to stop it. If you're fearful of hurting your teen's feelings by taking away privileges, remind yourself you're the parent. If our government is afraid to call out a skunk, vote against it. If something needs to be done and you're there, step up and do it.

Jesus stepped up did what was needed. He didn't measure His words so as not to offend anyone. He spoke the truth in a spirit of love. The only time He was silent was when the shouting of evil was so loud, talking would have done no good. But then He let His actions speak. He went to the cross and took our punishment. He said, "Greater love has no one than that he lay down his life for his friends."(John 15:13) And He proved it!

Don't be afraid to step up when something needs to be done.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I recently heard it said, "Never pass up a chance to make amends." Making "amends" means being willing to correct something from the past, to try to make right something we've done wrong. It's being willing to apologize for insult or injury you have caused.

When I was in High School Shop Class I slugged a fellow classmate. We were all standing in line when teacher had stepped from the room momentarily and someone poked me from behind several times. I ignored the first few pokes, but eventually laid aside my common sense, turned around and slugged the guy behind me in the stomach.

It was the wrong guy! Someone said, "He didn't do it," but my classmate was on his knees gasping for breath. I pulled him back up and mumbled I was sorry and felt like a fool. The teacher came back in and didn't see this, so class went on and I didn't really apologize. And I never forgot that I didn't.

Fifty years later, this fellow came to our Class Reunion and I figured it was time to make amends. I told him what I'd done and that I was sorry for it. He looked at me and said, "I don't remember any of that." I don't know how many times over the years that incident had bothered me, but he'd long since forgotten.
"Never pass up a chance to make amends." If I'd spoken to him right away, I wouldn't have felt guilty. Also, that incident wouldn't have become a teaching point in my classes with youth, urging them not to let a offense go without trying to make amends. It wasn't the only lesson I learned based on something stupid I'd done.

Some people try to make amends with God. They'll try this through doing good deeds to offset their sins of the past, or giving big gifts in an attempt to make up for what they've done. Some even enter a life of service to God, thinking it can make up for their sins. But that doesn't work. We'll never be able to do enough to make up for what we've done.

The good news is there is a solution. The Gospel tells us Jesus has already made up for our sins and earned our forgiveness on the cross. He's already fixed up things between us and God. Nothing we do will make amends with God, but Jesus has already done it for us.

Last week I wrote, "God loves us because of who God is, not because of what we did or didn't do." Our relationship with God is based on His goodness, not ours. As the Disciple John wrote, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10) Thanks be to God Jesus has already made amends to God on our behalf.

But let's still remember, "Never pass up a chance to make amends."

Rev. Bob Tasler

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Do you ever wish you could change your life, make it different than it was, or at least different in the future? Have you ever considering getting yourself a  "reset" in your life?

Last week I had problems with my television receiver. One of the attachments I had purchased for it was no longer working, as evidenced by its small power indicator light that was no longer showing bright red. I assumed it was broken, as most dead lights usually are.

So I went online and contacted "Mr. Chatman" who told to me not to order a new device, but to see of we could reset the old one. The first thing he said was to make sure all my cords were plugged in. I found one loose and plugged it in and that helped, but the light was still out. I followed the rest of his directives, step by step, and the tiny red light finally came on! No need in to get new parts, just reset the old ones.

Oh, that our life could be so easily fixed! I don't mean our physical life because most of those old worn parts can't be replaced. But we can get help for our spiritual life. You see, through neglect, distraction or following foolish ways we can unplugged, live erratically and even become spiritually dead. Our spiritual life can become so under-used that we think we no longer need God. Or we feel God has lost contact with us.

That's when we need to get a spiritual reset through Jesus. God wants us tuned into His Son, and getting it done will probably require asking for help. You can "read the manual" but it also helps to visit with "Pastor Techmann" at one or more of his spiritual workshops (worship services). He works for the "Master Repairman" (God) and if you seek His help, your spiritual life will surely work better.

A spiritual "reset" is one of God's specialties. It costs us nothing but time spent with the Him or His helpers. It will mean carefully following His directions. I thought I'd need new parts, but all I needed was to get the old ones working correctly. The light wasn't dark because the part was dead, but because the system was jammed. After a "reset" the light came back on, and everything worked together well once again.

I spent about half an hour with Mr. Chatman getting this done. It may take you longer. If you're struggling with life problems, or if things do not seem to be working right, I urge you to spend an hour a week with Pastor Techmann. His workshops will do wonders for your overloaded or underpowered spiritual system. You'll need frequent resets. Pastor Techmann will show you how God works best in His own good time with us. He might even ask you Mr. Chatman's first question to me:

"Hello! How can I be of assistance today?"

"Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him when He is near." (Isaiah 55:6)

Rev. Bob Tasler

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


(Dear friends, The following is written by Regina Brett, 90 year old columnist of the "Plain Dealer," of Cleveland. Its content is not as spiritual as most of my WEEKLY MESSAGEs, but it still contains great wisdom. - Rev. Tasler)
           45 Lessons Life Taught Me" by Regina Brett
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short so enjoy it.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the future.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. Their journey is not yours.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry, God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice things. Don't save them for a special occasion.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive!
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
 2. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves us because of who God is, not because of what we did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you want.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. When necessary, yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."
"Those who are wise will instruct many." (Daniel 11:33)

Rev. Bob Tasler

Monday, August 4, 2014


Newspapers and magazine articles again are warning us about the future and the dangers it may hold due to climate change, economic trends, political possibilities and cultural decay. Such information may move us to wonder how should we prepare for the future. I am inclined to ask since so much of what is predicted never happens, how can we possibly prepare at all?

Modern intellectuals may truly believe the future can be known, since current trends can point us to "definite" outcomes. But anyone looking at the past can surely see that the future has usually unrolled differently due to sudden changes. About all we can surely count on is that the future will probably surprise us.

I have kept this poem for a couple of decades and consider its message now and then. Finding information on its author, Betty Purser Patten, has so far eluded me, but I give you her fine thoughts in the hope you will find strength in them for today.

The poet's words remind me of what my English professor, Dr. Erhardt Essig, often told us in class, "Poetry - What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed."

"IN HIS HANDS"  (by Betty Purser Patten)
We know not what tomorrow brings  Although we plan ahead,
For only God alone can know  The pathway we must tread.

We cannot know the future,  Not one minute nor one hour;
Each circumstance that we must face  Lay only in His power.

It's vital that we live by faith  From minute unto minute,
And trusting that each step we take  He's walking with us in it.

We cannot see the future,  Nor the trials we must face;
But in all things, God promised us,  Sufficiency of Grace.

This alone should give us hope  Whatever be our plans,
In knowing that our future lies  In His great, loving hands.

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off." (Proverbs 23:8)

Rev. Robert L. Tasler

Monday, July 28, 2014


Most every year when my wife and I take our annual trip to visit family in the midwest, we travel the same route. After crossing Colorado and Nebraska, we pass through Sioux City, Iowa, and follow Highway 60 northeast into Minnesota. Over the years they've made many improvements to that road, and although we no longer pass through the many quaint Iowa towns, we enjoy the new road.

The first ten miles into Minnesota is a different story.  For ten to twelve years now that stretch has laid unfinished, delayed, I'm told, by an ongoing haggle between state and city governments. That segment may still not be done.

The first year we nearly got stuck when we drove onto the unfinished roadbed that was not identified by signs. The finished road just ended, and we sailed out into the mud. During the years since, we've followed sign after detour sign taking us far out of the way until we finally get back to Highway 60. Each year we've been disappointed to find the road incomplete, so I think we'll take another route this year.

We're all traveling a road of life. Some roads we choose seem right and lead us to expect good things. Some roads of life are just plain bad, but we keep taking them anyway. A bad road will not make itself better. Hoping a road will be better will not make it so. We need to travel a different road.

There are times we need to get stuck to realize we can't go that way again. Maybe it will take getting ourselves so clogged with the mud of foolish choices that we will finally see our need for help. We don't just need a better road, and we need a map to show us where best to travel.

That road map is the Bible. It tells us our Good Lord walked the way of sorrows on earth to forgive us our sins. He was mired in the mud and the blood of Calvary so we could have a way out. He got stuck for us, but He got out, too.

Now Jesus wants to travel with us, and if we let Him, He will show us a better way. Traveling with Him is an amazing adventure. He's there when we have an accident, and He shows us a better way when we get confused. When Jesus is by our side, we may still take a wrong turn, but we won't get totally lost. He knows the right way and will lead us there if we will just let Him.

Remember what He has told us in His famous "Good Shepherd" Psalm? "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." (Psalm 23:3) He really does! Follow Him, and He'll show the Good Road to heaven.

Which road of life will you travel today?

Sunday, July 20, 2014


My son received some good news last Saturday - his automatic transmission does not need to be overhauled. His twelve year-old Ford truck has lots and lots of miles on it and he noticed it was shifting hard, so he parked it and drove his other vehicle. After a week, he took it to High Country Transmission, a very good repair shop near his home. I know it's very good because I had another transmission repaired there (and also baptized the owner's son).

Saturday Brian called that the diagnostics show the tranny is okay. It just needed a thorough servicing. (Translation: fluid and filter need replacing) That's great news since a transmission rebuild is a big ticket item these days.

Power train items don't usually fall apart over night; they get that way with time. Little by little with constant shifting, heating and cooling, dirt and sludge build up and will damage internal parts. Without periodic fluid and filter change, it will break down.

It's just like people. We ignore our relationship with God and let all kinds of "gunk" into our lives that come between us and others, especially between us and God. Without regular spiritual cleanups through confession, prayer and Holy Communion, we start to "shift" harder until we come to a spiritual stop. We need regular spiritual check-ups to stay close to God.

King David got himself into big trouble with another man's wife and knew he had dirt in his life. In Psalm 51 he said, "Cleanse me, O Lord, with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow." Good words to remember when we feel spiritually sluggish and run-down.

Today give thanks to your Lord Jesus that He gave His life for you on Calvary. When we believe He is God's Son and trust Him to forgive us, we can be confident God will not toss us into that eternal Junk Yard.

Does your spiritual power train need servicing? Overhauling?

Monday, July 14, 2014


Psalm 133 says, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore."

Unity among people is a great blessing from God. We see and hear so much discord around us today, at home and abroad. Political factions shout at and accuse each other, pointing fingers of blame but doing little to unify our country. World terrorists seem never satisfied and blame the “infidels” of the world for the destruction and havoc they create.

But when we do see a group of people acting together, caring for each other and working towards an admirable goal, it is wonderful. David, the writer of Psalm 133, probably wrote these words when he was made king at Hebron after many years of conflict under King Saul’s unpredictable reign. This Psalm was his praise to God at the the joy of seeing His people cooperate and make peace.

Scripture tells us at Aaron’s dedication as high priest, the anointing oil saturated his head and ran onto his robes, signifying his total consecration to God’s holy service. To know that someone is so totally dedicated to God is “good and pleasant.” 

The second image used here is the dew on Mt. Hermon in northern Israel. At 8,000 feet high, its sides were lush with vegetation due to the rain and snow, which eventually creates the Jordan River that flows all the way south to the Dead Sea. That kind of rain would also make parts of Israel lush and fruitful, and “good and pleasant” and a blessing on Jerusalem. 

I was raised in a large family. It was not uncommon that some of us boys didn’t live in peace, and I recall our mother saying, “I just wish people wouldn’t argue.” Mom liked a peaceful house, one that was “good and pleasant where brothers dwelt in unity.” (paraphrase)

Peace and contentment is wonderful, but it rarely lasts long, whether in families or among nations. So long as there is sin, there will be quarreling. We give thanks for God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ that brings us back together with Him and also with each other.

Lord Jesus, grant peace and love in Your world and especially in Your Church. Amen

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Have you ever left an event too early? Maybe it was a ballgame that seemed over, so you left and on your way home you heard your team won in the last minutes. But you'd left early because you were certain how it would end. Or you no longer cared, but either way you missed seeing what you came for.

Carol and I did something like that last Friday evening, July 4. We had sat in our car over a half an hour on a lovely overlook waiting for the fireworks to start. We did enjoy a few exploding rockets here and there. We had heard there would be fireworks, but it seemed they were over, so we went home. Along the way we saw groups of people sitting by the roadside. We, of course, were sure there was no more, so we went home to watch fireworks on TV. Nice, but just not the same.

Within minutes of closing the garage door the largest fireworks display our town has seen in years started going off only a mile or two from our house. We went outside, but trees hid most of it and then it was over. We should have waited longer, but we missed it. Oh well, there's always next year.

The idea of leaving early seemed the thing to do. After all, we're Rockies fans, and we're used to saying there's always next year. Missing a winning game or fireworks really isn't that important in the big picture of life, but there's still some regret.

However there might not be a next time or a next year with something really important, like missing out on heaven and landing in hell. People don't talk much about hell these days. The idea of God casting us into a pit of flames or making us suffer agonies of a lake of fire seems far-fetched for a loving God. 

Consider this - hell would be bad enough if it was an eternity of knowing you missed out being with God! You didn't take God seriously, so you turned your back on Him or were too busy or became disinterested or some other reason. 

And now in hell you can see the believers rejoicing in God's presence, but you can't because you missed it! There's deep regret in knowing you could have had it  and can never get it back. That would be hell of the worst kind.

Perhaps the small regrets we have in life today are given to remind us of the greatest regret of missing out being with God. Maybe we'd better not say no to Him again. Maybe we'd better not turn our back on God again. 

But we can  be sure of this: He'll be there waiting if we turn back to Him now. Isaiah 55:7 says, "Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon." That's Good News if there ever was any.

Is any reason for turning our back on God worth what we will miss?

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Do you like jigsaw puzzles? Some folks love putting them together, but I'm not one of them. People willing to concentrate enough to assemble 1,000 or 1,500 piece puzzles have a patience I surely don't have. 

How about solving a 19,000 piece puzzle that contains four languages? The last two Sundays I've been leading a video and discussion Bible Class at our congregation called, "How We Got the Bible." It's offered by the Lutheran Hour Ministries and features Dr. Paul Maier and others. 

In Sunday's segment Dr. Joel Lampe, manager of The Bible Museum in Goodyear, Arizona, gave fascinating information about the Dead Sea Scrolls. He said that in the Qumran caves along the Dead Sea they found 19,000 fragments of the Old Testament writings in four languages: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Nabataean. It took many experts 60 years, but they finally assembled the pieces into 961 Old Testament writings. They even used DNA testing to match some of the pieces.

The scribes of Qumran were the ancient printing press. They faithfully and carefully copied old and worn Old Testament books onto new parchment scrolls and papyrus pages, and then, out of respect, buried the old texts in jars in the caves. 

The most amazing aspect of the DSS was not their condition but their content. When compared to oldest Greek and Hebrew texts we have today, they are virtually the same. The few tiny differences found do not change the meaning of the text. God's people had done their best to make sure they didn't change what they were copying. As old Professor A. C. Streufert often said to us in class, "The Word of God survives translation!"

I look forward to leading the last two sessions of "How We Got the Bible." It's estimated that since Gutenberg's first Bible was printed in 1455, there have been six billion copies of the Bible printed in hundreds of languages. Thirty million Bibles are still sold each year. No other book in history has even printed one billion copies. God's Word is the best seller of all times. 

And well it should be. The Bible contains the most important information of all times. The Old Testament points forward to the coming Savior of the world, and the New Testament points backward to Jesus of Nazareth as being that promised Savior. The message of the Bible is not about history or behavior, but Jesus our Savior. God made sure His Book would survive with His precious Gospel message of forgiveness.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us the Bible with its life-giving message. Amen

Monday, June 23, 2014


(Today's devotion is from my newly published, DAILY WORD FROM JESUS available now at: It will soon have a Foreword added by Dr. Dean Wenthe.)

Matthew 6:28-29 – “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Human beings are complex. We live our lives on many levels. If we are naked or poorly clothed, we are grateful for enough to keep us warm. If our car quits running, we are grateful when it runs again. If we are homeless, even a shack to live in looks good.

But as we progress in life, we want better food or more stylish clothing. Or we look with longing at a newer car with all its comfortable features, or we want a nicer home or conveniences to make life easier.

Jesus knows this, so in His Word for today, He shows us the flowers. Look at the beautiful blossoms that brighten the world! Fields of flowers are pleasing to the eye and a joy to behold, and they didn’t do one thing to get that way other than just grow.

We, on the other hand, must fashion our clothes. We create colors and shapes that please our taste and keep us warm and cover us pleasantly. Jesus’ continued Word about worry underscores His claim that God will provide for our needs. If He can make flowers so beautiful, He can also make us better or more beautiful people.

Solomon is an extreme example of wealth, power and style. He had it all, far more than he ever needed. But yet, Jesus said, God is capable of creating more beauty in a lily blossom than in the clothes of the richest king.

What do you think about clothing styles? Do you like what you wear each day? What do your clothes tell others about you? What do your worries say about you? Can you find a way today to reduce your worries, even just a little?

Dear Jesus, I give You this day. Help me not to worry about life, but to live it in joy! Amen

Sunday, June 15, 2014


When trouble comes, where do you turn for help? Police? Family? Guns? Government? In Psalm 121:1-2 the writer tells us, "I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." 

The central part of Israel was located on a range of hills. The Jews had been held captive fifty years in the flat land of Persia, and they trusted the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to help them as they returned. He who had given His people the Promised Land would surely give His people help. They just needed to look to the hills, because that’s where God's help would come.

When we are in need of major help (or even minor help), we need to know where to go. It’s tempting to think the only help we can get is from people. We’re told today to look to educational institutions for our help, because with enough information we’ll learn how to help ourselves. Or else we should turn to the government for help, and they will give us our needs together with regulations on just how to accept that help correctly. Some are taught to look to themselves alone for help. “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” they say, and they believe it. 

The Psalmist knows his problems will not be solved by more learning, government, or self-determination. His best help will come from God who has made the heavens and the earth. God commands the planets and stars to move in the heavens and gives life to the earth. He is not sleeping, but is ready to help if we ask. He who keeps us from evil will keep our whole life if we will but let Him do so. 

The Christian life is one of surrendering, not conquering. It is surrendering our hours, days and life to God for the only good help we need. He who can care for whole nations can take care of each of us. He is our keeper and our shade from the heat of life’s troubles. With His wise counsel and help, we can conquer whatever troubles will come.

Help me, O God of the Universe, to surrender my life to You. Amen
(From my devotions based on "The Psalms of Ascent.")

Monday, June 9, 2014


People spend a lot of time trying to win. Whether's it's a win from a favorite sports team, or trying to make a winning financial deal, or just trying to getting ahead in life, people want to win and work hard to do so. But sometimes winning is a matter of life and death.

This past weekend the mailman brought a new copy of The Lutheran Witness, our denomination's magazine that's been in print 133 years. This month's edition is all about the persecution of Christians around the world. One of its articles quoted the "World Watch List" as saying that of the 196 world nations, Christians are persecuted moderately to extremely in 39 of them. That list is growing, including in some supposedly western Christian nations.

Persecution of Christians takes several forms, but all seek either to deny one's identity as a Christian or to discredit the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that over two billion people in the world today claim to be Christians, tens of millions have targets on their backs from the enemies of Jesus Christ. It almost seems at as if Christians are losing ground now. 

But Jesus Christ and His Holy Christian Church will not be defeated or overcome. We have God's promise on this. St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:31, 37, "If God is for us, who can be against us? ... In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." 

Since all persecution of Christians is against Jesus, so we His followers should expect it will come to us also. Jesus said in Matthew 10:24, "A servant is not above his Master." He was persecuted for us first, and and so will we. Because He was persecuted unto death, we are given eternal life when we trust Him in faith. 

Hatred for Jesus must be countered, not with anger and bitterness, but with love and forgiveness, no matter how hard that may be. Only Christ Himself can give us strength to forgive our enemies. We take courage knowing Jesus is faithful and will keep us as His own.

Remember, with faith in Jesus,

We are more than winners through Him who loved us.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Keith Green was a rock musician who became a Christian singer/songwriter, and he wrote some of the most challenging Christian songs in the 1970's. His career as a singer and evangelist was cut short when he died in an airplane crash in 1982.

Most of his songs were filled with such excitement and power and faith that after hearing them, their melodies and words would remain with you for days. One of his songs was in the form of a prayer that reflected his weariness at life.

  My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold.
   But I know how I ought to be, alive to You and dead to me.
   So what can be done to old heart like mine?
   Soften it up with oil and wine. The oil is You, Your spirit of love.
   Please wash me anew in the wine of Your love.  (Sparrow Records)

The sentiments of that song remind me of Matthew 13:15 where Jesus said, “For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them'.”

The cares of life can wear us down. Making a living, raising a family or trying to achieve our goals can leave us exhausted. At all such times in life, we need God's Word, as well as Christian fellowship and prayer to renew us. We need to be washed anew in the blessing of God's love.

That's why it's important to seek the gentle grace of the Holy Spirit to soften up our hard hearts. God's Word and Holy Communion are God's means of giving us His gentle grace. May God give warmth to our cold prayers and new life to our dry faith.

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word of grace in my life. Amen

Monday, May 19, 2014


One Sunday morning I was reading the paper and relaxing with a really good cup of coffee when Carol asked, "Are you ready?" Ready for what, I thought as I turned a page on the Op-Ed section. Then I realized it. Church! I had only five minutes to get ready for church! Good thing I only was attending the service, not leading it. 

Are you ready? To answer you also must ask, "Ready for what?" Carol and I recently attended a luncheon with a speaker on "Preparedness." He wanted to know if we were prepared - for a weather crisis, an earthquake, a terrorist attack or an event that would take away our electricity. He said it was amazing that so few people are prepared with food and water for even three days, 72 hours, should a catastrophe occur. 

Carol and I are updating our Wills and setting up a Trust so that we will be ready for when we're no longer here, so our heirs will not be troubled with so many legal possibilities. It feels good to be prepared.

We get prepared for so many things. A young woman has just completed her residency for a career as a medical doctor. A few weeks ago several hundred Lutheran pastors and teachers were ready to assume the tasks of their first assignments. We start getting ready very young. Mom and Dad may ask, "Are you dressed yet?" But they really are asking if the child is getting ready to go.

Getting ready for some is a constant thing. I work on my sermons weeks ahead of time. I've always done that and it's a good habit that's hard to break. Some people wait until the last minute with many things. One pastor told me he works better under pressure, preparing at the last minute. Perhaps he does, but maybe he has done it for so many years that he has become an expert at it.

Thankfully, our loving God didn't wait until the last minute to prepare His plan of salvation for us. The Bible tells us that our salvation has been prepared ahead of time. From the beginning, God already had a plan to correct the evils of Sin. After the fall, God took the time to prepare the world for the One who would deliver them.

We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth, "who was delivered up for our offenses, but raised again for our justification." (Romans 4:25) In Jesus Christ, God the Father was ready with a plan for our salvation. Are we ready to meet Him? Are we prepared by faith to receive the blessings He has for us? 

Are you ready?

Monday, May 12, 2014


It's 6:45 AM the day after Mother's Day, and I'm shoveling snow. About eight inches of fluffy stuff have fallen since yesterday and some tree branches are sagging dangerously. I've already done the "Snowy Tree Broom Dance" in my back yard several times to keep branches from breaking and so far it's been successful. Now to clean off some driveways.

I get to work with the "Colorado Supershovel" I made about ten years ago out of two eighteen inch snow shovels bolted side-by-side. It can push a lot of fluffy snow in one sweep. I can't use it on heavy stuff, but it's just right for this morning's snow on our sloping driveway. I should have patented it.
How do they do it, those weather people? They told us this was coming four days ago, and their forecasted temps and snow amounts were spot on. It's hard to believe they are going to be that accurate when the two days leading up to it are sunny and in the seventies.

It's an hour later and I've shoveled off the six driveways in our cul de sac. Tire tracks show some have already left for work. I'm older than the other folks here, but it's a good way to get useful exercise. Makes for good neighbors, too. Wasn't it poet Robert Frost who wrote, "Good fences (deeds?) makes good neighbors?" His is an ironic name for this kind of weather.

Late spring snows come to Colorado every year. Thirteen years ago, May 10, 2001, the day after we moved into this home, a heavy snow broke half of a big cottonwood onto my roof. Two years later another spring snow knocked the other half onto my neighbor's yard, just missing a window.

This isn't climate change, it's just Colorado. I sure hope it won't freeze all the leaves. They're just emerging and some might not make it. That would mean some dead-looking trees till late June when new leaves come back, a lot thinner though.

The snow started yesterday morning after a nice Mother's Day church service and lunch at Mimi's. The boys went together on flowers and a huge Mother's Day card for Carol with pictures and words that brought a lump to her throat. Mine, too. That afternoon I read through the lessons for July 13 when I'll be preaching at our congregation. The Old Testament lesson is from Isaiah 55:

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
Great words, but I sure hope it doesn't snow that day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


An old farmer was stopped by a stranger who drove up in a new car. He wanted to know if the old barn by the road was for sale. The farmer said he was crazy for wanting that old thing, but the man was from the city with nice clothes and clean hands. He said when he saw that old barn by the road last week he thought it was a thing of beauty and wanted to buy it.

The old farmer said he had a funny idea of beauty. Sure the old barn was a handsome building in its day, but a lot of winters had passed with their snow and ice and wind. The sun had beaten down on it until all its paint was gone and the wood had turned a silver grey. Now it leaned quite a little because its walls were weak and its roof leaked. The old barn looked just plain tired, yet the rich man called it beautiful.

The farmer named his price and the rich man paid it. The man said he planned to take the barn down and use the lumber to line the walls of his den in a new home he was building down the road. He remarked that you can't buy paint that beautiful. Only years of standing in the weather, bearing the storms and scorching sun could produce beautiful barn wood like that.

Later that day the old farmer thought maybe some people are like that. When we age we get to looking rough on the outside, but it's what's on the inside that is a person's true beauty. Most of us eventually turn a silver grey too, and lean a lot more than we used to when we were young and full of sap.

You see, the Good Lord knows what He's doing. As the years pass He uses the hard weather of our lives, the dry spells and the stormy seasons, to beautify our souls like nothing else can. And yet today folks complain that life should be easy - no struggles, no mean people, no insults, no poverty or sickness or even skinned knees. But that's foolish to think. A life without hardships makes a person soft and unable to withstand anything. A life without hardships can lead us to depend only on ourselves.

Jesus once said, "In My Fathers House are many rooms, and I go there to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2) A week later they took down the farmer's old barn and hauled it away in pieces to beautify a rich man's home. The old farmer smiled as he saw it go.

One day all believers in Christ will be taken down and hauled away to heaven to do whatever chores the Good Lord has for us there. You can bet we'll be more beautiful there due to the harsh seasons we've been through here on earth. And God willing, we'll add a bit of beauty to our Father's House.

A person often thinks of such things as he gets older.