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.