Monday, December 30, 2013

mary had a little lion
whose roar shall fall the foe
and everywhere the church might be
the lion is sure to go.

he follows her o’er land and sea
in search of souls to save
and everywhere the church proclaims
the life in love he gave.

mary had a little lion
whose mane was once stained red
that he might wash you white as snow
in blood for you he bled.

- chad bird


Friday, December 20, 2013

merry christmas!

"for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given ..."


Thursday, December 19, 2013

winter devotion

(a winter devotion by Charles Spurgeon ...)

"Thou hast made summer and winter ..."   Psalm 74

My soul begins this wintry month with God. The cold snows and the piercing winds remind that He keeps his covenant day and night, and assures that he will also keep that glorious covenant He has made in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to his Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in his dealings with his own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee. But there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of joy: he casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, he is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord's sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and puts a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to him, and in him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of his promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

st. lucia

December 13 marks the commemoration of St. Lucia, who was martyred in 304 AD. She met her death in Syracuse on the island of Sicily, one of the victims of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Diocletian. Known for her great charity, “Santa Lucia” gave away her dowry and remained a virgin until her execution by the sword. The name Lucia means “light,” and the festivals of light commemorating her life became quite popular throughout Europe, especially in Scandinavia. Her day of remembrance there corresponds with the time of year when there is the least amount of daylight. Lucia is often portrayed in a white baptismal gown, wearing a wreath of candles on her head. Lucia reminds us in this season to look to Jesus, the Light of the World.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On the surface of it, Advent is simply the church's four-week season to prepare for Christmas.
But we must recognize Advent in and of itself - not simply as the time to go Christmas shopping.

The themes of Advent are hope and expectation, watching and waiting for the Lord's coming. And in sharp contrast to the culture and the hysteria of the season, Advent points us forward by having us look back. Which is why it comes at the start of the church's calendar and not at the end.

Of course, on the surface, Advent beckons us to look back to the birth of Christ and to the events that led directly up to it. But it goes back much further than that.

Advent reminds us that before there can be "a new heaven and a new earth," there first has to be an earth. It reminds us that the same God who created and and redeemed all things is the same one who is coming back to restore the whole creation. That means that even the most mundane, ordinary, everyday things and people in our lives are extremely important and extraordinary.

Advent reminds us that "the fullness of time" we see in the incarnation of Christ fills all times and places with the fullness of His grace and truth.

Which is why during the Advent season we talk about the three comings of Jesus. His first coming as a baby born in Bethlehem, His coming into our lives today through Word and Sacrament, and His coming again on the last day to judge the living and the dead.

Advent is all about living in the tension of the "now and the not yet". Advent is all about reminding us that this "now and not yet" is really what time is all about.

So, we await the end by remembering the beginning. We remember the beginning by awaiting the end. And we live in the middle of everything in between.

Which means we don't have to live in fear, but in stillness and peace, awaiting the end by living in the here and now. To live in Advent time is to live with eyes open wide to what the present time has for us, with arms extended to love others as we have been loved by God.


Friday, November 22, 2013

cs lewis

Today marks the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis's death, the same day President John F. Kennedy and writer Aldous Huxley died. Although Lewis was overshadowed by Kennedy's tragic death, and though he himself believed his works would soon be forgotten, his influence continues on and his works grow in popularity every passing year. Here is a partial list of his works .... The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, Surprised By Joy, The Pilgrim's Regress, The Great Divorce, The Space Trilogy. Do yourself a favor and crack one open (or download it onto your Kindle). In his own words, "after every 3 new books, you should be reading an old one."

Monday, November 4, 2013


A man once visited the shop of a silversmith. He and the silversmith quickly hit it off, and soon he was showing him around and explaining his work. The silversmith held a piece of silver over the fire, explaining that the silver had to be held in the very middle of the fire to burn away any impurities. The man asked the silversmith if he had to be there the whole time during this process. He answered, yes, he had to keep his eye on the silver the whole time, otherwise the silver might be in the fire too long and be destroyed.

The man thought for a moment and then asked, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”  “Oh, that’s easy,” the silversmith answered, " I know it's ready when I can see my image in it.”

Just like the purifying and refining of silver, the purifying and refining of the Christian takes time and patience as well.  It continues on until the Refiner finally achieves the goal of seeing His own image upon His creation.

"God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” - Malachi 3

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.”  - Philippians 1

"On that day, fully refined, we will see Him face to face." - 1 Corinthians 13


Saturday, October 19, 2013


Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400.  However, it debits what is left over at the end of the day. So every evening, it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course! Each one of us is a member of this bank. It is called the Time Bank.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever you have failed to invest to good purposes. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft . Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the day’s deposits; and the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow." You must live in the present. Invest it so as to get as much from it as possible. The clock is running, it is your future. Make the most of today...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

starry host

Jaw-Dropping Milky Way Galaxy View Wins Astronomy Photographer of the Year

"Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens; Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."  (Isaiah 40)

(photo by mark gee)

Monday, September 23, 2013


"For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven."  - Ecclesiastes 3

Time is a special gift from God. Before God even created people, He created space and time for us to work and to live. So we live in time defined by revolving planets, moon cycles, and changing seasons. To record and make sense of this time we have clocks, calendars, planners, and schedules. In all these things God gives us beginnings and endings.

And yet, there is no beginning or end to God's existence. With the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. We are constantly changing, yet God never changes.
We are slaves to time, but God is a slave to no one. We couldn't be more unlike our unchanging and eternal God.

Thankfully, our unchangeable and eternal God bridged the gap that separated our sinful humanity from His glorious divinity. In the fullness of time He sent forth His one and only Son into our space and time to redeem us and the whole creation. This is the foundation of our faith ... this is the basis for our  hope ... this is the risen reality in which we live and spend our time.

To God be the glory for His wonderful gift of time.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

earth from saturn

A few weeks ago, the Cassini spacecraft flew past Saturn. As it did so, it turned its cameras back toward earth and and snapped pictures of it, just as the Voyager 1 space craft did so in 1990. The image of the earth took about one quarter of a pixel of space on the photograph. Now Cassini-Hyguns has taken a slightly higher resolution photograph in which one can even see the moon along with the earth. But the emotional impact remains much the same....

(for the rest of the article by Dr. Charles Arand, click on the link below ...)


Monday, August 26, 2013

a few more colorado pics ...

hidden lake

glenwood canyon

alpine meadow

mount massive

Monday, August 19, 2013

awesome shot by my sister-in-law of the view at copper spur ranch ...

Monday, August 12, 2013

green means go

If you could make a difference for the Kingdom of God in your community, what would you do?  If you could share the love of Christ in a real and meaningful way with a particular person or group of people, how would you do it?

What if you were given a green light by God to share the love of Christ in a way that only you can? Would that change how you feel about evangelism and outreach? God has done everything for you and for your salvation in and through Jesus Christ your Lord. So now that you don't have to do anything, what are you going to do? What are the gifts and talents God has blessed you with? How can you put them to use in sharing the Gospel? Do you have a good “green light idea” to expand the Kingdom of God in your community?

Before we begin this venture, we must come to terms with the realization of the difficulty of the task - the effort and the sacrifices which it will demand. God never said it was going to be easy, but He did promise to always be with us. Keep calm ... and believe God's promises. Take your plans and dreams to the Lord, pray "not my will but thine be done." Spend time with Him in His Word. "He is your refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46)

Oh, and by the way, if you think you'll be able to achieve your plan by your own skill and ingenuity, you had better give up right away. If you aren't prepared for a little discouragement and disillusionment along the way, if you won't be content with a small result for a big effort, then you might as well not begin at all.

But if you feel the Lord's calling in your life, if you know that this is what you are supposed to do, and are braced for the battle by prayer and the Word, how should you begin? Dear friend in Christ - simply begin. There are no magic words or special formulas that one must say at the beginning of a venture like this. If someone stands on the edge of a swimming pool and asks, “How do I begin to jump?” you simply reply, “Just jump. Take a deep breath and jump.”

Go on. Take a leap of faith. You’ve got the green light.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

unfinished business

The 1993 Orange Bowl was a devastating loss for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Even though the disappointment hurt, the loss was a catalyst for the next four years - the greatest period of time in Nebraska football history. The 1994 season was dubbed "Unfinished Business".

Men - we cannot get back the loss of hiking Mt Elbert in 2013. We have sent out a few pieces lately that describes that and what we gained and lost. But as we look to 2014, we too can say that we have "Unfinished Business" as an army of God's men. Not just for Peak Challenge 2014, but for the sake of the Kingdom here and now up through Peak Challenge 2014.

Coach Tom Osborne noted that team unity during the Unfinished Business season was "exceptional, the best we have ever had."  Grant Winstrom, star defensive end, noted:

"Guys took ownership of the program, because Coach Osborne made us feel like it was ours. When you feel like you have a stake in something, you're going to work a little bit harder for it. I fully believe that's why we had the success that we had, because we felt like it was our team. There's a whole different level of commitment when you feel like it's your blood on the line. You're not just a cog in the wheel. You're the engine that drives it."

It's time to own the "program".

Own the faith in Jesus Christ and the calling that God has given to you. We all have a stake in the Bigger Story. It is not just our blood and sweat and tears on the line, it is His. So as we prepare for Peak Challenge 2014 and Mt Elbert, unify as a team to build His Kingdom here and now. Prepare for Peak Challenge 2014 and boldly reach out to others to invite them into the experience.

"Nobody put themselves above the team. Nobody worried about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. The only thing that mattered was what you're doing today. If you can get guys to buy into that, then you have something special."

You all bought in at Peak Challenge 2013. God was there to rally us through the disappointment. He has great things for you to do for His Kingdom starting today. Go do them. Invite others into the journey. See you in July 2014.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

mountaintop experiences

If you think back on your life,  you may recall an experience that can't be explained or a moment when you felt the special presence of God. We sometimes call theses times "mountaintop experiences". But to experience an actual mountaintop experience on a literal mountaintop is something very special.

The Celts called such locations ”thin places” - described as places where the veil between this world and the other world meet. There is a Celtic saying that “heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller.”

In Exodus, after leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses felt called by God to climb Sinai, a mountain associated with God’s presence, a “thin place”. The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and it was there that Moses received the Ten Commandments from God for the people of Israel. When Moses came down from the mountain, his face was shining like the sun from being in the presence of God. Moses was changed. It was a turning point in his life and in the lives of many.

In Luke, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain (probably Mt. Hermon) where he is ‘transfigured’ before them. That time on the mountain was a special event for them that changed their perspective on Jesus and who he was to them.

On Mt. Calvary, Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all the world. On the Mt. of Olives, He ascended into heaven and now rules and reigns over the whole creation. When He comes again, we will live with Him forever on Mt. Zion in the heavenly Jerusalem. Talk about a mountaintop experience!

This past week at the Peak Challenge in Colorado, we had a mountaintop experience without the mountain top. Our scheduled hike up to the top of Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado, had to be cancelled due to rain all day Sunday. In spite of the weather and our dampened spirits, we were still able to have a mountaintop experience due to the inspiring worship, fellowship, scripture, teaching, and singing that took place with 200+  Lutheran guys at our camp.

"I lift mine eyes to the hills, where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
 - Psalm 121

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

techie bible verse

Oh Lord, scan me and remove all of my viruses and malware. Create in me a clean hard drive. Restore my operating system, that I may function as I was created. Stop any script that would cause my system to run slow. Give me back the yahoo in my heart and help me to always stay on line. Google me, save me, print me, forward me, copy and paste me, convert me to your format, keep me plugged in, grant me access to you. Remember my password and username. Defrag me from time to time. Keep my fan running so I will stay cool in hot and dry conditions. Help me stay attached to the motherboard, and work in harmony with the peripherals. Upgrade me each day with your Word, give me a good Outlook, and help me to Excel. Quicken me, clean my registry, remove temporary files that bog me down. Empty my history, debug me, and be the administrator of my life...

Friday, July 5, 2013

there she stands

Photo: When the night seems to say
All hope is lost and gone away
I know I'm not alone
By the light she stands

There she waves, faithful friend
Shimmering stars, westward wind
Show the way, carry me
To the place she stands

Just when you think it might be over
Just when you think the fight is gone
Someone risks his life to raise her
There she stands

There she flies, clear blue skies
Reminds us with red of those that died
Washed in white by the brave
In their strength she stands

When evil calls itself a martyr
When all your hopes come crashing down
Someone will pull her from the rubble
There she stands

We've seen her flying torn and tattered
We've seen her stand the test of time
And through it all the fools have fallen
There she stands

By the dawn's early light
All through the night 
Enduring the fight 
There she stands

("There She Stands", Michael W. Smith)

When the night seems to say
All hope is lost and gone away
I know I'm not alone
By the light she stands

There she waves, faithful friend
Shimmering stars, westward wind
Show the way, carry me
To the place she stands

Just when you think it might be over
Just when you think the fight is gone
Someone risks his life to raise her
There she stands

There she flies, clear blue skies
Reminds us with red of those that died
Washed in white by the brave
In their strength she stands

When evil calls itself a martyr
When all your hopes come crashing down
Someone will pull her from the rubble
There she stands

We've seen her flying torn and tattered
We've seen her stand the test of time
And through it all the fools have fallen
There she stands

By the dawn's early light
All through the night
Enduring the fight
There she stands

("There She Stands", Michael W. Smith)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

augsburg confession

October 31 is celebrated as Reformation Day, the day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg,  an action considered to be one of the sparks of the Reformation. June 25, however, is in many ways just as important. On this date in 1530, Chancellor Christian Beyer, a member of the court of Duke John, Elector of Saxony, read before the Holy Roman Emperor and a gathering of princes in the city of Augsburg, Germany, a confession of faith signed by seven princes and two city councils in whose lands the teachings of Luther and the reformers had taken root. Luther’s colleague, Philip Melanchthon, is the principal author, though he primarily used Luther's theology in writing it.

As he was still under the imperial ban, Luther himself was unable to attend the meeting in Augsburg. When Melanchthon and other Lutheran theologians and princes arrived at Augsburg, they found that they were being accused of just about every heresy known to man. So they decided to make a united Lutheran defense of their teaching, both confessing the Gospel teaching of the reformation, and also showing that it was nothing new. Not only is Lutheran teaching based solely on Scripture, it is essentially the doctrine of the church universal from the beginning. The purpose of the confession was also to explain why and how the churches of the Lutheran reformation had corrected certain abuses that had sprung up in the church.

The genius of the resulting Augsburg Confession is that, in clear and unambiguous terms, it shows how the Gospel, the good news of justification by grace through faith in Christ, is the heart of every major teaching of the church. Drawn from Scripture, Lutheran theology seeks to bring the greatest comfort to hurting and broken people, to penitent sinners.

As Lutherans, we subscribe to other confessional statements in the Book of Concord, but none are more important than the Augsburg Confession. Here we insist that “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.

This teaching is not only meant to comfort, but it begs to be confessed and proclaimed in the world. It is the beating heart of the Gospel and Christ’s mission through His church. Christian Beyer, it is said, proclaimed the text of this confession in a loud voice for all to hear. We must do so as well today. We cannot keep it to ourselves, but must bring it to many more that they too might hear and believe. So may we on this day, June 25, 2013, faithfully confess this Christ-centered Bible teaching to the world.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

why we use the liturgy

Why do we use the historic liturgy?

 1. It shows our historic roots. Some parts of the liturgy go all the way back to the apostolic period. Let's face it - we’re not the first Christians to walk the face of the planet, nor will we be the last. The race of faith is a relay race, one generation handing on the faith to the next.

 2. It serves as a distinguishing mark. The liturgy distinguishes us from those who do not believe, teach, and confess the same as we do. What we believe determines how we worship, and how we worship confesses what we believe.

 3. It is Christ-centered. From the triune invocation to the three-fold benediction at the end, the liturgy is focused on the activity of the three in one God centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Worship is not primarily about “me” but about God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

 4. It teaches. The liturgy teaches the whole counsel of God – creation, redemption, sanctification, the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and the new life of faith. Every liturgical year cycles through these themes so that the hearer receives the whole counsel of God on a regular basis.

 5. It is transcultural. When traveling around the world, even though one may not know the language, one can still recognize the liturgy and be able to participate across language and cultural barriers.

 6. It is repetitive in a good way. Repetition is, after all, the mother of all learning. Fixed texts and annual cycles of readings lend to deeper learning. Obviously, mindless repetition does not accomplish anything - nor does endless variety.

 7. It is corporate. Worship is a communal activity. The liturgy draws us out of ourselves into Christ by faith and the neighbor by love. We are in this together.

 8. It rescues us from the tyranny of the immediate. When the Roman world was going to hell in a hand basket, the church was busy debating the two natures of Christ. In the liturgy, the Word sets the agenda - it defines our needs and shapes our prayers.

 9. It is external and objective. The liturgical goal is not that everyone feel a certain way or have an identical “spiritual” experience. Feelings vary even as they come and go. The liturgy supplies a concrete, external, objective anchor in the death and resurrection of Jesus through Word, bread, and wine. Faith comes by hearing the objective, external Word of Christ.

 10. It is the Word of God. This is often overlooked by the critics. Most of the sentences and songs of the liturgy are direct quotations or allusions from Scripture or summaries, such as the Creed. In other words, the liturgy is itself the Word of God.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

writer's block

5 Things To Do When You Have Writer's Block



Thursday, May 23, 2013

most popular country

Germany has topped a BBC poll as the world's most popular country. The survey polled 26,000 people in 25 countries and asked them to rate 16 countries and the European Union as a whole on whether their influence on the world was mainly positive or negative. Germany came out on top, with 59 percent of survey participants giving it a positive rating. The country moved up three percentage points from its 2012 position. It displaced Japan, which saw its positive rating fall from 58 percent last year to 51 percent, going from first to fourth place.

"There are lots of reasons why Germany is admired," one of the researchers said. "It is a large and important world economy, a world-class manufacturer, and has a chancellor who demonstrates genuine leadership."

And they also make great beer, cars, coffee, and chocolate.  ;-)


Friday, May 17, 2013

a spirit thing

fire, flame, wind, water, ruach, pneuma, breath, birth, church, disciples, apostles, spirit, sanctifier, sustainer, comforter, encourager, paraclete, inspire, faith, pentecost


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

need to know

Here's an interesting question - "What is the least I need to know to be a Christian?

That question usually belies another question, namely,  "What is the most I can get away with?"

It's kind of like asking ...

"How much water can I put in the gas tank before it stops running?"
"How much salt water from the ocean can I drink before it kills me?"
"How much fuzzy mold needs to be on my sandwich before its unhealthy for me to eat?"

The mere fact that someone would ask that question means they are trying to put conditions on God. They are telling God that He can have part of their life but not all of their life.  It seems to me that the real question is - "Who is in charge?"

While knowing about the Bible or about the Christian faith may not seem to matter all that much to a lot of people these days - it does matter to God.

In the end, the question of "what do I need to know" or "what must I do to be saved" really becomes the question "Who is Jesus?" And the only way we can know Jesus is to find Him in His Word.

Strictly speaking, you don't have to KNOW anything to be saved. It is a gift - the undeserved grace of God which we receive by faith in Jesus Christ. But once we are saved, once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will want to know and grow as a follower of Jesus. We will want to learn about the Bible as God's Holy Word. We will want more and more each day to be filled with the knowledge and wisdom of God.

And at that point it no longer is about what we need to know, but what we want to know.


Monday, May 6, 2013


Spring is such a wonderful time of year, with so many great object lessons all around that teach us about death and resurrection.

God gives us such beauty and pleasure as a little preview of coming atrractions - sort of a foretaste of the feast to come. For just as Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter morning, we too will rise and walk in newness of life, enjoying the wonders of God's new creation together for all eternity.

But in the meantime, we have work to do this season. We are to be God's Easter People - those called by Him to bring faith and hope, peace and joy, love and forgiveness to all those around us - our family, our friends, our neighbors, and yes, even our enemies.

Emily Dickinson once wrote that  "love is the person of the resurrection, who scoops up the dust and chants “Live!”.

That's who we are. God's Easter People. We are redeemed, renewed, and restored in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we might help others repent and return to the Lord as well.

May the Living Lord give you new life to be His Easter Person today.


Friday, May 3, 2013


nike - victor - champion - conqueror - overcomer - unstoppable - invincible - indomitable - immortal - imperishable - risen - living - winning ...

"victory is not a large enough word to describe what took place." - lord nelson

(just in case you've already forgotten about easter ...)


Monday, April 22, 2013

land of the living

"I walk before the Lord in the land of the living"  - Psalm 116

As God's Easter People, we live out our lives in the land of the living.
But the land of the living is not some vacation paradise. It's more like a war zone.
It's dangerous country. A lot goes wrong. There is trouble brewing out there - and in here.
But this is where we have been called to live out the Resurrection.

As Christians we are put in places like this so that we might affirm life over death, give witness to Christ, help our neighbor, and engage in the practice of resurrection.

We do this by gathering for regular worship before our life-creating Father, our death-defeating Savior, and our gift-giving Holy Spirit. We do it by reading, teaching, and preaching the Word of God revealed in Holy Scripture. We do it by baptizing men, women, and children in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and nurturing them into a resurrection life. We do it by receiving the body and blood of Jesus regularly for strength and encouragement in the bread and wine of the Sacrament. We do it by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the neighbor, praying for others, loving our enemies, raising our children, and doing our everyday work to the glory of God.

May the Risen Christ go with you as you walk in the land of the living.

A Blessed Easter Season to all!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

r.i.p. brennan manning

a little old man named brennan died yesterday. he wasn't much in the eyes of the world, and his passing will barely register a blip on the radar screen in the media. but those of us who came to know him through his writings know better. because we know that in the kingdom of god, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. so even though brennan knew that he was a great sinner, he also knew that he had a great savior. because of the furious love of god that came to him in jesus christ, because of the fierce mercy and relentless tenderness that the lord showed to him, he was able to have a ruthless trust and an intimate belonging no matter what the situation or circumstance. though he was indeed a ragamuffin, because of jesus, he will always be abba's child. all is grace ...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rise and Shine

Got a case of the winter blues even though it's supposed to be spring? Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), is a mood disorder that some people experience in the winter months of the year. Those who get S.A.D. may sleep too much, have little energy, and sometimes feel depressed.

The best treatment for S.A.D. is massive exposure to light. The medical world often suggests light therapy, which employs a light-box that emits more lumens than a customary incandescent lamp.

The prophet Isaiah used the same strategy in Old Testament times as He joyfully announces, “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” (Isaiah 60).

Our calling to "shine" is not a mere suggestion but a powerful word from God that actually does what it says.  We also have this New Testament promise from the Apostle Paul - “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

The word “light,” appears seven times in Isaiah 60, along with these bright words - “shine”,  “brightness”, “radiant”, “splendor”, “beautify”, “glory”, “glorify”, “glorious”, “sun”, and “moon”. What an awesome display of Light!

In Holy Baptism we were called out of the darkness of our sin. With Christ’s true body and blood we are fed and nourished for our journey to heaven. What’s more, “we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us” (1 Pet 1). We have “the word of the prophets made more certain” (2 Pet 1). God has again and again delivered us, saved us, and rescued us. And yet many still find themsselves in the darkness. “This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  (John 3).

But the Light of Life still shines, always there to shine His truth into our hearts and minds.

Luke writes, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2). Simeon sang, “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Lk 2). The magi marveled, “We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Mt 2).

Jesus is the Light of the world who took on flesh so that He might take you into his arms, heal your hurts, forgive your filth, and destroy your darkness. Jesus became a human being to live the life we could not and die the death we need not. As our Risen and Living Lord, He comes into our midst shining bright with His eternal light. And we confess in the Creed that He is “God of God, Light of Light.”

Divine light still shines. It can never be turned off. God still delivers his people from the dominion of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1). Because the baptized have an “inheritance of the saints in light”, we radiate God’s presence, just like Moses did. The church of Jesus Christ is the light of the world, so we let this light shine into the lives of those around us. And when evening comes, the Lord abides with us, so that the night of death will yield to the morning light of an eternal Easter. Then we will forever shine in divine splendor and bask in God’s eternal glory. “God is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27).

And when Christ returns, he promises to take us to the New Jerusalem where “there will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev 22).

Isn't it wonderful to be able to see in the dark? “Arise, shine, for your light has come".

Blessed Easter!


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

journey to the cross

Many people look forward to spring break this time of year, especially if a vacation or special trip is being planned. How wonderful for us to have such a gracious God, who provides us with an annual springtime journey that is well planned, totally paid for, and more rewarding than any trip you'll ever take!

This special trip is a Journey with Jesus during Holy Week. It is a seven day all expenses paid trip that starts on Palm Sunday, continues through Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and culminates on Easter Sunday morning. How can you afford this epic journey? Your trip is already paid for! The One who paid your fare also made it possible for you to be included on this annual voyage of a lifetime. And there’s more! He is also your Host on this journey. He will travel with you each day to make sure you get everything promised in the journey’s package. Are you ready now to receive the details from Your gracious Host, so you can get onboard?

Welcome to the annual observance of Holy Week, brought to you by the Christian Church on earth. Your host is none other than Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, the one true God. This journey is one of the oldest in history, dating back nearly 2,000 years, so it is well planned and well tested. Your Host promises that this journey cannot fail - even the gates of hell cannot ruin this wonderful trip! Your fare was paid for centuries ago when Jesus Himself first went on this same journey, blazing the trail that we can now joyfully follow. From His own baptism and temptation in the wilderness, to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the upper room of the last supper, to the cross, and finally to the tomb, Jesus paid the price for all of us to take this journey as well. Much of the landscape here on earth has changed, but since He has gone before us, He has made these pathways of our journey safe and secure.

He will meet you when you come onboard on Palm Sunday. He will be present in all the Divine Services this week, by the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace as He deepens your faith, refreshes your spirit, and guides you in the joyful obedience of discipleship. You will receive such great gifts and blessings from your Host on this journey. You will be overwhelmed at how meaningful this is for you, as you receive hope, healing, comfort, and strength in preparation for the grand finale on Easter morning.

By the end of long vacations and trips, people usually experience fatigue. On your Holy Week journey, however, you will grow stronger and be ready for the great and final climax of this experience. What special places in history we find ourselves! On Palm Sunday we are brought into ancient Jerusalem at the most festive time of Passover. Our Host hands the children palm branches to wave as we are included in the narrative of the greatest story ever told. On to Holy Thursday and Good Friday to continue the divine drama through these wonderful times and places of Holy Week, taking us on an emotional roller coaster ride, even though we already know how the journey ends at the empty tomb in victory on Easter morning!

All aboard for the journey of a lifetime!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

band of brothers

how many langes can you find in this picture???


Tuesday, March 19, 2013


All throughout the Bible, the theme of “exile” is present. The worst penalty imagined in the Old Testament is to be exiled, separated from home, under enemy rule, alienated from God. Over and over again in the Scriptures, we hear the voices of exiles.

We hear the voices of Adam and Eve, cast from the Garden because of their transgression to a life east of Eden.

We hear the voice of Cain, sentenced to wander the earth after failing to be his brother’s keeper.

We hear the voice of Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery and exiled in Egypt. 

We hear the voices of Jacob’s entire family as they are forced to resettle in Egypt, where eventually they become slaves to cruel Pharaoh.

We hear the voices of the people of Israel, wandering through the wilderness until an entire generation dies off because of their unbelief.

We hear the cries of women like Naomi, who left the land in time of famine and suffered the loss of her husband and sons.

We hear the prayers and songs of David, God’s chosen king but also the exiled king, as he dwelt among the rocks and the caves while fleeing King Saul.

We sit in silence with Elijah the prophet, who hid in the wilderness from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, alone by the brook, fed by ravens.

We watch in horror as the Assyrians conquer and scatter the northern tribes of Israel, demolishing their kingdom and dispersing the people far and wide into foreign lands.

We lament as the Babylonians sack Jerusalem, plunder and destroy the Temple, and then take the people captive, transporting them into exile, where they hang their harps by the waters of Babylon, longing for home. "How can we sing the Lord's songs while in a foreign land?"

We rejoice when they return to the land after Cyrus’s edict. But our joy is mixed, for we remember that other nations would come in to rule over Israel. Though they had returned from geographical exile, they remained captives and slaves in their own land under enemy rule.

We pray for an end to the exile. O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad!

This is what we do on our own Lenten journey. We recognize our own captivity and exile. We cry out for redemption and restoration. And we wait for the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

sent in lent

Have you ever realized what a great evangelism opportunity Lent is?  You've got free dinners, evening services, meaningful messages, inspiring music, Christ-centered and cross-focused themes, which all culminate in Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

What an opportunity!  It’s ready made for inviting friends and family who do not know Jesus or have become disconnected from Him to come to church with you.

What an opportunity for the church to live out the fact that it's a mission outpost where Jesus gives life. Lent is a great time for our church to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to the community. You think everyone in town belongs to a church?  Don’t be fooled.  Demographic studies show there is no portion of our country where church goers number more than 50% of the population.

So let's find those people and invite them to church this Lenten and Easter season.  They’re all around us – at work, school, in your family.  Now is the time for us to talk about what the church can do to bring people to worship during Lent and Holy Week.  Now is the time for us to pray about who we can invite to come with us to church.

In the book of Acts, when Paul finishes his speech to all the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, he tells them, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all people by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17)

That’s why Lent is an evangelism opportunity.  To repent is simply to turn around – to turn away from sin to see Jesus crucified for us.  It’s done by God through the power of the Holy Spirit, but He uses us to extend the invitation to others. No one is left out - no one is excluded.  And there’s only one way - His name is Jesus.

He lived for us, offered Himself for us, and died for us. And now risen from the dead, He gives new life to all who believe in Him.  At the end of Lent comes Easter and the hope of new life through Christ's Resurrection.

What a fantastic Easter this will be for someone you bring with you to church this Lent, for whom God’s Spirit has the opportunity to work repentance and faith in Jesus!  Bring someone to church with you on your Lenten journey this year.

Monday, March 4, 2013

christianity in five verses

all children of adam and eve are sinners - romans 3
the penalty of sin is death and hell - romans 6:23
jesus christ paid the price for our sin - romans 5:8
justification is by god's grace through faith - eph 2:8-9
we can have the assurance of this gracious gift - 1 john 5


Monday, February 25, 2013

christ and culture

Ways to Engage the Culture Around You
(by Dave Devries at

1. Start conversations - just talk to people: your neighbors, the person in line with you at the grocery store, the person pumping gas next to you, or the person ordering coffee or enjoying a latte next to you. Just talk to people!

2. Hang out with people who enjoy the same things you do - find some non-Christians who you can join enjoying what you enjoy: join a book club, an local sports league, a service organization, the PTA, etc. Find a way to hang out with people who don’t know Christ who enjoy doing what you enjoy doing!

3. Volunteer somewhere - just find a place to serve in your community: tutor kids at a local school, coach a sports team, serve meals at a shelter, etc. Just start serving in your community and be consistent!

4. Tell stories - people enjoy good stories so good at sharing stories. Tell people your life story, your faith story, and even Bible stories. Get really good at telling stories.

5. Get to know your community by asking questions - intentionally ask people questions: what matters to you about our community? what frustrates you? what do you love? what would you love to change? Discover the important aspects of your community by listening and asking questions. Become an expert on your part of town.

6. Invite others to join you - Jesus sent His disciples by twos. Find some friends to join you as you engage those in the culture around you. Never go alone.

7. Pray with others - Ask non-Christians in our life what challenges they are facing and offer to pray for them with them. The key is to pray with them! When you see them again, follow-up by asking how God answered your prayer!

8. Address physical and spiritual needs around you - just meet needs! If you don’t know of any needs in your area, just ask those around you: “What needs do you or others you know have?” You’ll be surprised at the amazing needs that are right around you. Start small – do one thing this week!

It isn’t difficult to start engaging those in the culture around you. You just have to start somewhere.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

lutheran awesomeness

7 Reasons It's Awesome To Be Lutheran

1. You get the Gospel

2.You know where to get the Gospel  (Word and Sacrament)

3, You're certain of salvation  (by Grace through Faith)

4. You understand good works (you don't have to, you get to... )

5. You learn about vocation  (it puts a name on your neighbor)

6. You are set free in Christ  (for freedom you have been set free)

7. There's a bit of a mystery to it (and everyone loves a good mystery)

(ht - lutheran witness)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

ten reasons to worship weekly

10 Reasons To Worship Weekly

 #1:  Because of the commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."   What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not  despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and glad hear it and learn it.

  #2:  Jesus taught His followers to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment."  Where better can we show our love for God than in worship?

  #3:  To hear the Gospel, or the Good News about Jesus Christ.  "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."

  #4:  Because of God's testimony:  "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."

  #5:  To have our faith strengthened.  Faith "comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ."

  #6:  To confess our faith in Christ.  If "you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

  #7:  Because Jesus will return one day.  "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.  But let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

  #8:  Because of our on-going need for the Holy Spirit.  The famous evangelist Dwight Moody was once asked, "Aren't you filled with the Holy Spirit?"To which he replied, "Yes, but I leak!"

  #9:  Because it is in worship we receive the means of grace, the Lord's Supper. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is My body.'   Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you.  This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'."

 #10:  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

See you in church!


Monday, February 4, 2013

first words

Our lives are full of all kinds of words. Some of those words are more important than others.

We often think of the importance of last words. Famous Last Words - we call them. Someones's last words before they die. The last words of Jesus from the cross on Good Friday. But this morning we won't be talking about last words, but first words instead.

Those are the kinds of words we find in the Gospel reading from Luke 4. Not last words, but first words – the first words of Jesus that Luke records. The first recorded words of Jesus  make this scene very important to understanding who Jesus is and what he is doing in the Gospel of Luke. You could almost say that this is Jesus’ Inaugural Address.

Inaugural addresses are important. The President just used his inaugural address to announce the priorities of his second term - his priorities, vision, and direction for the country. (whether you agree with him or not). A century and a half ago, President Abraham Lincoln used his second inaugural address to do something no President had ever done before – that is, speak critically about his own country in order to deal with the evil of slavery. He spoke about the toll that it had taken, and the need to stay the course in order to resolve both the war and the cause of liberty.

So what kind of vision do we hear in Jesus’ inaugural address? It is an announcement of his mission. It is a description of the kingdom of God. It is a promise of God’s presence and provision.

All of this and more is summarized by the words of good news that Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

If you listen closely, its striking that this good news is only good if you are willing to admit what is bad, what is hard, what is lacking, what has been most difficult. It is not “good news” in a general sense, but it is specifically good news for the poor, the pagan, the gentile, the lost and the least of the house of Israel. It is not just any freedom, but freedom to those who are oppressed, liberty to those who are held captive, sight to those who are blind, the Lord's favor on those who have been excluded.

God offers words of comfort and encouragement, but those words only mean something to people who are in discomfort or discouragement. So how about us? How do you we hear those words today?

We spend so much time acting as if we have it all together, and we spend so much money trying to look better, fitter, and younger. There's so much pressure on us externally from the culture at large and internally from ourselves telling us that we don't need anyone or anything that it makes you wonder if Jesus’ message has any value for people today.

Except for one thing - all the stories we tell ourselves about being perfect, and all the commercials we pay attention to telling us that we really can have it all, all the ads that promise us that if we just buy this product we’ll never feel insecure again – they're all bogus. They're all false. And deep down, I think we know it.

So while Jesus’ message is good news, in order for us to hear it that way we must first hear the bad news, the bad news that we're not who we want to be or who we should be … and we never will be.

We all have to admit that we're failures. And that's hard for us to do. But the good news for us is that Jesus comes only for sinners. Jesus comes to bring good news only to those who are in need. Those who don’t see their need or admit their need have nothing to do with him.

But when we admit our need, when we are honest about our hurts, our fears, and our pain, three things happen. First, we feel immense freedom simply by admitting the truth. Second, we receive the great comfort that God's forgiveness offers us – release, healing, freedom, and favor. Third, we realize that we don’t simply receive God's comfort, but we are also invited to offer it to others. We are invited to not just hear and receive the good news, but also to be the good news and to live it out.

This is what the Body of Christ and community of faith is all about – God’s hands delivering the promise of good news to all who are in need. Are you afraid? Come allow Jesus to dispel your fear. Are you lonely? Come join our community and enjoy our fellowship. Are you sick? Come, or better yet, let us come to you so we can care for you. Are you isolated? We will come and visit you and pray for you. Are you discouraged? Let's gather together so we can strengthen and encourage one another.

As we hear Jesus’ inaugural address as He begins His mission and ministry this Epiphany season,  His words call out to us and invite us to be His Body in this place as we live out the good news gospel to all those we come into contact with.

May we seek to always use words that shows our God for who He is - the God who comes not for the healthy but for the sick, not for the righteous but the unrighteous, not for the perfect but the imperfect, not for the strong but for the weak. God in Christ comes for all of us. He comes for you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

the first of his signs

When you think of Jesus later miracles — walking on water, feeding the five thousand, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead — changing water into wine seems pretty insignificant. But John reminds us that this small miracle to solve a small problem was a very big sign. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him”.

The season of Epiphany focuses on manifesting Jesus' glory, on making Jesus known for who He really is. Whether small or large, Jesus never performed miracles for admiration or for the applause of men. His miracles were signs which always pointed ahead to His greatest sign of all, the cross and empty tomb, which points us to Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord and Savior of all.


Friday, January 4, 2013


This Sunday is Epiphany. Epiphany means appearing, revealing, or making manifest.

In the eastern church Epiphany is actually the day they celebrate Christmas. In the west we celebrate Epiphany as the visit of the magi, those mysterious magi who came from the east to worship Jesus and to present their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.

Epiphany is called the “Christmas of the Gentiles,” because the magi were the first Gentile worshipers of the Messiah. Until then the only ones to worship Jesus were Israelites. Mary and Joseph, a bunch of shepherds from around Bethlehem, and Simeon and Anna in the temple. But the magi were Persians, probably from Babylon. They were about as non-Israelite Gentile as you could get. Yet they too come to worship the Child and acknowledge Him as God and King. Epiphany is Christmas for the Gentiles.

God is pretty sneaky when it comes to mission work. We sometimes don’t give Him enough credit. We think that God can only work in certain ways. But the shepherds heard the voice of an angel. God sent a star to the east to catch the searching eye of the magi. It’s God’s way of saying, “He’s for you too. Come and worship Him."

Blessed Epiphany!