The Gospel According to a Deck of Cards


This sermon outline was shared with me by Pastor Jim Fandrey, who served on the LCMS Board of Directors during my years as LCMS president. I thought you might find it of interest.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

God gives us his Word in the Bible, Holy Scripture.  There’s a lot to absorb in all 66 books, from Genesis through Revelation.  We cherish and revere the Bible, because it tells us about what God has done for us and for our salvation.  But there is so much to remember.  Maybe this morning, we all would be helped, if we would learn . . .


  1. God reveals himself to us through his Word
    • Ace: one God
    • Deuce: Bible divided into two parts: Old Testament and New Testament
    • Trey: Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    • Four: Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
  2. Are we wise or foolish, when we hear God’s Word?
    • Five: five wise virgins, out of ten; faith was burning and they entered the kingdom at the Lord’s invitation
    • Five foolish virgins, with faith extinguished, were locked out
  3. God promises to provide us with all that we need to support this body and life
    • Six: the days of creation
    • Seven: God rested, the model for our Sabbath rest
  4. God assures us: his mercy never ends, and we must be grateful
    • Eight: the people saved on Noah’s ark, the people who received the promise
    • Nine: the unthankful cleansed lepers; only one returned to give thanks
  5. In God’s Word we receive both Law and Gospel
    • Ten: the Ten Commandments
    • Jack: knave and devil, defeated by Jesus
    • Queen: Mary, mother of our Lord
    • King: Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords

Perhaps you’ll think about this the next time you see a deck of cards. God bless your day!


A Day to Remember

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January 29, 1966, was a long time ago! For me, it’s a day to remember.

At 5:00 p.m. that day Terry and I stood before the altar at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin and pledged to one another our faithfulness “… to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

That was 52 years ago! And although many things that happened more than a half century ago have been lost in the maze of my seemingly totally stuffed gray matter, other recollections are quite clear. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Our wedding day was preceded by our wedding rehearsal the night before. Friday afternoon, January 28, I drove from my nearly completed graduate school semester classes at Texas A&M in College Station to Austin for the rehearsal at St. Paul. All went well and was followed by the rehearsal dinner hosted by my mother and father at the Villa Capri Hotel.
  • After kissing Terry goodbye on her front porch at midnight, I drove the 100 miles back to College Station, getting to bed shortly after 1:00 a.m. Saturday. At 7:00 a.m. I arrived in class to take my final final exam … in Biochemistry. Both because of our wedding and my decision to leave grad school to go to the seminary, neither my heart nor my head really gave a rip about that exam.
  • After concluding those last few moments at my alma mater I packed my few worldly goods in my ’57 Chevy, turned in the key to my dorm room, and drove back to Austin in time to hang around the hotel with my parents, three sisters, and other family members.
  • The wedding began promptly at 5:00 p.m. The officiant was the sainted Rev. Dr. Albert F. Jesse, who had hired me in August 1964 to teach the fourth grade at St. Paul. My entire preparation for that memorable year was a B.S. degree in Animal Science. Go figure! Mid-August, the date I was hired, was only two weeks prior to the beginning of school. I had a pulse and was willing to work for $200 per month. I was his man!
  • After the wedding service and ceremony, our reception was held at the Villa Capri Hotel. I remember the beautiful wedding cake. I recall Terry and I posing for a photo, both with a piece of said cake in hand, lovingly feeding it to each other. What I failed to see, discovered only when asked en route to our honeymoon destination by my new bride, was the groom’s cake. I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about! Never saw it! Haven’t yet lived it down!
  • We arrived at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado, a short 48 mile drive north of Austin. It was late and we were newlyweds, so we chose not to do any midnight sightseeing. Money was tight in those days. One night in the hotel cost 10% of my monthly salary. We stayed two nights … 20% of my monthly salary. After a semester of grad school, the bank account was not quite non-existent but was far from flush. I think we ate in the restaurant only once. Another 10% of my monthly salary!
  • Monday morning we packed the car and headed back to Terry’s parents’ home in Austin to pick up her clothes, other belongings, and our wedding gifts, and headed to our first home in Houston, arriving late Monday afternoon. The apartment on Bellefontaine in southwest Houston cost $75 per month, half of which was payable every two weeks.
  • The next day, Tuesday morning, I started my second teaching job, also in the fourth grade, at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston. Angie Bielefeldt was on maternity leave that semester and I needed a job prior to moving to Springfield, Ill. to enter the seminary, so it all worked out just fine. Terry worked with my father at Rice Food Market those four months in anticipation of the move to the seminary in June.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since those days. Neither Terry nor I could possibly have had any clue whatsoever about what the Lord had in store for us. Perhaps in the weeks ahead I’ll be moved to share some of those stories as well.

In the meantime, I thank God for his priceless gift of a beautiful wife who became an awesome mother, an incredible grandmother, a gracious hostess, an excellent cook, a friend and mentor to many women including countless pastors’ wives, a tireless companion on many weekend trips for preaching engagements across the country, a fearless travel companion on many international trips to the mission fields and partner church locations around the world, including numerous third world countries where she was the only woman in the entourage, and a woman who loves to give of herself to people she meets … friends, family, and strangers alike.

Happy 52nd Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you more than words can express and thank God for you every day!

The Power of Prayer


Before reading the story below I had never heard of Pahrump, Nevada. Google it and you’ll see a listing of “adult entertainment” that gives an indication of what might be its “claim to fame.”

Here’s the story:

In Pahrump, Nevada, the Diamond D brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business.

In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the business from expanding, with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church.

Work on Diamond D’s project progressed until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the building and burned it to the ground! After the brothel burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about “the power of prayer.”

But shortly thereafter, Jill Diamond, the owner/madam of Diamond D, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church “was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business, either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.” 

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and vociferously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork that we now have a brothel owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that thinks otherwise.”

The moral of this story is we’d better be careful about how and for what we pray. And if we really trust God to answer our prayer, when he answers the way we asked, we’d better be willing to say that that’s exactly what happened and to give him the credit.

God bless your day!

Jesus Loves the Little Children


That was the topic of my brief devotion at the office of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod this week. I shared some graphic representations of little children with Jesus and three actual photos of God’s children living today.

Photo #1 was my grandniece Amanda Wheaton and her two children, Emma Grace and Anna Christine. Some of you may recall that they are the survivors of triplets born prematurely (about one pound six ounces each) on Christmas Day 2013. That means they will turn four years old this Christmas. Their little brother Logan Christopher met Jesus the day after he was born.

Although not without ongoing physical challenges, Emma and Anna are doing remarkably well, by the grace of God. Jesus loves Emma and Grace. And Jesus also loves Logan.

Photo #2 was 15 month old Lily Grace Stigall, great granddaughter of Marlene Hahn, who worked for many years in the Texas District LCMS office. Lily is in Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin after a Thanksgiving evening fall into a backyard pool. Initially fighting for her life, Lily is now breathing on her own, yet faces many challenges on the road to restoration.

Thousands of people across the nation and around the world are praying for her complete recovery, which would be truly miraculous. Please join Lily’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and their entire family in praying for this precious child. Jesus loves Lily.

Photo #3 was my 101 2/3rd year old mother, Elda Kieschnick. Although in a much different chronological category than Emma, Anna, and Lily, Mother Elda is still very much a child of God, who prays every day to see him face to face. Jesus loves Elda.

That’s the message of Christmas, my dear friends. Jesus loves the little children, no matter how old we are. Here’s how the familiar song goes:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world!

That includes you, my friend. God bless your day!

A Clean Windshield

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As long as I’ve been driving I’ve been pretty much a fanatic about keeping my car clean.

My current car is silver in color. Thankfully, that color does not easily show road grime, dust, and dirt. As a matter of fact, the primary clue that it’s time to wash is a dirty windshield. I can’t stand a dirty windshield! It bugs me to have a dirty windshield! Pardon the pun.

So one option is to pull into a service station that appears to have decently clean windshield washing solution, a squeegee that’s new enough not to leave streaks, and paper towels to enhance the process. Finding a station that meets those three criteria is not an easy task.

If my schedule allows, I’ll usually skip that process and go straight to the car wash. I have a special deal at a local establishment that allows unlimited exterior washes for a reasonable fixed price. Terry can also wash her car for a slightly lower monthly fee. Such a deal!

One would think a freshly washed car would have a nice, clean windshield. Not so. The dudes at the car wash don’t seem to understand how important a clean windshield is to fanatics like me. So they wipe the windows with a grimy rag that leaves unacceptable streaks on the windshield.

Alas! What to do? Quit this place and find a new one? Not so easy. In addition to being a clean windshield fanatic, I’m also quite frugal. The price at other car wash establishments in our town is ridiculously ridiculous! So I suffer through streaky windshields and the frustration they bring.

Sort of reminds me of St. Paul’s words about present and future reality in 1 Cor. 13:12: “For we see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face; now I know partially, but then I shall know as I also have been known.”

I feel Paul’s pain every time I get behind a dirty windshield.

But then he writes these more familiar words of greater significance: “Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I love a clean car and a spotless windshield. But that love fades into an insignificant speck on the window of life when compared to the love of God for us and the love we express to him in return.

Think about that love as the season of Advent arrives this Sunday. It marks the beginning of our spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. A blessed Advent to you!

Reformation 500


Next Tuesday, October 31 is the day we’ll observe as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many Christians, especially we Lutherans, have been anticipating this day for some time.

The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the central truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord.

Here’s a brief summary of the Reformation and its primary causes:

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
  • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

The assertion that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own doing was the primary catalyst of the Protestant Reformation. That truth is the essence of the Christian faith still today and I pray that will continue till Jesus comes again!

Stress in Life

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Most people have stress in life. It comes in all forms. It can be financial, relational, professional, familial, physical, emotional, or psychological.

Wouldn’t it be great if stress were to be totally eliminated from life? That’s not realistic. Stress is a reality. It’s the result of sin. We all sin. We all experience stress. We can’t get away from it.

Even though stress is unavoidable and not enjoyable, under normal circumstances it can be manageable. Not all circumstances are normal. Some stressors are beyond our control.

Consider the stress experienced by victims of Hurricane Harvey. They were all just minding their own business of living and working, with normal levels of stress. Out of the blue an unwelcome intruder entered their lives, bringing with it unimaginable destruction and devastation.

As mentioned last week, there are many ways to provide relief for people in need, including contributing through the Texas District LCMS at this website:

As the Spirit moves and as you are able, consider a significant gift. Every dollar you contribute through this website will be used to assist those in greatest need.

If you are moved to contribute appreciated securities or portions of an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or any other non-cash asset, please contact us for assistance: or 800-880-3733.

To the trouble and trauma of Harvey is added the pending presence of Irma, headed toward currently predicted landfall in the United States. Florida’s governor has already declared an emergency in that highly vulnerable state.

Overshadowed by news about Harvey and Irma are dozens of wildfires in western states, occurring even now. Those states include Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Montana.

On top of the stress that accompanies these natural disasters, consider the idiocy of the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has ordered way-too-frequent tests of missiles and hydrogen bombs that pose a very real threat to the U.S. At least 14 such missile launches have occurred since February of this year.

So we face normal stress of daily living, uninvited stress from natural disasters, and international stress from a rogue nation with a leader seemingly hell-bent on nuclear destruction. What are we to do? How are we to live? Where do we turn for comfort and assurance?

Try these words from Psalm 46:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging … Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress … He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth … He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”