The Director’s Chorus

Carbon River in Orting, WA

The chorus of creation makes the most beautiful music
under the direction of
the Director;
perfect music for a weary soul.

I sit down and the concert begins;
shielding me from the noise out there,
giving peace to my noisy heart.
I sigh a happy smile,
and enjoy.

The Director leads the way,
cueing every sound.
Soon I’m lost in perfect harmonies,
the world out there is forgotten.
But soon a person jogs by
and startles me away from the creation chorus,
my heart races,
but I quickly reengage the concert.
Again I am lost,
and my heart is calm.

Birds sing their melodies.
The wind adds its part.
The trees applaud with joy.
The flow of the river keeps everything together.

The Director’s composition is perfect.
Nothing did He miss.

As I stand to reenter the world;
I applaud, praising the Director.
I am ready now,
ready to reenter the world,
with a heart that is at peace.

New Normal

The following is the Sunday article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for October 18. To God be the glory!


I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying this year as I know many of you have. This pandemic has dragged on for a long time and, if you are like me, you are getting anxious. You want things the way they were. You are tired of worshiping in a parking lot or online. You miss the sanctuary of your church building. You miss your brothers and sisters in Christ. And I totally get it. But have I come to a realization that may not be too popular with many.

No, I am not going to advocate that we maintain the status quo indefinitely (you can breathe a sigh of relief now). What I want to do is encourage you to pray unselfishly and consider things that maybe you have not considered before. What do I mean? I have been hearing this phrase a lot, but just recently it has caught my attention anew, “I am looking forward to getting back to normal”. And, as I thought about that phrase, God placed this question on my heart:

Have you considered that I am preparing you for a new normal; something you have never even imagined?

I have thought about that in the past, but it never got more than a passing glance; nothing worthy of a full-scaled article like this. So, I asked God, “For what are you preparing us? What does this new normal look like?” Of course, God did not give me a direct answer – He rarely does. But what God did do is give me a series of questions to pray about, and thus I commend them to you:

(1) What if God does not want us to return to “normal”?
(2) What if God has been using this pandemic to completely break what we have been doing in order to create something new?
(3) What if God is using this time to redirect our attention; to hone our vision so it is 20/20 vision on Him? (See what I did there with the “20/20”?)

I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that the Church will never, ever be the same again. We just cannot return to our old “normal”. To do so, we would miss a golden opportunity to glorify Him. I believe that God has been beautifully remolding and reshaping us. Yet, many are afraid of the new. Brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of going full steam ahead in trying to return to “normal”, let us go full steam ahead and pray. Pray, pray and pray some more, and do not be afraid. Pray for the faith, courage and strength to do whatever it is for which God is preparing you. May we not have tunnel vision that is fixated on our comfort zone and “normal” but rather 20/20 vision on our awesome God through Christ Jesus our Lord. He is in control. He reigns and He is sovereign. It is okay to trust Him. He has never let you down and He never will. Let us boldly go into whatever new normal God has for us. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Sermon Teaser ~ Know Him

The following is the opening paragraph of the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, October 18 on Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents). To God be the glory!


Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, is faithful and true. Jesus Christ, King if kings, reigns on high; one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, the Son of God died for your sins and washed you clean in his blood. Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, is coming to retrieve his bride, the Church. He is faithful and he will do it. To know Jesus is to be in awe of his majesty. To know Jesus is to live in expectation of his glorious return. To know Jesus is to live in freedom and without fear. To know Jesus is to know Life eternal. So do not just know about Jesus, but know him; and live in union with him and justified in God’s eyes. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who reigns forever and ever, let us pray…


[To see the complete sermon, go to YouTube and search for, “Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA”. It will go live at 9:45 AM (Pacific) and will be saved on the channel]

Feasting

Father God, You have prepared the Wedding Feast; the marriage of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to his bride, the Church. You have spared no expense for Your glory has no price. You are more precious than diamonds and more costly than gold. Your worth has no number for You are holy beyond anything I can image or know in this life. And though I am a sinner, You have extended the invitation — to me. Through faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit, You clothe me in righteousness. In the here and now, I continue to walk through dark, dangerous, and scary valleys, but I do so with my Good Shepherd leading the way. May my eyes always be fixated on Your rod and staff; Your holy provision, faithfulness and love. May I stay the course with You; having my soul refreshed and sustained until that day I dwell in Your house forever and ever. To You be all glory and honor through Christ Jesus my Lord, Amen.

Sermon teaser ~ The Feast

The following is the opening paragraph of the sermon I am preaching tomorrow; Sunday, October 11, 2020, on Matthew 22:1-14 – the Parable of the Wedding Feast. To God be the glory!


We live in the here and now, but through faith in Jesus, we also live with one foot in the Kingdom of God and with our noses enjoying the savory fragrances of the Wedding Feast. We are not yet seated at the table, but the invite has been proclaimed. All is ready. Come to the Wedding Feast. And so that savory fragrance is a reminder of our King’s grace and faithfulness as we live in the hope that everything has been prepared for us. And upon entry into the Feast, a garment will be given. No, not something from Macy’s or dare I say, Kohl’s, or anything else of our creation or effort, but rather something far more glorious. Something that only can come from the King of kings. It is a garment like none other, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. But in the meantime, our Shepherd sets a table for us in the midst of our enemies; anointing us with oil and refreshing our souls, until that day we dwell in the house of the Lord forever, feasting sumptuously on fine wine and fine food. Come all is ready. Come to the Wedding Feast.

Handling the Word Rightly

The following prayer is something I wrote for this past Sunday. It is a prayer that was placed on my heart to prepare me for preaching. But really, this prayer could be used by anyone who speaks and proclaims the Gospel. Whether you are talking with your neighbor, leading a Bible study, answering a question from a child or whatever, as a Christian, we have the responsibility to handle the Word of God rightly. And handling it rightly is something we cannot do without help for on my own I would surely bring it all to ruin.

And so I commend this prayer to you. Use it as you wish as share your faith and teach/preach the Word. Let us handle the Word rightly. Way too many people take the Word lightly. This is God’s Word, so ask Him for help and He will be pleased to do so. After all, to God be the glory 🙂


Father God, I now come to this holy moment and awesome responsibility of preaching Your Word. For Your Word through Jesus Christ is Life and salvation. It is the Gospel of reconciliation. It is the Truth. To mishandle it is to commit a grave sin and thus lead people astray. No one should enter this moment lightly, and without fear and trembling. You are sovereign and thus You are worthy of all obedience, thanksgiving, worship, honor and praise. You are King and reign on high. You are Creator and thus I am clay in Your hands. May I rightly handle this text and boldly proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ. May I stand firm on Your promises and not water anything down. May Your Spirit take these words and use them to bring life to those who would hear. Oh holy God, this is indeed an awesome responsibility. Please help me, for on my own I would surely bring it all to ruin and give Satan a platform to deceive Your flock. To You be all glory through Jesus Christ Your dear Son and my Lord, Amen.

In the Here and Now

Father God, You are mighty in power. Your love knows no bounds. Your grace is absolutely amazing, and Your mercies are new every morning – great is Your faithfulness. My worship of You, in the here and now, is never enough and therefore You have created me for eternity through Jesus my Savior. In the here and now I cannot sing Your praises enough, therefore I look forward to shouting Your praises with all the saints in Your holy courts. In the here and now my words are insufficient to speak of Your greatness, therefore I look forward to seeing You face to face and seeing the fullness of Your glory. Oh God, through Jesus Christ, Your Son and my Lord, I long for nothing but You, in the here and now. Amen.

Trust

Trust is an essential building block for every healthy relationship. It is what makes the world go around. Without trust, marriages are not fruitful – if they last at all; friendships are shallow; life in community is lonely; children do not feel safe, and life in general becomes combative and competitive where the survival of the fittest is the rule. Trust must be earned. Often, earning trust can be a long process, but losing trust is swift. Trust is also an act of love. My children trust that when they go downstairs in the morning, I will feed them. My children trust that when they are scared, I will comfort them. My children trust that when they get hurt, I will put a band-aid on their wound (blood or no blood). My children trust me and thus I will do everything in my power to ensure they will always trust me, otherwise, they will not feel safe. You see, I want my children to feel safe and comfortable talking to me about anything. And that is the life we want in community – one of trust – but sadly, trust is lacking in many communities. Elected leaders have let people down over and over. Parents have violated the trust of their children through abuse. Husbands and wives have violated trust with each other through infidelity. Clergy have violated trust with congregations through misconduct. Many people have become jaded and thus the chaos and disharmony we are seeing in the world today. If only someone would step up, someone who we can trust, someone who can heal our wounds and bring people together.

Someone has stepped up and his name is Jesus.

God has never failed to follow through with any of His promises. God has never done anything to violate trust. God has never been unfaithful. God has always been there. Throughout scripture God promised to restore creation. Starting in Genesis 3 following the fall of man, God promised to send a Savior to defeat Satan once and for all. As you march through scripture, you see time and again, God following through. Ultimately, God proved His love and faithfulness through Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and rose from the dead to give forgiveness of sins and thus peace with God. You see, even though you are a sinner, God followed through on His promises. Even though you break promises with God, God never deserts you. Even though you are unfaithful, God remains faithful.

You will never find perfect community in this world. But through Jesus Christ, you have a God who perfectly loves you. And that is something you can trust, even in the midst of chaos, illness, sadness and death. You can trust that He is near. You can trust that He hears you. You can trust that you are His. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) This is a sure and certain promise, one you can trust. Amen.

COVID-19 Prayer

Sovereign God, I acknowledge that there is nothing above you. I acknowledge that there is nothing outside Your power. And, I acknowledge that You are in perfect control. I do not understand this virus. I do not understand why it is persisting this long. People are dying and suffering. Lives have been turned upside down. So much frustration. So much confusion. But through it all, You are my constant. You reign on high. You are the giver of life. You are my God. So, I boldly ask that you destroy this virus – I know You can, but thy will be done. But whatever Your will may be, mold and shape me through this time. I do not want 2020 to be a bad number that passes my lips, but may 20/20 be the vision that I have of You in the midst of this pandemic. You have never left me and never will. Heal and strengthen my faith that I may always look to You through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Sinking

A little while ago a series of events unfolded, leading me to reflect on the sum of those events taking place all in one day: Wildfire smoke from eastern WA; wildfires around us in western WA; a power outage (that ended up lasting 40 hours); poor air quality means we should not open windows; and the First day of school was postponed. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic. I posted my list on Facebook and concluded my list with a funny movie reference and then asked, “It cannot possibly get any worse, right?” My intention was to be funny, but many people did not see it that way. Some people concluded I was struggling, maybe even depressed. They offered words and prayers of support. A congregation member asked me later if I was doing better. Even though I was trying to be funny, I think my heart was trying to show me something I was forgetting. Soon after I posted my list on Facebook, a seminary classmate commented: “Pandemic, civil unrest, and the heat wave coming tomorrow. Yet Christ’s promises to you remain unchanged.” YES! Christ’s promises to me remain unchanged. A couple days later my morning devotion was about Peter walking on the water with Jesus. When Peter looked at the raging storm around him, he began to sink. I had taken my eyes off Jesus and I was sinking along with Peter.

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” [Matthew 14:31]

I do not know, but what I do know is that my faithful Lord and Savior reached out to me as my heart cried out. He sent people into my life to proclaim the Truth. He clung to me with those nail-pierced hands and carried me safely to shore. When Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, he declared those whom he saved – saved. He declared that Satan no more has a hold on you. Jesus defeated hopelessness and fear. Jesus reigns on high now, and forever more.

And so, instead of a list of woes and other negatives going on, I am focusing on the blessings in my life: two beautiful children excited for school, a healthy family, less arthritic back pain, the wildfires did not touch my home or church. So much for which to thank and praise God, and when I do, my heart is led to worship. Look to your blessings and not the challenges of this year. Below is a poem I wrote in June 2015 that speaks of my heart today. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

I love You in the morning,
I love You in the eve;
for You are always with me,
and ever will You be.

I thank You with my whole heart,
I thank You all my life;
for You are holy awesome,
and ever be my Light.

Jesus is my Lord and Life,
for his life did he give.
You are always faithful, God,
and ever will I Live.