The Sin of Racism

The following is my Sunday article in The News Tribune (Tacoma). To God be the glory!


In these recent weeks, we have seen an uptick of drastic measures being taken with the hope of eradicating racism. Statues of historical figures have been pulled down because they were slave owners. Nancy Pelosi ordered the removal of portraits of four speakers who served the Confederacy. My hometown Minnesota Twins removed a statue of former owner, Calvin Griffith, from outside their stadium. He moved the team from Washington D.C. to Minnesota in 1961 and then made some racist comments about why he moved the team in 1978. And now I am hearing people say on social media that Christianity is steeped in white supremacy. I get the pain that has bubbled over since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, but the measures that are being taken will not solve our problems – it will only exacerbate the true underlining issue.

Do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we glorify people who were/are racist, but when we start censoring our past, we risk becoming victims, once again, of the sins of our past. And if we can remove all images of our racist past, what next? What past sin will we go after next? Erasing our past is not the way to healing but rather remembering who we are and whose we are. And here lies the underlining issue – one that we all must accept before any healing can happen. What is the issue? We are all sinners. Tucker Carlson said recently that “No child is born evil. Sin cannot be inherited”. Umm, excuse me Mr Carlson, you are wrong. We are ALL born sinful – you included. The only one born with no sin is Jesus Christ. Period. End of debate.

But now here comes the hope for healing. This sinless One, Jesus, died on the cross and rose from the grave that your sins could be forgiven. Yes, yours too, Mr Carlson. Our hope for healing is admitting that we are born sinful and that we continue to live in sin. Our hope for healing is confessing that we cannot save ourselves. Our hope for life is reaching out to God in faith and throwing ourselves at His feet. We are sinners, and that is a past we must never forget – for when we forget who we are as sinners, we forget about our need for the awesome grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Yes, racism is a sin for we are all made in the image of God – black, white, yellow, or whatever color you are. You were wonderfully and beautifully made by our Father and Creator God. To treat someone as something less than human is to slap God in the face and insult Him. We must deal with this issue, but it all starts with Jesus. Until we do that, all of our worldly efforts will fail miserably as people scramble for power. Submit yourselves to God’s incredible mercy and know the healing that only comes through Christ Jesus our Lord. You are sinner, Never forget that; but also know the love and grace of God through His sinless Son, Jesus Christ. To God be the glory. Amen.

Issues

Holy and awesome God, we have many issues plaguing this country, but they are all rooted in one common denominator:

A lack of respect and acknowledgment of Your holiness.

The overwhelming fact remains, we are sinners and You are holy – and there is nothing we can do to change our condition. But through Your infinite grace, You sent Jesus to save sinners through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Holy God, gracious and merciful, send Your Holy Spirit that people may acknowledge You as holy and seek Your face through Jesus. May people understand that healing only comes from You. May the peace they seek be peace with You through Christ Jesus our Lord. We have many issues plaguing our nation but You are sovereign over them all. For that, I praise and worship You and You alone. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Guided Prayer for Churches

The following is my Sunday article for The News Tribune (Tacoma). To God be the glory!


I was recently asked to record a guided prayer devotion focused on churches planning on resuming in-person or on-site worship. So, I include this devotion here, and ask you to join me in praying. Churches are faced with many challenges today and leaders need to make difficult decisions. May God be glorified as we seek to faithfully follow Him. In Jesus name, let us pray…

Father God,
Awesome and mighty,
Always creating – always reforming.
Create in us clean hearts, oh God, and renew in us a right spirit.
For we acknowledge that we have fallen short of Your glory.
We have become anxious.
We have not always sought You.
At times, we have let this virus divide us and lead us into fear.
Cast out our fears with Your perfect love.
Heal our divisions with the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Revive Your Church, so we may more fully fix our gaze upon You, and You alone – that we may worship You rightly and that our in-person gatherings may not be for selfish reasons, but for the glory of Your holy name.
This virus seemingly has torn the Church apart, but we know that is not true.
Whatever the reasons we are going through this time, one thing is clear – You are sovereign, even over this virus.
We may never look the same again, but that is okay, for You are God, and You are in control. And so,
Reform us.
Revive us.
Remake us.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

[Read Psalm 119:8-24]
[Pause to Meditate]

Holy God,
Father and Creator,
You are worthy of all our worship.
You are worthy of all praise.
You are the source of all wisdom and understanding.
You are the great I Am.
And so, teach us, oh God, that we may delight in Your precepts, for we seek to glorify You, and You alone, for salvation is from You through Christ Jesus our Lord. Give wisdom to Your Church as we navigate these waters known only by You. Lead us as we seek togetherness – as we seek to magnify our worship of You. You have held us together and will never let us go.
Oh God, holy and awesome, we praise You.
We love You.
We adore You.

And we want to know You better.

And now, oh God, hear us as we pray the prayer Jesus has taught us…

[Pray the Lord’s Prayer]

Pray, pray and pray some more.
To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen

My Shepherd

The following poem was birthed this past week through a devotion I recorded on YouTube. It was part of a larger series called, The Wednesday Word that I do every Wednesday at 6:45 AM (PST). I was talking about the word “meditate” — more specifically, meditating on God’s Word. I led people through a meditation exercise on Psalm 23:1 and encouraged them to spend some time in that verse. As I followed my own advice that day, the Spirit started to bring this poem to life. It now breathes and thus I present it to you now. To God be the glory!


The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want.
So why shall I worry?
For I am in His flock.

He leads me in green places,
And by waters still.
So why shall I worry?
He is always my fill.

He doth restore my soul,
in righteousness.
So why shall I worry?
My life is not a mess.

Dark valleys I walk in,
evil around.
But I will not worry.
In Him I’m safe and sound.

My table is prepared,
with enemies near,
But I will not worry.
My anointing is clear.

His goodness and mercy,
will follow me,
all the days of my life,
and with Him I will be.

The Person in the Mirror

The following is the article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for this morning’s paper. To God be the glory!


I have been reminded of a 1988 Michael Jackson song titled, “Man in the Mirror”. This is the chorus:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

I have become frustrated with what I have been seeing on social media. Over and over again I have seen people post comments and articles that blame others for the current state of affairs in our nation: The extreme left, the radical right, white supremacists, ANTIFA, absentee fathers, rogue governors, the court system, etc. It is always someone else’s fault and the finger pointing just exasperates the situation. And if that is not enough, with the finger pointing comes stereotyping, thus inflaming the issue people are outraged about in the first place – racism. Can’t people see that the problem is not with someone else, but rather the problem and the solution begin with the person in the mirror?

The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3 that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. And we have not fallen just short – like trying to make a basket in basketball and hitting the front rim. We have fallen WAY short of the glory of God. In essence, we are all sinners and thus we are all culpable. We are all responsible. Hold on there, Pastor, I am not a racist. I never said you were, but you are a sinner. That you cannot deny, as 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” We all make judgments of people when we see them. Maybe it is not a race-type judgment, but we all do it. Sometimes it’s good but most often it skews our relationship with that person. Whatever the case, we must remember the heart of a person and that is something only God can see. And when God created man and woman, He said, “It was very good”. Therefore, racism is not just an attack on the person but an insult to God. After all, we were created in God’s image.

Therefore, considering the seriousness of the issue, we cannot just sit idly by and blame someone else – “You need to change”; “You need to stop what you are doing”; “You are the cause of the problem”. That does nothing to make this world a better place. Finger pointing is not the answer – Jesus is the answer; Jesus is the cure; Jesus is the solution. Until each and every person recognizes the fact that they have fallen short, we will continue to fall short as a nation. We must look in the mirror, confess our sins and ask God to change our hearts. It must begin with you and me. We must set the example. We must stop finger pointing and remember who we are – sinners but redeemed by the blood of Jesus. To God be the glory, Amen.

Fill Us

Come, Holy Spirit come.
Fill us with your peace during this time of chaos.
Fill us with hope as our “normal” has been stripped away.
Fill us with healing as hatred seeks to divide this nation.
Fill us with love so we may see the heart of a person and not their exterior.
Fill us with the Truth that people around us may come to know Jesus.
Fill us with Life that we may not fear the sting of death.
Fill us with peace so that walls may come tumbling down.
Fill us with joy so we may live and work and play together as one family.
Come, Holy Spirit come.
Fill us with You.

Prayer for Peace

P – God of POWER and might,
break through hardened hearts,
and chase away all the hate.

E – EVERLASTING Father,
open wide Your gentle arms,
and heal all our hurts.

A – ALL knowing and holy God,
teach us to love one another,
so the heart is what we will cherish.

C – CREATOR God,
restore broken relationships,
and rebuild communities now torn apart.

E – Giver of ETERNAL life,
may the love of Jesus shine brightly in us,
and may hope calm our restless hearts.

AMEN

Mother’s Day Prayer

I’ve used this prayer before for Mother’s Day, but it is worthy to be shared and prayed again. Happy Mother’s Day and to God be the glory.


Holy God, on this Mother’s Day, we come first and foremost to worship You – for it is through the death and resurrection of Your one and only son, Jesus Christ, that we can have the hope of eternal life. And that right there is deserving of our worship and thanks above all. But also, Lord God almighty, we honor women; those You have used as instruments of Your love in our lives. In whatever form they come, we thank You, oh God. In whatever role they have played in our lives, we thank you, oh God. May women not see the passage of DNA as a barrier to living out their calling to mother someone. And may You continue to raise up Your children through the self-sacrificing love of a mother. To You, oh God, be all worship and praise this day and always. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

John 14 Sermon teaser…

The following is the opening to the sermon that I am preaching tomorrow, May 10, on John 14:1-11. The worship live stream will start at 9:30 AM (PST) on our YouTube channel (Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA)


Fear has a way of rendering people paralyzed – unable to think clearly or make smart, rational decisions. When everything safe around you is threatened, the natural reaction is embedded deep in the primal part of our brain. It is the fight or flight response. We instinctively either, fight for the safe place we have – trying to restore order – or we retreat and search for another safe place. We do this without thinking or planning or evaluation. In a lot of ways this is a gift from God that enables self-preservation. For example, if I were to encounter one of those “murder hornets” that are supposedly here in Washington, I am not going to evaluate too long whether I should retreat or not. But sometimes this fight or flight response becomes a hinderance to common sense. For example, there are people in Washington holding “COVID-19 parties” – purposely exposing themselves to get it out of the way so they can return to their safe place sooner. Truth be told, there is no science to this and thus not safe for the public. And then, this fight or flight response often gets in the way of trusting God – refusing to believe or accept His promises – thus Jesus’ commands in John 14.

Yes, our safe places have been threatened, but God is still sovereign. And so, let us hear the Good News in John 14 so we can stop fighting or flighting (is that even a word?) and start trusting. Let us pray…

The Fight

Here’s my article for The News Tribune (Tacoma) published in this morning’s paper. To God be the glory.


It is hard to go through a single day without talk of this virus. There are so many news stories, many of which are conflicting. There are leaders politicizing this pandemic for personal gain. People are becoming impatient – demanding relief – demanding a return to normal. There are protests, rebellions, accusations, hatred and so much more. I am saddened to see what this is doing to our communities, nation and the world. Do not get me wrong, I do not blame God for this, but rather I am begging people to stop and drop to their knees and look to God. There are people dying. There are people losing jobs. There are businesses closing their doors. There are families struggling to hold things together. There are people putting their lives on the line. There is a personal aspect of this fight for all of us. We must never forget that, and so I pray. I give thanks each and every day. I plead with and I worship God. Join me now and let us pray…

I wake up each morning,
and I praise You with my first breath,
and I give You thanks for my many blessings.
I rejoice that You have protected me and my family,
yet another day.
But many cannot say this.
They cannot take that first breath without help.
Many people struggle to count their blessings.
Many are fighting this invisible foe so other lives can go on.
It is for them and many others,
for whom I pray.
Oh Lord…
For those who have died of this virus – I mourn.
For those fighting for their lives – I ask for healing.
For families unable to see or speak to loved ones – I ask for comfort.
For those serving on the front lines – I plead for a hedge of protection.
For each essential worker – I ask for strength and provision.
For our elected leaders – I ask for wisdom.
For medical researchers – I ask for knowledge to beat this enemy.
For our children whose lives have been turned upside down – Have mercy.
For teachers learning a new way to teach – I ask for resilience.
For the Church that has now been deployed – Please equip them.
For people struggling to pay bills – Please provide.
For small businesses on the brink – Please give hope.
For each and every moment in this fight – To You, oh God, be the glory.
Oh God, sovereign Lord and King,
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,
Amen.

May you stay firm in this fight and continue to cry out to the Lord. As the psalmist says in Psalm 116:1-2, I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.