Engaging God’s Word ~ A Prayer

This following is a prayer I wrote for engaging God’s Word. Reading scripture should never be something we approach carelessly. It should never be something we do as a matter of crossing off a to-do list item. Reading God’s Word is listening to the voice of God and therefore approach your Bible reading as a matter of life and death. Read with joyful expectation that the Creator of all is waiting to speak to you. Let us pray…

Holy God, as I read Your Word, may I not seek my own understanding but may I listen to You. May I not seek to fit my meaning into Your Word, but may I seek to hear what You are saying. And, with words that I think I know well, may I not take them for granted but rather read them with new eyes and an open heart. O God, teach me Your Word, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Morning Prayer ~

Father God,
For each beat of my heart,
For each breath I do take,
For each blink of my eyes,
I give You thanks.
For this world You did make,
For this life You sustain,
For my hope that You are,
I give You praise,
For the love You have showed,
For my sins forgiven,
For my hope that’s secured, 
I give You glory.

For many reasons, Lord…

I worship You.

Connected

Good morning! This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it 🙂

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


What is your typical impulse when you see a pretty flower? The impulse for some is to either smell it or pick the flower. The reason behind this impulse is generally because of the beauty of the flower and the desire to maintain closeness with that beauty. My children, my daughter especially, loves to pick flowers (weeds) and give them to Mommy. Every once in a while I will get some but Mommy gets more because she usually responds better than I do. That aside, when you pick flowers (weeds), if you want to preserve them you must put them in water relatively soon, and so that is what Mommy does. Rarely a day goes by that we do not have a Dixie cup of dandelions or some other “flower” in our kitchen. And we all know what will eventually happen, right? In a day or so the “flower” begins to wilt and eventually dies. Actually, the dying process began as soon as the flower was picked. But the one who disconnects the flower from the vine does not or refuses to see this because it is the beauty, now, that they want.

In the Gospel text for today from John 15:1-8, Jesus reveals himself to be the “true vine”. He goes on to proclaim that to abide in the vine is something that happens through the spoken word. It is all grace. He follows this with a call to continue to abide in him that you may bear fruit that glorifies God. All of this to say: Stay connected to Jesus. It is one thing to say, “I am a Christian” but a completely different thing to live a Christian life day in and day out. But living a Christian life is not just doing “Christian things” and saying, “Christian stuff”. Living a Christian life is living a life worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). You do this by staying connected to Jesus. But pastor, what does “staying connected to Jesus” look like? [That is a great question. I am so glad you asked.] Staying connected to Jesus is living in an active relationship with him. It is staying in constant prayer. It is living with his words in your heart. Not just memorizing scripture but knowing it and what it means for your salvation. Living a life worthy of the Gospel is living in union with Jesus, a life given, empowered and sustained by God Himself.

Living a life worthy of the Gospel – staying connected to the true vine – is a gift of God. Without God’s grace and His strength, we would, no doubt, pluck ourselves from the vine and try to water our own so-called beauty. And without Jesus, you will die in your sins. Without Jesus you cannot glorify God. Outside the vine, any so-called beauty will die. It is only in Jesus that you are, and will be, sustained forever.

So, abide in Jesus, now and always. Abide in him and give glory to God. Abide in Jesus and live. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Dead Things

The following is my article that was published today in The News Tribune (Tacoma). It is actually an article I initially wrote in 2013 (revised a little bit now) that still holds true for today. To God be the glory!


In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee,
[Luke 24:5-6]

I have always been captivated by those words; “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” It is because this is the way of things in the world and it saddens me. I am not passing judgment on others because, if we are honest with ourselves, then we have to admit that we are included in this question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” It’s the way of sin; looking for something that you feel will give you life when all the while we are looking among the dead where there is no life. Sin deceives us into thinking we can find life among dead things, but if we open our eyes we will realize that this is like looking for the living in the midst of a cold, dark, tomb.

In the case of the women in the text above, they were looking for a dead body, but deep down inside they were looking for something/someone who was alive (they just didn’t know exactly what or who they were looking for). The question by the angel is meant to reorient their thinking to look for Jesus elsewhere and to remind them that what Jesus said he would do, he did: Rise from the dead. The living Jesus is not found in a tomb. Jesus is alive!

I think about this and I wonder if this is more of a commentary on our own lives. Whether we admit it or not, we are looking for the living among dead things. In the act of sinning we are looking for that which makes us feel alive, happy, satisfied and fulfilled. And when we do not find what we are looking for or when the good feelings fade, we keep on sinning; keep on looking; and keep on finding “dead things”. But in Jesus there is life. In Jesus there is joy. In Jesus there is a future. In Jesus there is hope.

In what “dead things” are you looking for life?
In what “dead things” are you looking for happiness?
In what “dead things” are you looking for fulfillment?

Look to Jesus and see your life unfold. Seek him in scripture. Seek him in prayer. Seek him in worship. Seek him with your whole life. But as you seek know that we seek not because Jesus is hiding, but we seek him as a way of turning away from the “dead things” of this world that can only promise death. Seek Jesus not as a destination in this life, but as a journey through this wasteland of death. Seek Jesus as a way of life with the hope of everlasting life waiting for you on the other side of death. Seek the Living. Seek your Hope. Jesus Is Risen! He has Risen Indeed! Alleluia and Amen!

Good work

Holy God,
through the good work of Jesus Christ You have sent me on a good mission for Your glory,
works prepared by Your good, mighty and holy hands.
Help me to see the good work You have for me
and may I never take credit for any good work I do.
It is all for Your glory,
as any good work I do is empowered by You.
Oh God,
thank you for beginning in me this good work,
as I long to bring it to completion.
Until then,
help me by Your Spirit.
In Jesus good name I pray,
Amen.

Come

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)

Father God,
Expectations, to-do lists, physical limitations, selfish desires competing with godly desires –
they, and so much more, all weigh me down.
They all weary my soul.
Thus,
I lay them down before You in the name of Jesus. Take it all, O God, take it all.
Release me
Free me
Unburden me
Send me out unfettered. Let nothing weigh me down. Let nothing hold me back. Let nothing get in the way. Let nothing stop me from giving You the glory that You deserve and desire.
Oh God, I come to You and You alone.
In the name of Jesus I pray,
Amen!

Yes, Jesus Died For You, O Sinner

The following is my article that was published in The News Tribune (Tacoma) yesterday (Easter Sunday). To God be the glory!


He has RISEN! He has RISEN indeed! ALLELUIA!

Yes, Jesus has risen, and he reigns on high with the Father. Jesus, though crucified, rose and defeated death and thus gave all believers the hope of the resurrection to eternal life. And Jesus did this because you needed to be reconciled to the Father.

From the prophet Isaiah, the 53rd chapter…
Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This prophecy from Isaiah, written about 700 years before Jesus, foretells Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners. Jesus was pierced. Jesus was crushed. Jesus died as God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Yes, you are a sinner. Like sheep, you have and continue to go astray. Like sheep, when given the chance, you turn to your own way. And, like sheep, you are defenseless against the wolf – Satan.

You may think you are fine. You may think you are faithful. You may even think that at the very least you are not as bad as some other people out there. This Easter thing is just a tradition you do that includes the pastor preaching the same ole message about Jesus rising from the grave. But let me tell you something – there is much more to Easter than that. In fact, you are worse than you think. I love the quote from one of my favorite pastor/theologians – Charles Spurgeon – that says, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

Peter thought he was a faithful follower of Jesus and would even die for him. But of course, Jesus knew better. From Mark 14:27-31…
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

The fact was, Peter was not faithful. He denied Jesus three times as Jesus said. And neither are you faithful. You deny/sin at least three times before the rooster crows. Yes, you. You are a sinner, but praise be to God, that Jesus is faithful and that YES, he even died and rose for you. No amount of sin will ever drive Jesus away from you. And so, say it with me: Jesus is RISEN! He has RISEN indeed — for me. ALLELUIA and Amen!

In the Moment

Below is my article for The News Tribune (Tacoma) that was published today. To God be the glory!


Are you one of those people who live in the moment, or are you one who worries about what is/may be coming down the road? I often find myself looking ahead much of the time. As a pastor, I am trying to be in the moment during this busy Lenten season, but I also find myself living in Holy Week and Easter, which is still a couple weeks away. Sure, we have to plan for the future, but there is a fine line between planning for the future and living in a future moment; worrying about what may or may not happen. During this pandemic – O great, there he goes talking about this pandemic again – sorry, I am not trying to beat a dead horse here. I really do have a point. During this pandemic I found myself living in the future a lot of the time, looking forward to a time when I did not have to worry about getting sick or someone else getting sick. I mean, seriously, will that time ever come? If that be the case, I would be living in a fantasy world, wasting these current moments.

So this morning while driving to my office the song, Keep Me in the Moment, by Jeremy Camp was playing on my radio. It is a song I have heard dozens of times, but it affected differently today. Here is the chorus that captured my attention:

Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me

It is here in this moment that God is working in your life. God knows all of your tomorrows and thus all of those tomorrows are firmly in His hands. It is not for you to obsess about those moments, but rather to trust and follow where God is leading in this moment. Matthew 6:33-34 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Isn’t it a relief that you do not have to live in a future moment, trying to protect a desired outcome? Your desired future moment may just be a fantasy; thus if you obsess about it, you will miss real life ministry that needs to be done in this moment. But with our sovereign God, you can leave all your moments in His mighty hands. And with those moments being in His hands you are free to “live with your eyes wide open”, not missing what God is doing in the here and now to bring you to HIS desired moment.

And so I pray: O Lord, keep me in the moment. Help me live with my eyes wide open. Help me to see you in the here and now that I may glorify You in this moment. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Prayer ~ My Hope

O Lord, as the hymn goes,
My hope is built on nothing less,
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
.”
And that is a hope that is rock solid.
Nothing can stand against.
Nothing can take that away.
Nothing can rise higher.
Nothing can ever replace…
…at least that is my prayer.
May I not be seduced by the fear of this world.
May I not be distracted by political ideologies.
May I not be lured away by the fast talk of elected leaders.
May I not be enticed to satisfy the perceived wants of man.
O God, Father Almighty,
May I stand,
Always,
On the rock solid promises of Jesus.
May I cling to Your love which clings to me.
May I bask in Your peace which washes over me.
May I embrace the hope of the resurrection to
Eternal life
in YOUR kingdom.
This kingdom is fading away,
But,
Yours, O God, never will.
Yes, O God,
My hope is built on nothing less,
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

And therefore,
May my hope in and through Jesus resonate loudly for all to hear.
In Jesus’ holy and righteous name I pray,
Amen.