Advent Focus

The following is my Sunday article I wrote for The News Tribune of Tacoma for today, Dec. 6. To God be the glory!


The season of Advent is upon us. No, this is not some calendar countdown to the big “party” on December 25th when presents are exchanged, families gather, and vacations begin. This is a season of preparation as we anxiously await the coming of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was born in humble means in a dingy manger stall, but Jesus is coming again. You see, he lived upon this earth as a man. He proclaimed the Good News of God’s forgiveness, which drew the ire of the religious authorities of the day. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem even though he knew what waited for him there – a cross. He was arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, mocked, spit upon, suffered, was crucified and died. And you know what? He did this all for you. That is right, the Son of God, emptied and humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2). Jesus came the first time to proclaim God’s plan of reconciliation. Jesus is coming a second time to fulfill the plan.

We so easily get distracted from the reason for the season and probably even more so this year. The pandemic has changed many plans. If you are like me, you are still trying to figure out what Christmas will look like. We are dealing with the very real possibility that we will not be traveling back to the Midwest to spend time with family this year. It was hard enough over Thanksgiving, but now Christmas. The virus does not honor that which we hold dear and sacred. And so, you can handle this in one of two ways. You can either focus your attention on the negative, or you can keep your eyes on the true meaning of the season. Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to minimize anyone’s feelings of loss, sadness, loneliness, anger or whatever you are feeling now. But we do not need to let those feelings control or define us. The virus may have taken away Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions this year, but it can not take away Jesus. Read that sentence again:

The virus may have taken away Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions this year, but it cannot take away Jesus.

Why focus and that which is not here? Focus on what is always here: God’s steadfast love for you through Jesus Christ. The birth of Jesus is not just some amazing miracle we sing about in Christmas carols or put on display in our front yards, but rather, it is God’s plan of reconciliation being manifested. In a way, it is the beginning of the end. God began His plan in Genesis after sin entered the world and now Jesus is coming to complete God’s plan. And that right there is our hope. Focus on that. Think on Jesus. Keep your eyes on him. For no virus, government or health agency can shut down the coming of Jesus. So, Merry Advent everyone and praise be to God. Amen.

Destroy

Sovereign God,
holy and true,
mighty in power,
this virus is something in which we are tired of thinking and speaking,
its name is something that soils our lips when spoken.
We grow weary of its devastating effects on the world as:
Businesses are struggling,
families are stressed,
teachers are being stretched thin,
healthcare workers are tired,
people are dying,
and many are struggling with symptoms and ill-effects long after they are supposedly well.
Oh God,
I beseech You with all my heart:
Give healing to those who are sick,
strength to those who fight on the frontlines,
hope to those whose lives are turned upside down.
Holy God,
DESTROY
THIS
VIRUS.
But all of this I ask with a heart tuned towards You, in the name of Jesus, seeking Your will to be done to the glory of Your holy name,
therefore,
DESTROY
MY
FAITHLESSNESS,
and create in me a clean heart,
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The King Reigns

The following is the article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, November 15. To God be the glory!


The votes are in. Everything has been tabulated. A winner is clear and therefore I am going to call it: Jesus is still King and always will be. Did you think I was going all political on you? Do not worry, I am not going to leave my Lord and Savior, the King of creation. I want Him to reign over my life. I want Jesus to be my Shepherd. I want my life in the hands of the Almighty. Any other person, political party, organization, or group is just a sinful group of people who have no ability (or desire) to see the big picture. My awesome God is the creator of the big picture. Actually, He IS the big picture. Can I get an Amen?

But people have always, and continue to, desire worldly leaders to govern them. In 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel demanded that Samuel appoint a king to rule over them. Interestingly, the people were concerned that Samuel’s sons, who would succeed him as judge over Israel, were corrupt. So, instead of Samuel’s corrupt sons, they wanted a sinful man to rule over them; one who would have even more power. And isn’t that what people want today? We see it every election cycle. People make demands for so and so to rule over them; thinking that everything will be better. And like Samuel warning the people what a king will do, we reject all the warnings and place all our hopes in that person(s).

Samuel was displeased with the people’s demand, but God reassured Samuel that they were not rejecting him, rather they were rejecting God as their King. And that right there is the issue: The rejection of God as King. So many people have placed their hopes in secular rulers. Their happiness rises and falls with them. We saw this when our current president was inaugurated in 2017 and we are seeing it again now in how many are reacting to the outcome of this election. “We want our ‘king’ and thus we will fight for him.” Jesus said to Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. If it were, his followers would be fighting to save him. And that should be the reminder that slaps all Christians in the face — we serve a King whose Kingdom is not of this world. We do not have to fight for His Kingdom. God has already won the war through the death and resurrection of Jesus, His Son. His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are a child of God and thus are under His mighty and everlasting rule. Secular leaders come and go, but Jesus is forever. Do not reject him, but be at peace with God as your King.

You may not like who was elected president or the party that rules the Congress. You may not like who sits on the Supreme Court or any other court for that matter. But one thing is for sure: Jesus reigns and through faith in him, he will never reject you. Take joy in the fact that God reigns as King now and forevermore. Amen.

Election Day Prayer

It is Election Day but let us not worry about the outcome – rather let us give the outcome to God. He will not be surprised. No matter what, Jesus is Lord. Rest in the sure and certain knowledge. Let us pray…


Sovereign God and King, I praise You that You sit on the throne, not because of any vote but because of who You are. You reign on high and You reign in our hearts. You reign in power and You reign in love. You reign in wisdom and You reign forever. Oh God, may we rest peacefully in that knowledge, no matter what happens on this day. But I am not suggesting that we be passive spectators. Give wisdom to people as they cast ballots. Give wisdom as we live in this country no matter who is elected. May we stand firm on the rock solid foundation of Your promises in Jesus Christ. May we never back down. May we always fight for You knowing that the battle is Yours and Yours alone. Oh God, I know that You will not be surprised by the outcome of this election and thus Your will, will be done. Give us the faith to trust You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

God Reigns No Matter What

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


I was reminded recently of the strong feelings many have concerning this election and potential ramifications of the outcome. I took a seemingly “hands off” approach in a comment about the election on Twitter, but I am anything but “hands off”. You see, I voted and did my civic duty, but I am not stressing about who will win or who will lose. Some people have threatened to leave the country if so and so is elected – thinking that the grass will be greener somewhere else. The problem with that thinking is that often people find artificial turf where they end up landing. Instead of fleeing, why not stay and fight for change, or better yet, pray and trust God.

So, with that being said, I wrote the following post on Twitter: “In the grand scheme of things, it makes no difference who wins. What truly matters is that God is and always will be sovereign. Jesus is Lord and God’s Kingdom will last forever. Vote your conscience but remember who reigns. To God be the glory, always and forever.

One of my Twitter followers soon responded with the comment, “Unfollow”. I guess she did not like that tweet. After I questioned her, she responded, but it was clear she either did not understand what I was saying or completely disagreed with me. I had tried to make myself clear, but to no avail. She appeared to be more wrapped up in this election than trusting God. I am not saying we should be completely nonchalant or passive about the election, but I am not going to curl up in a ball and cry if my candidate/party loses. I will continue to trust God.

Election Day is two days away. Some of you have voted already. Some may be still contemplating their ballot. Whatever the case, we will all come through this election season with leaders elected to office. Whoever is elected, know that God will not be surprised or disappointed. That was the point of my above Tweet. God is sovereign. God has a plan. God will get what He wants. And so, trust in Him and pray.

Holy God, this election season has been a source of stress for many. Some are inflamed with hatred over the opposing candidate/party. Our leaders, who are supposed to have our backs and faithfully govern us, are playing an intricate chess game with one another in an effort to advance their own agendas. Oh God, this is not how it should be. But I give you thanks that that is not the way of things in Your Kingdom. As King You rule with all authority but also with our best interests close to Your heart – defeating death and giving us life and salvation through Jesus Your dear Son. And so, may we look to You for our hope and not to the leaders of this country. Give us wisdom to select the leaders You have chosen to advance Your agenda. And give us peace to live in this country no matter who is in office – knowing their rule is limited but Yours is eternal. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

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.