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.

Faithful God

Below is the article I submitted for publication at The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday. To God be the glory!


Do you remember what life was like one year ago today? Businesses were open at full capacity. Students were learning in a physical classroom and not through a computer screen. We did not have to decide which face mask to wear today. Socially distancing from people was considered rude. Grandpa and grandma did not have to be isolated from the world. The toilet paper aisle in the grocery store was always fully stocked. And the word “pandemic” was associated with the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Just think, a year ago today we knew little about COVID-19 except that there something was out there making people sick. There were no pandemic restrictions and life was moving along smoothly. But within a couple weeks, everything changed as life seemed to come to a screeching halt. We may never be the same again, but maybe that is okay. Maybe things needed to change. But whatever the case, one thing is certain, God has been and always will be faithful.

As I look back on this past year, I see a God who continued to provide for His Church. I see a Church that adapted to circumstances, took advantages of opportunities, and continued to be the Church. I see a Church that was never shut down despite the narrative that the world tells. I see a God who has made us stronger. Many of you have been drawn closer to our Father in heaven. Many of you have developed a deeper faith in Him. Some have drifted away. Some are angry or questioning God. And many are even mocking Christians for continuing to cling to God amid this pandemic.

Yes, life has changed; it has changed a lot of things and people. Just like how 9/11 changed air travel forever, the COVID-19 pandemic will change how we interact with people and/or how we deal with the next virus that comes along. But never forget, through it all, God has been glorified, but that still does not mean we quit praying. Pray, pray, and pray some more that this pandemic ends. But more than that, pray, pray, and pray some more that people come to know God through Jesus Christ. That is why we are here and that is why God has been faithful. Nothing can stop God from advancing His will and purposes. Nothing can shut down the Church. Nothing can destroy the Body of Christ.

One year ago life was different, but that can be said about any time in history. Therefore we take the good with the bad and continue to praise God for His faithfulness. Hang in there! This world is indeed coming to an end, but God’s Kingdom lasts forever. Cling to the truth, that promise, that certainty. And in one year, let’s chat about this again and see where we are. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Worship Prayers ~ Pandemic

Sovereign God,
so many people have been impacted by this ongoing pandemic.
Families are stressed.
People are out of work.
Small businesses are fighting to stay open.
Students are struggling with the uncertainties surrounding
school,
sports,
and extra-curricular activities.
All of this take a toll, not just on those individuals, but on all people.
O God,
bring healing and restoration to this world
on such a scale that people have no choice but
to attribute it to your mighty and gracious hand,
thus giving You the glory.
Give hope to the hopeless.
Give strength to the weak.
Give resources to the depleted.
Give healing to the broken.
Give Life to Your people.
O God, hear my prayer in the name of Jesus my Lord,
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.

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.

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.

Time

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


Time is a relentless soldier that marches on without compromise. But sometimes we say that time is moving too slow, like when we are engaging in an activity we do not enjoy. Sometimes we say that time flies by too fast, like when we are engaging in an activity we really enjoy. As a father I have often said that I blinked and my kids were grown up. There have been times when it felt like time had stopped. Whatever the situation, the constant through it all is the relentless and methodical march of time. It never varies in speed, even though it feels like it at times, and it never varies in direction. It moves forward and it never, ever changes. It is one of the few things of this world that we can count on.


Twenty years ago, I was in the midst of a summer Greek class as I was beginning seminary in St Paul, Minnesota. It was four years that seemed to last a long time. Sixteen years ago, I was ordained into the ministry of Word and sacrament as I was one month into my first call as a pastor in southwest Minnesota. Four years ago, I was one month into my second call – at Living Word Lutheran Church. Each moment I look back and wonder where the time went. And in each moment, time went where it always does with its unvarying speed – relentlessly marching forward. But still, I feel as if I blinked and now here I am.


Approximately 120+ days ago 2020 took a turn that seems like forever ago, yet it almost feels like yesterday. Satan sells the lie that time has slowed down and thus God is prolonging our suffering – like a stalked storm continuously churning – beating down upon us. But the fact remains, time has not stalled but has marched on – never slowing. And this is indeed a gift from God, for God is the creator of time. He exists outside of time and He is in the midst of it with you and me. We are not drifting aimlessly through this storm but rather being carried along with the relentless march of time. It is because of that fact I am confident that this pandemic (or whatever suffering you are dealing with) will pass, because time never fails. Before we know it, this suffering will be far behind us as a distant memory. Before we know it, we will be reminiscing about how God pruned you and me for his glory. Before we know it, we will be saying, “I blinked, and this suffering disappeared.”


Time is such a gift – perfectly created by our Creator God. These past few months seem long, but continue to hold on, my friends. Time, has not and will not come to a complete stop. Cling to God’s promises in Jesus Christ and march on with Him into glory. Amen.

But Rather

The following prayer initially grew out of frustration of how I perceive many people – including many in the Church – responding to this pandemic. I see people attacking each other on social media and others spreading misinformation. I hear conversations of people fixated on this virus. I have seen this pandemic bring out the worst in people.

Yes, this world is steeped in sin and thus it is subject to decay and death. Yes, Satan is prowling round looking for someone to devour. Yes, nothing we do here will save us. Our only hope is Jesus, who died for our sins and rose from the grave to give us the hope of the resurrection and peace with God, yet many are still not at ease.

You see, the problem is that the gods of this world are being threatened and their subjects are rising up in an effort to defend these gods. Yes, even people who claim Jesus as their Lord are going to battle for these gods. It’s as if Jesus is not enough. Really?!? People need to stop and trust God and Him alone. They need to let these gods go and watch our sovereign God do a new thing. We need to take a step back and trust Jesus. And so I wrote this prayer. I, for one – with the help from God – refuse to fall prey to Satan’s schemes.

Let us pray…


Sovereign God,
I praise You for:
Your power and might,
Your grace and mercy,
Your love and healing.
I praise You for:
Your tender care,
Your outstretched arms,
Your holiness.
I praise You for Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.
Oh God, I am Yours, and therefore:
I refuse to dwell on what I cannot do but rather embrace what You are doing.
I refuse to point my finger of blame but rather raise my hands of worship to You.
I refuse to lament the loss of “normal” but rather wait expectantly the transformation You are bringing.
I refuse to live in fear but rather live joyfully in You.
I refuse to cling to “what we have always done” but rather embrace new beginnings.
I refuse to be self-absorbed but rather pursue the welfare of others.
I refuse to dwell in anything and anyone but You.
Oh God, my Fortress and Shield,
Keep my eyes on You.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen