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.

The Savior

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


I have been dreading this time of 2020 for a long time. I knew it was coming but I tried to convince myself it was just a nightmare, so I just shook my head and tried to make it go away. And now I just want to stick my fingers in my ears and yell, “LA LA LA LA…” and go to my happy place. But I have a feeling nothing is going to help except to retreat to the only happy place that is filled with joy like none other.


Yes, the presidential campaign has officially taken off with a certain candidate (who shall remain unnamed) choosing a running mate to challenge another candidate (who shall remain unnamed). Soon the airways will be flooded with ads attacking the other candidate/party. Social media will be flooded with memes trying to convince people, through deception, to vote a certain way. Articles, seemingly written by reputable sources, will be passed around with “vital and earth-shattering” information about a particular candidate. It is the same old game that is played every 4 years, but I have a feeling this year will be much worse.
You see, people are clamoring for a savior to save them. There is a pandemic going on; the economy is suffering; people are losing their jobs; radicals from the left and right are fighting for supremacy; and the polar ice caps are melting. Basically, the world is seemingly self-destructing. A savior is needed, and many are turning to this election for that savior.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” [Philippians 3:20]

Yes, we live here on this flawed and sin-filled earth. We are decaying and moving towards death. World peace is nothing more than a fantasy that is unobtainable. We want a restored world where everyone just gets along or, worse yet, one side has enough power to force the other side to knuckle under and submit quietly.


NEWS FLASH: A savior is not coming in this or any election, but THE Savior has arrived. Jesus Christ is that Savior and he is the only Savior you truly need. He is also returning to bring home those who call on his holy name – to a place where peace, joy, love and life will be eternal; a place where the sovereign King will be on the throne and death; sin and evil will be no more. That which you are longing for is a reality. It is just a matter of for whom you are waiting: a savior or the Savior.

And so, my happy place will be gazing into the promises of God through Jesus Christ. I may still put my fingers in my ears to block out this world but instead of “LA LA LA LA!”, I will be singing praises to my God and King for the hope that is Jesus Christ – my only Savior. To God be all glory, honor, praise and worship, now and forever, Amen.

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

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.

Washed Clean

The following is an article I wrote for this morning’s paper in The News Tribune (Tacoma). It was something I wrote about a week ago – right when things were really ramping up for many around here with restrictions surrounding COVID-19. Living Word had just canceled the rest of our Lenten services and we were going to discuss the status of our Sunday services (which are online now). What a week it has been, but praise be to God that I am his.


No matter where you go or where you look, you will hear/read news about the COVID-19. Statistics seem to change by the minute. Country, state and county boundaries cannot stop the spread of this virus. The CDC and various state and local health agencies are working hard to keep us informed. Basic health and safety messages are being repeated, “wash your hands”, “stay home if you are sick”, “avoid large crowds”. Aggressive measures are being taken: (i.e. restricting crowd sizes, canceling events, closing schools). But no matter what we do, the virus continues its relentless march like a wall of toothpicks trying to stop a tank. We fight and fight, but the march continues. We hide ourselves away, but it still finds us.

As more and more people experience this menace invading their backyards, the fear factor is rising. “Will I or a loved one be next?”. It seems as if the only thing that can be done is to just sit and wait for the inevitable, like waiting for the invisible man, who has been stalking you, to strike.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living in fear and therefore…

I WILL NOT!

I refuse to let this virus render me paralyzed by fear. Rather, I am going to remember who I am…

A child of God.

Through Jesus Christ and because I am a sinner: I have been redeemed, I have been claimed, I have been given a new identity, I have been given hope. Through the cross and the empty tomb, I have been given citizenship in the Kingdom of God through the forgiveness of my sins and thus I am protected by God’s holy army. No relentless viral army will touch this redeemed soul. I am His. My creator God is King and Lord. He is sovereign over this virus. He is my loving Father and Mighty Fortress. He is the Rock on which I will stand, and thus I refuse to step off. Satan is wielding this virus to strike fear into people, but I will stand and say, “My life belongs to Jesus! Back off!”

Why isn’t God destroying this virus? Why isn’t God sparing us? Why isn’t God doing something? Well, God is doing something. He’s has my attention. Does he have yours? I really don’t know what God is up to, but I do know, that when this is all said and done, God will be glorified. Why? Because God saves sinners and God is in control.

And therefore, as I repeatedly wash my hands, heeding the advice and warnings of the health professionals I will remember. I will remember that my soul has been washed clean of my sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Every time I come in contact with water — I will remember and cling to His promises. Water will no longer be a sign, reminding me of the virus I’m trying to ward off – it will now point me to the One who holds my life.

Be cautious. Be diligent. Be smart. But don’t live in fear. Live in hope that through Jesus Christ you are washed clean.

Praise be to God, always and forever, Amen!

The Invisible Foe

The relentless march of an invisible foe –
imposing its will –
has taken captive nation after nation
with relative ease.
It cares not for its victims –
showing no mercy.
It strikes at will.
And it’s a fearful thing to fight an invisible foe.
Where do we strike?
How do we attack?
But enough about that –
how do we defend ourselves?
Hiding seems to be the plan
as we wait for it to march right on by,
but its march is slow and relentless.
How long will it be?
Will it find me?

[sigh]

My only hope is God my King –
the Lord of armies.
He will defend me for He has fought the fight for my life.
His warrior is Jesus, and he won.
And this invisible foe?
My life belongs to my King.

Night

The following is my newest article for The News Tribune (Tacoma) – my first for the Sunday edition of the paper. God has now given me the opportunity to expand my outreach for His glory. Sunday is a higher circulation day for the paper. And so, here you go. To God be the glory!


I have been doing a lot of praying recently. This is not to say that I didn’t pray before. I have always been a man of prayer, but I have been challenged to rethink how I pray. I recently read a devotion on prayer where the author asked the following question – “Now answer honestly. If God said yes to every prayer you prayed in the last seven days, how would the world be different?” And so, I started thinking about the content of my prayers. I noticed that I would ask God to bless my family, friends, church, etc; I would ask God to help me do this or that task; I would ask God to be with me and so on. Does this sound familiar? Would I notice a difference if God did all those things? Maybe, but I am guessing that I wouldn’t catch it right away – if I did at all.

Now, I am not suggesting, nor was the author suggesting, that we stop praying those prayers. Instead he challenged me to also be “more bold” in my prayers. He challenged me to move from vagueness to specific. Why? Because God wants you to notice Him at work and thus give Him the glory. Besides, if you access to God almighty – being commanded to pray – why wouldn’t you be bold and ask for the world.

One of the big news stories going on right now is the coronavirus (COVID-19). At the time of writing this article, the death rate is at 3.4% of those infected. The hand sanitizer section in many stores is bare and people are stocking up on necessities in case of a quarantine. Schools have closed to disinfect in response to a student’s connection to the virus. Businesses are rethinking air travel for their employees. Basically, life has changed for many people. But I don’t want to join the media machine that is feeding people doom and gloom – leading them to panic, as if this is the end of the world. Yes, I am concerned, and my family is taking precautions, but we are also praying. How are you praying about this, Pastor? That is a great question, I’m glad you asked. Let us pray…

Sovereign God, You are Lord of all. You reign on high. You sit enthroned over all of creation. This coronavirus is frightening, but I know You are in control. You are not surprised by this outbreak. And even though I don’t understand what is happening and why, I trust You. Please endow healthcare professionals with knowledge to come up with a cure and/or vaccine for this virus. Heal those who are infected. Give peace and hope to a frightened population. Stop COVID-19 dead in its tracks. Destroy this virus. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Bold prayer? YES. If God were to answer that prayer as I prayed it, would I notice a difference in the world around me? YES. Will God answer that prayer as prayed? I don’t know, but I do know God will be glorified in some way and therefore I will pray boldly. Will join me? Let us pray… Amen.

Child-Like Praying

Holy God, it is not long, beautiful, poetic words that impress You or are more effective, but rather prayers that come from the heart of one who trusts You. It is like a child coming up to their mommy or daddy asking for a glass of water and fully expecting to receive it. They trust their parents. May I, Your child, learn to come to You as my holy daddy – opening my heart and humbling myself before You in the name of Jesus – trusting that You will give to me as You see best. May this great privilege of prayer not become routine or rote. May it be an intimate time with You. May I never take it for granted or view it as a to-do list item. May prayer be the very air I breath. And so, with that in mind – my holy daddy – hear and receive my prayer…

~ Give our nation’s leaders wisdom so they won’t act stupid.
~ Give our nation’s leaders a heart of compassion so they won’t be mean.
~ Put out the fires in Australia and protect those who are fighting them.
~ There are a lot of homeless people. Please help them.
~ May church leaders teach and preach the Bible correctly.
~ May people in the church forgive one another and work together.
~ Help me be strong and not afraid to tell Satan to go back to hell.
~ Protect our men and women serving in the military.
~ Those who are sick, please heal them.
~ Those who are hurt, help them feel better.
~ Help me to talk about Jesus with those who don’t know him.
~ Please help the United States and Iran get along.
~ Please help Democrats and Republicans get along.
~ Please help me get along with people I don’t like or who are mean to me.
~ Please help me be a better pastor.
~ Please help me be a better daddy.
~ Please help me be a better husband.
~ Bless each and every member of the congregation I serve.
~ Bless LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ).
~ Thank you for our police, fire fighters, paramedics, first responders and other emergency personnel. Bless them as they protect and take care of us.
~ Bless my children. Continue to help them grow to know you.
~ Bless my wife. Continue to shape her into the godly woman, mother and wife You want her to be.
~ Give me better eyes to see You and give me better ears to hear You.
~ May I never lose my child-like faith.

There is more on my heart, but You already know that. And so here you go.
I know You hear ALL of my prayers.
I know You respond to ALL of my prayers.
I know You never dismiss my prayers as silly or stupid.
Oh God, my heaven daddy, I love You and want to know You better. As You respond to my prayers give me the faith to see that I may draw closer to You and give You the glory. You are awesome!

Well, that is all for now. I’ll talk to you soon 🙂

In Jesus name I pray,

Amen.

God Help Us

The political climate in the United States is embarrassing, scary, bang-my-head-on-a-wall frustrating, and a whole host of other metaphors. But I am not going to venture into the political arena here and offer my 2 cents, as there are many who would bury me. Instead, I plead with God to help us – here and now. We live in a messed up, sin-fallen, corrupt world. Our leaders need help. We need help.

So with all of this in mind, I wrote the following poem.


God help us here and now.
Your blessing please avow.
Their actions disallow.
Before You may they bow.

God help us here and now.
Your wisdom please endow.
Without You they know not how,
To please You here and now.

God help us here and now.
Unity where art thou?
So many broken vows
Oh God, save us anyhow

Band-aids and Tumors

The following is an article I wrote for The News Tribune (TNT) of Tacoma for Saturday, August 17. I submit articles for their church page each 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month. This one was inspired by the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. We have a serious issue in this country and world, but it is not what many are talking about.

______________________________________________________________________________

With my kids getting older and more active they are collecting more and more skinned knees, cuts and scrapes. When injuries occur, we give them the necessary TLC and, of course, a band-aid. It makes no difference if there is bleeding or not, they want a band-aid. It’s amazing really, the power of the band-aid. As soon as it is applied, something magical seemingly happens. The tears begin to stop, and they are ready to go back to their previous activity. Obviously, I would never use this treatment on a more severe injury such as a broken bone. That requires more intensive intervention and professional help. To slap a band-aid on a serious issue is short-sighted and irresponsible. If only the world would take this truth to heart.

Recently, this county has mourned, yet again, more mass shootings. Both horrific events that have affected the lives of many for years to come. But along with these tragic events comes political grand-standing, finger-pointing and empty promises that have no hope of healing the problem. Just peruse social media after such an event and you will quickly see and read the rhetoric. It is sickening and sad to see how people don’t understand what the deeper, more severe issue really is. Simply applying a band-aid won’t help, yet that is what continues to be suggested, even demanded. Now before you think that I am going on a political gun control rant, allow me to put you at ease.

I don’t discuss politics.

The issue we are facing with this country is not a simple knee scrape that can be healed with Neosporin and a band-aid. What we are facing is a fast-growing tumor that needs professional help. Guns are not the issue but rather the heart. We are sinners and thus if you take the guns away, sinners will just find other ways to mass kill people. The band-aids that politicians are suggesting will only make them look good for a short time, but then other band-aids will need to be applied, after more finger pointing and blaming. It is a never-ending, vicious cycle.

So, what’s the solution, pastor?
Great question, thanks for asking.

The solution is Jesus. It begins with the Church faithfully preaching the Word of God instead of the social justice garbage that many proclaim as gospel truth. It begins in the home with mom’s and dad’s providing a loving, stable and safe environment for their kids; not allowing video games and the media to serve as their nanny. It begins with leaders rallying people together to heal, dialog and seek the will of God, rather than fighting and finger-pointing their way to prominence.

People, we have a vicious tumor. And if we don’t deal with it, it will eat us alive. We need to put away the band-aids and seek Jesus, the Great Physician. We need to come together instead of building walls. We need to humble ourselves and toss away our agendas. The only hope that we have is Jesus. Period. Seek him and find healing. Amen.