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.

How The Grinch Didn’t Steal Easter

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


From 1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV) ~ “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Christians from around the world celebrated Easter last week – the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. But it was not the kind of Easter celebration I had imagined. You see, I have fond memories of brightly decorated sanctuaries adorned with beautiful lilies and filled with lively music with lyrics such as, “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!” I always enjoy seeing the children dressed in their new Easter outfits and seeing visiting family members once again. This year, the day was beautiful with the Mountain out in all its glory, towering behind our church building. But as I stood behind our building gazing at the mountain — and recalling all these Easter traditions — I felt a sense of sadness. It was like the Grinch dressed as the Easter bunny, snuck in and filled his sack with everything Easter, down to the last ham and can of Who Hash. This is not how it was supposed to be.

But if you remember that Dr. Seuss classic, the Grinch – thinking that he had accomplished his fiendish deed – discovered something. Upon hearing the singing in the valley below, as he was basking in the success of his devilish efforts, he realized something.

“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!””

[How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Suess]

The hope that comes with Easter is something that does not come in baskets or wrapped in succulent chocolate. The hope of Easter is not dependent on traditions like flowers, bonnets, and music. Easter is so much more. The hope that comes with Easter is kept in heaven FOR YOU and comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The hope of Easter is the fact that Jesus, though crucified and buried, rose from the dead. Jesus did this FOR YOU, that your sins would be forgiven and that you would be reconciled back to God. The “Grinch” has canceled a lot of things, but it could not steal Easter. Though many were not able to gather in church buildings, Jesus is still risen and always will be. And because of this Good News, my heart continues to grow – more than three sizes big. 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!

A Prayer about Prayer

The following prayer was inspired by the sermon I prepared for today on James 5:13-20. The video of the sermon should be posted within a couple days at http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com. To God be the glory.


Holy God, You command us to pray, not in order to satisfy some narcissistic desire of Yours, but that Your glory would be be proclaimed through us. But we too often limit our interaction with You and thus we miss those holy moments. We procrastinate our prayers to a more convenient and safe time. We utter idle pastoral care type words in order to satisfy some Christian obligation to pray for one another. We miss moments of ministry because of our fear of failure. Give us faith and courage, oh God, to make much of You through unceasing prayer with one another. Open our eyes that we may see Your glory manifest itself in the everydayness of our lives. May we not miss a single moment to pray with and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. To You be all glory, honor, praise and worship through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Wherever You Are

The following poem to dedicated to a mystery woman and her child. I don’t know who she is, but she showed up at our church door recently. Our Ring doorbell caught the encounter as she left a note. When I finally saw the footage, she was gone. The note was a series of prayer requests about her son and some stuff about her family. She left no name or contact information so I have no way to follow up with her. All I can do is pray and I invite you to do the same. I can’t tell you much but that’s alright – God knows her and I pray that she knows that as well.

And so, as I think about this woman and her son – praying for them – God placed this poem on my heart. I dedicate this to her and to the glory of God.


I don’t know where you are.
I don’t know where you’ve been.
And you may never, ever come this way again.
Miles may separate us.
Circumstances may keep us apart,
But know that you are never, ever far from my heart.
You seem to be in such pain.
Lost with no where to turn.
Oh how I wish you would someday return.
God brought you to our door.
He lead you by the hand.
Oh how I want you to know His love firsthand.
I know you may never read this.
But this is what I am feeling.
I will pray that God will grant you necessary healing.
So wherever you are.
And wherever you go.
I pray that its the peace of Christ you will someday know.

The Pillar of Cloud Has Lifted

On Sunday, December 8, the congregation that I serve – Living Word Lutheran Church – held it’s final worship service in a space that we have rented for nearly 10 year. On Sunday, December 15, we begin a new chapter of worship and ministry in our newly purchased building. It was a bitter sweet day for us but we are excited to see what God is going to do through us. And so, as we closed worship on Sunday, I led the congregation in the following prayer/blessing/benediction that I wrote for the occasion. To God be the glory!


Psalm 122:1 (ESV) ~ I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

For nearly 10 years, Living Word has been echoing that sentiment – joyfully coming into this building to worship God our Father through Christ Jesus our Lord. This has been our house of the Lord – our place of worship. Joyfully we came here to hear the Word of God. Among other things: baptisms were done to the glory of God, men and women were joined together in marriage, people confirmed their faith, families and friends mourned – with hope – the death of loved ones. We enjoyed meals together, watched our children present the Christmas story, we met together to discuss and debate issues but always with respect and we gifted the community with the Living Last Supper a number of times. So many memories with much laughter and tears. This place has meant a lot to so many people. And even though we are excited to begin this next chapter of our lives in Graham, we sadly say goodbye to nearly 10 years together in this house of the Lord. We’ve been glad to enter here, but now we are glad to enter a new house next week. Please join me as we pray and bless this place:

Holy and awesome God, ten years ago, this congregation embarked on an unknown adventure of faith. Faithful men and women followed You into a brand-new mission field. Very quickly You gifted this congregation with this place to worship. For that we thank and praise You. Now You have said it is time to move and thus we follow You boldly and faithfully. Whatever congregation moves in here next; may You bless them mightily as You have blessed us. Bless their pastors and leaders. Bless their ministry. Oh God, we give You thanks for the many Meridian Habitat staff people that have hosted us over the years. Bless the staff that work here as they serve as hosts to others. Thank You for the opportunity to get to know them. And now, oh God, I ask that Your Spirit continue to move in this place as it has moved among us for 10 years. Yes, this is a secular building and location, but it has been holy ground for us. Thank You, God, for the memories here and the memories yet to be formed in Graham. And now, as the pillar of cloud lifts from this holy place this day, we pack up and follow You. Bless our journey, as You have done for 10 years, that You and You alone are glorified. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray, Amen.

And now, for the final time in this place, receive this Benediction:

As a pillar of cloud and fire led the Israelites by day and night through the wilderness without fail, may the Holy Spirit guide and bless you in through your wilderness. As their resources and strength never failed know that God will never fail you. As God fought for them, know that God fights for you. As God brought them into the Promised Land, know that through faith in Jesus Christ, you will enter His Promised Kingdom. As God remained faithful to them, Go in peace knowing God will always be faithful to you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Church

Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
[Augsburg Confession, Article VII: Of the Church]

We sometimes forget that the Church is not a building. The Church is people – the congregation of saints. People are made “saints” how – through the blood of Jesus. And thus the Church is wherever and whenever saints are gathered together – where the Gospel is rightly taught/proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered.

We also sometimes forget that a building does not and can not save us. The Church can exist without a fixed place to gather on a regular basis. No where does it say that the Church is a particular place or structure. Does a building help? Yes and no. Yes – if our eyes are on Jesus Christ as our savior and our worship is in Him and Him alone. No – if are attention is on a structure that in the end will not last. Buildings fail, but Jesus never will.

I am not saying buildings are bad, but when people start to focus on the building rather than Jesus, then they cease to be a Church. Brothers and sisters in Christ are people – saints – and therefore we need to remember them and care for them. Those who do not know Jesus – lost sheep – need to be sought out and fed. But more importantly we must remember and worship the One who makes us a family through Jesus Christ.

By Faith

I walk by faith and not by sight,
And cling to Him with all my might.
In Him I find my life’s delight.
With Him I know I’ll be alright.

I walk by faith and not by plans,
And not to gain those worldly fans.
For God is with me through life’s span.
I’ll walk with our Lord hand in hand.

So walk by faith and with our Lord.
To walk with him is great reward.
May we be all of one accord.
Let’s walk by faith as one great horde.

A Great Adventure

Three and a half years ago, You called me to follow You on a great adventure.
I left a land I grew up in (Minnesota) and moved to a new land (Western Washington).
You called me from a congregation that I gave my heart to for 12 years and sent me to a “church in a box” – a people unknown to me.
To say that I was nervous is to put it mildly, but my family and me went and followed You — and You have been faithful.
The call was to help build a church – in more ways than one. In one way I have been doing that for 3 1/2 years, but now You, oh God, are getting all literal on me.
You are now calling me to new territory again: Moving a congregation to a different community and losing our “church in the box” description.
To say that I am nervous is to put it mildly, but I will go and follow You — and I know You will be faithful.
Oh God, as You led Abraham to an unknown territory so lead me.
As you have led this congregation for 10 years, please continue to do so.
I don’t know what I am doing but You know and that is all that matters.
Even though I confess my nervousness here and now, I know You won’t abandon me.
I believe, help my unbelief.
And so, oh God, I give this all to you.
Let us go, once again, on great adventure together.
To You be the glory, oh God, always and forever.
Amen.

Getting Dirty

I wrote the following article for our LCMC NW District newsletter that just came out (Aug 2019).

___________________________________________

I serve as the pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church in Puyallup, WA; a congregation that is known as “a church in a box”. That is just a fun way of saying that we have a large covered trailer that stores all our equipment; a trailer we unload and load every week for worship. You see, for 10 years, this congregation has been renting space; most of which has been at a county community center in a park. The building used to be a church building, so it is perfectly suited for us, except that it is not ours. So, for 10 years, this congregation has been searching for a home of their own. Well, our search may be over.

A 5-acre property with a church building, about 15 to 30 minutes away from our current location, has been presented to us. Currently, we are in a 60-day feasibility study phase to determine if this building will be “feasible” for us. It is nearly move-in ready (with some upgrades and minor repairs to be made) but eventually a sanctuary will need to be built. In the meantime, the fellowship hall will work. There are so many possibilities with this building along with many challenges. I admit, it has been hard to keep my emotions in check and resist the urge to mentally move into the building prematurely. The congregation is excited and believe me, I really want this for them, but I am still cautious, because this may be the worst thing for us.

What in the world are you talking about, pastor? We’ve been waiting for this for 10 years. (I can already hear my congregation asking that question).

There are many who think that if we get this building we will start to grow. They believe our stagnant numbers are due to us not being as visible. There may be some truth to the stagnant numbers theory, but we also must be careful. You see, a church cannot take a “Field of Dreams” approach when it comes to ministry in a community. There is no ghostly voice saying, If you build it, they will come. It worked in the movie but that’s not reality.

What needs to happen is the church needs to be the church. We need to live out our faith in our everyday lives. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty. Jesus never set up camp in one location for very long; he moved around and went to the people. Church buildings are great, but they can’t be home. Church buildings are a ministry launching pad not a clubhouse. Church buildings are a place to gather for corporate worship but then you must be sent out, and thus my prayers. I am not praying that God give us this building. (WHAT?!? — Just hang on a bit here). What I am praying for is that God prepare the hearts of this congregation to do the ministry that is required for HIS kingdom to grow. As a farmer needs to prepare the soil before planting so must our hearts be ready. Along with that, I am praying for what Solomon asked when God said to him, Ask what I shall give you. Solomon replied, …Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:5 & 9) God help me.

Churches with large member numbers in large auditoriums can make a huge difference. Small, country churches can make a huge difference. Churches meeting in tiny downtown store fronts can make a huge difference. Churches meeting the living room of the pastor’s home can make a huge difference. Churches meeting in a tent with a dirt floor can make a huge difference. It is not the location or the building or the size or anything of this world that matters. What matters is the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the people. The church is the people, not a building made of bricks, mortar and wood.

This is not a popular notion with many, and some may even think I am turning my back on this congregation’s dream. Believe me, I am not. I am trying to see the bigger picture. And so, my prayer is for the hearts of the people here; that they may hear the clear voice of God leading them and empowering them to be the church. If this property is going to be ours, then we will need to get off our butts and do some serious Kingdom work, God help us. If people just want to build a clubhouse, then please, let’s abandon this process. Wherever we gather, wherever we worship, we will glorify God. The Church is not comprised of buildings. The Church is the people. So, be the Church, wherever God places You and bring glory to His holy name. Let us pray…

Oh God, give me wisdom to lead Your people rightly. Give Your church faith and courage to follow you wherever You lead. Prepare the hearts of Your people to do some serious Kingdom work for Your glory. Oh God, if it be Your will for Your church to exist in a building, then so be it. If Your church is to exist in a tent, then so be it. Wherever we are to exist, may Your Spirit be with us to guide, strengthen, encourage and to send us out. Oh God, it is all about Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.