One In Christ

The following is the article I wrote for publication in The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, May 16. To God be the glory!


I am beginning to become unsettled by something I am starting to see develop in this country. Recently, in the state of Washington, the governor has announced increased capacity for venues that have “vaccinated sections”. People would have to provide proof of vaccination. This is just the beginning of those vaccination passports about which we have been hearing. People would be divided – vaccinated people versus “those people” over there. It is a disturbing move as we begin to label people and, dare I say, segregate them. I understand (or at least I think I do) the spirit of this move. Many people are hesitant about these vaccinations because of how quickly they were developed, and our leaders want to encourage more people to get vaccinated in the interest of public health. There is also a sense of urgency to open things up since we are all very tired of the restrictions. But I also see a very slippery and scary slope when systemic separation of people is normalized in such a fashion. Are we really okay with this? Will people openly and wantonly accept this? How should Christians feel about this?

That final question is what I have been pondering recently. As a Christian, no matter your feelings on returning to some sense of normalcy, separating people like this should bother you. It should bother you because it is not biblical. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are united together in the true vine (John 15:1-17). And then we have the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:27-28, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, there is neither vaccinate nor nonvaccinated, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. I fear there will be churches that will adopt this worldly mentality and create “vaccinated sections”. May that never happen. Even now in this world, may wiser heads prevail and not try to lead us down the segregation highway. Yes, returning to normalcy is desirable, but separating, labeling, and shunning people for not getting vaccinated is not the answer. How can we call ourselves the “United” States if we are not united? I am not suggesting that we are united now, but systemic labeling of people is not going to help. But even more than this little word in the name of our country, in Christ we are united forever.

In Christ, you are simply labeled a redeemed sinner and crowned with the title, ”Child of God”. There is no hierarchy of sinners. There are no levels of “children of God”. We are one in the Spirit; we are members of the same body; we are children of the same God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Politics aside, let us come together and remain united as Christians as a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the oneness that we share in Him. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Royal Guard

I am in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for the LCMC Northwest District Gathering. This year we get the joy of being at Camp Lutherhaven Bible Camp – A beautiful camp on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. This afternoon, as I was sitting outside during a break, I began to gaze at and enjoy the plethora of Pondarosa Pines surrounding me and I wrote this poem. The words speak for themselves. To God be the glory.


Tall evergreens all around.
Majestic beauty
Strength
I feel enveloped in Your love – a royal protection as
surrounded by an army of soldiers protecting a treasure.
I feel safe
At peace
Close to You
For the first time in long time I feel –
Untouchable.
I see the lake through the Royal Guard.
Serene
Calm
Tranquil
I need this.
I need this reminder –
That Your Royal Guard is not stationed here.
It was revealed here.
And it’s always around me.
It is Love
It is Grace
It is Jesus

Read

O God, You are not silent, for You speak through Your Word.
Open my ears to hear.
Open my heart to receive.
Transform me and remake me that I may better glorify You.

[From my prayer journal]

I wrote that above prayer because of a quote that came to mind. I forget the source and the exact quotation, but the spirit of it was that if you think God is silent or does not speak to you, then open your Bible and read. The Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant Word.
Read and hear, for His voice is speaking to you.
Read and listen.
Read and obey.
Read and remember.
Read and be excited, for our creator God is speaking.
Read and wonder.
Read and read some more.
The Bible is timeless and relevant. As Dr Steven Lawson has said, “The Bible is more relevant than tomorrow’s news.” And it will always be relevant. It will never go out of style for it is the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, crucified for your sins and raised for your salvation. Everything of this world will eventually fail and fall away, but the Word of God is FOREVER.

So…

Read, read, read…

God is speaking.
God is speaking — TO YOU.

Pitiful But Redeemed

Father God
I am a pitiful sinner,
But Jesus Christ,
My Lord,
My Savior,
Over Satan is the winner.
My soul You did redeem.
My life You did set free.
And now, O God, I am filled,
With Your Spirit,
With Your life,
That I may know true glee.
Sustain me now in this life,
And keep me close by Your side,
That all may know,
And never go,
The way of eternal strife.

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.