Hope

Tomorrow’s (March 29) preaching text is John 11:38-44 — the raising of Lazarus. What follows here is the opening paragraph to the sermon God has placed on my heart. May He give hope to hopeless hearts. May He lift up the downtrodden. May He speak life to dry bones. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.


Have you ever wept without hope? Have you ever stood before a proverbial cave with a weighty stone rolled in front of it?
Maybe it was the loss of a dream.
The death a loved one.
The fading away of a long-held hope.
Have you ever cried so much that your tear ducts seemed empty but there was still more crying to be done? Have you ever cried yourself to exhaustion? It is an awful place to be – standing in front of an immovable stone sealing your hope away. But God gives life to dry bones, restores lost dreams and revives sealed-away hope. God wipes away tears as He breathes the Spirit of life into the redeemed through Jesus Christ our Lord. God uses what seems to be lost and hopeless to shine the light of His glory in this sin-fallen world. Wait on the Lord and hope in His word, for He will never fail to deliver.

Repentance for Straying

For our Lenten worship tonight, via YouTube live stream, I prepared this Liturgy of Repentance. I am preaching on Psalm 23 and highlighting God’s promise of peace. Feel free to worship with us at 7:00 PM (Pacific Time). See the church website for more information on accessing the live stream.

http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com

To God be the glory!


Holy God,
Father,
Creator,
Sustainer,
and Good Shepherd.
You give me everything I truly need.
Your provision is unmatched by anything or anyone of this world.
Your supply is endless.
You invite me to come and buy without money and without price.
You give and give and give some more.
For You are the Good Shepherd and I am your sheep.
Yet, I stray from the flock to seek my own.
My wants overwhelm me, and I spurn Your grace.
Fear leads me to stockpile wants that will not save me –
They won’t protect me,
They won’t shield me.
Oh God, I have strayed and gone my own way.
I have sought worthless wants.
Oh my Good Shepherd
retrieve me,
restore me,
revive me,
and lead me in the path of righteousness – repeating Your promises to me. Repeat them without end as I remain in You.
For You are THE Good Shepherd and with you I lack nothing.
All I want is You.
All I need is You.
Keep me close and may Your rod and staff comfort me.
Oh Lord, my God and Shepherd, I repent of my straying.

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!

Blindness

The following is the opening to the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, March 22. The text is John 9:35-41 — the ending of the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. I will be live streaming on YouTube at 9:30 AM (PST). I will lead worship and we will partake in Holy Communion together. “How?” you may ask, well, tune in and find out – just make sure you have your bread and wine/grape juice (or whatever) ready to go.

The church’s website, that will give you live streaming instructions, is: http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com


People who are blind have learned to adjust to their blindness. They have learned to rely on their other senses to help them navigate their darkness. They have resources, people and other aids to help them do everyday tasks. In every sense of the word, they can lead somewhat normal lives just like everyone else. I’ve never been blind, so I am simply speaking as an outside observer – so please forgive any blindness on my part. I have, though, been in dark, dark places where I could not rely on my sight, but rather, on my other senses and knowledge of the environment – like walking through a dark room. But no matter your knowledge of your environment or the keenness of your senses, there is always a stray Lego on which to step.

Now imagine, being blind or in a dark, dark place – unfamiliar to you – and you hear a low, scary growl. That is enough to send fear coursing through the strongest of people – not knowing where to turn. My friends, we are in a dark and unfamiliar place and the low, scary growl is all around us. To whom shall we go in this darkness? To whom shall we place our trust?

To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Complete Control

Yes God, You are worthy of all praise and worship.
You are worthy of all glory and honor.
You are worthy.
Oh God, words cannot adequately express how thankful I am that You are a sovereign God – that You are in complete control. We are living in interesting times.
Many are fearful.
Many are confused about how to live.
Many are wondering where You are…

…Holy God, You are right here.

And even though my ways are not Your ways and my thoughts are not Your thoughts, I know that Your ways will not be diverted, slowed down, stopped or hindered in any way. In the end, You will and have won – through Jesus Christ who died and rose for the forgiveness of sins – defeating sin, death and Satan forever. Hold us firm, Father God, in that promise that we may continue to glorify You, now 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.

My Keeper

This is a liturgy of repentance that I wrote for our Lenten worship service tonight. The text for preaching is Psalm 121 as I talk about God’s promise of everlasting keeping. Just think about this: You a sinner – are kept by God – through faith in Jesus Christ. Wow, oh Wow! God is awesome!


I am known by You, for You formed me.
I am known by You, for You knit me together.
I am known by You, for You choose me before I knew myself.
I am known.
I am known by You, for You breathed life into my being.
I am known by You – you know my – everything.
You know my sin.
My failings are known by You.
My shortcomings – they too – are known by You.
Everything – everything is known by You.
And yet – You keep me.
Through Jesus Christ You are my shade at my right hand.
Through Jesus Christ You are my Rock and Salvation.
Through Jesus Christ You keep my going out and coming in.
Through Jesus Christ You keep my life.
My life, oh God, You keep it.
You are my keeper.
My loving keeper.
The sinner that I am – and You keep me.
Oh God, I am unworthy to be kept.
I am unworthy to be treasured by You.
I am unworthy of anything but condemnation.
Oh God, if I am kept by You, I want to honor and worship You.
I want to glorify You.
I want to serve You.
And thus, I confess my shortcoming – my sin – my unworthiness.
Oh Lord, my God, hear my cry: I repent…

Where Does My Help Come?

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord , who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
[Psalms 121:1‭-‬8 ESV]

I love this prayer that I came across – from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s my prayer today (and everyday) and I share it with you to pray as well…


O God, early in the morning I cry to you. Help me to pray; and to concentrate my thoughts on you; I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness, but with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me. . . .

Restore me to liberty, and enable me to live now that I may answer before you and before men. Lord, whatever this day may bring, your name be praised.

Amen.


God help me this day, for you are my shade at my right hand for You have THE place of honor in my life. To You be all glory and honor, through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.

For the Church

For the Church, that we may dwell in unity, oh God. May we be the people You created us to be and do the ministry You called and commanded us to do:
Where there is division – unite.
Where there is discord – harmonize.
Where there is hurt – heal.
Where there is despair – give hope.
Where there is dissension – unify.
Where there is straying – retrieve.
Where there is hate – sow seeds of love.
Where there is fear – give courage.
Where there is confusion – give clarity.
Holy God, may the Enemy not get a foot-hold in the Church, but rather may we slam the door in his face. For you are our God, our hope, our life and our salvation. Send us Your Holy Spirit – working in and through us – that we may shine Your light – bursting open the tombs of those who are dead. To You be all glory, honor, praise and worship through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

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.