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!

Yes, Jesus Died For You, O Sinner

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


He has RISEN! He has RISEN indeed! ALLELUIA!

Yes, Jesus has risen, and he reigns on high with the Father. Jesus, though crucified, rose and defeated death and thus gave all believers the hope of the resurrection to eternal life. And Jesus did this because you needed to be reconciled to the Father.

From the prophet Isaiah, the 53rd chapter…
Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This prophecy from Isaiah, written about 700 years before Jesus, foretells Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners. Jesus was pierced. Jesus was crushed. Jesus died as God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Yes, you are a sinner. Like sheep, you have and continue to go astray. Like sheep, when given the chance, you turn to your own way. And, like sheep, you are defenseless against the wolf – Satan.

You may think you are fine. You may think you are faithful. You may even think that at the very least you are not as bad as some other people out there. This Easter thing is just a tradition you do that includes the pastor preaching the same ole message about Jesus rising from the grave. But let me tell you something – there is much more to Easter than that. In fact, you are worse than you think. I love the quote from one of my favorite pastor/theologians – Charles Spurgeon – that says, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

Peter thought he was a faithful follower of Jesus and would even die for him. But of course, Jesus knew better. From Mark 14:27-31…
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

The fact was, Peter was not faithful. He denied Jesus three times as Jesus said. And neither are you faithful. You deny/sin at least three times before the rooster crows. Yes, you. You are a sinner, but praise be to God, that Jesus is faithful and that YES, he even died and rose for you. No amount of sin will ever drive Jesus away from you. And so, say it with me: Jesus is RISEN! He has RISEN indeed — for me. ALLELUIA and 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.

Alleluia and Amen!

Weeping is done,
The stone has been rolled away,
just look in and see.
Death is no more,
Dry bones now have Life,
Rise up and praise Him.
Receive the Good News,
and shout your praises,
for sorrow has been turned to joy.
Turn from this old life,
confessing your sins,
Forgiveness is yours today.
Jesus is Risen!
He has risen indeed!
Alleluia! Alleluia! and Amen!

I Am Free

Sinner I am to a high degree,
But Jesus my Lord, he died for me.
Unworthy I am, I can’t disagree.
“It is finshed!”, New Life guaranteed.

Praises I sing with a heart full of glee.
Worshiping him, falling down before thee.
“He is worthy!”, that is my loud decree.
Jesus my Lord, through him I am free.

He is ALIVE!!!

He IS risen! He IS risen indeed, ALLELUIA!!!

There are no amount of words that can adequately express what the resurrection means to the redeemed sinner. Below, is a beginning — words I wrote for the Great Thanksgiving liturgy for Holy Communion. May the joy of the resurrection be an everyday occurrence, not just something reserved for a special Church holiday once a year. Jesus died and rose FOR YOU, for the forgiveness of your sins, and for that, God is to be worshiped and glorified each and every moment of your life. He IS Risen!!! ALLELUIA!!!

It is indeed right and salutary
that we should at all times and in all places
give thanks and praise to you,
oh God.
For You began your plan of redemption
from the very moment sin entered the world.
You did this because of Your amazing love and grace.
It’s hard to comprehend,
that You would save sinners such as us,
but yet, You did,
through Christ Jesus our Lord.
He suffered a horrible death on the cross,
though he was without sin,
that we would not experience eternal torment.
To think on such an act of love,
how does one not fall to their knees in thanks and praise.
Oh God,
You are an awesome God;
worthy of all worship, honor, glory and thanks.
And so with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven,
we join in singing Your unending praise…

Post-Easter Thankfulness

The Pastor is on vacation.

I am currently resting with family and friends; relaxing and reflecting on another Lenten and Easter season and the verdict is in:

It was good.

Notice that I did NOT say (with a sense of relief):

It is finished.

The jokes are out there, you see, that pastors are so shot after Easter that they feel like crawling into and curling up in Jesus’ empty tomb for a while.

“Don’t talk to me for a few days.”

I don’t feel that way. I feel energized and content and happy and filled. No, I didn’t take a 46 day vacation between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s just that the congregation I serve with, served together and thus I don’t feel drained but filled. I gave it my all but was never disconnected from the True Vine. I am not bragging but just thankful. I led worship and preached twice a week, but also worshiped and listened to what I was saying. Lent was refreshing, not life-draining.

And this is the way it should be. Looking back at a season that focuses on our mortality and sinfulness; worshiping while reflecting on Jesus’ last moments and death on a cross and then seeing an empty tomb and then hearing that proclamation: HE HAS RISEN! How can one not feel energized and thankful and joyful.

It is (indeed) finished and I am (indeed) thankful; thankful that Jesus finished what he came to do. Thankful that I have the hope of the resurrection. Thankful that I have been refreshed and ready for another season.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Holy God,
You have refreshed me
through this Lenten and Easter season.
You have reminded me
who we are and whose I am.
You have shown me the extent of Your love.
May I cling to this Truth.
May I dwell in Your love.
May I proclaim this Good News.
May I continue to know Jesus better.
Oh God,
You are an awesome God.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The (thankful) Pastor -|—

 

An Easter Prayer of Faith

Holy and awesome God,
We come to this place this morning to worship YOU
because of the LIFE we have through faith in Jesus.
But I am keenly aware,
oh God,
that there may be people here this morning
only because they are visiting family
or because grandma and grandpa said,
“You’re going to worship this morning”
or because they were taught this is just what you do on Easter.
Whatever the case,
oh God,
I pray that the words I speak here may have power,
not because I say them,
but because they are ordained by YOU
and infused with Your Holy Spirit.
If it be Your will,
may someone who doesn’t know You come to faith,
so much so,
that they proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
May people be drawn to You
that You may be glorified.
And so, may the words of my mouth
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to You,
oh God,
our rock and Redeemer,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

The Pastor -|—

The Thief is Coming

image

Are you ready?
Are you waiting?
Are you looking for the Lord?
Are you longing for the Lord?
Are you being complacent?
Are you clinging to worldly peace?

My friends, the Lord is coming. He has risen and now is planning his return. The only thing not certain (to us) is when, but I fear that many people either don’t know this or are taking this for granted. But if we truly fear this then what are we doing about it? It’s one thing to proclaim the Easter message and but are you talking about getting ready for the Lord, and not getting caught eating and drinking and making merry.

So the question shouldn’t be, “Are you ready?” but rather, “What are you doing to get others ready?

Our politicians are so focused on providing peace and security for people that many get drawn into these messages of worldly hope. And as people get drawn in, then Christ gets left in the rear view mirror, barely an after thought. But this is dangerous stuff, for the Lord will return like a thief in the nigh and catch many off guard.

Don’t be one of them.
And don’t let your neighbor be one of them.

We can’t afford to be complacent and say, “I’ll take them tomorrow”, for tomorrow may never come.

Living Easter hope, as I mentioned in my post from yesterday, is not about getting better in this life, but preparing ourselves for the next Life through holiness, though obedience to God and following Jesus to the cross. And living Easter hope is being hold and courageous in your faith, because really, what do you have to lose.

Fear not those who can destroy the body but the one who can throw the body and soul into hell.

So let’s get ready for the “thief” as he steals away our souls for eternal worship of God our Father.

And don’t forget about your neighbor.

Holy God, may I never forget about why Jesus died and the place in your mansion that he went to prepare. May I be found ready when Jesus returns. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—