God Is Not Absent

In the midst of hardships and tragedies, our awesome God is not absent but ever present – longing to calm the storm. Maybe he does not calm the storm raging all around you, but through Jesus Christ he calms the storm in your heart. For these storms do not define you and they definitely do not direct your destiny. These storms are not your eternal reality and they are definitely not sovereign over you. Yes, storms do rage and toss you to and fro, but Jesus not only walks on the storm, he tramples it as he reaches out to you with grace and compassion. In no way are you required to fight the waves to get to a safe haven, but Jesus simply reaches out his hand upon your faith-filled plea for help.

No, storms are not a sign of God’s absence but just the opposite. Satan wants you to fail, crumble, knuckle under and give up, but God will be gloried and thus He will give you what you need to make that happen. Do not cry out wondering why God left, rather worship Him and know that He is faithful to not let Satan consume you.

Maybe you are not going through a storm at the moment, but someone is. Pray for them that they may see God through Jesus Christ. Pray for a hedge of protection around them to keep Satan at bay. Pray for God’s glory to shine through their storm. Pray, pray and then pray some more. God is not an absent God. He is an ever-present God in times of trouble. Do not forget this.

GOD – IS – NOT – ABSENT!

God is faithful and God is FOR YOU. Call out to Him. Go head. God is listening.

All glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving be unto our awesome God through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen!

I Do Not Know

I do not know about today.
I do not know about the way.
I do not know about tomorrow.
I do not know how to handle this sorrow.
I do not know what’s around the bend.
I do not know why this will not end.
I do not know which way to go.
I do not know,
I do not know.
But You, oh God, know,
and thus it is Your way I will go.
There is much out of my control,
as this year has definitely taken its toll.
Guide me,
Guide me,
and lead along the way.
May Your glory be revealed in me this day.
I do not know,
I do not know,
But thank You, God, it is You that I know.

Trust

The following is my Sunday article for The News Tribune (Tacoma). It is based on a poem I wrote and published on my blog last week titled, “The Forest”. To God be the glory.


I remember the good ole days when I would turn on the evening news and get informed on what was going on in the world, this nation and the community around me. I even looked forward to it as those behind-the-desk personalities connected with me personally – like they were family. Their insight into the events helped me understand better what was going on and I trusted them. Each night I would turn on my television and wait. When my “family” appeared, they seemed happy to see me and thus I gave them my undivided attention. But gone are those days. Actually, I cannot remember the last time I anxiously turned on the evening news or even reluctantly turned it on. Those days are gone because my so-called “family” has made it easy for me to let go. It is hard to know what or who to trust anymore and thus I have stopped showing up to those evening “family reunions”. Events are still happening in the world, but now I am forced to be more careful of what I read, watch and believe.


And I am thankful, because it has redirected and reinforced in me whom I ultimately should be trusting: Jesus. I used to find peace in knowing what was going on in the world; now I find peace in God knowing me in Jesus Christ. I used to find peace in a “family” who never truly knew me; and now I am at peace in the family of God. I used to find peace in being able to discuss and even debate the events of the day; now I find peace in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.
In the end it is about whom you trust and whom you will follow. Following Jesus is not always easy, but it is always right, for he is always faithful and true. Following Jesus may seem scary and confusing at times, but he IS the Way, the Truth and the Life. Oh sinner, trust and follow Jesus, and be at peace now and with God forever through the forgiveness of your sins.
The following poem is something I wrote as I reflected on following Jesus – anywhere – trusting him with my life.


Following Jesus is one of trust,
like walking through a
forest
and not knowing the way.
Trees –
all looking the same.
Paths –
some looking safe
some looking scary.
Eyes –
watching and judging and waiting.
Noises –
a jumbled mess.
Some days I feel
lost,
but then his gentle hand
reassures.
And just when I think that I am through the
forest,
there is a

cliff.
And Jesus says jump.


Will you jump with me and be at peace? To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen

The Forest

Following Jesus is one of trust,
like walking through a
forest
and not knowing the way.
Trees –
all looking the same.
Paths –
some looking safe
some looking scary.
Eyes –
watching and judging and waiting.
Noises –
a jumbled mess.
Some days I feel
lost,
but then his gentle hand
reassures.
And just when I think that I am through the
forest,
there is a
cliff.
And Jesus says jump.

Time

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


Time is a relentless soldier that marches on without compromise. But sometimes we say that time is moving too slow, like when we are engaging in an activity we do not enjoy. Sometimes we say that time flies by too fast, like when we are engaging in an activity we really enjoy. As a father I have often said that I blinked and my kids were grown up. There have been times when it felt like time had stopped. Whatever the situation, the constant through it all is the relentless and methodical march of time. It never varies in speed, even though it feels like it at times, and it never varies in direction. It moves forward and it never, ever changes. It is one of the few things of this world that we can count on.


Twenty years ago, I was in the midst of a summer Greek class as I was beginning seminary in St Paul, Minnesota. It was four years that seemed to last a long time. Sixteen years ago, I was ordained into the ministry of Word and sacrament as I was one month into my first call as a pastor in southwest Minnesota. Four years ago, I was one month into my second call – at Living Word Lutheran Church. Each moment I look back and wonder where the time went. And in each moment, time went where it always does with its unvarying speed – relentlessly marching forward. But still, I feel as if I blinked and now here I am.


Approximately 120+ days ago 2020 took a turn that seems like forever ago, yet it almost feels like yesterday. Satan sells the lie that time has slowed down and thus God is prolonging our suffering – like a stalked storm continuously churning – beating down upon us. But the fact remains, time has not stalled but has marched on – never slowing. And this is indeed a gift from God, for God is the creator of time. He exists outside of time and He is in the midst of it with you and me. We are not drifting aimlessly through this storm but rather being carried along with the relentless march of time. It is because of that fact I am confident that this pandemic (or whatever suffering you are dealing with) will pass, because time never fails. Before we know it, this suffering will be far behind us as a distant memory. Before we know it, we will be reminiscing about how God pruned you and me for his glory. Before we know it, we will be saying, “I blinked, and this suffering disappeared.”


Time is such a gift – perfectly created by our Creator God. These past few months seem long, but continue to hold on, my friends. Time, has not and will not come to a complete stop. Cling to God’s promises in Jesus Christ and march on with Him into glory. Amen.

Prayer for my Children

If you are like me, you want the best for your children/grandchildren. You have dreams for them and pray for them. You try to point them in the right direction and teach them. You want them to avoid the mistakes you made but want them to learn from mistakes that they will make. You want them to be happy, healthy, and successful. Above all, you want them to know peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. But we know this is all out of our hands, and thus we pray and entrust them to our Father’s hands.

The following prayer is from a father’s heart entrusting his children to the Father…


Father God, I pray that my children:

  • Will learn their ABCs and develop a love for reading.
  • Will learn to play a musical instrument and appreciate the arts.
  • Will know right from wrong and live morally upright lives.
  • Will respect everyone and serve the needs of others.
  • Will be humble yet be willing to boldly take a stand when called upon.
  • Will be a lifelong learner and a seeker of wisdom.
  • Will seek to know and love the heart of a person.
  • Will appreciate the simple things and not lose their child-like wonder.
  • Will not lose their sense of humor and never be afraid to cry.
  • Will know that I will always love them no matter what they do.
  • Will know that You will always love them no matter what they do.
  • Will learn to forgive and forget.
  • Will value in-person relationships over social media relationships.
  • Will love, value and respect themselves.
  • Will strive to know Jesus and live out loud in his name.
  • Will be comfortable in their skin and know they are beautiful in Your eyes.
  • Will pray, pray and then pray some more.
  • Will seek Your will for their lives and listen to Your voice.
  • Will know, crave and desire Your Word.
  • Will know that I will always be there for them.
  • Will know who they are and whose they are – a sinner redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
  • Will know that I will always pray for them.

All that I hope for and all that I wish are nothing but a father’s dream.
But all that they are and all that they will be is in Your hands, Father God.
And so I raise this prayer to You,
And entrust them to Your sovereign care.
I pray this prayer, in the name Jesus, the Lord and Savior I pray they know.
Amen.

But Rather

The following prayer initially grew out of frustration of how I perceive many people – including many in the Church – responding to this pandemic. I see people attacking each other on social media and others spreading misinformation. I hear conversations of people fixated on this virus. I have seen this pandemic bring out the worst in people.

Yes, this world is steeped in sin and thus it is subject to decay and death. Yes, Satan is prowling round looking for someone to devour. Yes, nothing we do here will save us. Our only hope is Jesus, who died for our sins and rose from the grave to give us the hope of the resurrection and peace with God, yet many are still not at ease.

You see, the problem is that the gods of this world are being threatened and their subjects are rising up in an effort to defend these gods. Yes, even people who claim Jesus as their Lord are going to battle for these gods. It’s as if Jesus is not enough. Really?!? People need to stop and trust God and Him alone. They need to let these gods go and watch our sovereign God do a new thing. We need to take a step back and trust Jesus. And so I wrote this prayer. I, for one – with the help from God – refuse to fall prey to Satan’s schemes.

Let us pray…


Sovereign God,
I praise You for:
Your power and might,
Your grace and mercy,
Your love and healing.
I praise You for:
Your tender care,
Your outstretched arms,
Your holiness.
I praise You for Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.
Oh God, I am Yours, and therefore:
I refuse to dwell on what I cannot do but rather embrace what You are doing.
I refuse to point my finger of blame but rather raise my hands of worship to You.
I refuse to lament the loss of “normal” but rather wait expectantly the transformation You are bringing.
I refuse to live in fear but rather live joyfully in You.
I refuse to cling to “what we have always done” but rather embrace new beginnings.
I refuse to be self-absorbed but rather pursue the welfare of others.
I refuse to dwell in anything and anyone but You.
Oh God, my Fortress and Shield,
Keep my eyes on You.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen

John 14 Sermon teaser…

The following is the opening to the sermon that I am preaching tomorrow, May 10, on John 14:1-11. The worship live stream will start at 9:30 AM (PST) on our YouTube channel (Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA)


Fear has a way of rendering people paralyzed – unable to think clearly or make smart, rational decisions. When everything safe around you is threatened, the natural reaction is embedded deep in the primal part of our brain. It is the fight or flight response. We instinctively either, fight for the safe place we have – trying to restore order – or we retreat and search for another safe place. We do this without thinking or planning or evaluation. In a lot of ways this is a gift from God that enables self-preservation. For example, if I were to encounter one of those “murder hornets” that are supposedly here in Washington, I am not going to evaluate too long whether I should retreat or not. But sometimes this fight or flight response becomes a hinderance to common sense. For example, there are people in Washington holding “COVID-19 parties” – purposely exposing themselves to get it out of the way so they can return to their safe place sooner. Truth be told, there is no science to this and thus not safe for the public. And then, this fight or flight response often gets in the way of trusting God – refusing to believe or accept His promises – thus Jesus’ commands in John 14.

Yes, our safe places have been threatened, but God is still sovereign. And so, let us hear the Good News in John 14 so we can stop fighting or flighting (is that even a word?) and start trusting. Let us pray…

You Are My Everything

You are my stronghold,
And You are my life.
You are my fortress,
And You are my light.

Now I may have strife,
And I may have pain.
But faith in my Lord,
I will have much gain.

In You there’s no fear,
For You are my peace.
In You there’s no death.
My life will not cease.

So to You I will run.
In You I will stay.
For You I will live,
To You I will pray.

The Boat

The waves are monstrous,
The wind is fierce,
And my feeble little boat is no match for this storm.
I try and try, but I make no head way.
I fight and battle but continue to lose ground.
And the storm rages on.
The storm wants to lay claim to this boat –
to bring it down into the deep.
It fights and threatens.
It claws and bites,
and my feeble little boat is no match for this storm.
Jesus, where are you?!?
Wait — you are right here,
in my feeble little boat.
You are right here with me,
as the storm rages on.
Now I am at peace.
Now I can be still and know –
for nothing can touch me
as long as Jesus is in the boat with me –
in this feeble, broken down, little boat.
The storm rages on,
but it will never claim me,
not with Jesus in my boat.