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.
The 5 Solas of the Reformation are highlighted in bold in this poem. They are important statements in understanding the Good News of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in Scripture. The Gospel is from God alone, and praise be to God for that, otherwise we would surely mess it up and condemn ourselves.
Salvation from God was needed by me.
A sinner i am, i can’t disagree.
A Savior i needed, that’s my decree.
Listen right now and i’ll share how i’m free.
God’s grace alone is where it starts,
His love is free straight from His heart.
Through faith alone He will never depart.
For in Christ alone i have a new start.
So where’s this news? Well, it’s God’s Word alone.
It is there it says your sins He atones.
Jesus died and rose, he now sits enthroned.
Through faith alone you will ever be known.
Confess your sins and admit you need Him.
And forgiveness is yours way to the brim.
His light will shine and never grow dim.
And in His great love you will always swim.
Written to the glory of God alone.
It’s Ash Wednesday this week; the beginning of Lent. The text that I will preaching on is Psalm 51. What follows is some reflections from my heart…
Create in me a clean heart,O God,
and renew a right spirit in me.
for You are my Father and my Lord,
thus I will always live with much glee.
I am broken and fallen,
but You are mighty in love.
I am sinful and unclean,
but You are mighty in mercy.
I am lost without You,
but I shall never fear the pit.
For Jesus my Savior; he saves me,
and so I will offer this one plea…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and I will praise You on bended knee.
The Pastor -|—
Psalm 103:10 (ESV) ~ He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Just think about that above verse.
Go ahead and think about it. I’ll wait…
[cue Jeopardy theme]
Did you think about it?
Are you blown away by it?
Did you get goosebumps?
God the almighty. God the Creator. God the holy, holy, holy One. This God does not deal with you according to your sins. He does not give to you as you deserve. You sin and thus deserve death. You sin and thus deserve condemnation. You sin and thus deserve hell. God does not repay you according to your sins because someone already paid the price…
Jesus took the full wrath of God and thus received what you deserved for your sins.
He was crucified
He was buried
But…Jesus rose victorious FOR YOU and thus, through faith in Jesus, you receive what you do not deserve.
That’s AMAZING grace 🙂
WOW! Got goose bumps yet?
The Pastor -|—
As you contemplate the cross on this Good Friday, I offer this prayer for you:
Holy God; loving, compassionate and merciful,
we were not actually there when they crucified our Lord, but we were there, for it was our sin that Jesus died to take away. And when I think about this it indeed causes me to tremble and shudder and be ashamed that Your Son would suffer and die as he did so that we could live.
What an awesome show of love; Jesus laying down his life for us all.
And so I ask that if anyone here tonight does not claim Jesus as their Savior, that Your Spirit may speak to their spirit and convict them of their sin and show them the truth of Your mercy and grace. May they run to You and fall into Your loving arms.
For those who have placed their trust in Jesus may they feel drawn ever closer to You and strive to live a life worthy of the Gospel; bringing You praise and glory.
May the cross convict us and may the empty tomb on Easter bring forth joy from our hearts.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
The Pastor -|—
I have been a pastor for just over 6 1/2 years now (hard to believe sometimes). During that span I have never woken up on a Sunday morning feeling sick (knock on wood). I have woken up tired after getting to bed late the night before or just not sleeping well, but I have never been sick on a Sunday morning…until yesterday.
When I went to bed on Saturday night my stomach wasn’t feeling that great but I figured I would sleep it off. As the night wore on I wasn’t getting better. I wasn’t feeling nauseated but I was still in the bathroom a few times (I won’t elaborate on that). After a very long night my alarm went off at 5:30am. I was shot. I had absolutely no energy. I laid in bed and prayed, “God…I have no energy. There is no way that I will get through this morning on my own power. I feel like crap. Please grant me the energy I need to lead these two worship services this morning. I need you.”
After some arguing with myself I finally rolled out of bed. My programmable coffee maker was doing its job so I made a bee line for the kitchen for a cup of coffee. I couldn’t drink it…believe it or not the coffee just didn’t taste good. You know something is wrong with me when I can’t drink coffee. I got ready and headed over to the church. I got into the pulpit and ran through my sermon. I could feel the lack of energy in the sermon and I prayed again that God would give me the energy that I needed so that God’s Word would be preached despite Satan’s best efforts to keep me from doing so.
At about 7:30am I went back to the house and laid down on the couch (I need to leave for Belmont Lutheran Church by 8am). I tried not to fall asleep because I knew I might not wake up until it was too late. I laid there in a fog and prayed some more. I finally got up at 7:50am. My stomach was feeling a little better and I had a little more energy (but still not 100%). My wife was concerned about me driving the 8 miles out to Belmont but I assured her I would be fine.
Worship at Belmont began at 8:30am and I was feeling good. Not once during the worship service did I think about not feeling well. My energy seemed to return and I preached the sermon with my normal energy and passion (at least that is what it felt like to me). Worship at Salem was at 10:15 and I was still going strong. Salem’s annual meeting followed worship and then our famous potluck. I got home after 12noon and was out like a light by 12:30pm for a 2 hour nap.
So my streak continues…by the grace of God. There is no way I could have survived Sunday without God by my side. I know that if I were sick enough that I couldn’t go, someone would have stepped up and worship would have still happened. But on Sunday God wanted me there and so it happened ~ by the grace of God.
As I mentioned on Monday, I am working through the book of Acts this month, following the First Lesson for each Sunday. Last week I preached on Acts 8 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. This Sunday the text is from Acts 10 – Peter and Cornelius. Both texts deal with the grace of God coming in “usual” circumstances and coming to people that the new church did not expect.
In Acts 10, Cornelius is a Roman centurion who was considered a “God-fearer”. He did total subscribe to the Jewish faith but was still seeking for God. Cornelius was generous to the poor and was an example to his family. It seems that he was on the verge of something but just couldn’t put his finger on it. Cornelius needed a witness and Peter was it. So Peter and Cornelius have “visits” from the Spirit and the two eventually meet. While Peter was proclaiming the Gospel to Cornelius and his family, the Spirit came upon Cornelius’ group and they began speaking in tongues. Peter and all who were with him were amazed that the Holy Spirit was poured upon Gentiles…of all people. This was a significant turning point in Acts where the new church realized that Gentiles were also included in the mission of Christ.
After Peter witnesses this amazing event he asks a similar question the Ethiopian Eunuch asked in Acts 8, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?” Or rephrased, “Can anyone keep these people from receiving the grace of God?” Obviously the answer is NO since the Spirit came upon those Gentiles and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop it. The grace of God is for ALL people.
Who around us do we consider “Gentiles”?
Who in our communities do we consider “outside” the church?
Is there anyone we know (or group of people) that we consider unworthy of attention?
Who’s not worth the effort?
In Acts 8 and Acts 10 we see that the mission of Christ does not stop at the “boundaries” of the church building or at the group of people who call themselves the church. The grace of God extends across boundaries and shatters our expectations. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says “…and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”
Who are the “Corneliuses” out there that need a witness?
Who is the Spirit leading you to?
Listen and pay attention. Someone out there needs a witness.