Moving

The following is my new article for The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA). It talks about our (Living Word Lutheran Church) move to our newly purchased building (our first building). We are very excited around here and can hardly wait to start serving the Kingdom in our new community.


I greatly dislike packing and moving. Can I get an Amen? Maintaining the status quo is so much easier and less painful, but in many cases, it has to be done and so you do it. Before you start, it doesn’t look too bad but as you get going it doesn’t seem like you are making any progress. Boxes pile up and then more and more items seem to just appear that needs to be packed. And then there is the moving part. Loading the trailer/vehicle and transporting, and then the unpacking. In the process of all of this there is often a cleaning out and throwing away as you discover items you don’t need. In the end, once everything is unpacked and settled, there is a transformation and a new beginning. The pain of the packing and moving is gone and now you enjoy the newness of where you are.

The congregation I serve, Living Word Lutheran Church, is now in the process of packing and moving to our new home on 269th Street East, just off Meridian in Graham. I am excited about our move, but I still need to pack and get it done. My back is already hurting just thinking about it. But I would never think or suggest that the pain is not worth it for I know, once we are settled, our new beginning will be off and running. A transformation of sorts will take place for we will never be the same again. You see, we are not really moving but rather planting a new church in Graham. New in so many ways and I can hardly wait to see what God is up to.

If you are in the area and looking for a new church home, come and check us out. We hope to be worshiping out there before Christmas. But don’t get me wrong, this congregation is not setting up a clubhouse that you must join, but rather we are setting up a mission center, a home base as it were, to advance the Kingdom of God in Graham. We are not looking for members but rather looking to create disciples for the Kingdom. After all, Jesus never commissioned the disciples to, Go therefore and make members of all nations. As Christians, we are to be about making disciples who make disciples and so on. Members of clubs/organizations come and go, but disciples of Jesus are forever.

So, with that mind set, I am excited about packing and moving, even though I will need a couple extra chiropractor visits after it is all done. I am excited about setting up our mission center and then going out into the community to witness our faith to people. Through it all, may God be glorified, praised and worshiped, through Christ Jesus our Lord. With that, can I get an Amen? Amen.

Words

The following is the article I submitted for the church page in The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) for today, October 19. So here you go…


Words matter and therefore it behooves us to think about them carefully. They carry various meanings and paint descriptive pictures. And those meanings can change in a heartbeat depending on the context and whatever situation in which a person finds themselves. I think that is one of the reasons why I have developed a love for writing. I may not be the best at it, and it is definitely difficult at times, but I still enjoy it. And it is supposed to be hard because words are so complex. Thus, it is always wise to consider your words before speaking or writing. Sometimes the situation calls for immediate words, but when necessary, consider them carefully before letting them flow out.

Over the last couple years, I have developed a passion for writing poetry. The poems may not be the kind you would find in a best-selling poetry book, but I still enjoy it. I am not sure how I got started. Maybe a limerick came to mind and I started playing with it. Whatever the case, I enjoy wrestling with words and crafting them together, like an artist choosing colors and shades to unveil a scene that captures the attention of a person. I have also learned new words along the way that convey a meaning better than words I have normally used – just one of the fun side-effects to writing. But there is another fun side-effect – one that has led me to write this article.

When I write, I am usually writing about my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The side-effect is that as I am contemplating word choices, I am thinking more deeply about my relationship with God, what that means and how to better paint that picture. I find myself swimming in a sea of words and searching for the right ones to share. No word is random but purposely chosen – guided by the Holy Spirit – for the glory of God.

That’s great, pastor, but why do I care about this? That’s a great question, I thought you might ask that 😊

You see, writing has become a lost art. How many times have you sent an email that you wished you could unsend? How about social media? How many posts and/or tweets have you published out of frustration and/or anger. Maybe the words sounded good in your head, but you failed to consider the other person or the context. As a Christian, have your words glorified God? We often write and speak without thinking about our words and how people are receiving them. I encourage you to think deeply about your words. Engage in the discipline of writing when it comes to your prayer life. Write your prayers out and think about the words, but more importantly, what it means that, through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have eternal life. The depth of God’s grace is so massive that a myriad of word combinations would fail to scratch the surface of God’s magnificence, but wow, how fun it is try. Let us consider our words – carefully- not just with God, but with one another. To God be the glory. Amen.

By Faith

I walk by faith and not by sight,
And cling to Him with all my might.
In Him I find my life’s delight.
With Him I know I’ll be alright.

I walk by faith and not by plans,
And not to gain those worldly fans.
For God is with me through life’s span.
I’ll walk with our Lord hand in hand.

So walk by faith and with our Lord.
To walk with him is great reward.
May we be all of one accord.
Let’s walk by faith as one great horde.

A Great Adventure

Three and a half years ago, You called me to follow You on a great adventure.
I left a land I grew up in (Minnesota) and moved to a new land (Western Washington).
You called me from a congregation that I gave my heart to for 12 years and sent me to a “church in a box” – a people unknown to me.
To say that I was nervous is to put it mildly, but my family and me went and followed You — and You have been faithful.
The call was to help build a church – in more ways than one. In one way I have been doing that for 3 1/2 years, but now You, oh God, are getting all literal on me.
You are now calling me to new territory again: Moving a congregation to a different community and losing our “church in the box” description.
To say that I am nervous is to put it mildly, but I will go and follow You — and I know You will be faithful.
Oh God, as You led Abraham to an unknown territory so lead me.
As you have led this congregation for 10 years, please continue to do so.
I don’t know what I am doing but You know and that is all that matters.
Even though I confess my nervousness here and now, I know You won’t abandon me.
I believe, help my unbelief.
And so, oh God, I give this all to you.
Let us go, once again, on great adventure together.
To You be the glory, oh God, always and forever.
Amen.

Getting Dirty

I wrote the following article for our LCMC NW District newsletter that just came out (Aug 2019).

___________________________________________

I serve as the pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church in Puyallup, WA; a congregation that is known as “a church in a box”. That is just a fun way of saying that we have a large covered trailer that stores all our equipment; a trailer we unload and load every week for worship. You see, for 10 years, this congregation has been renting space; most of which has been at a county community center in a park. The building used to be a church building, so it is perfectly suited for us, except that it is not ours. So, for 10 years, this congregation has been searching for a home of their own. Well, our search may be over.

A 5-acre property with a church building, about 15 to 30 minutes away from our current location, has been presented to us. Currently, we are in a 60-day feasibility study phase to determine if this building will be “feasible” for us. It is nearly move-in ready (with some upgrades and minor repairs to be made) but eventually a sanctuary will need to be built. In the meantime, the fellowship hall will work. There are so many possibilities with this building along with many challenges. I admit, it has been hard to keep my emotions in check and resist the urge to mentally move into the building prematurely. The congregation is excited and believe me, I really want this for them, but I am still cautious, because this may be the worst thing for us.

What in the world are you talking about, pastor? We’ve been waiting for this for 10 years. (I can already hear my congregation asking that question).

There are many who think that if we get this building we will start to grow. They believe our stagnant numbers are due to us not being as visible. There may be some truth to the stagnant numbers theory, but we also must be careful. You see, a church cannot take a “Field of Dreams” approach when it comes to ministry in a community. There is no ghostly voice saying, If you build it, they will come. It worked in the movie but that’s not reality.

What needs to happen is the church needs to be the church. We need to live out our faith in our everyday lives. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty. Jesus never set up camp in one location for very long; he moved around and went to the people. Church buildings are great, but they can’t be home. Church buildings are a ministry launching pad not a clubhouse. Church buildings are a place to gather for corporate worship but then you must be sent out, and thus my prayers. I am not praying that God give us this building. (WHAT?!? — Just hang on a bit here). What I am praying for is that God prepare the hearts of this congregation to do the ministry that is required for HIS kingdom to grow. As a farmer needs to prepare the soil before planting so must our hearts be ready. Along with that, I am praying for what Solomon asked when God said to him, Ask what I shall give you. Solomon replied, …Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:5 & 9) God help me.

Churches with large member numbers in large auditoriums can make a huge difference. Small, country churches can make a huge difference. Churches meeting in tiny downtown store fronts can make a huge difference. Churches meeting the living room of the pastor’s home can make a huge difference. Churches meeting in a tent with a dirt floor can make a huge difference. It is not the location or the building or the size or anything of this world that matters. What matters is the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the people. The church is the people, not a building made of bricks, mortar and wood.

This is not a popular notion with many, and some may even think I am turning my back on this congregation’s dream. Believe me, I am not. I am trying to see the bigger picture. And so, my prayer is for the hearts of the people here; that they may hear the clear voice of God leading them and empowering them to be the church. If this property is going to be ours, then we will need to get off our butts and do some serious Kingdom work, God help us. If people just want to build a clubhouse, then please, let’s abandon this process. Wherever we gather, wherever we worship, we will glorify God. The Church is not comprised of buildings. The Church is the people. So, be the Church, wherever God places You and bring glory to His holy name. Let us pray…

Oh God, give me wisdom to lead Your people rightly. Give Your church faith and courage to follow you wherever You lead. Prepare the hearts of Your people to do some serious Kingdom work for Your glory. Oh God, if it be Your will for Your church to exist in a building, then so be it. If Your church is to exist in a tent, then so be it. Wherever we are to exist, may Your Spirit be with us to guide, strengthen, encourage and to send us out. Oh God, it is all about Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

We Will Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord ! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.” [Psalm 111:1 ESV]

I pastor a congregation who can be described as a “church in a box”. What I mean by that is each and every Sunday a trailer is backed up to the building we rent at a county park. The trailer is then unloaded so we can set up for worship. Following our 9:00 AM worship, the take-down crew gets to work as we need to vacate the building by 11:30 AM. As long as this pastor doesn’t get too long winded, we still have plenty of time for Sunday school/Coffee fellowship time. For 10 years this congregation has had that routine. I’ve been part of that routine for the past 3 years.

Now, we are investigating a former church building that is up for sale. The location is a little farther away, but the size is great, the lot is big enough for expansion and the price is in our ballpark. There are still many questions that need to be answered, but the excitement is high. What is God up too? That is the question we are trying to discern. Is this God gift-wrapping a property for us that He may be glorified or is Satan presenting a stumbling block to trip and derail this congregation? Questions, questions and more questions. God help us.

Whatever the outcome I echo the psalmist in the verse above. Praise the Lord ! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Yes, Sundays are a challenge, especially considering this is an aging congregation. We don’t have the freedom to do certain things when we want to do them because the building is not ours (i.e. When funerals happen, we have to make phone calls to find a venue). But where ever God places us, we will worship and praise the Lord. We will praise the Lord in the company of the upright. The upright made that way through our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We will worship corporately as a congregation because we love the Lord and we love to be together:

– whether it is at a building in the park or in a school or in someone’s pole barn, we will praise the Lord.
– whether we have to meet in living rooms, basements or garages, we will praise the Lord.
– whether we have to share space in someone else’s fellowship hall, wander from place to place, or meet in a tent outside, we will praise the Lord.

With that said, my prayer is that we keep our eye on the ball and remember who we are and whose we are. We are not here to build our kingdom but we are here to advance THE Kingdom. I can not say that enough. If this place is being gift-wrapped by God for us, I will gladly unwrap it and give glory to God. If this is Satan putting a stumbling block in our way, then I say to him, “Go back to hell. We will worship the Lord where ever God places us.”

Praise the Lord where ever you are, for it is right to give God thanks and praise in all places and at all times. Praise the Lord, all you people – the upright, the congregation – praise the Lord.

Making a Name

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate and recognize the giving of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. This is also the birth of the Church as the Spirit would send those first missionaries out to share the Good News of Jesus Christ; proclaiming a peace that surpasses all understanding. This is a day about God making a name for us; a name sealed forever in the Book of Life.

Below, is the opening paragraph to the sermon I will be preaching this morning. If you want to watch the rest, I invite you to visit our church website (link on the right hand side of this page) or go to YouTube and search for “Living Word Lutheran Church, Puyallup, WA). The sermon should be posted later today or early in the week. The sermon text is based in Acts 2:1-21, but I will be starting in Genesis 11:1-9 as I reference the Tower of Babel.

To God be the glory!!!

John 14:27, Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. And this fear thing is what people in this world are trying to deal with. They do this through many means, but mainly, through making a name for themselves. Through unity of purpose and thought; through being connected to a group or community of people, many hope to find intimacy, but what they find is a tower that has fallen into a heap of rumble. The only true peace and intimacy that will last, not just through this life, but for all eternity, is what we have with God through Jesus Christ as Paul tells us in Romans 5. It is a peace and intimacy, a purpose and belonging that is only made known through the Helper, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is that moment and manifestation for the believer.