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.

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!

Night

The following is a sermon teaser for the sermon I am preaching tomorrow (March 8) on John 3:1-8 — Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. The complete sermon can be viewed on my congregation’s website early next week: http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com


I came across this quote from Paul Washer that he proclaimed at the 2020 Shepherd’s Conference. Paul said, “We preach to dead men, and there is no crowbar from the secular world we can use to pry them out of a tomb.” [Paul Washer, 2020 Shepherd’s Conference] – let that sink in for a moment.
You really need to listen to Paul Washer deliver that quote as it will kick you in the butt to battle the darkness. It sure kicked me in the butt.

You see, we live in a world of darkness and we’re surrounded by people living in the darkness of their own tombs – but through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, we have the ultimate weapon to battle that darkness – The Gospel of Jesus. We must wield this weapon with love and gentleness, not with frustration and force, and let the Holy Spirit blow as it may. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night – the darkness – and heard from the Light of the World. Let us, too, hear from the Light of the world…


To God be the glory as I fine tune this message. May the light of Jesus transform and lead us into the darkness.

A Prayer about Prayer

The following prayer was inspired by the sermon I prepared for today on James 5:13-20. The video of the sermon should be posted within a couple days at http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com. To God be the glory.


Holy God, You command us to pray, not in order to satisfy some narcissistic desire of Yours, but that Your glory would be be proclaimed through us. But we too often limit our interaction with You and thus we miss those holy moments. We procrastinate our prayers to a more convenient and safe time. We utter idle pastoral care type words in order to satisfy some Christian obligation to pray for one another. We miss moments of ministry because of our fear of failure. Give us faith and courage, oh God, to make much of You through unceasing prayer with one another. Open our eyes that we may see Your glory manifest itself in the everydayness of our lives. May we not miss a single moment to pray with and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. To You be all glory, honor, praise and worship through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Wherever You Are

The following poem to dedicated to a mystery woman and her child. I don’t know who she is, but she showed up at our church door recently. Our Ring doorbell caught the encounter as she left a note. When I finally saw the footage, she was gone. The note was a series of prayer requests about her son and some stuff about her family. She left no name or contact information so I have no way to follow up with her. All I can do is pray and I invite you to do the same. I can’t tell you much but that’s alright – God knows her and I pray that she knows that as well.

And so, as I think about this woman and her son – praying for them – God placed this poem on my heart. I dedicate this to her and to the glory of God.


I don’t know where you are.
I don’t know where you’ve been.
And you may never, ever come this way again.
Miles may separate us.
Circumstances may keep us apart,
But know that you are never, ever far from my heart.
You seem to be in such pain.
Lost with no where to turn.
Oh how I wish you would someday return.
God brought you to our door.
He lead you by the hand.
Oh how I want you to know His love firsthand.
I know you may never read this.
But this is what I am feeling.
I will pray that God will grant you necessary healing.
So wherever you are.
And wherever you go.
I pray that its the peace of Christ you will someday know.

Sing People, Sing…

Just in case you need another reason to praise and worship God, I thought I would offer this. God painted this scene this morning behind our church building and I just had to share this. To God be the glory!


It is right, oh God and it is our joy to give You thanks and praise at all times and in all places – to limit our praise and thanks to a single moment in time is impossible. Therefore, we offer our worship in every moment and with our very lives. For You give us peace through holding all our tomorrows. You give us Life through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son. You give us love for You are love. And so, it is our great pleasure to join with the church on earth and the hosts of heaven in singing Your unending praise…

Sing people, sing…

Never Over

The following is the article I submitted to The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) for Saturday, Dec 21. To God be the glory.


In a couple more days it will be Christmas. It is what we have been waiting for since sometime before Thanksgiving. Decorations slowly were slipped into department stores around Halloween and Christmas aisles were set up. As Black Friday inched closer, Christmas ads ramped up and then – BAM! – we finished our Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas unofficially started. The mayhem of shopping, decorating homes, planning parties, rehearsing for Christmas programs and baking all those delicious goodies commenced. The hustle and bustle of the season has worn many people down, yet, at least for me, it has been a good tired. The calendar may say that Christmas is almost over but know this – It is NEVER over.

Once the family Christmas gatherings end, the cleanup begins. Lights around town slowly come down and there is almost a depressing quality to the whole process. The festival atmosphere slowly gives way to the dreariness of winter. The Christmas music ends. The bright Christmas cheer fades. Life returns to a sense of normalcy. But why does this have to happen?

Yes, I understand the lights and decorations coming down but why end the Christmas cheer? Why the embracing of the winter doldrums? Christmas is not a secular holiday that shows up on the calendar. It is not just an excuse for an extended family vacation. Christmas is the Good News of a Savior being born for you and for me. Christmas is the love of God blasting its way into the world through the humblest of means. Christmas in a word: JESUS. And let me tell you something, Jesus NEVER ends.

For centuries, Jews were waiting for a Messiah to come. Isaiah, Malachi and other prophets foretold his arrival. John the Baptist appeared and prepared the way of the Lord. Then Jesus appeared in a big way. He performed miracle after miracle but most notably, Jesus was crucified and then rose from the dead for the forgiveness of sins – your sins. Jesus now reigns and lives forever, and since that is the case, how can we say Christmas ends? Christmas does not end, just the decorations, music and presents. The Spirit of Christmas, however, is year-round and the Good News of Christmas is eternal.

I encourage you this Christmas to find a church that faithfully proclaims this Good News – the Word of God – for the true joy of Christmas is only found through the Love that came down at Christmas time. The true joy of Christmas is only found in Jesus. Don’t get caught up in all the secular hype but get caught up in the Holy Spirit through faithful preaching of the Word. With that, I invite you to check out Living Word this Christmas (see the accompanying ad). If that doesn’t work for you then stop by our website and you can watch/listen to the sermons.

May the joy of the Christ child fill you with peace this Christmas season and beyond. To God be the glory, always and forever. Amen.

The Pillar of Cloud Has Lifted

On Sunday, December 8, the congregation that I serve – Living Word Lutheran Church – held it’s final worship service in a space that we have rented for nearly 10 year. On Sunday, December 15, we begin a new chapter of worship and ministry in our newly purchased building. It was a bitter sweet day for us but we are excited to see what God is going to do through us. And so, as we closed worship on Sunday, I led the congregation in the following prayer/blessing/benediction that I wrote for the occasion. To God be the glory!


Psalm 122:1 (ESV) ~ I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

For nearly 10 years, Living Word has been echoing that sentiment – joyfully coming into this building to worship God our Father through Christ Jesus our Lord. This has been our house of the Lord – our place of worship. Joyfully we came here to hear the Word of God. Among other things: baptisms were done to the glory of God, men and women were joined together in marriage, people confirmed their faith, families and friends mourned – with hope – the death of loved ones. We enjoyed meals together, watched our children present the Christmas story, we met together to discuss and debate issues but always with respect and we gifted the community with the Living Last Supper a number of times. So many memories with much laughter and tears. This place has meant a lot to so many people. And even though we are excited to begin this next chapter of our lives in Graham, we sadly say goodbye to nearly 10 years together in this house of the Lord. We’ve been glad to enter here, but now we are glad to enter a new house next week. Please join me as we pray and bless this place:

Holy and awesome God, ten years ago, this congregation embarked on an unknown adventure of faith. Faithful men and women followed You into a brand-new mission field. Very quickly You gifted this congregation with this place to worship. For that we thank and praise You. Now You have said it is time to move and thus we follow You boldly and faithfully. Whatever congregation moves in here next; may You bless them mightily as You have blessed us. Bless their pastors and leaders. Bless their ministry. Oh God, we give You thanks for the many Meridian Habitat staff people that have hosted us over the years. Bless the staff that work here as they serve as hosts to others. Thank You for the opportunity to get to know them. And now, oh God, I ask that Your Spirit continue to move in this place as it has moved among us for 10 years. Yes, this is a secular building and location, but it has been holy ground for us. Thank You, God, for the memories here and the memories yet to be formed in Graham. And now, as the pillar of cloud lifts from this holy place this day, we pack up and follow You. Bless our journey, as You have done for 10 years, that You and You alone are glorified. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray, Amen.

And now, for the final time in this place, receive this Benediction:

As a pillar of cloud and fire led the Israelites by day and night through the wilderness without fail, may the Holy Spirit guide and bless you in through your wilderness. As their resources and strength never failed know that God will never fail you. As God fought for them, know that God fights for you. As God brought them into the Promised Land, know that through faith in Jesus Christ, you will enter His Promised Kingdom. As God remained faithful to them, Go in peace knowing God will always be faithful to you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Adventing Explained

The following is an article I submitted for The News Tribune of Tacoma for Saturday, December 7. The topic is something I introduced recently in a poem titled, “Adventing” ~ a new word that I have created. Here it is explained.


There are times when I do things that cause my wife to roll her eyes at me. I won’t bore you with the list, but I will share with you one such eyerolling moment. This past Sunday I coined a brand-new word: Adventing. Before you start rolling your eyes at me as well, allow me to define and explain my new word. Adventing is an active and hopeful waiting for the One (Jesus Christ) who has given true hope. You see, Last Sunday, December 1, the season of Advent began. It is a church season that takes place during the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a season of preparation and anticipation. It is a season of hope, peace, joy and love – all of which are found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Yet, for many, this is a season that takes on a flavor that is anything but Jesus as the god of materialism is hoisted high for all to see and worship. It reminds me of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3 who made an image of gold and demanded that the people worship it when the music played. Three defied the order: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were exiled and carried off to Babylon from Israel. They refused to worship this image of gold because God almighty was their God. Their defiance raised the ire of the king and they were thrown into the fiery furnace – in which God saved them. Today, retailers raise this “image of gold” but need not make any demands. People are more than willing to worship and offer their sacrifices to this false god. Their places of worship are the malls and retail stores. Some hide their idolatry through online shopping. Whatever the case, many seek hope, peace, joy and love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. Their active and hopeful waiting are for things and people that only fulfill their hope, peace, joy and love for a moment.

Jesus is different. He is God’s promise from all the way back to Genesis 3. Immediately following the Fall and before God confronted Adam and Eve with their curse, God cursed the serpent in verse 15. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” That is the first proclamation of the Gospel. This is talking about Jesus, through whom we are reconciled to God. He was born, died on a cross and then rose from the grave for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus crushed Satan’s head as he was bruised through his death. And now, through faith, we wait for Jesus to return to bring believers home – back to the Garden where it all began – and this time forever.

Today, Adventing is living your faith in Jesus out loud for all to see in hopeful expectation that Jesus is coming again. Not hoping as in wishing for something, but confidence because if God promises something, it will happen. May your Adventing be for the right person – Jesus Christ – for he alone has been raised up for all to see. To God be the glory. Amen.


[I have the privilege of submitting articles for The News Tribune the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. To God be the glory!]

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.