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.

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.