The King Reigns

The following is the article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, November 15. To God be the glory!


The votes are in. Everything has been tabulated. A winner is clear and therefore I am going to call it: Jesus is still King and always will be. Did you think I was going all political on you? Do not worry, I am not going to leave my Lord and Savior, the King of creation. I want Him to reign over my life. I want Jesus to be my Shepherd. I want my life in the hands of the Almighty. Any other person, political party, organization, or group is just a sinful group of people who have no ability (or desire) to see the big picture. My awesome God is the creator of the big picture. Actually, He IS the big picture. Can I get an Amen?

But people have always, and continue to, desire worldly leaders to govern them. In 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel demanded that Samuel appoint a king to rule over them. Interestingly, the people were concerned that Samuel’s sons, who would succeed him as judge over Israel, were corrupt. So, instead of Samuel’s corrupt sons, they wanted a sinful man to rule over them; one who would have even more power. And isn’t that what people want today? We see it every election cycle. People make demands for so and so to rule over them; thinking that everything will be better. And like Samuel warning the people what a king will do, we reject all the warnings and place all our hopes in that person(s).

Samuel was displeased with the people’s demand, but God reassured Samuel that they were not rejecting him, rather they were rejecting God as their King. And that right there is the issue: The rejection of God as King. So many people have placed their hopes in secular rulers. Their happiness rises and falls with them. We saw this when our current president was inaugurated in 2017 and we are seeing it again now in how many are reacting to the outcome of this election. “We want our ‘king’ and thus we will fight for him.” Jesus said to Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. If it were, his followers would be fighting to save him. And that should be the reminder that slaps all Christians in the face — we serve a King whose Kingdom is not of this world. We do not have to fight for His Kingdom. God has already won the war through the death and resurrection of Jesus, His Son. His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are a child of God and thus are under His mighty and everlasting rule. Secular leaders come and go, but Jesus is forever. Do not reject him, but be at peace with God as your King.

You may not like who was elected president or the party that rules the Congress. You may not like who sits on the Supreme Court or any other court for that matter. But one thing is for sure: Jesus reigns and through faith in him, he will never reject you. Take joy in the fact that God reigns as King now and forevermore. Amen.

New Normal

The following is the Sunday article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for October 18. To God be the glory!


I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying this year as I know many of you have. This pandemic has dragged on for a long time and, if you are like me, you are getting anxious. You want things the way they were. You are tired of worshiping in a parking lot or online. You miss the sanctuary of your church building. You miss your brothers and sisters in Christ. And I totally get it. But have I come to a realization that may not be too popular with many.

No, I am not going to advocate that we maintain the status quo indefinitely (you can breathe a sigh of relief now). What I want to do is encourage you to pray unselfishly and consider things that maybe you have not considered before. What do I mean? I have been hearing this phrase a lot, but just recently it has caught my attention anew, “I am looking forward to getting back to normal”. And, as I thought about that phrase, God placed this question on my heart:

Have you considered that I am preparing you for a new normal; something you have never even imagined?

I have thought about that in the past, but it never got more than a passing glance; nothing worthy of a full-scaled article like this. So, I asked God, “For what are you preparing us? What does this new normal look like?” Of course, God did not give me a direct answer – He rarely does. But what God did do is give me a series of questions to pray about, and thus I commend them to you:

(1) What if God does not want us to return to “normal”?
(2) What if God has been using this pandemic to completely break what we have been doing in order to create something new?
(3) What if God is using this time to redirect our attention; to hone our vision so it is 20/20 vision on Him? (See what I did there with the “20/20”?)

I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that the Church will never, ever be the same again. We just cannot return to our old “normal”. To do so, we would miss a golden opportunity to glorify Him. I believe that God has been beautifully remolding and reshaping us. Yet, many are afraid of the new. Brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of going full steam ahead in trying to return to “normal”, let us go full steam ahead and pray. Pray, pray and pray some more, and do not be afraid. Pray for the faith, courage and strength to do whatever it is for which God is preparing you. May we not have tunnel vision that is fixated on our comfort zone and “normal” but rather 20/20 vision on our awesome God through Christ Jesus our Lord. He is in control. He reigns and He is sovereign. It is okay to trust Him. He has never let you down and He never will. Let us boldly go into whatever new normal God has for us. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Sermon Teaser ~ Know Him

The following is the opening paragraph of the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, October 18 on Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents). To God be the glory!


Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, is faithful and true. Jesus Christ, King if kings, reigns on high; one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, the Son of God died for your sins and washed you clean in his blood. Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, is coming to retrieve his bride, the Church. He is faithful and he will do it. To know Jesus is to be in awe of his majesty. To know Jesus is to live in expectation of his glorious return. To know Jesus is to live in freedom and without fear. To know Jesus is to know Life eternal. So do not just know about Jesus, but know him; and live in union with him and justified in God’s eyes. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who reigns forever and ever, let us pray…


[To see the complete sermon, go to YouTube and search for, “Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA”. It will go live at 9:45 AM (Pacific) and will be saved on the channel]

Trust

Trust is an essential building block for every healthy relationship. It is what makes the world go around. Without trust, marriages are not fruitful – if they last at all; friendships are shallow; life in community is lonely; children do not feel safe, and life in general becomes combative and competitive where the survival of the fittest is the rule. Trust must be earned. Often, earning trust can be a long process, but losing trust is swift. Trust is also an act of love. My children trust that when they go downstairs in the morning, I will feed them. My children trust that when they are scared, I will comfort them. My children trust that when they get hurt, I will put a band-aid on their wound (blood or no blood). My children trust me and thus I will do everything in my power to ensure they will always trust me, otherwise, they will not feel safe. You see, I want my children to feel safe and comfortable talking to me about anything. And that is the life we want in community – one of trust – but sadly, trust is lacking in many communities. Elected leaders have let people down over and over. Parents have violated the trust of their children through abuse. Husbands and wives have violated trust with each other through infidelity. Clergy have violated trust with congregations through misconduct. Many people have become jaded and thus the chaos and disharmony we are seeing in the world today. If only someone would step up, someone who we can trust, someone who can heal our wounds and bring people together.

Someone has stepped up and his name is Jesus.

God has never failed to follow through with any of His promises. God has never done anything to violate trust. God has never been unfaithful. God has always been there. Throughout scripture God promised to restore creation. Starting in Genesis 3 following the fall of man, God promised to send a Savior to defeat Satan once and for all. As you march through scripture, you see time and again, God following through. Ultimately, God proved His love and faithfulness through Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and rose from the dead to give forgiveness of sins and thus peace with God. You see, even though you are a sinner, God followed through on His promises. Even though you break promises with God, God never deserts you. Even though you are unfaithful, God remains faithful.

You will never find perfect community in this world. But through Jesus Christ, you have a God who perfectly loves you. And that is something you can trust, even in the midst of chaos, illness, sadness and death. You can trust that He is near. You can trust that He hears you. You can trust that you are His. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) This is a sure and certain promise, one you can trust. Amen.

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…