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.