One In Christ

The following is the article I wrote for publication in The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, May 16. To God be the glory!


I am beginning to become unsettled by something I am starting to see develop in this country. Recently, in the state of Washington, the governor has announced increased capacity for venues that have “vaccinated sections”. People would have to provide proof of vaccination. This is just the beginning of those vaccination passports about which we have been hearing. People would be divided – vaccinated people versus “those people” over there. It is a disturbing move as we begin to label people and, dare I say, segregate them. I understand (or at least I think I do) the spirit of this move. Many people are hesitant about these vaccinations because of how quickly they were developed, and our leaders want to encourage more people to get vaccinated in the interest of public health. There is also a sense of urgency to open things up since we are all very tired of the restrictions. But I also see a very slippery and scary slope when systemic separation of people is normalized in such a fashion. Are we really okay with this? Will people openly and wantonly accept this? How should Christians feel about this?

That final question is what I have been pondering recently. As a Christian, no matter your feelings on returning to some sense of normalcy, separating people like this should bother you. It should bother you because it is not biblical. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are united together in the true vine (John 15:1-17). And then we have the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:27-28, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, there is neither vaccinate nor nonvaccinated, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. I fear there will be churches that will adopt this worldly mentality and create “vaccinated sections”. May that never happen. Even now in this world, may wiser heads prevail and not try to lead us down the segregation highway. Yes, returning to normalcy is desirable, but separating, labeling, and shunning people for not getting vaccinated is not the answer. How can we call ourselves the “United” States if we are not united? I am not suggesting that we are united now, but systemic labeling of people is not going to help. But even more than this little word in the name of our country, in Christ we are united forever.

In Christ, you are simply labeled a redeemed sinner and crowned with the title, ”Child of God”. There is no hierarchy of sinners. There are no levels of “children of God”. We are one in the Spirit; we are members of the same body; we are children of the same God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Politics aside, let us come together and remain united as Christians as a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the oneness that we share in Him. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Connected

Good morning! This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it 🙂

Below is the article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for this morning. To God be the glory!


What is your typical impulse when you see a pretty flower? The impulse for some is to either smell it or pick the flower. The reason behind this impulse is generally because of the beauty of the flower and the desire to maintain closeness with that beauty. My children, my daughter especially, loves to pick flowers (weeds) and give them to Mommy. Every once in a while I will get some but Mommy gets more because she usually responds better than I do. That aside, when you pick flowers (weeds), if you want to preserve them you must put them in water relatively soon, and so that is what Mommy does. Rarely a day goes by that we do not have a Dixie cup of dandelions or some other “flower” in our kitchen. And we all know what will eventually happen, right? In a day or so the “flower” begins to wilt and eventually dies. Actually, the dying process began as soon as the flower was picked. But the one who disconnects the flower from the vine does not or refuses to see this because it is the beauty, now, that they want.

In the Gospel text for today from John 15:1-8, Jesus reveals himself to be the “true vine”. He goes on to proclaim that to abide in the vine is something that happens through the spoken word. It is all grace. He follows this with a call to continue to abide in him that you may bear fruit that glorifies God. All of this to say: Stay connected to Jesus. It is one thing to say, “I am a Christian” but a completely different thing to live a Christian life day in and day out. But living a Christian life is not just doing “Christian things” and saying, “Christian stuff”. Living a Christian life is living a life worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). You do this by staying connected to Jesus. But pastor, what does “staying connected to Jesus” look like? [That is a great question. I am so glad you asked.] Staying connected to Jesus is living in an active relationship with him. It is staying in constant prayer. It is living with his words in your heart. Not just memorizing scripture but knowing it and what it means for your salvation. Living a life worthy of the Gospel is living in union with Jesus, a life given, empowered and sustained by God Himself.

Living a life worthy of the Gospel – staying connected to the true vine – is a gift of God. Without God’s grace and His strength, we would, no doubt, pluck ourselves from the vine and try to water our own so-called beauty. And without Jesus, you will die in your sins. Without Jesus you cannot glorify God. Outside the vine, any so-called beauty will die. It is only in Jesus that you are, and will be, sustained forever.

So, abide in Jesus, now and always. Abide in him and give glory to God. Abide in Jesus and live. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Dead Things

The following is my article that was published today in The News Tribune (Tacoma). It is actually an article I initially wrote in 2013 (revised a little bit now) that still holds true for today. To God be the glory!


In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee,
[Luke 24:5-6]

I have always been captivated by those words; “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” It is because this is the way of things in the world and it saddens me. I am not passing judgment on others because, if we are honest with ourselves, then we have to admit that we are included in this question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” It’s the way of sin; looking for something that you feel will give you life when all the while we are looking among the dead where there is no life. Sin deceives us into thinking we can find life among dead things, but if we open our eyes we will realize that this is like looking for the living in the midst of a cold, dark, tomb.

In the case of the women in the text above, they were looking for a dead body, but deep down inside they were looking for something/someone who was alive (they just didn’t know exactly what or who they were looking for). The question by the angel is meant to reorient their thinking to look for Jesus elsewhere and to remind them that what Jesus said he would do, he did: Rise from the dead. The living Jesus is not found in a tomb. Jesus is alive!

I think about this and I wonder if this is more of a commentary on our own lives. Whether we admit it or not, we are looking for the living among dead things. In the act of sinning we are looking for that which makes us feel alive, happy, satisfied and fulfilled. And when we do not find what we are looking for or when the good feelings fade, we keep on sinning; keep on looking; and keep on finding “dead things”. But in Jesus there is life. In Jesus there is joy. In Jesus there is a future. In Jesus there is hope.

In what “dead things” are you looking for life?
In what “dead things” are you looking for happiness?
In what “dead things” are you looking for fulfillment?

Look to Jesus and see your life unfold. Seek him in scripture. Seek him in prayer. Seek him in worship. Seek him with your whole life. But as you seek know that we seek not because Jesus is hiding, but we seek him as a way of turning away from the “dead things” of this world that can only promise death. Seek Jesus not as a destination in this life, but as a journey through this wasteland of death. Seek Jesus as a way of life with the hope of everlasting life waiting for you on the other side of death. Seek the Living. Seek your Hope. Jesus Is Risen! He has Risen Indeed! Alleluia and Amen!

Yes, Jesus Died For You, O Sinner

The following is my article that was published in The News Tribune (Tacoma) yesterday (Easter Sunday). To God be the glory!


He has RISEN! He has RISEN indeed! ALLELUIA!

Yes, Jesus has risen, and he reigns on high with the Father. Jesus, though crucified, rose and defeated death and thus gave all believers the hope of the resurrection to eternal life. And Jesus did this because you needed to be reconciled to the Father.

From the prophet Isaiah, the 53rd chapter…
Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This prophecy from Isaiah, written about 700 years before Jesus, foretells Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners. Jesus was pierced. Jesus was crushed. Jesus died as God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Yes, you are a sinner. Like sheep, you have and continue to go astray. Like sheep, when given the chance, you turn to your own way. And, like sheep, you are defenseless against the wolf – Satan.

You may think you are fine. You may think you are faithful. You may even think that at the very least you are not as bad as some other people out there. This Easter thing is just a tradition you do that includes the pastor preaching the same ole message about Jesus rising from the grave. But let me tell you something – there is much more to Easter than that. In fact, you are worse than you think. I love the quote from one of my favorite pastor/theologians – Charles Spurgeon – that says, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

Peter thought he was a faithful follower of Jesus and would even die for him. But of course, Jesus knew better. From Mark 14:27-31…
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

The fact was, Peter was not faithful. He denied Jesus three times as Jesus said. And neither are you faithful. You deny/sin at least three times before the rooster crows. Yes, you. You are a sinner, but praise be to God, that Jesus is faithful and that YES, he even died and rose for you. No amount of sin will ever drive Jesus away from you. And so, say it with me: Jesus is RISEN! He has RISEN indeed — for me. ALLELUIA and Amen!

In the Moment

Below is my article for The News Tribune (Tacoma) that was published today. To God be the glory!


Are you one of those people who live in the moment, or are you one who worries about what is/may be coming down the road? I often find myself looking ahead much of the time. As a pastor, I am trying to be in the moment during this busy Lenten season, but I also find myself living in Holy Week and Easter, which is still a couple weeks away. Sure, we have to plan for the future, but there is a fine line between planning for the future and living in a future moment; worrying about what may or may not happen. During this pandemic – O great, there he goes talking about this pandemic again – sorry, I am not trying to beat a dead horse here. I really do have a point. During this pandemic I found myself living in the future a lot of the time, looking forward to a time when I did not have to worry about getting sick or someone else getting sick. I mean, seriously, will that time ever come? If that be the case, I would be living in a fantasy world, wasting these current moments.

So this morning while driving to my office the song, Keep Me in the Moment, by Jeremy Camp was playing on my radio. It is a song I have heard dozens of times, but it affected differently today. Here is the chorus that captured my attention:

Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me

It is here in this moment that God is working in your life. God knows all of your tomorrows and thus all of those tomorrows are firmly in His hands. It is not for you to obsess about those moments, but rather to trust and follow where God is leading in this moment. Matthew 6:33-34 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Isn’t it a relief that you do not have to live in a future moment, trying to protect a desired outcome? Your desired future moment may just be a fantasy; thus if you obsess about it, you will miss real life ministry that needs to be done in this moment. But with our sovereign God, you can leave all your moments in His mighty hands. And with those moments being in His hands you are free to “live with your eyes wide open”, not missing what God is doing in the here and now to bring you to HIS desired moment.

And so I pray: O Lord, keep me in the moment. Help me live with my eyes wide open. Help me to see you in the here and now that I may glorify You in this moment. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Faithful God

Below is the article I submitted for publication at The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday. To God be the glory!


Do you remember what life was like one year ago today? Businesses were open at full capacity. Students were learning in a physical classroom and not through a computer screen. We did not have to decide which face mask to wear today. Socially distancing from people was considered rude. Grandpa and grandma did not have to be isolated from the world. The toilet paper aisle in the grocery store was always fully stocked. And the word “pandemic” was associated with the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Just think, a year ago today we knew little about COVID-19 except that there something was out there making people sick. There were no pandemic restrictions and life was moving along smoothly. But within a couple weeks, everything changed as life seemed to come to a screeching halt. We may never be the same again, but maybe that is okay. Maybe things needed to change. But whatever the case, one thing is certain, God has been and always will be faithful.

As I look back on this past year, I see a God who continued to provide for His Church. I see a Church that adapted to circumstances, took advantages of opportunities, and continued to be the Church. I see a Church that was never shut down despite the narrative that the world tells. I see a God who has made us stronger. Many of you have been drawn closer to our Father in heaven. Many of you have developed a deeper faith in Him. Some have drifted away. Some are angry or questioning God. And many are even mocking Christians for continuing to cling to God amid this pandemic.

Yes, life has changed; it has changed a lot of things and people. Just like how 9/11 changed air travel forever, the COVID-19 pandemic will change how we interact with people and/or how we deal with the next virus that comes along. But never forget, through it all, God has been glorified, but that still does not mean we quit praying. Pray, pray, and pray some more that this pandemic ends. But more than that, pray, pray, and pray some more that people come to know God through Jesus Christ. That is why we are here and that is why God has been faithful. Nothing can stop God from advancing His will and purposes. Nothing can shut down the Church. Nothing can destroy the Body of Christ.

One year ago life was different, but that can be said about any time in history. Therefore we take the good with the bad and continue to praise God for His faithfulness. Hang in there! This world is indeed coming to an end, but God’s Kingdom lasts forever. Cling to the truth, that promise, that certainty. And in one year, let’s chat about this again and see where we are. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Sunday Newspaper Article ~ Kindness and Honesty

The following is my Sunday article for The News Tribune (Tacoma). To God be the glory!


Has our culture become so unaccustomed to kindness and honesty that when we see or experience it, we have no idea how to respond or what to make of it? Allow me to share with you a case in point.

On Tuesday night my Dad called me to share a story about something he experienced recently. He went to a grocery store in Sun City West, AZ; one that he and my Mom frequent. There was an item on sale that he liked so he decided to get a couple of them along with a couple other items they needed – four items in total. The checkout person rang them up, my Dad paid for them and he went home. After arriving at home, he was looking at the receipt and noticed that only three of the items were rung up. This did not sit well with him. So, a couple days later he was back at that same grocery store, this time standing in line at Customer Service with that incomplete receipt. Normally people go to Customer Service to return/exchange an item or complain about something. I am sure there are other things but those seem to me to be the most popular. After standing in line for just over 30 minutes, my Dad handed his receipt to the gentleman behind the counter and explained the problem. The man looked confused at which time my Dad asked, “You haven’t seen this a whole lot, have you?” The man replied, “I have never seen this”. Soon, the man’s co-worker, came over and asked if there was a problem. My Dad proceeded to explain, again, the problem. The young lady also looked confused. The two customer service agents then proceeded to discuss this among themselves. The man behind the counter soon returned to my Dad and handed the receipt back saying, “Thank you for your honesty, but we don’t know how to handle this so here you go. You can go home.” A little dumbfounded, my Dad left. They would not take his money.

I thanked my Dad for the story but later started thinking about it and I became troubled. Was it really that hard to ring that item up and collect that money from my Dad? Really, they have never seen this kind of honesty before? I see a lot of unkindness across social media and in the news as they portray the dealings with our government. It appears kindness and honesty are just words we throw around and lecture people about, but when it comes to actually putting those words into practice, people are confused when they see it. What if kindness and honesty was not rare? As a follower of Jesus there are times I drop the ball on showing kindness. That receipt of my Dad’s? That has happened to me and I did not return to the store. God, help me be more like Jesus. Help me show kindness and honesty in all situations, so much so, that a ripple effect is started that makes kindness and honest no longer a rare sight. Oh God, help me to glorify you, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Never Done

Good morning and Happy New Year 🙂

It is that time – my Sunday article for The News Tribune (Tacoma) is due to be published this morning, so that is what you will see below. To God be the glory!


Merry 10th day of Christmas (on this 3rd day of January) and Happy New Year. I hope and pray that you had a wonderful Christmas, even amid this pandemic, and I also hope and pray that your 2021 will be filled with joy and peace; a joy and peace that only comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. But let us get back to Christmas, because it is still Christmas, at least for my family and me.

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me — I am just kidding — I am not going to sing. On the 4th day of Christmas (December 28) my wife and I finally got the kids away from their toys and went for a drive to look at Christmas lights. Normally at this time, we are in the Midwest and in Arizona celebrating Christmas with our families. This year, due to the pandemic, we had to stay home but decided we would make the most of it. Our HOA and many neighborhoods around us had such wonderful Christmas light displays. So, during the time before Christmas, we spent many nights going for family walks to enjoy the lights. Now we thought we could enjoy these lights even longer.

As we toured our HOA we quickly noticed how dark it looked. Many homes had already taken down their lights or just did not turn them on. Some houses that had a Christmas tree prominently displayed in their front window had taken those down as well. We continued driving and only found a small sampling of Christmas lights. We went to another neighborhood and found the same thing. Some of our favorite displays were gone for the year. It almost felt like someone was trying to rip Christmas from our hands. For us, the festive lights were a reprieve from our pandemic-filled world. Now, it felt like darkness was trying to regain its grip. I did not like the feeling and neither did my wife. When we returned home, we noticed that half of our lights on our house were not on. “What is going on?” we thought. Thankfully, it was an easy fix and now our home is lit up again, and it will stay lit up through January 5 (the 12th day of Christmas).

Yes, the day on our calendars labeled “Christmas Day” has now passed, but Christmas is never done. The promises are not something you pack away. The light that came on that first Christmas cannot be extinguished. And more importantly, the darkness will never, ever regain its grip, for the light of the world, Jesus, has defeated the darkness and reigns on high.

Yes, the day will come when I will turn off my lights and pack them away. Our tree will come down and the decorations will be neatly stowed in their tubs. But Jesus lives and so will I. Jesus lives, and so you can too. Christmas is not over. It is never, ever over. So, I am keeping the Christmas lights on and the tree up, but more importantly I will cling to Jesus – lights or no lights. Merry Christmas, today and always. Amen.

Where Are You Christmas?

The following is my Sunday article for The News Tribune (Tacoma). This one definitely hit close to home as I reflect on Christmas and how the pandemic has changed things this year. To God be the glory!


I am beginning to accept the reality that Christmas will be different this year. I think part of the issue was that I was living in a state of denial. Can you relate to that? But I was snapped out of my fantasy world the other day, when my wife started menu planning for Christmas for just the four of us. “What?!? Wait a second, we do not menu plan for Christmas, we are supposed to be packing.” You see, normally we would be preparing for our two-week Christmas break that would take us to the Midwest (Minnesota and South Dakota), Arizona and then back here to Western Washington. It is the “Christmas triangle”, as we affectionately call it. It was quite a trip as we had to book a total of four flights to complete our family adventure. Now, we are menu planning which just does not seem right. And then this morning, I heard on the radio the song, “Where are you Christmas?” This is how it begins: “Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter, you used to bring me? Why can’t I hear music play? My world is changing. I’m rearranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too? Where are you Christmas? Do you remember, the one you used to know? I’m not the same one. See what the time’s done. Is that why you have let me go?”

That song begins with a harsh reality as Christmas will be upon us soon. And with the arrival of Christmas, another holy day celebration in the midst of a restrictive pandemic. Maybe you, too, are asking “Where are you Christmas?” So much has been taken away from us this year: Families having to settle for virtual gatherings, loved ones being isolated for their safety, church traditions being altered, and so much more. A vaccine is on the way, but the end is still a ways off. I almost do not remember what life was like before the pandemic. But with all the lamenting about what we do not have or cannot do, there is one constant that will never, ever change: God’s love for you through Jesus Christ. That is what Christmas is all about and that is something the pandemic cannot take away. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – and forever.

Christmas has not gone anywhere. Christmas is here, every day and always. The promise of Christmas belongs to God and He has given it to you through Jesus Christ. As the song ends, “Oh, I feel you Christmas. I know I’ve found you. You never fade away, oh, The joy of Christmas, Stays here inside us, Fills each and every heart with love. Where are you Christmas? Fill your heart with love.” Cling to that truth – the truth that the promises of Christmas, through Jesus Christ, are for you every single day, pandemic or no pandemic. My friends, God loves you. Where are you Christmas? You are right here, always and forever. Merry Christmas everyone and Amen.

Advent Focus

The following is my Sunday article I wrote for The News Tribune of Tacoma for today, Dec. 6. To God be the glory!


The season of Advent is upon us. No, this is not some calendar countdown to the big “party” on December 25th when presents are exchanged, families gather, and vacations begin. This is a season of preparation as we anxiously await the coming of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was born in humble means in a dingy manger stall, but Jesus is coming again. You see, he lived upon this earth as a man. He proclaimed the Good News of God’s forgiveness, which drew the ire of the religious authorities of the day. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem even though he knew what waited for him there – a cross. He was arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, mocked, spit upon, suffered, was crucified and died. And you know what? He did this all for you. That is right, the Son of God, emptied and humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2). Jesus came the first time to proclaim God’s plan of reconciliation. Jesus is coming a second time to fulfill the plan.

We so easily get distracted from the reason for the season and probably even more so this year. The pandemic has changed many plans. If you are like me, you are still trying to figure out what Christmas will look like. We are dealing with the very real possibility that we will not be traveling back to the Midwest to spend time with family this year. It was hard enough over Thanksgiving, but now Christmas. The virus does not honor that which we hold dear and sacred. And so, you can handle this in one of two ways. You can either focus your attention on the negative, or you can keep your eyes on the true meaning of the season. Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to minimize anyone’s feelings of loss, sadness, loneliness, anger or whatever you are feeling now. But we do not need to let those feelings control or define us. The virus may have taken away Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions this year, but it can not take away Jesus. Read that sentence again:

The virus may have taken away Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions this year, but it cannot take away Jesus.

Why focus and that which is not here? Focus on what is always here: God’s steadfast love for you through Jesus Christ. The birth of Jesus is not just some amazing miracle we sing about in Christmas carols or put on display in our front yards, but rather, it is God’s plan of reconciliation being manifested. In a way, it is the beginning of the end. God began His plan in Genesis after sin entered the world and now Jesus is coming to complete God’s plan. And that right there is our hope. Focus on that. Think on Jesus. Keep your eyes on him. For no virus, government or health agency can shut down the coming of Jesus. So, Merry Advent everyone and praise be to God. Amen.