<![CDATA[Our Savior Lutheran Church - OSLC Blog]]>Thu, 26 Nov 2020 14:37:55 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[November 25th, 2020]]>Thu, 26 Nov 2020 03:21:36 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/november-25th-2020In the spirit of Thanksgiving, my friend and teammate, Dereem Hoff describes "having an attitude of gratitude". Check it out in this video.
Well - with thanksgiving now behind us, it still might be difficult to have an attitude of gratitude because you might not be part of any large family gatherings this year, there is no doubt that God still gives us the best Christmas present, ever: a family as big as the number of stars in the sky (if you can count them).

God knows we need friendships. That's why we feel so empty when we can't physically be near each other, look in each others' eyes when we talk, or share tangible experiences with each other. Our friends, family, neighbors, and communities are God's gift to us. No matter who they are, where they're from, what they've done (or will do) - God has given us a family as many as the stars in the sky.

How do I know that? Because God has promised Abraham in Genesis 15:5: 
Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”​ You and I are part of that family. Your neighbor is part of that family. The people around you are part of that family. We are part of God's family not by human desire or effort, but on God's mercy (Romans 9:16).

So, here are two ways you can develop or continue investing in your habit of having an attitude of gratitude for the very large family God has given us.

  • Memorize a Bible Verse, each day! It can be the same verse everyday. Rooting ourselves in God's promises keeps our eyes on Him and the family He has placed around us.

  • Say, "thank you" every chance you get. Even if you aren't sure what specifically you're saying thanks for, let the thankfulness ooze, flow, and explode from your words and actions. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

This season, as many of us might be searching for the Christmas spirit, we are reminded that God, our Father, sends our brother Jesus into the world. Jesus is born like us. Jesus grows up like us. Jesus eats, breathes, and sleeps like us. Jesus experiences life, like us... so that in years like 2020 when we feel isolated, lonely, and not so joy-filled, we know that beyond a doubt we are never alone. Even though we may feel lonely, we can trust that the God of the universe never leaves us completely lonely. And, through Jesus, we never lack a family who  “gets” us.

Afterall, the reason we have family gatherings, exchange gifts, celebrate with food and singing, and carve out time to worship this holiday season is to love Jesus back because He first loved us.

​Love you. -pt
<![CDATA[Happy Thanksgiving!]]>Wed, 25 Nov 2020 17:31:28 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/happy-thanksgiving
<![CDATA[Give the Gift of Listening]]>Fri, 20 Nov 2020 06:19:15 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/give-the-gift-of-listeningHappy Thanksgiving! This year, I'm thankful that Jesus listens to me. What a gift to be thankful for!

Now, why am I thankful that Jesus listens to me? Well... probably because I can learn to listen a whole lot better than I do. After all, I think Toby Keith was right. Our lives and world today might need a little less talk and a lot more action. That is, if the action is active listening. Simply put, in a world filled with noise and where talking louder gets more attention than silence; listening can be a great gift you can give to somebody who desperately needs to be heard.

Recently, I reread Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I was reminded that listening is a foundational part of what it means to be Christian community - or oikos, family. Bonhoeffer writes, “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God's love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother and sister when we learn to listen to them.”

Here are three ways you can listen well.

Relax. Be in the moment.
I have personally found that I can be so focused on the next thing I need to do or say that I forget that God has me in this specific moment for His purpose. Eugene Peterson wrote in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, “From time to time, impatient with the slowness, I would try out ways of going about my work that promised quicker results. But after a while it always seemed to be more like meddling in these people's lives than helping them attend to God”. I have found that a great way to begin relaxing and being in the moment is to take a deep cleansing breath and remember that God gives me every second and this is what He has given me to do right now. Here we go.

Own what you hear.
It’s sometimes difficult to own what you hear, especially if you personally disagree with what you’re hearing. In college, I read Communication for Organizations by Dr. Dalmar Fisher. She points out that it’s hard to own what we hear because we tend to seek to fix, give advice, agree, or disagree with what we are hearing. With credit to Fisher, to own what I hear, I will sometimes repeat back what I hear the other person is saying in the emotional feeling that they said it. By doing this, I not only seek to understand what is being shared with me, I own the feeling with whom I am sharing the moment. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus is our high priest who empathizes with our weaknesses because he has been tempted in every way (Hebrew 4:15).

Trade your periods for question marks. Statements end conversations. Questions continue conversation. Jesus asked some of the best questions that kept the disciples talking (and Jesus listening!). According to Martin Copenhaver, the gospels record Jesus asking 307 questions. My guess is that Jesus asked a whole lot more - which means Jesus listened even more.

And because I’m generous, here’s a BONUS THOUGHT: Remember who and whose you are. God made you a listener. It’s who you are. You belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 3:23). I’ve been told that we’ve been given two ears and one mouth for this reason. Joking aside, we are listeners because Jesus first listened to us. When we were still dying and dead in our sins, Jesus came and died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus listened to the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus listened to Zacchaeus (Luke 19). I mean, how may times does the Psalmists cry out to God and God hears and listens? From being brokenhearted (Psalm 34) to burdened with sin (Psalm 51) to being scared stiff (Psalm 27), God hears us. God always makes the first move and listens to us.

So, this week, let’s be the ones to make the first move with the people God has strategically placed in our lives. Let's be the ones who give the gift of Jesus-like love and care as we listen to someone as we remember to also give thanks to God that Jesus first listened to us.

Love you!
<![CDATA[People and Relationships]]>Wed, 11 Nov 2020 19:53:09 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/people-and-relationshipsDo you know the feeling that you have when you know someone is thinking about you? It’s wonderful, isn’t it? And it’s very good news that as we move into a very different kind of holiday season, God is still thinking about us.

Why? Because people and relationships are God’s top priority. That’s what Thanksgiving and Christmas is all about - God and you… and me… and us, in relationship together. Because people matter to God.

So, people and relationships are our top priority, too - both with God and others.

This past week, we all saw case numbers rise and transmission and infection rates increase both nationally and here in Pierce County. As a larger church that is part of a much wider community and who carries influence with a variety of social sectors, we continue to choose what is both wise and safe while continuing our deep commitment to our mission.

First, continue praying for our ministry team.
This week, we have been considering ways to better gather in small, safe, and relational ways as we move into the holiday season and into 2021.

For three specific ways you can pray for our ministry team, watch my video here:
Second, consider your part.
Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands frequently. And, limit the number of people you gather with each week. These are simple ways to honor those who God has placed in authority over us for our own good and the benefit of the people around us.

Finally, commit to being a good neighbor.
The people you live with and around need you - and if we were honest, you need them. We need each other. God created us to be in community. So, write some encouraging words in a card. Kids - draw some pictures. Pick up an extra few flowers at the store. And then go visit the people who live right next door to you… down the street… across the road… or someone you frequently see - your doctor, your cashier, the person who brings your groceries out to your car. Give them the card, picture, flowers, or whatever. Or, just stand by their door - 6 ft away, and say, “hello. I just wanted to say hi and thank you for being my neighbor”. And, don’t forget to smile under your mask. That’s all. It’s that easy.

Don't know where to start or have history of difficult conversations with your neighbors? CLICK HERE for our "how to have a difficult conversation" resource.

And why would we want to continue to pray, consider our part, and commit to being a good neighbor? Because people and relationships are always our top priority - both with God and others. It’s how we can continue making disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus - right where we are.

​Love you more than you know. -t
<![CDATA[Expectations]]>Thu, 05 Nov 2020 23:47:23 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/expectations​We all have expectations. Some set high expectations while others would resonate with Alexander Pope who said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”. I think you would agree that no matter what our expectations were for this last year, none of us us would have expected what has turned out to be an extremely unusual 2020.

Interestingly enough, Jesus says very little about our expectations. Granted, at one point, Jesus says not to expect anything in return for loving others well (Luke 6:34-35). Another time, Jesus says to expect the unexpected when it comes to the end of the world (Luke 12:40-46). Other than that, as far as scripture would tell us, Jesus speaks very little about human expectations with the exception of the expectation of the coming of Messiah and what the Messiah was going to do.

When Jesus exploded onto the scene, people's expectations of where God was and what God was going to do next were quite high and looking back 2,000 years later, misplaced. No judgement - If I were living in those days, I would probably have had misplaced expectations of the Messiah, too.

John the Baptist was in prison and sent his friends to ask Jesus their shared burning question, "
Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? (Matthew 11:3). And, perhaps like us today, their expectations of life returning to whatever "normal" were not met. They were looking for hope toward a better future than their present circumstance. They were waiting for good news in a world of high anxiety and division. They were craving rescue from the uncertainty from a growing brutal Roman regime. They just wanted life to be "normal" again.

And, Jesus changed their expectations. Jesus - like He always does, looked at the people with love and changed them from the inside out. Jesus responded to their expectations: Look around. What do you see? Blind people, see. Lame people, walk. Sick people are made healthy. Deaf people, hear. Dead people, live. And, poor people have the same good news and access to the everything as rich people do. What more do you expect?

Jesus changes our expectations, as well. While we long for a sense of "normal", I sometimes find myself expecting Jesus to fix life right now. You might be able to relate. Many of us are searching for a  better future than our present coronavirus-reality. Some of us are waiting for a time when we can have a respite from working twice as hard for half the reward - both tangibly and intrinsically - or waiting to go back to work, period. Others of us are either rejoicing or grieving over this past week's election results (or uncertain results!).
 And if we're honest with ourselves - a little (or large) piece of us just wants life to be "normal" again.

And in all of our expectations - whatever they might be, Jesus sees you. Jesus looks at you. He looks at me. And with all of his love, He responds: Life might not be what you expected - but look around. What do you see? Adults, students, kids, and babies are being baptized. Young people are choosing to take their next steps in their faith. New people are joining Jesus' mission. People are praying with and for each other. Neighbors are being served. The least of these are being provided for. Children and grandchildren are re-engaging their relationship with Jesus. Dreams of families having more time to be together are coming alive. People are seemingly engaging in formal and informal faith conversations in their homes and among their friends. The gospel is being made more accessible, far beyond the four walls of a church.

What more do you expect?

And while we long for "normal", perhaps Jesus' wants to change our expectation for this moment (or year). . . for us to look around and see that He is very much here and very much present and most certainly working in this moment.

I wonder if over these past eight months God has been asking us to consider our expectations of Him. I know that when I expect God's very best: that the gospel is enough; relationships matter; and Jesus' power is at work and His presence is around me in each moment of everyday, my expectation of "normal" becomes very different.

​And in Jesus, what else could I have expected?

This Week at Our Savior

This Sunday, Pastor Matt continues our series, i See; You See by helping us see the future that Jesus sees. I can’t wait to see you online, this Sunday.

Love you more than you know.
Pastor Tim

PS: I can’t wait to see you on Thursday at 6:30pm for our online Novemberfest experience. No registration required. :)
<![CDATA[Making Decisions]]>Tue, 27 Oct 2020 21:43:34 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/october-27th-2020Making decisions that we know affect other people is one of the most challenging things we do as people, parents, citizens, neighbors, and leaders. Oftentimes, we begin placing our thoughts, feelings, and potential outcomes through a filter. Almost certainly, we never use a single filter. More often than not, we use a hodgepodge of filters such as personal experience, limited knowledge, trusted input, and our intuition. And, as Jesus followers, we strive to also apply the filter of God’s Word that is light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

So, how do we make big decisions that affect (literally) thousands of people? I can’t say that I’m an expert, but I will share a few things I’ve learned over the years about decision making that have been affirmed in the last eight months.

We pray. Prayer roots us in our Master Decision Maker, Jesus. The fundamental reason a decision needs to be made is either we don’t know what to do next or we already know what we need to do and we need the confidence to do it. For both reasons, we bathe every decision in prayer. We reflect and thank God for his faithfulness in decision making in the past. We rest in the truth that God is the chief decision maker. And, we place our trust in whatever conclusion God will bring us to in the end. Prayer also invites us to present to God our collective insecurities and worry. We become vulnerable with God and each other which increases our trust in each other as a team. We take seriously, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5). It’s almost like we have a collective, constant, and ongoing conversation with God - which is the heart of a life of prayer.

We center ourselves on Jesus’ mission. Like a magnetic field always shows us “true north”, Jesus’ mission always shows us where to go next. Jesus’ personal mission was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and we see that every decision Jesus made pulled him closer to Jerusalem, the cross, and the empty grave. Fast forward to the early church, we see that every decision that was made was oriented toward Jesus’ co-mission: to make disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19-20). Both individually and as a church, we center ourselves on Jesus’ mission for us: to make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus. Anything that distracts us from Jesus’ “true north” is given less priority which frees us to keep walking in Jesus’ direction.

Now - I don’t believe there is always one correct decision. Rather, God has given us incredible freedom to choose how best to follow Him both individually and as a church. Oftentimes, our own fear of failure or anxiety concerning disagreement fuel our indecision. Ed Stezer, Professor at Wheaton College once said that if you want everyone to like you, go sell ice cream. Making decisions is not for the faint of heart. Decisions are hard and a common agreement on a shared mission brings unity, disarms fear, and brings peace in the conviction that anything that loves and serves others is the best decision we can make.

We ask questions which lead to principles. Conversation begins with questions that might sound like, “what do we believe God sees as the ultimate outcome?” and “what do we know today about the challenge?”. Each of us has a different perspective and the difference of opinions matter. Clarifying our thoughts and seeking understanding from each other builds a cohesion of consensus. For example, when it comes to onsite worship, God’s outcome is that we live lives of worship because that’s what heaven will be like - a never-ending worship service at the throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our challenge today is multi-faceted. There are guidelines, attitudes, underlying beliefs about the virus, the hard science of medical pandemics, social stigmas, organizational ethics and liability, and the list goes on. Throughout our conversations, principles emerged such as, “relationships are king” and “we move forward when it is wise and safe to do so”. If mission keeps us oriented to Jesus’ “true north”, then principles define the parameters of what we are willing to do.

We seek wisdom and input. Like a dinner buffet, everything looks good. Yet, we know that some options are more sensible than others. The way we discern which option might be the best to pursue, we ask for input from a variety of people. In this sense, decision making is very much a community sport. On behalf of our team, I solicit collective wisdom from our Board of Directors, our team of elders, other ministry staff and leaders, field experts (such as our Medical Advisory Team), and those we know and trust in our greater community. They see things we cannot see. They know things we do not know. Their wisdom and input makes us all better. Every piece of input is extremely helpful because it affirms our proposed decision, refines it, or leads us in another direction. In all three cases, we win because the best decision is both the one that is avoided and the one that is affirmed.

We commit. Knowing that our decision is a team effort, we are committed to its implementation, follow through, and owning the results - both success and failures. Every decision is a learning experience that sharpens our skills more and more so that more people can be invited to make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus.

When I think about it, these learnings intersect making decisions in most of life - from diets to elections. So much of life is about growing in our ability to make wise decisions.

In the end, I believe that decision making is a skill that we develop over time. With that said, we know that the biggest decision of all time that gives us confidence in every decision we make has already made. God made the decision to send Jesus to love us, die for us, come back to life for us, forgive us, renew us, and lead us as we continue making disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus.

I’d love to hear what you think about decision making! You can send me a note at pastortim@oslc.com.

Love you more than you know.]]>
<![CDATA[The Reformation is More Than You Think]]>Fri, 23 Oct 2020 06:48:13 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/october-22nd-2020​In Protestant churches around the world, the Reformation is usually observed on the last Sunday of October. For those who are still tracking with time in 2020, that’s this Sunday. The day is usually filled with reminders of reformers like John Calvin and Martin Luther clarifying and crystalizing the gospel message that God’s salvation is by grace alone through faith alone rooted in scripture alone which is all about Christ alone.

And while the spiritual outcomes of the Reformation are certainly foundational to who we are Jesus followers, I think the Reformation might mean something more for us - especially this year. It’s so easy to forget that the Reformation wasn’t just a spiritual renewal, but also one of political, economic, and social change and how Jesus is the only solution that can get us there.

For a moment, let’s think about the Reformation as a period of time between 1517 and 1648 (instead of a one-time event). LutheranReformation.org helps frame out its significance. Here are some highlights:

  • Throughout the 1400s and 1500s, children were told stories of the 75 million people died from the mid-1300’s Bubonic Plague
  • In 1436, information accelerated with the Gutenberg Press
  • In 1444, the first European slave market started in Lago, Portugal
  • Then, in 1450, Portuguese bring African slaves to Cape Verde Islands
  • Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492
  • Scotch is first reportedly made in 1494
  • The early 1500’s saw political alliances form between the church and government partially resulting in a bloody crusade (Christianized ‘Holy War’) against the Turks
  • Early 1500’s the peasant’s revolution begins underground over oppression and discrimination and eventually erupts in a 1524 war led by Thomas Münzer
  • In 1510, the Wheelock firearm was introduced in Nürnberg, Germany; the same year the First African slaves were brought to the New World (Haiti)
  • In 1543, Christians are burned at the stake, alive
  • In 1543, Copernicus declares the sun is the center of the universe; in 1592, Galileo invented the thermometer; and in 1595, Janssen invented the microscope
  • The Thirty Years War begins in 1618

We could sum it all up like this: in a world of blurred religion and politics, questioning science and discovery, increasing social disparity and inequity, rumors of revolution, and fractured relationships, the words of Jesus Culture’s song, One Thing Remains echoes in my mind:
[Jesus’] love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.
That’s great news because the world of the Reformation sounds a lot like today. And perhaps the words of Martin Luther are just as true today as they were in the middle of the chaos of 1529:
That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever! 
Indeed, all else can fail. We cannot fully change the world - but we know the One who has already changed the world. Jesus has closed our casket of sin and death and opened the way back to God. Everything else can fall apart and be taken from us - the gospel isn’t that we get more life, liberty, and happiness. The gospel is that we get God and that a new heaven and new earth is coming. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Through Jesus, we get God. And that’s really good news in this world that seems to be constantly swirling with change.

This last week of October, we might be able to escape from our chaotic experience of the year 2020 by watching Disney’s Coco and swinging our hips to Salsa music on Dia de los Muertos. Or, we might put on our costumes and light candles on Halloween and All Saints' Day. Or, we might find ourselves eating our favorite party foods while watching football with a few friends and family. Enjoy and have fun!

And, if our celebrations might be different than usual, our days continue to be disrupted from our idea of normal, and our lives seem to be perpetually disoriented, let’s remember what songwriters Keith Getty and Stuart Townend write:
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
<![CDATA[Dealing with our Dread]]>Fri, 16 Oct 2020 05:06:04 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/dealing-with-our-dreadDread is real. And it takes a toll on our mental wellness.

On March 12, 2020, New York Times Opinion Columnist, David Brooks said, “Some disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, can bring people together, but if history is any judge, pandemics generally drive them apart. These are crises in which social distancing is a virtue. Dread overwhelms the normal bonds of human affection”. And to think, Brooks wrote these words before the economic uncertainty, social disharmony, and the national election really heated up.

Dread is a specific kind of fear that expects the worst. Even the most positive person experiences a sense of dread over something. Dread is real.

The good news is that Jesus finds himself in a world of dread - and He does something about it. Think about it:

  • The government tried to have Jesus killed.
  • One season of poor weather could be the difference between his country’s feast or famine.
  • Culture was at a tipping point as Rome inched closer to taking over Jerusalem.
  • Protests and riots were frequent in urbanized areas.
  • Injustice and discrimination was commonplace for both Jews and Samaritans.
  • Taxes were high. Morale was low. The debt that people owed needed to be reconciled.
  • Dirty, backroom deals were made between supposed respectable leaders.
  • And when leadership mattered most, the judge washed his hands of the situation.

I can only imagine how dread-filled people living in a dreadful moment received Jesus’ words.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life… Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life… your heavenly Father already knows all your needs” (selections from Matthew 6:25-32).

But, Jesus - don’t you see that we are in dreadful times? I sometimes feel like I’m losing my mind. We seem to be moments from chaos. There are rumors of food shortages. Families are divided by ideologies and opinions. It seems as if the world is falling apart. Protests and riots have become the norm. Injustice and discrimination is rampant. I’m not sure about taxes, but morale seems really low right now - and there is a whole lot of debt out there. Dishonesty, disloyalty, and dis-everything seems to be more of a character trait among leaders than integrity. And when it seems like the world needs leadership, we find ourselves in a vacuum. 

Jesus responds, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33).

You mean, you will give me everything I need to get through this dreadful day?

Jesus gently speaks, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).

Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus doesn’t eliminate dread. Instead, Jesus gives us a better alternative than to fixate on our dread.

  • Seek the things of God - His love, grace, mercy, humility, generosity, integrity, peace - above all else.
  • Do the right thing, even when it’s difficult.
  • Trust that Jesus gives you everything you need (and He does).

When our minds are consumed with dread, Jesus gives us everything we need to live with dread. Jesus lived through one of the most dreadful human experiences - not just abuse, being bullied, and humiliated - but crucified on a cross. Jesus experienced the worst: death. Jesus also comes back to life to tell us about it.

Indeed, we can find respite for our tired minds in Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Here are some fantastic resources to help you get started!
If you or somebody you know needs crisis assistance, please use one of the following resources:
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • Crisis Connections: 866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
<![CDATA[God's Time Out]]>Fri, 09 Oct 2020 03:33:48 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/gods-time-outOne of the more influential people in my life is Dr. Dale Meyer, Emeritus President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. While sitting in my “Holy Time Out” waiting for my CT scan, I read what “Dr. Dale” wrote on March 2, 2020 about the coronavirus:

“The virus can scare us because we don’t have control over it. Lack of control can lead to fear, and fear can lead to anger. Some blame China; others blame our government. In the blame-game anger is present. Anger comes when something we hold dear is threatened, in this case our lives and the lives of those close to us may be threatened. When we follow the news with spiritual eyes, we see human nature as it really is, as we really are apart from grace” (The Meyer Minute, March 2, 2020). You can read his entire devotion here.

On Monday, my idea of life has indeed been threatened - this time not by COVID-19, but by a small and painful calcified stone lodged in my cecum. How did it get there? Why is it there? What is its composition? Do I have “the c-word”? Everything at that moment (and still today as I write this), I couldn’t control.

As I waited for my name to be called, I reflected on some other life aspects that I couldn’t control.

These are a few things that scrambled through my mind.
  • I’m seven months closer to seeing Jesus.
  • Debates and the ongoing election process now occupy the majority of space in every one of my news feeds. 
  • The elusive economy is as unpredictable as what Jonah will eat for breakfast.
  • My mind races to process how best to love and serve such a diverse community that God has called me to serve and lead.
  • My heart breaks as so many of us are flirting with pandemic burnout - a state of feeling gassed out, our schedules becoming maxed out, which leads us to check out.
  • There are others, but this will suffice for now.

And as I sat there in the middle of a swirling world with a racing mind and broken heart, I started laughing to myself.

I was in God’s Holy Time Out. Just like a coach calls a time out to re-focus their team, a Holy Time Out is a way God huddles us together to bring focus to what He wants to do in us so that He can do something through us.

What did I do in my time out? I just sat there.

What did I see?
  • Ambulances rolling in one after another with sick people who were loved by the same God who loves me.
  • A few confused discharged patients waiting and wondering if their ride home would ever come.
  • A woman who accidentally fell down the stairs and broke her ankle.
  • Another woman sucker-punched by her (hopefully by now, former) boyfriend.
  • A family struggling to check their daughter in because they spoke Spanish.
  • Hospital workers responding to whatever situation presented itself.
  • And so much more.

What did I learn in my Holy Time Out? It’s all out of my control.

I think about how the Hebrew people must have felt out of control in 586 BC. Babylon had conquered Jerusalem and taken everybody into a whole new world. And in the chaos, noise, and clutter of life, God calls a Holy Time Out. He sends Isaiah to get the attention of the Hebrew people saying, “But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

Those words are true in my time out today as they were around 586 BC. And, they’re true for you today, too. 

When everything seems out of control, we’re in “time out”: God is in control. We have nothing to fear because God has redeemed us through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. God has called us by name. We are God’s.

Which means even when our life and world is spinning out of control, we continue to love and serve the people around us.
  • So, I prayed for the unknown people being transported in on each ambulance.
  • I asked God to give steady hands and a sharp mind to the rescue workers and medical teams.
  • I sat for over an hour listening to stories from a scared Vietnam veteran wondering if his brother was going to pick him up.
  • I laughed with a young woman share how she tripped over her own feet.
  • I cried and encouraged the girl who was worried if her boyfriend was going to hit her again.
  • I found Isaiah 43:1 in Spanish on my phone and shared it with the Spanish-speaking family in my "Gringo Spanish".
  • And, as I left the ER that day, I told every nurse and tech I saw on my way out, "deep breath. God's got this and you do, too".

I don't share this to brag, but to share that perhaps God's Time Out was not just for me.

After all, I'm not in control.
<![CDATA[Big and Little Things]]>Fri, 02 Oct 2020 02:37:54 GMThttps://oslc.com/blog/big-and-little-thingsHere’s some good news: Jesus lives in you. He is using you for His good in the world. God has placed you with your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, in-laws and outlaws, frenemies and enemies, EGR’s (extra grace required), and your church family for a specific purpose: to love them as Jesus loves them.

With Election Day about a month away, I feel like it’s a good time to remind ourselves as Jesus followers not to trade big things for little things.

That’s what happened with the little boy, Narcissus. He started to look into a pool of water and fell in love with his reflection so much that he stared at it until the day he died. That is a real danger of falling in love with oneself. Or an issue. Or a policy. Or a candidate. Or anything other than Jesus.

Oh, how easy it is to trade big things for little things.

I recently read John 2. Jesus is heartbroken over people trading big things for little things. Like Narcissus, the temple people had fallen in love with themselves and everything that made them great. They traded Jesus’ big things - His grace, His love, His mercy, His life, for all the little things. It’s why they reacted with anger when Jesus said he would tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days. John makes it clear that Jesus is not talking about the building, but His body (v. 21). I once heard that if a crucified man comes back to life and lives forever to tell about it - then the game is over. At least, on this side of heaven.

Jesus is the rebuilt temple. Jesus places the stones back together as his body rises from the dead on Easter morning. So what happens today - a vaccination, an election, racial justice, world peace is not all that impressive or hope-filled - at least compared to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
So, if the world is torn apart by senseless violence, riots, terror, a virus, or an election gone mad - Jesus is still living in you and will use you to be His active presence and voice in this incredibly broken world. If America goes nuts over these next 32 days - there is no need to worry. You cannot compare anything that might happen on this side of heaven to Jesus’ death and resurrection - or yours. Never trade big things for little things.

You might be let down, betrayed, hurt, or ignored by those you love most over seemingly small, silly things. You can trust that Jesus has given you His Spirit to continue loving them well like Jesus already loves both you and them. Never trade big things for little things.

Jesus says in Luke 21:5-38, even if the sun, moon, and stars fall out of the sky: enjoy God’s light show because you know what comes next. It’s your resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes to Christians in Corinth, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (like Jesus’ body was). He is now in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19). So, if you and I are temples (like Jesus), He will rebuild us. He will resurrect us, too.

Mud-slinging, in-fighting, and more tearing down than building up will most likely fill these next 32 days. That’s the nature of humanity when we look into the pool at ourselves. Remember that Jesus has chosen you. He loves you. He lives in you. God gives us life’s biggest thing: Jesus’ life, Himself. You and I no longer live, but Christ lives in us; who loves us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

May your words reflect your Savior. May your thoughts reflect the temple of all temples, Jesus. And may you never trade Jesus’ big things for little things.]]>