I recently heard Pardis Sabeti share about the 2014 Ebola virus and how it fueled mistrust, distraction, and division in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Check it out.
In light of what Sabeti shares, I see a lot of spiritual similarities between the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak our our current global pandemic. Our collective COVID-19 experience has:
Let's be honest - all of this was already there before COVID. But, as a result of distancing and isolation combined with the pre-existing growing mistrust of seemingly everything and everybody, for some, it has been easier to become cynical, check-out and hide, and remain silent.
I'm reminded of Isaiah 58:11-12.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Here are three ways you can consider joining God's work of repairing broken walls and restoring streets with dwellings.
Being real with ourselves with our broken ruins of friendships around us and committing to repairing these broken walls in our lives. Looking to the love and grace of Jesus who is more attractive than anything else in this human experience. And, rallying around the age-old foundation of Yahweh - the One who invites you and me into a relationship with the God of the universe.
All of this - it's God's work in our lives so that He can do His live in and work through our lives.
And each of us gets to be part of it.
Remember that The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Trusting that God is guiding you and you have God's strength, the question is, what part will you choose to play, today?
Love you more than you know. -pt
Earlier this week, I heard a story about a community in Sierra Leone, West Africa overcame the 2014 Ebola Virus Outbreak. It was so good to hear that what we are experiencing today isn’t the first time a virus has caused such a disruption. It certainly won’t be the last, either.
With that said, during these uncertain times, clarity is the next best thing.
Our team is working hard to finalize our fall ministry plans that will include being able to safely gather, connect, and serve in small groups within our health department guidelines. We are also developing new, innovative and engaging digital content - all to help you thrive in your friendships and strengthen your neighborhood and community in powerful, fresh, and creative ways.
However, based on how the fact that COVID-19 cases in Pierce County continue to trend up; receiving input from the Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department and other trusted medical advisors and leadership; processing a variety of scenarios with our ministry team and other local similar sized churches; and embracing our influential role in our greater Central Pierce County community, we have made the decision to suspend in-person onsite worship services and continue exclusively gathering for worship online, at least through Thanksgiving. We will re-evaluate this decision in late October and share our plans moving into the Christmas season and new year sometime in early November.
While we know none of us are excited for this news, we remain focused on Jesus leading us through the COVID-19 global pandemic and committed to re-entering onsite, in-person worship services when it is safe for the greatest number of people in our Pierce County community.
One of things I love about Our Savior is that we have a diversity of opinions when it comes to this decision.
I hear you.
I feel you.
I get it.
It is so hard to live in uncertainty.
We also know that unity is not uniformity. In fact, having a wide range of opinions, perspectives, and persuasions means that we are a stronger church - a healthier church that finds our unity in the grace and love of Jesus that is alive in us and flows through us into the lives of others - not in any one political perspective or social persuasion.
There is a lot of work to do.
The 2014 Ebola virus did its thing. It was horrible. The way the community overcame it was by coming together and making sure the people around them were loved, safe, and cared for. Jesus did the same thing for you and me. He came together with us to ensure our eternal safety.
So, let’s go!
And stay tuned over the next few weeks as we share how best to safely gather, connect, serve, and invite others to join you as we continue making disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus - right where we are.
I love you all. -pt
I literally just opened my email and read that my kids' schools are returning to 100% distance learning in September. While there is nothing wrong about distance learning, this is going to be heartbreaking for my 3rd, 1st, and preschool-aged kids. And to be honest, it makes me anxious thinking about how Beth and I are going to figure this next season out. We will. And if you're in that place, too - you will figure it out, too.
Can I be honest with you? It is sometimes very difficult for me to praise God in the middle of this global pandemic. Yet, it's incredible for me to imagine how all creation praises God in their own unique way.
Don’t believe me? Just read Psalm 148.
I don’t want to say too much more because that’s where we’re going to be spending time together as we continue our Psalms series, this Sunday.
If you're struggling to find a way to praise God right now, then this week's message is for you.
Or - maybe you know know someone who needs to hear this message with you, this week. Invite them to join you for worship online and then ask them what they thought about the service. It’s another opportunity for you to be part of make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus!
In the meantime, check out one of my favorite songs based on Psalm 148 (below). See you Sunday!
Love you more than you know. -pt
If you know me, you know that I love camp. And, I love camp because camp is all about relationships.
Lindsey and Katie showed me what it meant to have fun and laughter until we cry with total strangers on the ball field. Steve and Simone taught me to float and doggie paddle far enough in the lake to pass a swim test (I still don’t know how to swim). I experienced some of the most powerful outpouring of God’s reckless love with Nate, Clint, Dan, and Calvin gathered around boxes of sand and dimly lit candles underneath the summer twilight. Beth and I fell in love sitting and talking on the amphitheater seats on cool summer weekend nights. Inspiration Point (where someone shares the First Word of the day - God’s Word!) is where God led me to begin daily surrendering to His leading and say “yes” to full-time ministry. Many of my closest friends walked the same dirt paths with me... at camp.
This past week, Beth, the boys, and I along with 22 other families from Our Savior added to the web of relationships that we call camp. We had a blast being our true, authentic, goofy, and free selves. Camp has a way of reminding us who God is, who we are, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made to be in relationship with God and each other.
Kurt Anderson will lead us through Psalm 139. I can’t wait to worship with you as together as we will declare that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Invite a friend and make sure you have a Bible ready to go. I’ll see you online (or whenever you worship, on-demand!).
Love you more than you know. -pt
I did it.
This past week, I (Pastor Tim) pressed "mute" on everything going on the world. No social media (except sharing my Tuesday devotion!). I didn't read any headlines. I didn't talk to anybody about what was going on with COVID, phased re-openings, guidelines, elections, or speculations on what life was going to look like in the future.
I just pressed, "stop".
And, instead, my family and I drove down to the Coastal Redwoods and enjoyed a week together. We camped (which from a personal perspective, might be the best socially distant experience ever)! We hiked some pretty incredible trails, forded the Redwood River at least six times (that's a story!), ate smores, and played under some really, really big trees! Check it out...
I love these pictures because they reminded me of the picture the Psalmist paints: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Trees give refuge. Here are just a few ways that we saw this past week:
As these trees dwarf our three boys, I'm reminded that God's presence also dwarfs us. It's commonly known that cities during the time of the psalm writers would be built within a city wall. These walls would be tall, large, and strong... not as high as these Redwoods. But, we're talking about 20 feet high! Don't believe me? Check out this article to get a better idea of what I'm talking about.
Needless to say that standing among the giant trees made me feel small in the shadow of something so big... in the presence of something so powerful... in the stories and wisdoms these living beauties could tell (if they could talk). At the same time, while walking in the forests, I felt safe. Secure. Free to laugh, play, giggle, jump around on logs, and act like a kid (until we needed to chase our two year-old).
In the same way, God's presence - this refuge that the Psalmist speaks of is like these tall, large, and strong walls. God's presence can bring security, safety, and freedom. Indeed, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). How so?
I was refreshed by so many powerful truths about who God is and who I/we are by just pressing "mute" and looking at the trees (and a good bit of playing around in creation, too!). But, I need to save more of what I learned for future sermons.
This next week, my family and I will be with 22 other Our Savior families at Camp Lutherhaven on Lake Coeur d'Alene! I can't wait to share what God is doing and teaching us in next week's blog.
In the meantime, I can't wait to see you online on Sunday as we walk through more of Psalm 46, together! And, if you're traveling... be safe!
Love you more than you know.
I’m excited to take the next two months and sit with the Psalms. Each psalm will teach us what it means to be God’s picture.
You heard me correctly: You are God’s picture.
Different. Diverse. Distinct. Unique.
God gives us these psalms as a gift so that we might be God’s generous gift to the world. Author and scholar, N.T. Wright in his book, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (2016) hits the nail on its head when he says, “we are called to be living, breathing, praying, singing poems [psalms]” to your neighbors, community, and world.
I’m excited for you to check out July’s OSLC Life email. It’s packed full of ways for you to invite others to join you in being God’s picture where you live, work, and play.
Our Savior Lutheran Church
11012 Canyon Road East
Suite 8, PMB 397
Puyallup, Washington 98373
So, as you invite others to join you in being God’s picture to the world this month, I wonder what picture you will take that will capture ordinary people like you and me being living, breathing psalms that bring life to a broken world. I can’t wait to see your pictures the next time I see you! (I’ll be ready to share mine, too.)
In the meantime, as you’re enjoying your Washington summer, remember that “you are God’s handiwork, masterpiece, work of art… created in Christ Jesus to do the good works that God has prepared for us in advance to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
I remember the end of my freshman year of college very well. I ended the semester with a big, fat D-for-dog-gonne-done in Differential Equations. The plus in front of it was a consolation prize for pulling 3 all-nighters before the final exam. Unfortunately, digital grades had just come into reality, so taking a black sharpie to the "D" to make it into a "B" to boost my self-esteem wasn't really an option.
My group of friends were changing. I got beat out of fall ball by an incoming freshman. I was just beginning to dive into my "asian-ness" (up until this point, I legitimately believed that I was white... that's a different story I can share with you). I also was struggling with what it meant to be adopted. Simply put - I was a mess.
My dream of a career in physics and math - failed.
My friends - gone.
My team - I wasn't good enough.
What I was - I'm not sure because I just want to fit in.
Who as I - it was easier to be nobody than to be somebody.
I entered that summer with a whole lot of anxiety and fear. I was disappointed with God. I was angry that my well thought out plans were ruined. I was numb to any kind of joy in who I was or what I could offer to the world. I was too insecure to share any of this with anybody. It was way too uncomfortable.
I worked at a summer camp that summer and we were assigned "prayer and accountability partners". Talk about uncomfortable... two college guys... prayer and accountability... that was the last thing I wanted - and yet, exactly the thing I needed.
"How can I pray for you"? Pray for my campers. Pray for my parents. Pray for my friends. Pray for everybody else. Because the world needed to change. . . for me. After all, my Diff EQ prof was the problem because he failed me. My friends chose to ghost me. My coach didn't choose me. My birth country allowed me to be swept away. Everything about my life was about me - and everybody else had the problem. It was my own mental "Burn Book" (you need to watch Mean Girls to understand that reference).
My prayer partner continued to ask, "How can I pray for you"? He said something to the extent of - I could pray for everybody else... but I really want to pray for you.
Over the next 10 weeks, I slowly shared a little bit more about how hurt, angry, and uncomfortable I was inside of my own skin. He said that the prayer found in Psalm 119:94 is one of his favorites: "I am yours; rescue me!" I still echo that simple psalm prayer, often.
Over the course of that summer, I discovered that God really wanted to speak His truth into my heart and change something deep inside of me.
I learned that's what happens when I invite or allow others to walk alongside of me - especially through prayer. I realize that I am not alone in my anxiety, fear, and discomfort. For me, this experience was life-changing. I believe that God wanted to change my perspective toward other people - to love them, not blame them. I believe that God wanted to show me that His way is better than my way.
I became open and ready to humbly learn and receive from Him in and through my discomfort, anxiety, and fear.
Fast forward to about a year ago. I found myself in another uncomfortable moment (honestly, my life is full of them). While I was considering what God might have in mind with the opportunity to stay in Chicagoland or move to Tacoma, I attended my friends' CD release party where they introduced me to this song. In that moment, I recalled what God had taught me years ago at camp about uncomfortable moments: God wants to speak His truth into my heart and change something deep inside of me.
Take a listen.
Given the realities of our community and world today, I believe that we are living in another uncomfortable moment. There is a lot of anxiety and fear over what could happen next. But, could it be that God wants to speak His truth into your heart and change something inside of you, today?
Shake up the ground of all my tradition
Breakdown the walls of all my religion
Your way is better
I believe that God desperately desires this for you (and me).
Why? So that we can see and become more like Jesus.
We all have uncomfortable moments filled with anxiety and fear. We know that when we enter the “uncomfortable zone”, we learn, grow, and change. And because we can cast our anxiety and fear on Jesus because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), we can become open and ready to humbly learn and receive from Him in and through our discomfort, anxiety, and fear.
Another part of God leading you to learn, grow, and change is for you to become more aware of who He has made you. If you would like to take 15-minutes and complete this spiritual gift inventory, I or one of our ministry leaders or coaches would be honored to walk alongside of you. You can send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Love you more than you know.
The gospel is that I am forever, unconditionally loved by the Creator of the Universe who demonstrates this love for me in this: while I was still a sinner - curved in on myself, Jesus died for me (Romans 5:8).
In the middle of a time in our history when the noise sounds like my boys fighting over Legos, you might be like me and fall into the trap of living in one of two ways.
The first way that I generally live is that I live loud and bold.
The other way I generally live is the way of pacifism.
The truth is, I fall into these two ways of living every day.
Lord, I repent.
Friends, I repent.
Community, I repent.
World, I repent.
Church, I repent.
I find rest and energy in this promise: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Timothy 1:15).
The gospel is altogether different. The gospel is not about being right or becoming the loudest and most dominant voice on an issue. It’s also not an invitation to be passive - a free pass or get out of jail free card direct to a “better place” (heaven). The gospel is an alternative way of living to what I am experiencing in our world, today.
As songwriter Matt Maher sings, “where sin runs deep, Your grace is more; where grace is found is where You are; and where You are, I am free, holiness is Christ in me” (Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher). That’s the gospel. That’s the third way of living that I need to recenter myself on every moment of every day.
Jesus said it best Himself that in this world I will have trouble… (John 16:33a). There is no doubt that the brokenness of the world breaks my heart. And, yet Jesus says that He has overcome the world (John 16:33b)
The gospel frees me to choose how best to love others as I have been loved by Jesus.
So, when I feel that I need to be loud and bold, the gospel reminds me that I am loved so much that I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. Indeed, “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word” (Hebrews 12:24). Or, as the songwriter puts it, “I’m a child of God, yes I am!” (Who You Say I Am, Hillsong Worship). Jesus frees me from the need to win anything.
When I want to be passive, the gospel says that I am free in Jesus to love others as I have been loved. There is no judgment in love. Jesus’ love compels me to choose how best to love others because Jesus died for all and therefore all have died. And, he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
I am called to love all people sincerely, hate evil, cling to good, be devoted to others in love, honor others above myself, never lack in zeal, but serve the Lord with passion, be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer; to share with everybody in need and most of all - practice hospitality (Romans 12:9-15). It’s interesting that hospitality has been recently explained to me as putting ourselves aside in the interest of others.
That’s another blog post.
So as our world and culture tries to out yell each other, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Lord, help me keep my eyes on Jesus. It’s only in Him I am able to respond by loving others just as I have been loved (John 13:34) and I have the ability to not seek my own good but always the good of others.
So that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:33).
Matthew Harrison, President of the network of churches we belong to (The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod) says: Racism is not acceptable anywhere, especially in the church. Jesus Himself says to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and did so precisely while rejecting racial preference. (Luke 10:25–37)
Let's not make this a mission trip moment - a cultural pit-stop filled with euphoria over an event or even series of events. Let's not be inspired for a moment today and go back to whatever "normal" is, tomorrow. Let's commit not to look to our own good, but to the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:2)
So, let's ask a hard question: when it comes to incidental, event-based, and systemic racism - how do we begin loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus?
Let's ask Jesus.
“A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
- Jesus in John 13:34
And let's ask Missionary Paul.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.
Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
- Missionary Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:15-20
What could this look like?
When it comes to all forms of racism, loving others as we have been loved by Jesus doesn't (and shouldn't) look the same for everybody. But it does mean that we show up.
It is also undeniable that love is an action because God is love. (1 John 4:7-21) And, God in Jesus shows up and demonstrates the greatest act of love by giving His life on the cross for the world.
For some, love will look like gently and directly speaking up and advocating for people. Others choose to work toward changing broken systems. Yet, others are simply friends who come alongside of each other and do life together.
I recently heard that hospitality is putting all of you aside for somebody else. Perhaps the first step toward diffusing racism is that we begin to listen hospitably to somebody else. Trade our periods for question marks. Be curious and ask questions. Then be still and quiet. Listen - not to respond, but rather to understand. To feel. To be present as Jesus is present.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- Missionary Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
When it comes to incidental, event-based, and systemic racism - what could loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus look like for you?
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.