In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said: The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” (Matthew 3:1-12, CEB)

You will know a tree by its fruit.

I remember when I was baptized a friend’s father asked if I believed that Jesus was Lord and Son of God and I said yes. He said good otherwise you just got dunked in water. Now for those of you who are Lutheran and think I was baptized as an infant, I was not. Even though I am a Lutheran pastor, I was baptized a Baptist when I was 17. It was a cleansing in the water and the sign of a life changed. The fruit was different from this guy.

So how do we see fruit differently from people, because even after I was dunked, people thought it didn’t take because I didn’t fit their mold for what a good fruit is.

The mold to fit in is not of any human, but God’s.

We can not make humans happy, we must strive to follow where God is leading.

Live your life so that God’s grace and mercy flow through you to the world around you.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

Who are you?

This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” John said, “I’m not.” “Are you the prophet?” John answered, “No.” They asked, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied, “I am a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight, just as the prophet Isaiah said.” Those sent by the Pharisees asked, “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered, “I baptize with water. Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize. He comes after me, but I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps.” This encounter took place across the Jordan in Bethany where John was baptizing. (John 1:19-28, CEB)

Who are you?

Have you ever been asked this question? And your answer could change depending on who is asking the question. However, there is one answer to this question that will work every time.

John told those sent by the Pharisees he was not the Messiah, he was not a prophet, he was not Elijah, he was a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight.

Aren’t we all, “a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight?”

And better yet the answer I was thinking of above was Child of God.

Who are you? You are a child of God.

Go and love the world.

Loving People. Loving God.


Standing up, Paul gestured with his hand and said, “Fellow Israelites and Gentile God-worshippers, please listen to me. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors. God made them a great people while they lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. With his great power, he led them out of that country. For about forty years, God put up with them in the wilderness. God conquered seven nations in the land of Canaan and gave the Israelites their land as an inheritance. This happened over a period of about four hundred fifty years. “After this, he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. The Israelites requested a king, so God gave them Saul, Kish’s son, from the tribe of Benjamin, and he served as their king for forty years. After God removed him, he raised up David to be their king. God testified concerning him, ‘I have found David, Jesse’s son, a man who shares my desires. Whatever my will is, he will do.’ From this man’s descendants, God brought to Israel a savior, Jesus, just as he promised. Before Jesus’ appearance, John proclaimed to all the Israelites a baptism to show they were changing their hearts and lives. As John was completing his mission, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I’m not the one you think I am, but he is coming after me. I’m not worthy to loosen his sandals.’ (Acts 13:16-25, CEB)

History is important. The lineages and passages like the one above are important for us to know because they are the history of the people of God. Our people. We are the people of God and this history is our history.

Paul told those gathered the history of Jesus. This is our history and helps us know who and whose we are.

We are all a part of a rich understanding that goes back thousands of years.

As we approach Christmas and work through the waiting for Jesus’ return, let us remember where we come from and whose we are.

Love out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.


Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son— all were united in their devotion to prayer, along with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons. Peter stood among them and said, “Brothers and sisters, the scripture that the Holy Spirit announced beforehand through David had to be fulfilled. This was the scripture concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus. This happened even though he was one of us and received a share of this ministry.” “Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” So they nominated two: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:12-17, 21-26, CEB)

12 is a biblical number. When I taught confirmation I told the students if I ask for a numerical answer, good guesses are always 3, 7, 12, or a multiple of 12.

But I also have to say I have always wondered about this text. Why did the one to replace Judas have to be someone who was with them from the beginning? The other 11 were not really great representatives. I mean read the gospels and see how many times they messed up and who was there at the cross? When Jesus got arrested they scattered because they knew they were next.

So of course the replacement for Judas has to be one who was there from the beginning to share what they saw.

Yet we share the good news of Jesus through our lives and none of us were there when Jesus chose the 12.

We are all witnesses to the love God has for the world.

We are all givers of grace and mercy to a world that needs to know they are loved and accepted as they are.

We are the ones who Love Out Loud.

So continue sharing the good news and shining light.

Loving People. Loving God.

Pass Away

“Then if somebody says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Christ,’ or ‘He’s over here,’ don’t believe it. False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer great signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, even those whom God has chosen. Look, I’ve told you ahead of time. So if they say to you, ‘Look, he’s in the desert,’ don’t go out. And if they say, ‘Look, he’s in the rooms deep inside the house,’ don’t believe it. Just as the lightning flashes from the east to the west, so it will be with the coming of the Human One. The vultures gather wherever there’s a dead body. “Now immediately after the suffering of that time the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then the sign of the Human One will appear in the sky. At that time all the tribes of the earth will be full of sadness, and they will see the Human One coming in the heavenly clouds with power and great splendor. He will send his angels with the sound of a great trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from the four corners of the earth, from one end of the sky to the other. “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. (Matthew 24:23-35, CEB)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

What does that mean?

Well this whole passage is about the end of time, and how we aren’t supposed to get caught up in when and where Jesus is coming back. It is more about us living here in this time to show the world the love God has for all of creation. Because the word of God will not pass away. The promises we have spoken to us will stand firm forever. Heaven and earth will be done away with, which is actually in God’s word of the Bible, in Revelation, God says Heaven and Earth will be done away with and a new heaven and new earth will be created and God will descend to be with God’s people. (Revelation 21).

What all of this means is we need to love the world around us and live today, and not worry about tomorrow.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.


What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection. But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground. All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us. (Hebrews 11:32-40, CEB)

This is the end of the Faith chapter in Hebrews. There are so many in the Bible we look to as pillars of faith. Many were mistreated during their lives. Many died horrible deaths.

Did you see the list above:
Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.
But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 
They were stoned to death,
they were cut in two,
and they died by being murdered with swords.
They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 

Stoned to death, cut in two(!), murdered with swords, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. We are not far from the pillars of our faith. The writer of Hebrews continues, “The world didn’t deserve them.” Just as sometimes I wonder if the world deserves the love of God, and then I am reminded that God loves me and I do not deserve that.

Know in this life you will be mistreated and oppressed and come up needing. You are in good company. Continue to love the world, to show grace and mercy.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.


So what are we going to say? Should we continue sinning so grace will multiply? Absolutely not! All of us died to sin. How can we still live in it? Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11, CEB)

Should we continue to sin so grace will abound? That’s not how this works.

Yes if we sin, God’s grace will cover it and make us new, but we do not sin more so we get more grace. Since we have been united with Christ our life should be shining the light of love into the world and we should be staying away from sin.

But we need to know what sin is. Is sin a list of rules we have to follow? Is sin living not living in the fullness of our relationships? I have a pastor friend who defined sin to confirmation classes as the degradation of relationships. Meaning anything that causes a relationship to fail or falter is sin. So not a list of things to not do and sin for me maybe different than it is for you.

We should show love to the world. The love that God shows to each of us every day. That even though we are sinful and turn away from God, God still loves us. We need to show that love to the world.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.


“But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One. In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that. At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know. (Matthew 24:36-44, CEB)

The end is coming but only the Father knows. Not the angels or the Son.

Like when the rains came in the time of Noah, and Noah said it would flood and everyone thought he was crazy. Then they were caught off guard.

If you knew when the thief would come, you would be waiting for them and stop them.

But Jesus is returning and will come when God is ready for it to happen.

Do not be consumed by wanting to know when. Live. Love. Spread grace and mercy and show love to the world.

Help everyone know God loves them.

Loving People. Loving God.

Don’t be alarmed

Now Jesus left the temple and was going away. His disciples came to point out to him the temple buildings. He responded, “Do you see all these things? I assure that no stone will be left on another. Everything will be demolished.” Now while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Jesus replied, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the Christ.’ They will deceive many people. You will hear about wars and reports of wars. Don’t be alarmed. These things must happen, but this isn’t the end yet. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in all sorts of places. But all these things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end. They will arrest you, abuse you, and they will kill you. All nations will hate you on account of my name. At that time many will fall away. They will betray each other and hate each other. Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because disobedience will expand, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all the nations. Then the end will come. “When you see the disgusting and destructive thing that Daniel talked about standing in the holy place (the reader should understand this), then those in Judea must escape to the mountains. Those on the roof shouldn’t come down to grab things from their houses. Those in the field shouldn’t come back to grab their clothes. How terrible it will be at that time for women who are pregnant and for women who are nursing their children. Pray that it doesn’t happen in winter or on the Sabbath day. There will be great suffering such as the world has never before seen and will never again see. If that time weren’t shortened, nobody would be rescued. But for the sake of the ones whom God chose, that time will be cut short. (Matthew 24:1-22, CEB)

The end is near! Repent! We have all seen people holding these signs. I remember when we moved into the 21st Century and went from 1999 to 2000 and the huge concern about the computers all shutting down because the programming would make all the computers think 00 was 1900 and it would just all shut down.

We worry about when the end is coming and when Jesus will return. But this is not something we should really worry about. Jesus will return. It will happen, but rather than worrying about when that will be we should be focused on loving our neighbors and showing God’s grace and mercy to the world that needs to know they are loved.

Love Out Loud!

Loving People. Loving God.


Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith. By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible. By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice to God than Cain, which showed that he was righteous, since God gave approval to him for his gift. Though he died, he’s still speaking through faith. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he didn’t see death, and he wasn’t found because God took him up. He was given approval for having pleased God before he was taken up. It’s impossible to please God without faith because the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him. By faith Noah responded with godly fear when he was warned about events he hadn’t seen yet. He built an ark to deliver his household. With his faith, he criticized the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes from faith. (Hebrews 11:1-7, CEB)

We live by faith. We can not prove what we believe in. Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, the proof of what we do not see. People ask why I believe in God when you really can’t prove that God exists. Well, can you prove God doesn’t exist? Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I have never seen a billion dollars but I do not doubt it exists.

Also, what about the wind? Have you seen the wind? We do not see the wind, but we see the effects of the wind. I don’t see God but I see the effects of God in my life and in the lives of others.

So live in faith, and love as you go.

Loving People. Loving God.