All posts by Ben

Article: Unity Begins with Humility

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

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Some of us are really good at making snap judgments about other people. In the blink of an eye, we assess someone and decide if they are beneath us or someone we strive to be. Once we do that, we start to disdain others who don’t measure up to our standards or beliefs.

It feels like we are wired to establish a pecking order and where we fit into that order.

Societal rules quietly reinforce the notion that we are better than others.

This stands in stark contrast to our calling as people of faith and even how Jesus views us.

Christ could look down on us and view us as poor lost souls without any redeeming qualities. Instead, Jesus loves us, invites to be a part of his family, and then equips us serve others with the help of the Holy Spirit. Wow.

Rather than God looking down on us and shaking his head in disappointment, Jesus invites us in and tells us that we are siblings!

If God doesn’t look down on us why do that very thing to others?

Saint Paul reminds us to be humble. Humility is looking to God for all things and giving God all the credit (glory) for the good things in your life. When we look to God for all things, we are also acknowledging that God doesn’t negatively look down on us.

When we adopt a humble mindset, we treat others more equitably. We are less condescending and recognize the gifts and qualities that others bring to a situation.

Being humble also insulates you against being selfish and self-centered. Rather than always looking out for yourself, you keep others in mind and their needs.

The church (the family of God) is at its best when we care for and serve one another.

This is what happens when we hold others closely in care and kindness…

When we serve others in the church we are not only preparing  “God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” But the end result will be this… “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness humans in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:12-14

Our relationship with Jesus and our unity within the church insulates us from the hate and anger of this bitter world.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Without Excuse

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (to believe). Romans 1:20

Saint Paul is making a simple argument: look at the world around you and you should come the inevitable conclusion that someone is responsible for creating the world we live in.

Is the beauty of our world and even very selves a result of random events?

Some would argue yes, and I would say no. As a person of faith, I acknowledge that God created us and all that we see.

As I have said more times than I count, “The Bible is not science book” but it points to the author of all creation.

Even scientists wonder what caused the universe began. Let me explain.

There is universal agreement among astrophysicists that creation began with a big bang. But what CAUSED the big bang?

American Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated this…

 “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”

Here is what Jastrow is saying, the big bang didn’t just happen. Something or someone caused it.

There has to have been a catalyst, even scientists understand that.

Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of Motion of 1666 tell us that things don’t just happen. Something or someone must have caused the creation to happen.

Although there is general agreement about the moment of creation among scientists, they don’t know how or why it happened.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this big bang, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”

Hmmm… light at the moment of creation. That sounds familiar.

Oh that’s right, the first thing God did when the universe was created.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3

As I said before, the Bible isn’t a science book, but God inspired the author of Genesis to write it down this way. God was there at the beginning and God knew.

Is there someone behind creation or did it come about by chance. If it is by chance, what are the odds? Glad you asked. According to the astrophysicist and astronomer Dr. Frank Drake, the odds of us being here by chance are only one in a trillion…

A one in a trillion chance that the earth has the right combination of chemicals, temperature, water, days and nights to support planetary life as we know it.

We are either here by chaotic chance or by divine purpose.

I choose divine purpose. I choose God.

God bless,

Pr. Ben

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Article: Peace and Uncertainty

This past weekend I began a sermon series on Joseph. If you didn’t hear the message, you can listen to it here: Joseph Sermon .

Joseph’s life was filled with lots of downs. More downs that ups. It was as if he lived in the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death” for most of his life.

This week, I have been thinking about what tools and characteristics we need to navigate the most difficult times of our lives like Joseph. Without a doubt trusting God is the first and most important thing. We have very little control over much in this in life, therefore it makes perfect sense to trust in the One who holds the whole world in His hands.

I am speaking of Jesus. He’s in control of all the stuff that is beyond our grasp.

At the Last Supper before his death, the disciples knew something was wrong. They could feel it but couldn’t name it. In that moment, Jesus speaks to the uneasiness of their hearts.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

The disciples didn’t know Jesus was about to be arrested, beaten and killed, but Jesus did. They knew something was wrong, but they couldn’t figure out what it was. Jesus tells them to trust God and to trust him.

Joseph of the Old Testament trusted God in times of great uncertainty and tragedy. Now Jesus is reminding the disciples to do the same.

God was about to take a broken human situation and turn it into a divine miracle. God was about to take the sinful plotting of Jesus arrest and crucifixion and turn it into: resurrection, forgiveness and power.

The soulless of plotting Jesus’ death (because they were threatened by him) ended up becoming the greatest miracle in the history of humanity on Easter morning.

But at the Last Supper, there was only sorrow and worry. Jesus told the disciples to trust God and to trust him. God is in control. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or what the situation is in the current moment… trust God, trust Jesus.

Later that same evening, Jesus gave the disciples a gift before his arrest and death. Jesus chose this “thing” above anything else. That tells me this “thing” is important.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Jesus chose to give the disciples the gift of peace above everything else. He didn’t give them power or patience or even perseverance. All of those are good, why did Jesus offer peace above those other good and needed things?

When we are worried, scared or unsure we will make poor decisions based in fear or anger. When we trust Jesus AND have peace, we are able to surrender ourselves to his care in the bleakest of situations.

Peace will give you ability to trust Jesus even more than you do today.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben

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Article: April ELCA Church Council Meeting

Last week, I was at the church council meeting for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Community Lutheran Church is a congregation of the ELCA. In 2023, I was nominated to serve on the church council of the ELCA.

The national (ELCA) church council operates a lot like our own church council here at CLC. We make decisions on behalf of the entire ELCA in the times between church wide assemblies.

During our last meeting we received reports and acted on some action items.

Here are a few highlights:

Bishop Eaton gave her report and reminded the church council that the ELCA is not an NGO (non-governmental organization) or a social service. We are the Church! Although we are servants, our main purpose is to share the good news of Jesus love (the Word) and share the presence of Jesus (the Sacraments) with the faithful. We need to hold to our calling and not default to being or becoming a service organization.

We heard an update from the “God’s Love Made Real Initiative” that is seeking to organize the ELCA around three guiding principles:

  • We are a Welcoming Church
  • We are a Thriving Church
  • We are a Connected, Sustainable Church

Their work continues and will bring recommendations to the ELCA church council soon.

We also heard an update from the “Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church” that is examining the very purposes of the ELCA that are articulated in chapter 4 the church wide constitution. There are 17 purposes in that chapter of the constitution. They are being evaluated and potentially updated.

“The Budget Prioritization Committee” also reported that they are working on guidance on where financial resources should be allocated based on current and future needs of the ELCA. We expect to hear more at our next meeting.

We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the World Hunger program and applauded their excellent work.

We reviewed the “Draft of a Social Statement on Civic Faith and Life” as well as adopted “Gun Related Violence and Trauma” as a social statement of the ELCA.

We did many other things as well, but those are the highlights. Our church (the ELCA) is working hard to be a relevant church in 2024 and beyond. I am honored to be a member of this church council and serve our larger church body.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben

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Article: Purpose and Vocation

Hi everyone, I am in my hotel room in Chicago, Illinois just hours away from my second church council meeting at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Just like last time (and possibly every time) the agenda is packed with lots of items. All of it important as we try to live out our faith in the world.

When I get back, I will update you on the things discussed and examined.

Last weekend, a member asked me if I ever wanted to be bishop (knowing that I was headed to this meeting). I answered that immediately with a resounding “NO!”

Every one of us has a calling or to use a fancy word: vocation. God created each of us in a certain way to pursue a career, a ministry, a hobby that brings fulfillment to our lives. Some people discover their purpose early in their adulthood and others struggle to find it their entire lives.

I am blessed to have found my vocation, my purpose, and my calling. I love being a pastor. More specifically, I love that I am serving at Community Lutheran Church. I can’t imagine a better, more fulfilling calling than that.

I am thankful that God led me to take the plunge and go to seminary back in 1994. I am thankful God orchestrated my visiting Community Lutheran Church as a student in 1996. From that moment on, my life changed. I give thanks that I got to know and then work with our founding pastor, Pastor Ray.

This idea of calling or having a purpose isn’t just for pastors. All of us have been called by God to something. I hope you know what your calling is. As I wrote before, for some it is their career but not always. It can be a ministry a hobby or a relationship! God has called some of you to be the best mentor, parent, aunt/uncle, grandparent, or friend you can be!

Remember this: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus… Colossians 3:17a

God is leading you to something or you have already found it. Dedicate it to him!

I look forward to the meetings over the next several days. I look forward to seeing my dad after that and then coming home to you.

As I was thinking of you and contemplating being gone this weekend, these words came to mind…

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1Peter 4:8-11

God bless and see you soon,
Pastor Ben

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