All posts by Ben

Article: Do Not Lose Hope

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

When Peter (Jesus’ right hand man) confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus replied with what you read above.

It kind of feels like the gates of Hades are wide open right now and we are under attack. 

But the promise remains… the church will survive. We may suffer but we will endure. 

Jesus reminds us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1Corinthians 12:27). Christ conquered death (and Hades) already. Because we are the body of Christ, we have too. We are the church and we will withstand this season of uncertainty. 

When Jesus said this, he wanted us to know that we stand on the rock of truth! Jesus IS the Son of God. Not a “junior” god but God himself! Our rock is Jesus and not Peter as some suggest. A human can’t do what God can!

I understand that this isolation might cause some churches to close and that saddens me, but I know the Church will continue on until Jesus returns. 

If you attend Community Lutheran Church, I want you to know that I and our entire staff are working hard to keep our church connected and moving forward. We will not stop until we are all together again… even if that means we need to our work from home! We already have a plan in place to continue worship if we are all ordered to stay at home!

We, as a staff, love our church and we love you. We are all-in! We are committed to the mission of this church, devoted to Jesus and dedicated to you. 

In this season of isolation, please share our worship and daily check-ins with your friends. Invite them to join us online! We can still share the love, joy and hope of knowing Christ from our homes!

Even in this scary moment, there are still opportunities to share the love of Jesus. God didn’t cause this pandemic and Christ doesn’t want anyone to suffer or die but I also know that God can breakthrough any situation and change lives. 

I am here for you and so is Jesus. 

As the world is changing around us, don’t think for a moment Jesus is going to let the Gates of Hades and all that stands behind those gates to prevail. I already know how this story ends, Jesus wins. 

God bless you.

Clean Hands. Clear Minds. Caring Hearts.
Pr. Ben

0Shares

Abraham and Sarah: The End Does Not Justify the Means

Abraham and Sarah still do not have an heir. Instead they force the issue and it doesn’t turn out well. There are real life and immediate applications to our life right now in this uncertain time of ours.

0Shares

Article: Do Not Worry

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

There is a lot to be worried about these days: The stock market, corona virus and the possible impact these things might have on our lives in the next few months or even years ahead.

I get it. Some people are terrified and some think it is all overblown. As a pastor (and most likely your pastor) I don’t have the liberty to dismiss anything that might affect our congregation in potentially devastating ways. 

I will not overreact, nor will I panic. I will use the best information I can get and in consultation with our staff make decisions that will hopefully keep everyone safe. If I am wrong, I’ve barely inconvenienced anyone and annoyed a few. That is acceptable to me. 

I will also follow Jesus’ instruction. I don’t have the time or the energy to worry about tomorrow or speculate about what might happen next week/month. I’ve got enough on my plate for today. 

In case you were wondering, I do not believe this is a punishment from God. Jesus loves us and wants the best for us. 

We are called to be people who trust that Jesus will guide us forward and when we can’t move ahead anymore we are invited to rest in the presence of God forever. 

Even though we are asked to trust in Jesus’ love, remember we aren’t asked to check our brains at the door. We need to do things like wash our hands more and remove ourselves from large crowds of people (especially if we are in a high risk category). 

When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world, he said this to them…

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 

Shrewd means showing sharp powers of judgment or being astute. Jesus was saying… Be smart! Understand the risks! Do what is prudent! And at the same time living in such a way that you aren’t causing harm to others (innocent as doves). In this moment, it may mean staying away from others because you have a cough or are running a fever. You may feel well enough to be out in the world but you may expose others to something that might be catastrophic to them. 

Our presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton reminds us of the challenges in Martin Luther’s Day when she wrote…

“In 1527 the plague returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. Understandably, people were anxious and wondered what a safe and faithful response might be. In answer to this, Martin Luther wrote Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague. In it, he emphasized the duty to care for the neighbor, the responsibility of government to protect and provide services to its citizens, a caution about recklessness, and the importance of science, medicine and common sense.”

“To provide care for the neighbor, Luther recommended that pastors, those in public office, doctors and public servants should remain in the city. Luther himself remained in Wittenberg to care for his people. He recommended that public hospitals be built to accommodate those with the plague. He condemned those who took unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in danger of contagion. Luther also encouraged the use of reason and medicine.”

Luther wrote, “God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body. … Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence.” (Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague, 1527).

Love your neighbor as yourself while caring for yourself. Sounds like good advice in the moment. 

Remember: CLEAN HANDS. CLEAR MIND. CARING HEARTS.

God bless you all…
(Live Long and Prosper)

Pr. Ben

0Shares

Abraham and Sarah: It Is Never Too Late

We begin a new series in the season leading up to Easter. We will look at the ancient story of Abraham and Sarah and ask this question: Where is God Leading you? We see that God works through all. There is no retirement from the Kingdom of God.

0Shares

Article: The Joy of Sacrifice

Here is something no Christian wants to talk about: Sacrifice. Oh sure, we don’t mind talking about what Jesus did for us on the cross but personal sacrifice not so much. We prefer our faith walk to be tame if not easy. We live in a consumer driven society where the customer is king…and we are royalty.

I understand that the first rebuttal to what I just wrote is this, “What about grace? Jesus gave it all so that I don’t have to do anything but believe in Him.”

I do not deny the grace and forgiveness of Christ at all! God always takes the first step towards us. Jesus did exactly that when he took on all of our shortcomings, jealousy, anger, self-deprecation and uncontrolled behavior. There is nothing that can prove our worth to God other than Jesus loving us and claiming us as God’s children. Our value is found in what Christ did for us.

What I am getting at is our voluntary and willing response to the love of Jesus. We can’t earn anything as it relates to our connection with God, but healthy relationships are a two-way street. Beneficial bonds are reciprocal. Vital connections always involve give and take. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to sell your house and give all your possessions away. No, I am asking if following Jesus is the most important thing in your life or is it something else? Does the love of Jesus inform how you treat others, what you spend money on and even vote? (After all it is an election year.) Or do your opinions and comfort take precedent in important decisions? 

I absolutely believe that I will spend eternity with Jesus. I will only gain admittance because of what Jesus did for me on Good Friday. Not even being a pastor gets you in the door up in heaven. I am getting ready for what comes next. Let me tell you, I want to fit in when I get there. The best way to do that is to respond to the grace Jesus already extended to me. That sometimes means saying no to things that gratify me…yes, that’s right sacrifice and self-denial.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1Peter 2:11

We are bombarded with messages from culture that can be summed up in the popular advertising campaign of Nike athletic shoes: “Just Do It.” Do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others, yet some of these things diminish our faith in the One who loves us the most especially when we indulge ourselves rather than building the Kingdom of God right here and right now.

I want to let you in on a little secret… there is joy in sacrifice. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

0Shares

Article: Don’t Add to Grace

When Saint Paul wrote a letter to the church of Galatia, he reminds the Church of the essence of the message he preached: Grace. This reminder was necessary because Paul was receiving reports that the church in Galatia had added something to the free gift of love that Jesus gives to all who believe, but it wasn’t a helpful addition. 

How did this happen? After Paul left to go plant other churches, traveling preachers came to Galatia and convinced these Christians that the grace of God was not enough. They needed to do something too—this is when the erroneous notion of “works” or “acts” began to muddy the promise of the grace of Christ. 

Paul, wanting to correct the misguided and heretical teaching of these itinerant preachers, wrote the letter we know as “Galatians.”

In chapter 3, Paul asks a pointed question, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Galatians 3:2

Folks–we can’t earn God’s favor! The nicest, purest, most gracious thing you or I have ever done pales in comparison to God’s holiness and compassion. Paul totally gets this and so does the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. 

Isaiah writes, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6

We have a deep need for God to come to us (thank you, Jesus!) and there is nothing we can do to climb our way to God. 

Our relationship with God is all about the love God has for us and it is free—this is grace! 

Yet, we are reminded that our actions in this life have consequences. We may be forgiven and loved but our decisions still carry weight. Here is how Paul puts it, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow.” Galatians 6:7

This spiritual truth is lived out in two ways. One cannot say they follow Jesus and then live contrary to the command to love without God taking notice. Also, a person who expect others to love and respect them while treating people poorly will be sorely disappointed; a person reaps what they sow. 

However, if you sow love and kindness wherever you go, you will receive a harvest of the same. My life shows abundant proof of this. I am humbled by the love and support shown to Rachel and me in the past few months. If you are one of those people, thank you. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

0Shares

Article: Why Worship?

There is one thing we do every week as the church… we worship. It may be the most important activity we engage in. For some of us, it may be the only church related activity we participate in all week. Why is worship so important?

Theologians of every age have defined the act of worship in different ways. Here are a few…

Bruce Leafblad: Worship is that process in which we make God first in our lives.

Mark Tittley: Worship is becoming aware of God’s presence and responding to His presence with verbal or active expressions of love and devotion.”

Krister Stendahl: Worship is being confronted with a sense of wonder, a sense of our sin, a seeking of purging and purification and a summons to service.

Clement of Alexandria: Worship is celebration. All of life is a festival: being persuaded that God is everywhere present on all sides, we praise him as we till the ground, we sing hymns as we sow the seed, we feel his inspiration in all we do.

Anonymous: Worship is response to God resulting in service to people.

See? Everyone has an opinion! Even I have a definition for worship.

I define worship as an act of surrender.

When I come to worship, I come with the mindset to surrender my will to God. I often think about the words John the Baptist spoke when Jesus began his ministry, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

Although we are created in the image of God, I still see the need to have more of Jesus in my life and less of me. You know what I am saying…”thy will be done” and not my will be done. 

Worship is the place where I surrender myself to God’s love through music, prayer, scripture and even the message. 

However, the attitude I bring to worship affects how I worship. If I am not open to God’s love in that moment, I won’t let my guard down. If I come in looking for things to complain about, I will find them. If I come seeking entertainment, I will be entertained (but I won’t be worshipping).  If I come in looking for Jesus to connect with me, I will find connection. The attitude we bring to worship matters.

The act of surrendering myself to Jesus at worship will then spur me into faithful living and serving the rest of the week. 

Do you surrender yourselves to God when you come to worship?

Oh and more thing…

Christian worship is communal. We also come to connect with others. So many people have said, I can worship God on the golf course, lake, mountain, park, etc. I believe that is partially true. 

I am also skeptical of those who say they actually worship by themselves in those places. In all my travels, I have never encountered a person in nature actually worshipping God. OK, rant over!

We worship as a community to be strengthened by others. We are fortified by the voices of others as we sing and pray. We are reminded that we are never alone in the voice of the person sitting next to us. 

Come and surrender yourself this weekend whether online or in person. We need more of Jesus in our lives and we need each other. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

0Shares