All posts by Ben

Article: Connecting With Others

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

No, that does not contradict the earlier words of Saint Paul when he wrote, “

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders… 1Thessalonians 4:11-12

The “interests of others” is not about being nosy or digging around for the latest gossip about someone you know. The Philippians verse reminds us to care for those around us. 

One of the signs of a strong church is how we ALL care for each other. Not just the pastors. Are you checking on those who need a little extra love in their lives right now?

Off and on we have talked about the importance of knowing and establishing a friendship with at least 10 people at church. We refer to this as your “Community 10.” Why is this important? We know that it is easy to make worship a “spectator sport.” We come and watch everything that is happening up front (like a show) and then go home. Eventually that gets old. 

We are wired for community. We crave to be known and acknowledged and cared for by other people. It is in our genes! We want others to care about us even if we won’t admit it! 

However, the old adage is true, “You get out of life what you’re willing to put in.” We can’t expect others to do all the work of relationship building. It is up to each of us to invest ourselves in getting to know and care for others at church. If you are willing to do that, you might make a lifelong friend! Correctio: you might make an eternal friend! The only thing we take with us to heaven are the relationships we forge in this life.

This past Sunday, 23 people officially joined the church and now call Community Lutheran Church home. These people need you! They need to know we are in this together! Find one or all twenty-three and make a new friend!

I’ve come to realize that of all the varied experiences I have been blessed with in this life, it is the people who I have shared these experiences with that matter most.  

At the end of the day and the end of our lives, only thing that matters are the relationships we invested in. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Winning

Sometimes we forget that “winning in life” is NOT the goal of a Christian.

By any tangible human measure, Jesus did not win. He was crucified and he died. That is definitely not winning. On that day, Pilate won, the Sanhedrin won and the chief priests won.

Jesus certainly accomplished his mission of gifting forgiveness and salvation to many, but it was not a “win” in any way humanity marks success.

Even after the resurrection, Jesus gathered his disciples and they asked him this question, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6

You know what they were asking don’t you? “When are you going to show the world that you are King?” Or more simply, “When are you going to win?”

Instead, he ascended into heaven.

Even the disciples wanted Jesus to be in charge of Israel- if not the world. They wanted him to wrest control of Israel away from the chief priests and the Roman occupiers. The disciples wanted an earthly, human-defined win. 

Life as a Christian isn’t about winning. It’s just not. 

Billionaire Malcolm Forbes once said, ““He who dies with the most toys wins.” Nope. He who dies with most toys still dies. 

We are taught from an early age that “winning is the only thing.” We are taught to compete in school… who is the smartest? 

We want our candidates to win at every election no matter the cost. 

We want more things so that others see that we are successful (winning). 

It goes on and on. Like I said, we forget that “winning in life” is not the goal of a Christian.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Mark 8:34-36

It is time to let the mindset of winning go. Jesus offers us something better. He offers us a friendship that satisfies our soul. Jesus offers us contentment. 

Paul reminds of this truth when he wrote to Timothy. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Timothy 6:6

Winning is NOT everything, Christ is.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: What is Really Important?

This past week, a friend shared the reflection below written by Luke Holmes who I do not know. It was thought provoking…

Through years of practice and hard work, I have learned to spot a garage sale sign at great distances. Driving through OKC my eye caught a big one – not only was it a going out of business sign, it was at a church. 

I wandered around the building some, and noticed it had all the problems older buildings have. Dated decor, lots of stairs, and it was probably difficult to direct people in the maze of hallways. One table, tucked away in the back, had a picture of the congregation taken a few years prior. The church shared little demographically with the high school you could see out the window. 

I talked to a few of the ladies working the sale. The church was closing down because they didn’t have the money to pay the bills, the building was too much to take care of, and the just couldn’t keep membership up. Tears filled their eyes as they spoke of closing down the church, and how hard it had been. 

It was sobering to walk through this church as it was closing. The stuff – junk some would say – that filled the tables represented hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items. The chairs and tables that were for sale once sat in classrooms that were filled with children hearing the Gospel, with adults studying the bible, and with youth learning about Jesus. But now? The hallways were dead, the classrooms were silent, and the nursery was stripped of everything that could be sold. The tables were piled high with decorations for all the holidays, telephones, file cabinets, office supplies, kids toys, and craft supplies.

This is what is left over when a church closes. Stuff. Stuff once was used for ministry was now being picked over and sold for pennies on the dollar. People sacrificed to buy these things, to provide the church with what it needed to survive and do ministry. But what the church needs most is people, not things.

The people who populated the halls were long gone, but the stuff remained. At an estate sale, a person’s life is on display – what they spent their money on, where they went, what they took pictures of to preserve the memory. This church sale felt the same way. You could see the nursery items and kids’ tables and communion sets. They had everything that a person might say you need to have in order to have church.

They had all the stuff. But they had no people. There’s nothing wrong with buildings or chairs or stuff. They are simply tools used to bring glory to God through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

But none of those things are needed to take the gospel to the nations. Your church doesn’t need your money or your stuff. Your church needs you. Not just to go on Sunday mornings, but the church needs you to be changed by the gospel and in turn share it with others. Make the decision not just to go to church, but to be changed by the gospel. Churches meet in buildings big and small full of stuff, but none of that matters. What matters is the gospel, changing people, and in turn changing the world through the cross.

It is sad to see a church close. It is equally true that the church building is a tool for ministry but not the ministry itself. Let us remain focused on the one who established the Church for our benefit: Jesus our King.

Sharing Jesus’ love is the main thing we do.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Rain

If you don’t live in Las Vegas, the big story this past week was the rain in the Las Vegas Valley. Rain in an amount we haven’t seen in quite a while. Incredibly, Lake Mead added three inches of depth because of the precipitation. 

Clouds above the CLC!

In other parts of the country, rain is a fact of life and it barely gets a mention when it starts or stops.

Here in the Mojave Desert, we stop when the rain starts and we watch … or at least I do.

Rain is a gift in the desert especially when we are experiencing severe drought. Of course, heavy rains bring mayhem too.

Rain in the courtyard!

This past week, we lost a tree in our parking lot. The blessing in this loss was that the tree was already dead and needed to be removed. The tree company wanted $3000 to remove the tree. The rain and wind took care of that for us. It even fell perfectly (thank you God) between a break in our cinder block wall and palm trees (which are just fine). 

Our Fallen Tree!

Years ago, I parked under that tree for shade in the summer!

Sure, we need a lot more snow in the western Rocky Mountains to resolve our drought issues but the rains have been refreshing.

Rain in moderate amounts can be refreshing even cleansing. It can wash away the grime and grit that accumulates everywhere.

Listen to what God equates to rain in Deuteronomy…

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2

God’s word (scripture) and God’s Word (Jesus) nourishes us in the same way that plants need water to grow.

We feed ourselves with a lot “fertilizer” but God’s Word is helpful, comforting and always there for us. 

I believe that with the core of my being. Whenever someone asks the hypothetical question, “What one book would you want if you were stranded on a desert island? My answer is always, “The Bible.” It has everything I need for spiritual nourishment.

Pair that book with Jesus and I have all I need, spiritually speaking. 

Remember what God said to Isaiah so many years ago…

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

God has a plan to direct his word at us like a refreshing rain. Be open to the “living water” that Jesus promised the woman at the well and us!

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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