Category Archives: Articles

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


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


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


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


Article: Kindness Matters

There is a man named Kevin Ford who works at the airport here in town. Specifically, he works at a Burger King in terminal one. 

Kevin has worked at that Burger King for 27 years with perfect attendance.

He originally began working at this job as a single father when he gained custody of his two daughters and he just kept working.

In recognition of his 27 years of outstanding service and attendance, some of his co-workers gave him: a reusable Starbucks cup, a bunch of candy, a pen, and a single movie ticket. But nothing from the franchise owner.

Ford’s daughter Seryna, set up a GoFundMe page after the lack of acknowledgment from the higher ups, writing that indeed, he had never missed a scheduled shift.

Seryna also wrote, “In no way are we asking for money or is he expecting any money but if anyone feels like blessing him, he would love to visit his grandchildren.”

And people responded.

As of this writing, generous people from all over have given $374,460.

Ford was interviewed on the Today show and he said, “For all those years, you feel unappreciated, but you get up just like everybody else. You do your job, and for somebody to show this appreciation is just overwhelming.”

Most of those gifts were from strangers whose hearts were moved by one man’s work and dedication. 

I am reminded of two things when I read this story…

  1. A little kindness goes a long way in this world.
  2. A group of people who show kindness can accomplish a lot.

Kindness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) That means any person of faith can know that God is working in them by the amount of kindness we show others. If kindness is lacking, drawing closer to God can remedy that deficiency.

God promises to give everyone who trusts in Jesus more of what we need. Specifically: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The author of Colossians puts it this way…

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12

Kindness happens in the smallest of gifts. A donation to a GoFundMe page, a jar of peanut butter for Lutheran Social Services of Nevada or even your regular offering to church.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben


Article: Trying to Forget

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

There are some things in my life I would love to forget. If there was a way to block certain and specific difficult memories in my life, I would be first in line.

I don’t know about you but I have had moments in my life that I do not wish to relive because they were either painful or embarrassing. Yet, every so often they pop into my head and I am recalling a portion of my life that plays like a movie trailer in my mind’s eye. 

When those moments happen, I turn to Isaiah 43:18-19. God instructs us not to live in the past. As the old adage goes,“let by-gones be by-gones” because those days have gone by and they have gone bye-bye. 

It is easy to live in the past and live a very nostalgic if not troubled life. God reminds us not to dwell there because we are called to live in the present moment. Not to dwell in the past or even the future. 

I choose to do that both in my life and at church. God is doing a new thing and I am trying to keep up!!! It does me no good to live in the past because we have a God of the present moment. So much has changed in the past 10 years. Not only in our lives but in society too. Yet, God is always making a way. That is what He promised. 

Even though I live in a desert (and I suspect most of the readers of this are too), our connection with God doesn’t need feel that way. Time and time again in scripture God promised never to leave us alone especially when we struggle. 

Turn to God because promised to give us  “streams in the wasteland” of our lives. Cool baptismal waters that remind us we are never alone.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Old Things and Eternal Things

I recently came across an article from the Good News Network about some very old trees.

In 1993, a cypress tree stump in Chile was confirmed by tree-ring-counting as 3,622 years old—showing the capacity of these slow-growing relatives of sequoia to endure through centuries.

However, another scientist recently found that a living individual, known as the “millennium cypress” or “great-grandfather” could be more than 5,000 years old—which would make it the oldest tree on Earth by nearly half a millennium.

That would make it the oldest single tree by a couple hundred years, beating out a 4,853- year-old bristlecone pine tree in Great Basin National Park in Nevada called Methuselah.

I can barely get my head around the age of these trees. When I think about Biblical history, these trees are older. Older than King David, older than Sampson and even older than Abraham. Wow.

I know 5000 years is a short time when compared to geologic time or even how long ago the dinosaurs walked the earth. However, these trees are still alive!

Yet, nothing compares to the eternal nature of God. Before everything there was God and one day after everything is gone, God and His Kingdom will still going strong.

I am reminded of the words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah…

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8 

Even God’s Word is eternal. That is why I preach from scripture. The Word endures.

I want to (metaphorically speaking) “hitch my wagon” to something that is going to last. Something that will sustain me in and out of season until I see Jesus face to face. That is why I turn to the Bible for inspiration and strength.

This weekend, we will celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the life of the Church. When Jesus was talking to the woman at the well in John chapter 4, he spoke about the Holy Spirit this way…

“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

The water Jesus is referring to is the Holy Spirit. I am thirsty for more of the Spirit in my life because I know it will sustain me until I enter eternity.

Old things are amazing but eternal things are the best! Cling to the infinite gifts and let go of the rest!

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Sabbath Rest

I am currently visiting my father in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Rice Lake is in the northwest portion of the state. I believe the town is named after the lake and not the other way around.

Although I leave for Chicago, IL tomorrow and then to Galesburg, IL after that, I am taking the time to rest a bit. The fancy biblical word for rest is sabbath. A time to rest.

If you remember when God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments, one of the directives was to take a day of Sabbath rest. Work six days and rest on the seventh. I normally do that on Monday.

However, some time away from CLC allows me some extra rest from the day to days duties of your pastor. It has been a real blessing to me to spend the last three days with my father. Our time together is precious and way too infrequent. 

By the time I fly home with Rachel, I will have driven from Minneapolis, MN to Rice Lake, WI to Chicago, IL to Galesburg, IL and back Minneapolis, MN… yet I have already had time to reflect on this sabbath break.

I am reminded of the words of the great reformer, Martin Luther when wrote about the third commandment to “remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Luther wrote, “The spiritual rest, which God particularly intends in this Commandment, is this: that we not only cease from our labor and trade, but much more, that we let God alone work in us and that we do nothing of our own with all our powers.

SNM314966 Portrait of Martin Luther, aged 43, 1525 (oil on panel) by Cranach, Lucas, the Elder (1472-1553); © National museum, Stockholm, Sweden; ( Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer;); German.

Good words. It is a reminder for me in this time to let God alone work in me and guide me as I spend time with my family and celebrate our youngest’s college graduation. I will be open to what God has in store for me over the next week and let the Spirit guide me including the times it tells me to rest.

I use this time to: Stop, Listen and Breathe (thanks Bruce Ewing!) so that I come home refreshed and ready to pick up where I left off! 

God bless you my friends!

Pr. Ben


Article: A Little Help…

I read an article this past week that touched my heart. I want to share a portion with you…

Ayda Zugay isn’t someone who normally likes to save things.

The walls of her Boston home are bare. She keeps a small bag packed with essential items in case she ever needs to leave quickly. 

But for more than two decades, she’s held onto an envelope that she hopes will help her unravel a mystery.

Zugay says she was a nearly 12-year-old refugee fleeing the former Yugoslavia with her older sister when a stranger handed them the envelope on a flight to the United States in 1999. 

The woman who gave them the envelope on the plane made them promise not to open it until they got off the plane.

Ayda and her sister  were later shocked to discover dangly earrings and a $100 bill inside. 

A note scribbled on the outside of the envelope is signed with only a first name — Tracy. And for almost a decade, Ayda says she’s been trying to find her.

Ayda, has been on the search for “Tracy” ever since, so that she may thank her for that gift of encouragement and to share what she has done with her life since arriving in the United States.

She’s 34 now and would love to talk with Tracy in English — to tell her how she works with nonprofits, cofounded a consulting company and represents Massachusetts as a delegate in the Refugee Congress.

I was moved by this story for several reasons. It exemplifies: Love, Care, Compassion, Service and Generosity. These are all words that CLC used to describe who we are and what we do. 

That gift transformed Ayda’s life. It helped her and her sister when her life was turned upside down.

We may never be able to give a gift like that, but there are daily opportunities to show love, care and compassion. The world is in a lot of hurt right now and we as the children of God are called to bring healing wherever and whenever we can.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: I Believe

If you didn’t hear, Easter was last week.

The core truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus who is God in the flesh. 

Some people don’t believe that, and that’s ok. 

However, if you are a Christian, that is non-negotiable. I’ll be honest with you, its not really possible to call yourself a Christian and not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I know that sounds harsh, but it is not a judgment. 

To be a Christian is more than following the ancient Israelite rabbi named Jesus. One can admire the teachings of Jesus and not be a Christian! 

We believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

If he didn’t, what do we have? The answer is nothing. 

There would be no eternal life, and this life would be all we have.

We may be forgiven by his death on the cross (atonement) but to what end if this life is it?

Saint Paul dealt with people in the church who didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus and he wrote this…

If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 1Corinthians 15:14

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? 

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not a fable or fairy tale. It is a true story. 

Saint Paul went on in this same section of scripture and wrote this, too…

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all of humanity. 1Corinthians 15:19

We as Christians don’t just subscribe to a philosophy or a way of life, we follow the risen Lord! And one day we will follow Jesus straight to heaven.

As for me, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben