Category Archives: Articles

Article: Kindness

I ran across this news story that I want to share with you written by Michael Goonan from the Good News Network…

It seemed that life was finally giving her a break. A single mom down to her last $7 found a $1 bill in a grocery store parking lot. So she walked back into the store, bought a lottery ticket, and won $100.

Just like that, her luck began turning around.

Most of us in that position would probably keep the $100 and breathe a sigh of relief. But not Shetara Sims. At the urging of her 12-year old daughter Rakiya, she decided to donate all of her winnings to the family of a local Kansas City police officer wounded in the line of duty.

For the Sims family, the desire to pay it forward is personal. When Shetara’s eldest daughter was killed in 2012, Kansas City police officers went above and beyond to support her family as much as possible.

“The detectives were really there for us. They were there for us more than anyone I can imagine. They did things they didn’t have to do,” Shetara told CNN. “They came to see my kids. They did a lot. They were fathers, therapists. They were everything.”

Not wanting to make a fuss about her generosity, Shetara called the Kansas City Police Department and made her donation anonymously. She told the officers on the phone that she had been dealing with several hardships of her own, recently losing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It didn’t take long, though, until the local police precincts were abuzz, touched by Shetara’s kindness and gratitude. A group of officers became determined to find her to express their own thanks.

After finally locating Shetara, the Police Department decided to set up a GoFundMe page to help her family with their financial situation. They called the campaign, ‘Helping the Woman With a Heart of Gold,” and the response was overwhelming—with strangers and officers donating more than $145,000.

“People like her are hard to come by,” wrote Kansas City resident Chantale Childs on the police department’s Facebook post that announced the campaign. “A person that would give to a stranger and not eat for herself… she deserves support. It’s amazing to see my community come together for this person. Makes me proud!”

This story reminds me of something a lot of people have forgotten, the importance of kindness.

I hear how people will fight for their rights and go to war over this and that but all we need is kindness.

Kindness is glue that holds society together. It is not drawing lines in the sand or anything that fosters an “us vs. them” mentality. 

When we extend ourselves to others, relationships are built. When everyone does it; cohesion happens. It is not hard to see that we are not unified. However, kindness can reverse this condition if we all invest in this rare commodity.

King Solomon reminds us of the importance of kindness…

Those who despise their neighbor sins, but blessed are those who are kind to the needy. Proverbs 14:21

Deep down we are all a little needy… needy for some kindness. Give a little and see if it comes back to you. We have to start somewhere.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Lying

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. Proverbs 12:19

History is not kind to those who peddle in ignorance or deceit. Not only does King Solomon say so but time has a way of exposing the truth even if it was obscured for a season… remember: truth endures.

Even Jesus talked about this when he met with Nicodemus the Pharisee in John 3. Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John 3:19-20

There are some who want hide what they are doing for obvious reasons. They don’t want anyone (let alone God) see what they are really up to. Some will discover a horrifying truth at the end of their lives, and it is this: There is a God and God saw everything. To quote Martin Luther, “This is most certainly true.”

Everything comes to light at some point and not only at the end! Lies, deception, half-truths, cruelty can’t be hidden even by the greatest magician. The truth will prevail because Jesus is true.

Yet, we seem to be struggling with the truth these days. In the past 30 years we have gone from truth being objective to completely subjective. What I mean by that is this, “What I hold as a truth may not be a truth for you.”

However, I am reminded of what God thinks of truth telling a few verses later in Proverbs…

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are truthful. Proverbs 12:22

I don’t know about you, but that alone causes me to pause and think. I want to be one who tells the objective truth about everything and not some version of the truth that reflects my preferences and way of life. 

Do you remember what God directly said about how we should talk about others? Let me give you a hint, it is found in God’s only top ten list in the Bible.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16 Us old school Christians often say, “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” God doesn’t want us lying about others. 

Martin Luther expands this commandment in his explanation of it. Dr. Luther writes, “We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.”

God says, “Don’t tell lies about your neighbor.” Luther says, “Speak well of your neighbor or don’t say anything at all.”

If we could do this one thing in 2020, the world would be a better place. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be liars out there (Spoiler alert: there always will be). Let the liars speak for themselves. Remember: the truth will always reveal itself. 

What does Jesus says about identifying people in this world?

Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16-20

I’ve known some great liars in my life but I don’t talk about them because I can’t say anything nice about them. Their “fruit” gives them away anyway. 

I am going to keep on following the truth wherever it may lead. Jesus hasn’t let me down yet and besides he is “the way and the truth and the life.” 

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Independence Day Reflections

I wrote this a year ago today. As I re-read it, I feel the same way today as I did a year ago. I hope you find this both thought-provoking and meaningful…

Today is July 4thand I started thinking about a monument on the other side of our country: The Statue of Liberty. 

It was a gift from France and the statue arrived by boat in 1885. The only stipulation of this gift was that the United States would build a platform for the statue to be erected upon. Eager to receive such a wonderful gift, fundraising began several years before the statue arrived in New York. 

Jewish American author and poet Emma Lazarus wrote a poem called The New Colossus, which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. The poem did not receive much recognition and was forgotten about shortly after the auction.

In the early 1900s and after Lazarus’ death, one of her friends began a campaign to memorialize Lazarus and her New Colossus sonnet. The effort was a success, and a plaque with the poem’s text was mounted inside the pedestal of the statue.

The well-known part of this sonnet goes like this…

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

A beacon of welcome for those coming to start a new life.  Lazarus also calls The Statue of Liberty the “Mother of Exiles.” A symbol of new found freedom where one can pursue the words enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that was ratified on this day 243 years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

When I reflect on both Lazarus’ and the Declaration of Independence, I know we still have a ways to go before this is a reality for all. Even though I have the ability to take hold of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” I also know that others within our nation do not for various reasons including racism and economic disparity. 

One could rightfully lament the inequity and partisan divisions in our nation today. I am sure we could make a long list of things that need to be addressed by our legislators right now. As sit in my living room typing this, I have decided that the best way I can celebrate Independence Day is to be thankful for the vision put forth by our “founding fathers” and continue to advocate for those who do not have the same opportunities as I have had here in the United States.

I will be thankful and I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless. 

God, you have given all peoples on common origin.
It is your will that they be gathered together
as one family in yourself.
Fill the hearts of humankind with the fire of your love
and with the desire to ensure justice for all.
By sharing the good things you give us,
may we secure an equality for all
our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
May there be an end to division, strife, and war. 
May there be a dawning of a truly human society
built on love and peace.
We ask this in your name. Amen.

– Author Unknown

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Where is Your Treasure?

In 2010, an 89-year-old art and antiquities collector by the name of Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest filled with gold and diamonds. Why? To inspire people to explore nature and give hope to people affected by the recession of 2008.

Clues leading to the treasure’s location were included in a poem published in Fenn’s autobiography “The Thrill of the Chase.”

Thousands of people have ventured into the Rocky Mountains searching for the treasure chest estimated to be worth over $1 million.

Fenn estimated that as many as 350,000 people from all over the world went hunting for the treasure.

Two weeks ago, on June 6, 2020, Fenn confirmed on his website that the treasure has been found.

“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago,” he said. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot. I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. 

Who hasn’t dreamed of finding a treasure chest full of gold?!? 

I know people are still trying to find the elusive treasure on Oak Island in Nova Scotia. The idea of finding something worth millions is alluring. I always enjoyed watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS when someone would discover an old forgotten antique was worth thousands of dollars.

Even Jesus talked about hidden treasure!

Jesus said,

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

We don’t need to go hunting for buried treasure. There is no map and no “X marks the spot”. Jesus tells us exactly where to find it. We find our treasure the same place our heart is located.

Let me ask you, where is your heart today? What is your treasure? This is an important question, take your time.

What is the thing or things you value most… because that is your treasure. 

These past few months caused me to think about where my heart is. This is what I discovered:  My heart is here in Las Vegas at Community Lutheran Church. I wish the circumstances (COVID-19) were different but my heart is here wanting to lift the name of Jesus to our community and beyond. 

Of course, like everyone else, I want the church to be open without risk of COVID-19 infection. However, this moment caused us to work differently to lift the name of Jesus and that is good. We now broadcast every day of the week. This is something we would not have done earlier this year. Yet we discovered that what we are doing is making a difference! It reminds me of something God said in Isaiah 55:10-11, “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 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.”

My heart is here with you and my heart is with Jesus. That is my treasure.

What is yours?

Below is a link of one of my favorite songs that reminds me of my treasure. Here are the lyrics…

Knowing You

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Refrain:
Knowing you, Jesus Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Refrain

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Refrain

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Revisiting Ferguson

On August 9th, 2014 Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer. The event set off a series of both protests and then rioting. The subsequent riots wreaked havoc on this suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri. 

What you will read below were my reflections of that moment in time. I believe they are still relevant today… 

In any situation I believe it is my calling to point to Jesus in all of this. And where is Jesus in all of these situations and countless other conflicts—even the ones between individuals?  He is right in the middle between them. Jesus isn’t called the Prince of Peace for nothing. Jesus stands in the middle waging peace. Notice I didn’t say status quo. A lot of people confuse peace with status quo. They want to go back to a time when it was peaceful for them regardless if it was good for anyone else. Jesus calls us to move forward into a new reality that brings good for all.  

Jesus certainly is calling those who considers themselves disciples of Jesus to stand in the middle and call for transformative peace as well. The type of peace where everyone has a seat at the table and a voice about what happens next.  

Long ago Jesus said to a crowd listening to him preach. . . Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. 

God’s favor is with those who stand in middle and help bring transformative peace. 

Notice Jesus didn’t say, Blessed are the peace-lovers. I think the vast majority of humanity likes and wants peace. It takes more than sitting on the side lines hoping for it to happen. We need more peace-makers in the world. 

And if you are not a news junkie like me you might have missed it. There were some peacemakers out there in Ferguson, MO during a most violent time.  Or at least they were attempting to be peacemakers.

A pastor was shot with a rubber bullet on Wednesday (6 years ago) during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, as clashes with police continued over the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.

Pr. Renita Lamkin, an African Methodist Episcopal church pastor, told reporters that she was “standing in the middle of the street, with people behind me, and the police were in front of me.” Lamkin said she was attempting to mediate (peace-making) between police and protesters. 

She told the police, “They’re moving, they’re leaving.” 

“And then there was a pop!” she said, as a rubber bullet struck her stomach. There are pictures of the injury—they are too graphic for this post.

A widely circulated photo of Pr. Lamkin’s injuries shows a large, bloody bruise. She said she was hit while standing, because her motto is, “Pray on your feet!”

Pr. Lamkin said the best way for people of peace to heal the community’s wounds is to “love people. Listen to them.”

Notice what she is saying. It isn’t about whose right and whose wrong (even when there is a clear sense of right and wrong). It’s about peacemaking. Listening to people—as opposed to talking over people— those are the seeds of peace.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 3:35

Then there was Pr. Willis Johnson. He is the one standing in front of that angry young man in the picture below. Read what Pr. Johnson had to say about this moment.

“People who are hurting need to be affirmed in their hurt; people who are angry need to be affirmed in their anger. Let me say it like this: I needed that as much as he needed that. We kept each other from harm’s way and from doing something that we would need not to do…

If you’re going to fuss and cuss and be mad, I want you to do it with me. Do it in my ear. And at the same time, I just begin to pray with him and to say, ‘Give him the strength — give us the strength — to be courageous enough not to do what they expect us to do.’”

Later on, in the same interview Pr. Johnson says this about the peacemaking process…

“I wasn’t out there marching on Monday, wasn’t out there marching on Tuesday. I was doing the things that I thought were necessary and I continue to do that. 

But I also know that it requires by every means necessary to do what is going to bring about the sense of awareness, the attention, that will allow people to not only express and attempt to explain but to expedite and encourage us to some point of not only reconciliation but resolution and resurrection. Because we have to (continue to) live when everybody else goes and leaves from this place.”

Reconciliation, resolution and resurrection. Think about that last word for a second. New life—where there was only death and destruction.  Jesus knows about death and he certainly knows about new life.

Peace isn’t just a truce. General McArthur said “A truce just says you don’t shoot for awhile. Peace comes when the truth is known, the issue is settled, & the parties embrace each other.” A truce is a return to status quo. 

Peacemakers don’t just try to stop conflict. They’re doing something far more meaningful; something healing and transformative. They try to bring about reconciliation and relationship, even if it means going through the conflict.

Peacemakers stand in the middle and work for peace—even if it is one person at a time.

The author of Hebrews says it this way–Make every effort to live in peace with all people and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15

That is some active peacemaking right there between Pr. Johnson and Pr. Lamkin. Watching for those bitter roots and addressing it before things got worse.

It’s hard to do that when we have demonized the other. It’s hard to love someone when you’ve made them the enemy. Standing in the middle helps minimize those attitudes.

Jesus cautioned us about the kind of peace the world offers. Often it is weak and stilted toward those with power. Kingdom peace is different. It offers redemption and a new way of living that values all. This is how Jesus put it, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” John 14:27 Let us not confuse the two. 

Let me close with the words of President Lincoln.

During the Civil War, Pres. Lincoln was asked if God was on his side and the cause of the north. 

This was his reply–“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side,” “my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

God bless you,

Pr. Ben

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Article: Avoiding Extremes

In times of uncertainty, in times of conflict and in times of evaluation, I turn to this verse…

Do not be over-righteous, 
neither be over-wise— 
why destroy yourself? 

Do not be over-wicked, 
and do not be a fool— 
why die before your time? 

It is good to grasp the one 
and not let go of the other. 
The person who fears God will avoid all extremes.

Ecclesiastes 7:16–18 

I sometimes have a hard time believing that something somebody wrote 3000 years ago can apply to my life today. Then I remember that God’s word is for every generation for a reason: it is timeless and true.

King Solomon wrote this, and he makes an astute observation about human behavior. There are some who are overly dogmatic, unbending, rigid about things. These people see only one way of doing something and their way is the right way. They are quick to point out how everyone else is wrong. Everyone else should change their mindsets and do whatever it is… their way. Solomon refers to them as the “over-righteous.”

Then there are the “fools.” To the “over-righteous” that is everyone else that doesn’t agree with them. However, Solomon defines them as people who do whatever they want. They are only concerned with themselves and they do what they want without regard for others. Or as King Solomon says, they are “over-wicked.”

I don’t want you to miss this, both of these groups have something in common. They both alienate others. They do it by different means, but the result is the same. No one wants to spend time with a selfish person or someone who is always right (and never fails to tell you). 

The questions in the forefront of our minds may be this: Are we doomed to one category or the other? No! King Solomon dispenses some of the sagest wisdom found in the entirety of scripture: The person who fears God will avoid all extremes. Ecclesiastes 7:18

Extremist thinking no matter the position or topic not only alienates people but also falls outside of God’s will.  It doesn’t make any difference if it is religious or political, left wing or right wing… extreme points of view are harmful to community building. 

I understand why King Solomon chose the words, “The person who fears God…” He is reminding us that God is not interested in extremism of any kind. Jesus cares about two things: that we love Him and we love our neighbor. The “over-righteous” and the “over-wicked” tend to love themselves (and their opinions) over genuinely caring for those around them.

If these two ways of living were on a continuum, being in the middle is where it is at. It is the place where all the cool kids hang out. It is where the regular people are. Smack dab in the middle of God’s love. 

For the sake of Solomon, let’s tone down the extreme rhetoric and the selfish careless behavior and meet in the middle so that we can love one another and lift the needs of the community above our own.

God bless,
Pr. Ben  

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Article: Do I Love My Neighbor?

As I write this one of our church members is dying of COVID-19. Most likely by the time you read this, they will have passed. The thought of this both saddens and exhausts me because it reminds me of the selfishness and brokenness of humanity.

This is not a political issue at all. This is a condition of the heart. 

One of the things I committed to at my ordination… one of the bedrock truths of my ministry comes from the lips of Jesus himself. “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-39 This is known as “The Great Commandment.” 

This is not theoretical to me nor is it an unattainable lofty platitude. This is something I work at every day. They are also inseparable. To love God is to love your neighbor and to love your neighbor is to love God. Why is that true? Because the letter called 1John tells me so.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1John 3:16

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother or sister, they are a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And God has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister. 1John 4:19-21

In this moment, right now, I am seeing a distinct lack of love for God by the lack of love and concern for one’s neighbor in our country. Like I wrote previously, this is about the condition of our hearts.

Specifically, the lack of wearing masks and social distancing and the mocking and derision that accompanies this topic. 

Oh I get it. I have heard it all on social media, “Masks do nothing and we need herd immunity.” Is that what I should preach at a member’s funeral who dies of COVID-19? Or should I say, “they had underlying health conditions and this was to be expected.” 

As I mentioned in my previous article https://benbergren.com/article-rehoboams-folly/ , I will take my cues from mainstream medical professionals and the Centers for Disease Control. They tell me the exact opposite of what I am seeing on social media and what I am experiencing when I go to the grocery store. Not only that, but the way consumers are treating employees and food servers within some stores and now restaurants is disheartening.

Martin Luther puts it this way,

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” On Christian Liberty

It is a paradoxical statement, but it contains spiritual truth. On one hand we are free in Christ from our sin and the judgments of others. Yet, if we take “The Great Commandment” (see above) seriously, we are subject to all. Unlike Cain, we are our brother’s keeper.

I show my love of my neighbor and my dutiful service to all by washing my hands regularly, socially distancing and wearing a mask. 

And yet, I hear the shouts, “Masks don’t do any good!” 

Let me be as plain as a I can about wearing a mask for the good of others in public places: If I am wrong, I look silly and have been mildly inconvenienced.  If those who are against masks are wrong, they may inadvertently infect others, potentially leading to a greater loss of life. 

Saint Paul addresses this type of back and forth in his letter to the church of Rome. This is where he comes down on how to act in situations like these, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother and sister’s way.” Romans 14:1&13

Maybe my faith is weaker and this is a stumbling block for me. Yet, I am trying to follow the recommendations of the CDC and mainstream medical professionals.

However, I am a sad when I see people are looking out only for themselves. It began with cleaning products, toilet paper and food hoarding and now we are on to “You can’t make me wear a mask because it infringes upon my personal freedom.” 

I keep asking myself what I can I do to keep others safe and healthy? What I can I do to be a responsible Christian to minimize infecting others if I happen to be asymptotic? The answer is: wear a mask in public because every little bit helps. I will also do my best to stay 6’ apart from people and not spend a lot of time in public places. I will also continue to wash my hands more than I ever have in my life. 

I am all for reopening businesses as long as we do our part to keep employees safe. I am all for people going back to work as long as we care about keeping their work environment healthy as they serve the community.

Yet some have argued for the opening of businesses because they have been inconvenienced by their lack of being able to be a consumer…I want a haircut… I want to go out to eat… I want, I want, I want. For some the argument is less about putting people back to work as it is a selfish desire to not have their lives disrupted any longer.  

The response to going out and resuming life without any safety protocols by a few have been, “Fine, stay home if you want to—that’s your right!  But I want to go out and I don’t want to wear a mask. And it’s my right to do so.”  But isn’t it everyone’s right to live their lives freely, with a modicum of safety and to have their essential needs met? Even the medically fragile need to eat and get groceries.  Even the medically fragile—and especially the medically fragile—need to visit their doctor and obtain their prescriptions and other essential items.  Why are the needs of our neighbors less important than the wants of others? I think about my 80-year-old father with asthma who recently lost his wife of 55 years and has not been out of the house in weeks.

Once again, Saint Paul gives us instruction on this as a Christian family, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:4-5  

I have been asked time and time again when are we going to worship together again? All of us at Community Lutheran Church want that. BUT… the reaction of some in the general public reminds me we are not ready to open without tremendous health risks to our congregation. 

Every church member matters to me.  Let me say that again: Every church member matters to me. The member dying of COVID-19 is not a statistic to me. I can’t say, “Well look how many survived at CLC, this isn’t so bad.” I grieve the loss (as some of you do) of friends and family whom this virus has cruelly touched. 


Careless language, self-centered language, cruel actions break my heart.

To quote John Coffey from The Green Mile, I’m tired, Boss… Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other.”

If we aren’t in this together, then we can’t be together. We are being called to love our neighbor as ourselves… every single day of our lives. 

This isn’t a political issue, it is an issue of the heart. 

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: The Matrix

Do you like science fiction movies? I do. I wish I had the time to watch more of them! A number of years ago (like 21 years) I really enjoyed the movie trilogy that began with “The Matrix.” Now, I am not telling you to go watch the movie(s) or even recommend that you watch them, I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed them. If you decide to watch this movie at some point be aware that there is quite a bit of violence in it. I will admit that I used to have a “Matrix” screensaver on my computer at CLC back when I was the associate pastor.

The movies revolve around a “Christ-like” messiah character who doesn’t know he is the “chosen one” to save humanity from their enslavement to robots. Weird huh? Humanity isn’t aware of their bondage to this unseen overseer. As the first movie progresses the hero doubts his status as the savior of humanity until the very end. His name is Neo which means “new.” He is new and different than the rest of humanity (in this movie).  

However, there is one loyal disciple through it all. His name is Morpheus. That is also the name of the Greek god of dreams. In this movie, Morpheus is trying to wake the world from its illusory sleep! Morpheus believed in the main character (Neo) even when this hero didn’t. At one point in the second movie this loyal disciple talks to a group of people about a big plan that involves the hero of these three movies. 

Needless to say, they didn’t believe in Neo’s power either. 

“Not everyone believes what you believe Morpheus.” 

Very calmly and boldly Morpheus replies “My faith doesn’t require that they do.”

I find that line compelling because I agree with it. However, it has nothing to do with the Matrix movies and everything to do with my faith in Jesus who is the savior of the world. My faith doesn’t require anyone else to believe what I believe. 

My trust in Christ is not predicated upon anyone else believing in Him. I would believe in Jesus even if I was the last person of faith in the world.  Humanity does not define my relationship with Jesus! Opinions don’t form my faith either. It is Christ who shapes me, and it is scripture that guides me. 

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share the love I have discovered in Christ! Our current sermon series reminds us that the story continues! I can’t help but talk about my faith because God has been so good to me! Some of you are probably tired of seeing me online! (Use the mute button when necessary.)

Like the movie, Christ is calling us to see the unseen bondage to sin that many deny. Jesus wishes us to see that there is more in this world than meets the eye. There is a new reality that is just beyond our vision and it is called “The Kingdom of God.” A place where sin does not cloud our judgment and doesn’t hold us back. When we step into the Kingdom of God (through faith) we see the world differently than everyone else. 

I don’t have to go look for this mystical place called the Kingdom of God and neither do you. Jesus who is the Way tells us exactly how to find it.  

Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

I encourage you to own that statement. Believe it with your whole heart. The Kingdom of God is not found at 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. It is within you right now as you read this. Jesus is with you in this moment. 

Awaken and see the truth! Feel the love of God!

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Rehoboam’s Folly

King Solomon wrote, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

The above verse from King Solomon is the ancient variation of: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Keep these quotes in mind as I tell you a story from the Bible…

Have you ever heard of King Rehoboam? He was King Solomon’s son. King Solomon’s wisdom was legendary. Unfortunately, King Solomon didn’t seem to pass on any of his wisdom to his son. 

Aside from Jesus, we know that King Solomon was the wisest human to live (1Kings 3:10-12).  After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of Israel.  Despite having a most excellent role model in his father as it related to wise leadership, Rehoboam’s reign had immediate and dire consequences for the Kingdom of Israel.

Shortly after ascending the throne, a labor leader went to the king and asked for easier working conditions. If they were granted, King Rehoboam would have a happy and loyal workforce. 

King Rehoboam told this labor leader he needed to think it over and he consulted two completely different groups of people who gave him two completely different answers. 

First the king consulted his father’s oldest and wisest advisors. These were people with experience and proven track record. They advised King Rehoboam to ease the working conditions and all would go well for him and the nation because these laborers would be loyal.

Then the freshly minted king went to his friends. These were people with no experience and no expertise. They told King Rehoboam to exert his power and to make things harder for those who served as laborers—and this is exactly what the king wanted to hear!

The young and inexperienced king had two sets of advisors who presented him with two wildly different solutions. If only Rehoboam had listened to his father (King Solomon) when he sat on the throne. Solomon wrote, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

King Rehoboam did not take the counsel of his father’s wise and more experienced advisors. Instead he acted upon the advice of his young friends who only told him what he wanted to hear. 

We know this because King Rehoboam went to his friends AFTER he heard the recommendation of his wisest counselors. Listen to this, “But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him…” 1Kings12:8 The young king surrounded himself with “yes people.” He listened only to the people who affirmed his point of view. 

A similar scenario is playing out throughout our communities and our nation in the midst of this pandemic. Many are not listening to mainstream experts or physicians or even the Centers for Disease Control. Instead some are listening only to points of view that reinforce their personal point of view. 

As Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9  If we do not heed the advice of our wisest and most knowledgeable medical and scientific experts, we  risk repeating “Rehoboam’s Folly” and what happened in the 1918 pandemic.  

We are all prone to want to listen to our own point of view.  Myself included!  However, scripture tells us differently. We should heed the advice of those who are experts in their field.  Shouldn’t that be true especially when facing a global medical crisis? 

If we don’t learn from King Rehoboam’s mistake, we will repeat history. 

Unfortunately, for King Rehoboam, he followed the advice of his friends and it caused the country of Israel to be divided in two. Yes, King Rehoboam’s poor judgement and arrogance caused the nation of Israel to be fractured! 

I know that some of you who read this will think that I am making commentary on our president or other government officials. I AM NOT. 

Instead, I am asking members of our community—the CLC family—to prayerfully and objectively consider to whom we are listening?  Who is guiding our decisions and actions?  Are we listening to the mainstream experts and wise counselors in this moment?  Or, are we listening to those opinions that reflect our own point of view? 

As the pandemic began in the United States, Kristen Theile asked a friend of Community Lutheran Church who is a medical doctor to come and talk to a few of us about what we should be doing at the church to respond to this crisis. We listened intently as they educated us on the dangers of COVID-19. We encouraged people to stay home and a few days later we closed the buildings. I talked to this doctor again this week and they still see this situation as dangerous.

Believe me!  No one is more anxious to return to our “normal” way of life at CLC than me!  But we will continue to be closed until we know it is medically safe to be together. I will listen to the experts and not just what I want to hear. 

Saint Paul instructed his protégé Timothy on such things too. Although Paul was referring to theology and not a global medical crisis, his words have application in this situation too:

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine (facts). Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 1Timothy 4:3-4

I trust our medical community. I give thanks for our nurses and doctors who serve this city and our nation. I value their expertise in this moment. Please say a prayer for them this day. I just did.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben

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The Three Holiest Days of the Year

I ran across this picture (see above) today and wanted to share it with you? Who are you choosing to be in this moment of time? Are you ready to move from the “Fear Zone” to the “Learning Zone”? Are you emotionally equipped to move from the “Learning Zone to the “Growth Zone”?

You have a choice. Who do you want to be in the coming days and weeks? Take some time to completely read this chart. Print it, save it on your phone/computer. Refer to it. I think this is extremely helpful.

On to other things…

So here we are…. The holiest three days of the year. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Do they feel holy to you this year? With our lives disrupted with loss, do these days seem special to you? 

They are for me.

These days represent a series of promises that I will carry with me all the way to heaven.

  1. Maundy Thursday: God makes a promise to be with me (and love me) every step of my journey. It doesn’t end there. When I get spiritually hungry, Jesus comes and feeds me. I need to be reminded that I am never that far from the love of Jesus on this road called life.
  2. Good Friday: I am forgiven. Every cross I see tells me that God holds nothing against me and that I am a child of God. There is nothing I can do that can change God’s mind. The cross also reminds me the extent of God’s love. Jesus gave everything in the most excruciating way. There is nothing cheap about God’s grace. It is free to us but cost Jesus everything.
  3. Easter Sunday: Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!  Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Jesus! Not the coronavirus, not death, nothing. We may fear the future, but Jesus is with us and will lead the way! After all, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life! 

I need Easter today and every day. I believe in Easter and the bodily resurrection of Jesus! As the old hymn goes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

Do I wish we would be all together these next three days? Absolutely. But Christ is still risen and nothing can change that fact! Let us celebrate Easter like our future depends upon that truth (because it does and I believe)!

God bless you all my brothers and sisters. I am glad you are in my life. 

Pr. Ben

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