Category Archives: Articles

Article: Jam in the Valley

We’ve been spending some time on the weekends telling stories about people who found themselves in a “jam.” No likes obstacles or trouble, but they are a fact of life. Some of the most revered people of the Bible faced great difficulties.

The question is not how to avoid all potential jams because we can’t. The question at hand is how do we navigate the trouble when it is upon us? Certainly, some of our problems are self-inflicted and some are not. We can armchair quarterback the decisions we made in the past, but those conclusions don’t alter the present reality.

Psalm 23:4 reminds us how to face the problems of this life and clarifies the how we move forward.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The operative word in this verse is “through.” We don’t backtrack, avoid, or circle around. We move through those less than pleasant experiences to get to the other side.

There is no way to avoid a jam– and spending any time to avoid life’s potholes will leave you empty and afraid.

With God’s help, we chart a course through the valley of the shadow of death. With God’s comfort, we can take the steps necessary to move beyond the current jam in our lives.

Jesus knows the valley of the shadow of death and its companion: Death Valley. No, not the one in California, but death itself. Jesus took the journey through both and emerged on Easter morning to aid us in our moments of fear and strife.

Jesus also gave us the gift of the Church so that we may always have each other too.

We don’t ever need to be alone in our struggles, and we are promised that Jesus will walk with us through everything, big or small.

Remember: Jam is always better when we share it with others.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Water

I’ve been thinking a lot about water. Specifically, the water supply in southern Nevada. As most of you know, our water supply has been dwindling for the past 20 years. Lake Mead has served as our primary water source since 1935 when Hoover Dam was completed.

As most of you know the water serves another purpose: It generates electricity. As the water from Lake Mead passes through the dam the hydroelectric generators produce massive amounts of electricity. Each year, 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power is created at the dam. That electricity can power 1.3 million homes. Wow.

There is potential in that water! Water is essential for life AND if channeled properly it can provide needed power for the lives we live.

The same is true for our baptism.

The moment we were baptized, God laid a claim on our lives. We are born into a new family: The family of God. Nothing can undo that declaration by God.

Once we have received the water joined with the Word (Jesus) at Baptism, we are both a reservoir of God’s grace but we are also full of potential power.

At our baptism we are also given the gift of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit can change us and change the world!

Look at the disciples after the resurrection. They went from being afraid when Jesus died to fearless! That is the power of the Spirit at work.

Every Christian has potential Holy Spirit power in their lives.

How do we unleash that power? We surrender to it. Let God take the lead in your life. Remember: Thy will be done, not my will be done.

Gracious God,

Thank you claiming us and making us your children. Help us to surrender our wills to yours so that the potential power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us… today… right now. Help us to stop, look and listen for your direction in all things. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben


Article: Christmas 2022 Reflections

We come to the last few days of the year with an eye on New Year’s Day. Even as the world has moved on from Christmas, that is the season we are in and will be until Epiphany on January 6th.

I know it seems odd that it is still Christmas. After all, the stores and the radio told you it was the Christmas season on the day after Thanksgiving.  But here we are.

Before the season officially ends, let’s look at where we have been in the past month.

First, we created an alternative holiday to-do list…

  1. Be present in the lives of others instead of just buying presents

  2. Wrap others in love instead of just wrapping presents.

  3. Be the light instead of just going out to look at lights. (I really wanted this to be “eat cookies instead of making them.”)

  4. Send peace to others by reaching out and contacting someone.

Of course, these are things we can do all year long and I personally will strive to do those things with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Although we didn’t look at all the stories of Jesus when he was an infant, let’s take a quick peek. These stories tell us something about Jesus’ identity and his future.

  1. The angels announced the birth to shepherds not Kings, Caesar’s, and nobles. Jesus will spend his time with “real people” like us.

  2. King Herod is threatened by the birth of Jesus. Herod’s power is threatened by the One who truly has power.

  3. When Jesus was dedicated at the Temple of Jerusalem as was the custom of that day a man by the name of Simeon knew who Jesus was and what he would be about. This is what he said to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34

  4. The Wise Men come from afar reminding us that Jesus is for all people and not just some.

All the stories point to who Jesus is and what he would do for us. A good reminder for us before we put Christmas back into storage until next year.

God bless you and Merry Christmas,

Pr. Ben


Articles: Cookies!

This past Sunday at church, I told everyone that Rachel (my wife) made an old family cookie recipe that goes back several generations. That old Swedish cookie is called “Pepparkakor.”

The house smelled wonderful as the first batch of cookies baked in the oven. The aroma took me back to when I was a child when my mother would make these cookies for the family.

As the cookies came out of the oven, I jumped up from my seat to “help” Rachel in the kitchen. OK, I went into the kitchen to have a cookie. I was promptly told that these cookies were for the church bake sale.

The irony was that I went to church to buy back the cookies Rachel made in our home! (FYI: I didn’t buy them all!)

This week, Rachel suggested I share the family recipe of Pepparkakor with the church family! What an excellent idea I thought, now everyone can make me cookies! Just kidding!

Below is that recipe… enjoy!

1 c. butter
1 egg
1⅓ c. sugar
2 T. light molasses
2½ c. flour
1½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. each of the following:
Ground cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom
3 tsp. orange peel, fresh grated fine

Cream butter, egg, sugar and light molasses. Sift flour, baking soda, spices and orange peel. Combine all and blend. Roll out as thin as you can.

Use cookie cutter. Bake 375° on cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes.

Merry Christmas!

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Making Room

John weeks looked into the origins of the word Advent (the church season we are in right now) and this is what he discovered…

The word Advent comes from the Latin word, “advenire”, conjugated as “adventus” which is a combination word of “ad” meaning, “to” or “toward” and “venire”, “come” which is conjugated as ventus, which means more specifically, “coming”. Combining them gets us literally, “toward the coming.” The Latin definition is, “(a thing) about to happen.” Expectation would be an appropriate synonym here.

Funk & Wagnall’s defines the lower case version of advent as, “a coming or arrival, as of any important event or person.” So you can see that the definition has not changed significantly since it was taken from the original Latin.

We are preparing for the advent of Jesus. Not just in the Christmas story but also the advent of our King at the end of time. After all we profess in the Apostles’ Creed that, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Christmas is the reminder that God comes to us! Sure, he came to us 2000 years ago in Bethlehem when Jesus was born! We also beleive that he will return one day to take us home. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and promises to never leave us.

If we know that Christmas is coming and that Jesus will return one day… let me ask the question, “Are you ready?”

If you don’t know the answer to the question I am asking, let me tell you by turning to one of our favorite Christmas hymns, “Joy to the World.” The first verse tells us everything we need to know. “Let every heart, prepare him (Jesus) room.”

It is that simple. Make room for Jesus in your heart. Not just once, but each and every day. By the way, you might need to push out some other stuff to create more room for Jesus but I will leave that to you to figure out.

Let your heart be a manger to lay the Christ child in.

The promise of Advent is real, don’t be the inn, be the stable. Make room for Jesus today.

Happy Advent,

Pr. Ben


Article: Thankful

By the time I write my next article, it will be the season of Advent. We will be getting ready for the advent of our King.

Before we get to that next season of the church, I want to take a moment to wish you, your family and your friends a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.

Whether you will be alone or in a crowded house next Thursday, it is always a good time to thank God.

Since our children grew up, we have had many Thanksgivings where it was Rachel and me. We didn’t dwell on who wasn’t at our table, we gave thanks to God for each other.

This year our house will be full, and it will be the first time since 2015 that we will have the entire family around the Thanksgiving table. We will take time to give thanks in between the lively conversations.

Whatever season or situation I find myself in, I know that that there is always a reason to give thanks to God for the blessings in my life.

No, my life isn’t perfect and I could tick off a list of things that I wish I were different or better in my life, but I choose to be thankful.

I know that Jesus loves me and I know that he loves you. That is more than enough for me.

If you are unsure of your blessings, join us at Community Lutheran Church at 6pm pst this coming Wednesday as we worship the God who gives and gives and gives. If you live in the Las Vegas Valley, join us in person! If you live out of state, join us online. We will be waiting.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Core Values 2022

If you worshipped with us over the past two weeks, we’ve been spending time talking about core values.

These values aren’t things we aspire to be, they are things we do right now and our goal is to do them well.

Our mission statement and our core values are clearly described on our website:

You will even see them as you come up the stairs to church!

In past week we have shown clearly how we embrace and live into every core value we named as a congregation.

Welcome: A week ago Thursday we welcomed over 200 people to our church parking lot for our 23rd annual Trunk or Treat Halloween Party. Many families from the neighborhood came and enjoyed a fun evening where they were welcomed and made to feel “at home.”

We couldn’t do this year after year without the tremendous support of our church family who came out to serve our community with warm smiles and piles of candy.

Worship: As a church this is the primary activity of Community Lutheran Church! We worship Jesus who died and rose again from the dead. In doing so, we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even death itself! We gather as a church family to praise Jesus and give thanks for all God has done in our lives.

Learning: We recognize the importance and commitment to be “lifelong learners.” There is always an opportunity to learn at CLC. Just this week 70 people gathered on Wednesday to share dinner and then engage in learning about the life of King David. This coming Sunday, I will be teaching a class on what it means to be a Lutheran Christian. There are other opportunities to learn as well, including Sunday School and Youth Group!

Service: We are a church that serves all the time! Not ourselves, but each other and the community. Why? There is an inescapable conclusion found in the teachings of Jesus that we show our love for one another by how we serve. We learn from the Bible that points us towards serving the way Jesus served us by dying for our sins.

You can see the signs of service everywhere at CLC! From our kitchen to our welcome desk, to ushers, greeters and Communion assistants, the Glitter Team, landscaping, the gift store. When the larger community needs our help we are ready to jump in with our senior feeding program, peanut butter, Operation Christmas Child, quilters, knitters, Carolyn’s Closet, Angel Tree and even Halloween candy. And we do even more than these things listed here!

Generosity: If we live into the first four core values of: Welcome, Worship, Learning and Service the inevitable result is a “lifestyle of generosity.” Simply put we give because God gave. We give of our time, our money and even our expertise/passion. We most look like Jesus when we give to others or to the church.

Living into our core values as individuals will lead us on a path of Inspired Growth… closer to God and closer to each other.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Emotional Health

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the foremost expert on “Emotional Intelligence.” Most of us know about IQ (intelligence quotient) but everyone also possesses some level of EQ (emotional quotient).

It is quite possible that being emotionally healthy is more important than “how smart you are.” Emotionally healthy people are happier people.

In Dr. Bradberry’s latest article (shared below), he lays out a few things that emotionally healthy do not do. I have added the Bible verses but everything else is from Dr. Bradberry.

They don’t beg for attention. People who are always begging for attention are needy. They rely on that attention from other people to form their self-identity. Emotionally intelligent people couldn’t care less about attention. They do what they want to do and what needs to be done, regardless of whether anyone is stroking their ego.

Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1Corinthians 13:5

They don’t act like jerks. People who act like jerks are unhappy and insecure. They act like jerks because they don’t have the emotional strength to be nice when they don’t feel like it. Emotionally intelligent people place high value on their relationships, which means they treat everyone with respect, regardless of the kind of mood they’re in.

A kind person benefits themself, but a cruel person brings trouble on themself. Proverbs 11:17

They don’t hold grudges. The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. Researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

They don’t hang around negative people. Negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to negative people because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear to someone and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. Emotionally intelligent people avoid getting drawn in by setting limits and distancing themselves from negative people when necessary. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with negative people. 

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.
Proverbs 22:24-25

They don’t feel entitled. Emotionally intelligent people believe that the world is a meritocracy and that the only things that they deserve are those that they earn. People who lack EQ often feel entitled. They think that the world owes them something. Again, it’s about locus of control. Emotionally intelligent people know that they alone are responsible for their successes or failures.

The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12

They don’t let anyone limit their joy. When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself with others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something they’ve done, they don’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself with others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1Corinthians 15:33

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b

They don’t get eaten up by jealousy and envy. Emotionally intelligent people understand that the happiness and success of others doesn’t take away from their own, so jealousy and envy aren’t an issue for them. They see success as being in unlimited supply, so they can celebrate others’ successes.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

They don’t live in the past. Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve things that aren’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this if they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require your taking some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens—your past becomes your present and prevents you from moving forward. 

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b-14

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Isaiah 43:18-19a

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Real Power

I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter saga of books many years ago. They are not evil, nor are about how to perform witchcraft. This story is primarily about the struggle of good versus evil.

Weaved within this story is the primary importance of the power of love.

At one point, the wise old professor Dumbledore is speaking with an evil wizard by the name of Voldemort who wants to rule the world with an “iron fist.”

This is a part of that conversation:

Voldemort: “But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your pronouncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore.”

Dumbledore: “Perhaps you have been looking in the wrong places.” 

It was love that protected the hero, Harry Potter in these stories and not magic.

Of course, there is no magic in the real world, but there is love. These fictional books point to a real-life truth: love is most powerful force on the planet.

The problem with love is this: We don’t believe love is the most powerful thing in the universe.

Love changes hearts. Hate hardens them.

Love forgives and offers a new way forward. Hate brings resentment.

Love inspires. Hate digs in.

It is the power of love that Jesus forgave the world through his death. It is the power of love that offers us the gift of eternal life.

Love has the power to change everything within the human sphere.

Of course, there is limited power in hate and violence but the power of love is infinite if we would only tap into the source of love: Jesus.

Hate has a shelf life, love never goes bad or has an expiration date. How do I know this? Jesus’ death and resurrection still provides life giving forgiveness and wholeness 2000 years later. 

Love will grow the more we share it with others. It is not finite or containable. 

Unfortunately, some will never see powerful potential of love. Instead, they will revert to hate, violence and manipulation to get what they want. There may be short term gain but to what end?

Jesus reminds of something that is so important that I don’t want you to miss it.

Jesus said, “What good will it be for a person if they gain the whole world, yet forfeits their soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:16

Love is moving us towards something better. It is moving us towards a life that will never end with Jesus and our church family. A place of perfect peace and joy.

Don’t hesitate to show some love today! You might change someone’s life!

God bless,
Pr. 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