Category Archives: Articles

Article: Abraham

I am in the middle of a book about Abraham.

Abraham is the ancestral father of all Israel. Indeed, he is our adopted father as well! (See Romans 11:17-18)

Three major faith traditions find their roots in Abraham. Judaism and Christianity through Isaac the son of Abraham. Of course as a Christian, we are adopted into this family tree by Jesus. Islam through Ishmael the other son of Abraham.

Abraham is a major figure in history and faith!

God called Abraham to move to Canaan (future Israel) from a city called Ur (located in future Iraq).

God’s first promise to Abraham was this: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

As you know, all these promises have come to fruition.

Blessing often means God’s favor. God even promises that the entire world will receive God’s favor through Abraham and not in Abraham. We know that Jesus was a descendent of Abraham and everyone in the world can receive God’s blessing (favor) by trusting in Jesus.

When Abraham arrived in Canaan, God gave his second promise to him. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7

A nation, a blessing and a land. All come to pass…eventually.

In the very next verse, something interesting happens. But if you don’t look closely, you could miss it.

From there Abraham went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. Genesis 12:8

Did you catch it? I missed it the first time.

Abraham makes camp between two towns. Bethel and Ai.

The definition of these town names is important. Bethel means “House of God” and Ai means “Ruins.”

Run to the House of God and not the city of Ruins!

Although the author of Genesis was giving us details regarding Abraham’s camp site. I can’t help but wonder if there is a message for us in that verse.

We struggle to remain faithful in this life. We have good days and we have selfish, bad days. Martin Luther declares that we are both saint and sinner and I couldn’t agree with him more!

It is like we too are camped out between the “House of God” and the town of “Ruins.”  Both towns are calling out to us and beckoning us to come closer. Which voice will we respond to?

I’d like to think I’d choose Bethel (The House God). But there is also a part of me that is selfish, makes bad decision and hear the appealing call of Ai (Ruins) to draw near.

That is our life. Thanks be to God for Jesus who forgives our ruinous behavior and invites over to his house for bread and wine.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Stone of Hope

A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. Isaiah 40:3-5

On Wednesday evening Bible Study, the prophet Isaiah was mentioned in 2Kings. Isaiah lived in a time of great uncertainty.

The northern half of the nation of Israel had been invaded and conquered by the Assyrian army. Israelites were displaced and new Assyrian settlers were brought in to replace them.

The Assyrian army then moved south and set its sights on Jerusalem and all of Judah.

Isaiah lived in Jerusalem at that time.

In the middle of a hopeless situation, God spoke through Isaiah.

When God spoke to Isaiah, God didn’t say,  “People of Israel, sorry things are so bad right now but I can’t help you.” No, God brings hope to a hopeless situation. In this case, through the prophet Isaiah. A word of promise that God is up to something.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. invoked those same words of God on August 28, 1963 at a speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom gathering. Later it became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Here is an excerpt:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. 

In faith, Dr. King understood God was up to something in 1963.  

When these words were proclaimed, there was no resolution, no certainty of the outcome and continued resistance to the verbalized pledge of “liberty and justice for all.”

Dr. King states (and I love this statement), With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

I understand what he was trying to convey, and I believe we can apply this principle to our lives without it undermining its meaning in the struggle for civil rights.

There can be a mountain of obstacles, junk and despair in our lives for various reasons. Some of it external, some of it self-inflicted. Sometimes that mountain is our mindset or even temperament.  Mountains of despair materialize in our lives for various reasons and no one is exempt.

God wishes to help us move up and over that mountain of despair and at the same time to carve out a stone of hope from all that junk. That there is something to be learned along the way. That skills are developed as we traverse the unwelcome difficulties of life. The struggle itself can be a defining moment for us as human beings. Those moments and seasons can bring forth a stone of hope.

Here is how Saint Paul understands this principal…

…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5

We can carve out a stone of hope when we look to God to help us through our struggles as a nation and as individuals.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: New Year Perspectives

Does the thought of 2024 excite you or scare you? Or is January 1 just a date on the calendar with no significant meaning?

I can remember struggling to write the correct year on checks back when I wrote checks for everything.  Luckily, using a debit card eliminates that worry!

For me personally, a new year doesn’t fill me with hope nor does it cause dread. I am more of a “put one foot in front of the other” kind of guy. Address what is right in front of me and move on to the next thing.

 Friedrich Nietzsche the German philosopher once wrote, “The devil is in the details.” I find the opposite to be true.

The website “grammarist” states that Nietzsche “use of the phrase is most likely attributed to a play on the original phrase, ‘God is in the details,’ which means a higher power has a hand in the success and truthfulness of the completed work.”

I know that when I look for God, I can often see his work and guidance in the details. When I see a change that I didn’t expect, I think to myself, “God wants it this way.”

I see change as something God implementing behind the scenes. Of course, God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to people or his creation. Reasonably I don’t attribute bad events or changes to God.

I often sense God placing me in situations or moments for a reason. Or as David once wrote…

God guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:3b

I don’t know what 2024 will bring, but I do know who will be with us every step of the way: Jesus.

There is a song we sing at our 11am worship called Miracle Power. There is a phrase in the song that give me great comfort. I hope it does for you too…

“I may not know wat a day may bring, but I know who brings the day.”

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

God bless you and may God bless this coming year,

Pr. Ben

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Article: Overcoming Shame

Last weekend, I preached a message on overcoming shame. I mentioned an article that landed on my phone which is very helpful in terms of processing negative feelings of any kind. Below is that article in its entirety.


By Stephanie Harrison

As a researcher on the psychology of happiness, I’ve seen how this can create problems for our well-being. Without knowing how to feel our feelings, it’s difficult to treat ourselves with compassion, make wise decisions, and grow as individuals.

Here’s a simple process I use:

Step 1: Notice the feeling.

Take a deep breath in and out to center yourself. Then, turn inward and ask, “What feelings am I experiencing right now?”

Pay attention to any physical sensations that you’re experiencing. For example, you might be able to discern anger due to a tight sensation in your chest, or notice fear because of a jittery feeling in your hands or legs. 

Step 2: Name the feeling.

Putting your emotions into words makes them easier to manage.

How would you describe your emotional experience right now: annoyance, anger, envy, fear, disgust, disappointment, sadness, grief or something else? The more specific, the better. 

Describe the feeling out loud with a phrase like, “I am experiencing disappointment right now.”

Step 3: Accept the feeling.

Growing up, many of us were taught to suppress or hide our emotions. So as an adult, your first instinct might still be to push them away. You may think, “It’s wrong to feel that emotion.”

Research has found that suppressing our emotions can have negative consequences for both physical and mental well-being. Instead, we want to accept it. 

This emotion is offering you the opportunity to make a different, healthier choice. Use a phrase like, “I accept that I’m feeling angry right now.”

Step 4: Be with the feeling.

Once you’ve accepted the feeling, open up to it and fully experience it. The neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor found that the physiological experience of an emotion lasts for just 90 seconds. 

Commit to staying with the emotion for a minute and a half, giving it your full attention. 

Step 5: Stay with the feeling until it changes.

At a certain point, you will notice that the feeling has changed. You might now feel calmer, like a storm has passed. You also might notice another feeling emerging in its place. 

This is a sign that you allowed yourself to fully experience the emotion

Step 6: Offer yourself compassion.

Take a moment to offer kindness to yourself, to honor what you just experienced. There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Putting your hand on your heart and saying, “I’m here for you.” 
  • Physically soothing yourself, by giving yourself a hug or taking a few deep breaths. 
  • Validating your experience with a phrase like, “I really felt sad just now.” 

Step 7: Reflect on what the feeling has to teach you.

It’s critical to remember that this emotion has a purpose. It can help you to better understand yourself, your life, and what you need the most. When we suppress our emotions, we cut ourselves off from this insight. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What thought led to that feeling? 
  • How did my past experiences influence that thought? 
  • What does this feeling indicate about how my needs are being met?
  • What lessons does that emotion have to teach me?

Step 8: Decide how you want to respond.

Now that you’ve experienced your feelings and learned from them, you’re ready to respond with wisdom and make the best choice that you can.

That will look different depending on the situation. You might need to pause, gather more information, ask for help, prioritize a specific need, or reach out to connect with someone. 

Ultimately, by using this process, you will be able to make a plan that will support your well-being, empower you to nurture your relationships and help you to achieve your goals.


I added one step of my own too: Thank Jesus for walking with you. He will never abandon us, even when we walk away.

Jesus came to help us over come our shame and guilt and help us find healing even this pain is self-inflicted. I pray that if you are struggling, Jesus will help you find a path forward towards abundant and joyful living.

God bless you now and always,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Joy Awaits

For God’s anger lasts only a moment, but the Lord’s favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

These words reflect the thoughts of a songwriter in ancient Israel. This psalm could be almost 3000 years old. Their experience of God tells them God’s goodness and favor is not fickle or short-lived which is definitely good news!

Yet, there might be moments of anger. I want to ask in return, “Are there?” I am not so sure. Why? The cross of Jesus tells me that my sin and brokenness do not obstruct God’s love. The psalmist doesn’t have the same perspective because they lived before the time of Jesus. In other words, they may not have as complete a picture of God’s nature as we do.

However, many people interpret God’s anger through the lens of “there are consequences for my actions.” Or to put it more biblically, “A person reaps what they sow.” Galatians 6:7

It may not be God’s anger or even judgment at all. Instead it is the consequences of poor choices. You are free to choose your path, but not the ramifications of that decision.

Whoever wrote this has been through some stuff. Yet, there is some clarity in the next phrase. …weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

We have all had heartbreaking moments in our life. Some of us have cried for more than an evening because of loss and devastation. I am also certain there will be more because the world we live in is broken.

But the promise made is that once the dark clouds have passed, once the sun has risen… there will be joy in the proverbial morning. God’s joy gets the final say.

Our future is promised to be unending joy. One day we will wake up in heaven… a place of perfect and perpetual joy.

King David expressed this in a song he wrote about God…

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.
1Chronicles 16:27

Life is a lot like the night of weeping but joy awaits us. Don’t give up hope! We still can have joy in this life too! But greater joy is ahead!

As we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, the candle of joy, we are encouraged to hold on because joy is our destiny!

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Prepare?

What do these things have in common?

Taking a trip

A home cooked meal

Taking a test

Getting married

Welcoming a newborn into your home

A new school year

Throwing a party

Christmas

This appears to be a random list without a thread connecting them, but there is an association.

All these things either take preparation or go better with planning ahead of time. One packs for a trip, buys groceries for a meal, studies for a test, makes wedding plans, decorates a nursery, buys school supplies, organizes a party and one prepares for Christmas.

Like I said, you don’t have to prepare for any of those things, but life will be better if you do!

Even Christmas. No, I don’t mean buying presents and decorating the house because you don’t want to be seen as a Scrooge.

In the Christmas hymn (now designated as an Advent hymn for some reason) “Joy to the World” you find the phrase, “Let every heart, prepare Him room”.

The season of Advent is the time to prepare our hearts for the miracle of Christmas. Maybe there is a need for some pre-Christmas clean-up for our hearts. Could there be some past resentments we need to let go of? Or quite possibly a change of heart about something in your life that is holding you back?

Advent is the time to focus on: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. All these things originate from God. More than that, Jesus wants to give them to you in abundance. That is more difficult when we don’t prepare ourselves to receive them and Jesus.

As King Solomon once wrote, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Let Jesus in now and your Christmas will be wondrous.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: What Was I Doing in Chicago?

I am back from Chicago where I attended my first Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council meeting.

I now am on the church council for the entire ELCA. I am honored to fill this role for the next two years.

The Lutheran Center in Chicago, IL
The Lutheran Center, Chicago, IL

I am happy to report that it is good that Community Lutheran Church is a part of the ELCA. We are in alignment on a lot of different issues and ideas.

During the council meeting, we discussed and acted on various items including:

  • A report on the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility audit of ELCA governing documents. This will ensure our governing documents for the ELCA are fair to all and not biased.
  • A prayer vigil for peace in the Holy Land hosted by the Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage. We also heard a report from two Lutheran pastors serving in Jerusalem on behalf of the ELCA.
  • An update on the work of and a listening session on the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church. The ELCA is working diligently to be a more engaging church in the near future.
  • An update on and discussion of churchwide organization priorities, including the Future Church: God’s Love Made Real initiative. Our churchwide office is doing the hard work to reorganize to be more effective in the coming years.
  • Reports and updates from home areas and teams of the churchwide organization. We heard from every department within the ELCA.
  • A report from the Conference of Bishops. All of our bishops meet regularly and we heard about their work together.
  • An update on the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Campaign that impacts the Holyland
  • An update on the 50th anniversary of ELCA World Hunger in 2024. Our church has been engaged in combating hunger issues and famine for almost 50 years now!

As you can see, a lot is going on and our national church is actively engaged in the world and being responsive to the needs of others. The ELCA is keenly focused on tasks that we as a local congregation cannot do. They represent us nationally and in the world. I am proud of their work on our behalf.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Hearing From God

In 2015, the smartphone company Samsung came up with an idea for new advertising campaign emphasizing connection through communication.

The commercial revolves around Muaharrem, a deaf man in Istanbul who uses sign language to communicate. Muaharrem spent every day communicating with people in his town the best he could. He may have gotten by in the world but was never able to truly thrive because he never connected with people on a deeper level except his sister who knows sign language.

Samsung set up a scenario (unknown to Muaharrem) that everyone he interacted with that day would communicate in sign language. Absolutely everyone.

At first, it was surprising then it became amazing to Muaharrem!

Samsung had contracted the locals to learn sign language as a promotion for its new technology for the hard of hearing but ended up giving Muaharrem the best gift he could have gotten: the gift of communication and connection in the community.

It may sound a little bit of a “set up” because it was. However, he was still touched by the moment, even though it was for a commercial.

In a different way we might feel disconnected from others and even God when life is difficult.

I want you to know that God is always trying to connect with us! I want to be clear that Jesus speaks to us through different experiences. If our hearts and minds are not open to this, we can completely miss it and wonder if God actually exists.

The Bible speaks to this very idea, For God does speak—now one way, now another— though people may not perceive it. Job 33:14

Let me share with you three different ways God can speak to our hearts.

  1. Reading the Bible. Paul writes, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16

    Simply put, God speaks through the Bible. More specifically, when we read the Gospels, we hear the heart of Jesus when he speaks. In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1-2

2. God speaks through Nature. Paul again writes, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20


A sunset, majestic mountains, the waves lapping on the ocean can speak to our hearts to help us connect with the master architect who created it all.

3. God speaks through the Christians around us. Yes, Jesus can speak through others. It happens all the time! Since we are the body of Christ and Jesus is the brains of the operation, he can send messages in and through us. How do we know this? The Spirit of God is given to every believer of Jesus. We all have the capacity to let the Holy Spirit work through us.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

If you are feeling disconnected these days, use these as a guide to hear from God.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Guess What?

I have an announcement to make…

No, it is nothing bad.

Earlier this fall, our bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod asked if I would be willing to serve on a committee.

A very special committee.

Before I tell you what it is, I want to explain a few details first.

Our church is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which is shortened to the ELCA.

The ELCA is organized the same way our congregation is organized.

At CLC, we have a church council that is elected by the congregation to make decisions on behalf of the congregation in lieu of monthly congregational meetings.

Our synod (which means gathering or assembly in Greek) is organized the same way. There is a synod council that operates a lot like a congregational council.

The ELCA has 65 synods (or geographical areas) in the United States. Our synod covers the territory of Southern Utah, Southern Nevada and all of Arizona.

The national church is organized the same way as congregations and synods. There is a church council that governs the national church.


If nothing else, we are consistent in our organizational practices.

OK, now for the announcement….

Bishop Hutterer of the Grand Canyon Synod (our bishop) asked if I would serve on the church council for the ELCA. I accepted.

I, not only represent Community Lutheran Church but the entire Grand Canyon Synod when the church council of the ELCA meets several times a year to conduct business on behalf of the entire church.

The council meets at the ELCA “headquarters” in Chicago, Illinois near O’Hare airport. Years ago, Rachel and I lived close to the offices of the ELCA and I have been there many times.

In November, I will be attending my first ELCA church council meeting in Chicago and I will be gone during the second week of November.

In 2024, I believe there are three meetings that I will attend in Chicago.

It is an honor to serve the larger church and represent the synod and you! I will tell you all about it when I get back!

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Surrender

During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances.

Prussia was one of the few countries to resist Napoleon Bonaparte’s quest to overtake all of Europe and beyond.

King Frederick William III felt the pressure to defend and lead the people of Prussia. It was also clear he absolutely did not want to disappoint his people and surrendering to the enemy was unthinkable.

After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down and sold to buy supplies for the ongoing war effort.  

For each piece of jewelry received, the king determined to give each donor a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, “I gave gold for iron, 18l3.”

The response was overwhelming. Even more important, the women of Prussia prized their gifts from the king more highly than their expensive jewelry.

The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear gold and silver jewelry instead the simple gift from their king was a badge of honor.

It is also true that when a Christian draws close to their King, they too let go of vanity for something better: eternity.

This true story reminds me of the second verse to the great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

Holy, holy, holy!
all the saints adore Thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

This is a stanza is from Revelation. And it is a reminder than nothing on this earth, nothing in our own lives is as important as the connection we have with Jesus our King.

For me, that means I need to let go of a lot of stuff. I need to surrender those things to Jesus. I may not have any golden crowns but there are things I need to “cast down” or throw away.

When I hold on to things to tightly (physically, emotionally, mentally) the ability to reach for Jesus is severely limited. I need to be reminded to surrender my worries and even my aspirations to Jesus.

Jesus once said this…

Then Jesus said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-24

I want what Jesus is offering because I know it will carry me home to Him one day.

I leave you with the chorus of one of my favorite songs…

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee
My blessed Savior
I surrender all

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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