Category Archives: Articles

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


Article: It is Your Choice

The earliest writings in the New Testament come from Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica. We commonly call it 1Thessalonians. Most agree it was written somewhere close to 50AD. Less than 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus.

If you read this short letter, you will see the affection Paul has for the members of this church. He is encouraging them to stay strong in their relationship with Jesus. Near the end of the letter, Paul writes this…

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

This seems like a tall order, but not impossible. If it is God’s will, Jesus will give the power to live into that reality.

Let’s look at each part…

Be joyful always…

In Philippians Paul writes a lot about joy. We learn that joy is tied to our relationship with Jesus and it is not external events. Happiness is derived from positive life events.

If you aren’t joyful, ask yourself, “How is your relationship with Jesus these days?”

Pray continually…

Prayer is less about requests and more about your connection to God. If you aren’t joyful most of the time, then praying should help increase the quotient of joy in your life. Regular prayer or should I say, routine check-ins with Jesus will help you navigate the ups and downs of life with more joy. Do you want to be less moody? Pray more.

Give thanks in all situations…

Gratitude for God’s grace is good for your soul. Even in the darkest moments, giving thanks for the strength that Jesus provides is not only possible but good for us. Gratefulness keeps life and its challenges in perspective. Even when we lose someone we love, being thankful for your faith and the gift of heaven will help you move through the deepest of grief.

It is easy to let circumstances dictate your temperament. It is simple to let your prayer life vanish when you are busy or resentful and it takes very little effort to point out what is wrong in your life and the world versus giving thanks for the gift of Jesus.

What will you focus on? It is your choice.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Not Ashamed

As a Christian, have you ever noticed the passion behind the letters Saint Paul wrote? He wasn’t passively penning correspondence to friends of yesteryear; no, he was writing to encourage and light a spiritual fire under everyone who read his letters.

Why? Because Paul wanted everyone to understand the good news that God loves all people and that Jesus desires to be in a relationship with every single person on the planet. Not just then but right now!

Let me give you a glimpse of Saint Paul’s passion. In his letter to the church of Rome, Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

Paul declares that he won’t hide who he is (a child of God) and he will wear it as a badge of honor for all the world to see! He is not ashamed to be called a Christian. Why? Because it saved his life and his eternal life.

The power of God rests in the love of God. Paul discovered that truth the hard way (see Acts 9).  He later realized that a life of hate and religious rule following doesn’t impress God and it got him nowhere other than being an extremely bitter religious person.

But declaration wasn’t for himself. I hope these words cause you to reflect on your life. Are you ashamed of the gospel? Did knowing Jesus change your life? (It changed mine.)

Knowing Jesus is both life changing and lifesaving. Yet many Christians lack the passion to share their faith or even invite someone to church.

God came to us in the person of Jesus to show us the tender compassion of God. Jesus came to  earth to draw close to anyone who would follow. And I do mean anyone. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of every person who placed their trust in Jesus.

I give thanks for the Holy Spirit of God!  Why? The Spirit promised to guide and instruct us along the way as well as give us gifts to reflect the love of God. Paul calls these gifts “fruits.” Like a tree or a plant that gives produce when they are planted in good soil, God gives us gifts when we are firmly rooted in Jesus!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22–23

Those are nine gifts can change the world (us included)!

Am I ashamed of the gospel? NO! I give thanks to Jesus for all he has done in my life and I want others to know that I was once lost but now I am found!

In 1553 an English reformer once saw criminals being led to their execution and he uttered these words, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I completely understand what he meant by that. Without Jesus working in my life, I am not sure where I would be right now.

I want others to know what has been given to me. I hope you do too.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Truth

To the Jewish people who had believed Jesus, he said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36

About 20 years ago or so, truth became subjective in our society. My truth is not your truth and your truth is not my truth. Everyone is entitled to have their own “truths.”

There doesn’t seem to be an absolute truth everyone can agree on.

Yet, from the distant past Jesus says, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

What is Jesus talking about?!?

He is stating three truths at once.

  1. We all mess up. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be flawless in this life. No one can dispute that. It is true. We all make mistakes and hurt other people. Either intentionally or unintentionally.

  2. Only Jesus can free us from the hurt we cause to ourselves and others. Jesus is willing and able to free us from chains of hurt and regret. This is only true if we dare to trust in Jesus’ love and resurrection power!

  3. The last truth is often obscured by lies and misinformation. Jesus wants to be in relationship with you to free you from the idea that God demands perfection or face eternal damnation.

    Our relationship with Jesus is not based upon our ability to be good or even do the right thing. There are no steps to Jesus. He comes to us in our weakness and wants to show us a better way to live but he never demands our obedience, and he never threatens.

    Jesus wants to draw close to us and set us free from the misguided notion of “performative theology.” That we can earn or even prove to God we are good or at the very least, good enough. We aren’t good. God already knows that!

    Jesus wants to free us from the sin that hinders us and reveal to us that God is not a divine Santa Claus that is keeping a lists of all the naughty and nice children (us). No, Jesus wants to set us free from our worst selves and then show us that God desires to be our friend and not a cosmic law enforcement agency.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Share!

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:13-15

Saint Paul wrote these words to the church of Rome to remind them and us of something important.

The love of Jesus is so tremendously huge that anyone who calls upon God for help… for comfort… for salvation… those prayers will be answered. Including people who have ignored God their whole life until a moment of extreme duress. God doesn’t “turn his back” on those who call out to Jesus.

Think about the criminal on the cross next to Jesus. This man was about to die. He admitted he was a felon and probably never gave God a thought during his life of crime. Yet in that moment before death, he looks over to the dying savior of the world and says to him, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

Jesus doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t say, “not a chance.” Jesus doesn’t even scoff. In the final moments of Jesus’ life, the criminal is assured of his place in heaven.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Paul quoted Joel 2:32)

But then Paul asks a great question for the rest of us. If God loves the world so much that he would come to us in the person of Jesus, how do people call on the name of the Lord if they have never heard of him or know anything about him?

The answer is unambiguous. The answer is us.

We’ve been called and we’ve been sent into our neighborhoods and social circles to share the love of Jesus. We’ve been sent to invite others to come to church and hear about the love of Christ in song, in bread and wine and in preaching.

We aren’t just consumers of religious content, we are also the ones who share what we have learned and experienced in and through Jesus.

Someone needs to know what you have discovered. Somebody you know is searching for answers but doesn’t know where to look. Tell them.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Stained Glass

Recently an antique “hunter” bought several items from a church that was closing in Philadelphia.

Paul Brown bought some doors, a few pews and two stained glass windows. All were antiques and appeared to have a good resale value.

The stained glass was more than stained from that old church. They were darkened by years of candle soot and grime. Most likely they hadn’t been cleaned in many, many years which caused them to be very dull and dark.

After the purchase, Brown hired stained glass experts to remove the windows from the church and bring them to his location.

Upon careful examination and research, Brown discovered that they were made by the Tiffany Glass Studios somewhere around 1904. Yes, that Tiffany.

All told, Brown paid $5000 for the doors, pews and stained glass. Now that the provenance of the windows has been established, these windows are now selling for $225,000. Wow!

We are a lot like that stained glass. Sometimes, the hardships and traumas of life cause us to grow dimmer and less reflective. At times we forget that we are treasured by God and precious to Christ. The darker the events of our life the more inward we become.

Never forget, we are of infinite value to God! If you don’t believe that, then let me ask you, why would Jesus die for us if we weren’t important to him?

Remember what God said to the people of Israel so many years ago. It applies to us as well as children of God.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession. Deuteronomy 14:2

It is easy to forget that when life is hard. More than that, the accumulation of disappointment grows. It doesn’t just go away, it is cumulative.

Just like a dirty, grimy stained-glass window we need to be cleaned occasionally. Not only does Jesus invite us to lay our burdens down and find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-29) but when we return to our baptism, we are washed clean from sin and brokenness.

Martin Luther reminds us to return to our baptism daily (in asking for forgiveness) so that we remain spotless.

And like a stained-glass window that is clean, we will be able to reflect the light of the Son to the people around us.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Contentment

In a well known portion of scripture, Saint Paul writes about secret of contentment to the church of Philippi.

This is what he wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Let me ask you two questions:

  1. Are you content?
  2. What is the source of that contentment?

Paul clearly answers that for himself and points the way for us. He is, in fact, content in all circumstances and not just when times are good.

It reminds me of the lyrics of a song Frank Sinatra recorded. In the song “That’s Life”, it says,

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself
Flat on my face
I pick myself up and get
Back in the race

Paul said it didn’t matter the situation, he found contentment in the one thing that never changes: Christ.

I agree with Paul, satisfaction is found in Jesus alone and not in the circumstances we find ourselves in. Some days are great and others, not so much. Look to the One who never changes and will never leave us.

But wait there is more…

As soon as Paul finishes this thought he continues with something we should take note of.

This is what he writes, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” Philippians 4:14

Paul isn’t an island unto himself. He recognizes that love and support that comes from others. He looks to Christ for all things but welcomes the community that comes to his aid in times of distress.

I love this so much! We are reminded to stand on the solid rock of Christ for all things, but know there are others in your church family who will support you too! It is a “both/and” situation.

These verses remind me that I need Christ and I need you!

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Living Water

I love the story of Jesus encounter with the woman at the well in Samaria.

However, there are a lot of nuances that can easily be missed.

  • The woman went to the well around noon (the 6th hour) to avoid conversations with others.
  • Jesus should not be at the well because it was inappropriate for a man to talk to a woman alone.
  • Jesus was in Samaria and there was bad blood between Jews and Samaritans.

This is a “conflict rich environment.”

Jesus is at this well in Samaria (not Israel) by himself around noon when a woman from town comes to draw water, hoping no one would be there.

Rather than minding his own business, Jesus asks her for a drink of water.

The woman knew he wasn’t a Samaritan. Maybe it was his accent? Already annoyed that she is not alone, she tries to end the conversation.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) John 4:9

She is trying to cut this conversation off before it begins.

Essentially, the woman says this, “Why are you even talking to me? Your people look down on my people. Your people wouldn’t touch anything that touched my hands because we are ‘unclean.’”

A little passive aggressive to get Jesus to leave her alone!

It doesn’t work. And now, Jesus has her full attention.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

Jesus knew this woman was struggling because Jesus always knows. He intentionally makes a provocative statement to see if she will “bite.” And she does.

Jesus’ intention was to show her the love of God maybe for the first time in her life. This woman knows disappointment. This woman knows shame. Her is life was marked by numerous relational failures and the subsequent judgment from others in town.

Jesus wants to change her life moving forward. He does this by offering her “living water.”

This offer of living water sounds kind of like new age spirituality when Jesus first says it. But it is not. To understand what he is talking about, we would need to read more of the gospel of John to understand what he is talking about.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  John 7:37-39

There we have it. Jesus was offering the woman at the well the gift of the Holy Spirit. He was inviting her into a relationship with God.

It is the same Spirit offered to all who come to faith in Christ, including you. It is the Spirit who wants to gift you with all the tools you need to get through life.

Listen to this…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

Those are the things the Holy Spirit wants to give to every child of God! I gladly accept these gifts! I hope you do too.

The Holy Spirit is like a chilled glass of water on a hot day… refreshing!

This weekend we will gather to celebrate the day God gave the Holy Spirit to all believers. Come and join us online or in person as we give thanks for the Holy Spirit that guides and inspires us… each and every day.

God bless,

Pr. Ben


Article: Why I Talk About Church Finances and Giving

The church is the body of believers that gather together. Saint Paul refers to us as the “body of Christ.” (1Corinthians 12:27)

He takes that a step further and calls Jesus the “head” of this body. In other words, Christ is the brains of the operation!

First and foremost, this is Christ’s church. Second, we are stewards (managers) of what Jesus entrusted to us.

It is a communal responsibility to care for our church. It doesn’t just fall to me or Pastor Brian or even the church council. We all have a stake in caring for all aspects of our congregation.

That is the precisely the reason I have been so open about our finances and all the different things that needed repairs over the years.

It was conveyed to me recently that some are uncomfortable with me sharing our congregational needs with the membership, especially when there is a deficit.

In my attempts to be transparent, I have made some to feel uncomfortable and question what we are doing?

In several previous congregational meetings, I have stated more than once that our largest expense is our staffing and that is common in all churches. We have reduced staff since the pandemic to trim our budget.

Up to this point, we have resisted shrinking our staff even more.

Occasionally, there are unforeseen expenses that happen too. This year (so far) it was our exorbitant gas bill. We are still working on finding out why.

My objective is simple: Let our amazing congregation know what is going on and why.

I do not mean to upset anyone. Ever.

As it relates to all things giving, I believe in what Saint Paul wrote with my whole heart.

Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2Corinthians 9:7

There is no reason to give to the church if you don’t feel like it. It is that simple.

God wants people to be cheerful and joyful when they give. We should never give because someone is guilting us or twisting our arms.

I love our church and only want the best for us and the ability to continue to provide quality ministry to you, the city and online!

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Accepting Yourself and Others

This past Sunday I preached on the first part of our mission statement at CLC. It states that we are church of real people. Essentially, we are imperfect people seeking Jesus.

The church is full of broken people in varying degrees, including myself.

Although God is perfect, he doesn’t demand perfection from us. God knows us so well that he sent us himself (as Jesus) to forgive us and draw us close. The cross tells us that God doesn’t hold anything against us.

Jesus wants us to draw so close so that we can be washed clean (forgiven) by him. He isn’t scared off by sin. Jesus embraces sinners.

Knowing this, why do we judge people who sin knowing we do it too? There is something wrong with us when we feel superior to those who do bad things, and we look down on others. It is contrary to everything we know about ourselves (we are sinners too) and God’s unconditional love.

No matter how many times we are told that God is love (1John 4:8) we still think God requires people to get their act together before they can truly be considered a Christian. There is nowhere in the Bible that we are asked to be “gatekeepers” to keep the riffraff out.  The point is that we are all a hot mess to some degree.

We don’t need to fit in… we are accepted as we are.

It is a paradox to think “I am acceptable to God” but you over there “are not.” It is purely by God’s grace, God’s gift of love that we are all welcomed into God’s family. We are then forgiven and made new by our faith (trust) in the living Christ.

We don’t have to hide our sin because we can’t. We don’t have to wear a mask or build a carefully curated version of ourselves for God or other people. When we embrace the ouchy parts of our life, Jesus draws close to bring healing. Hiding the pain only prolongs the emotional agony.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben