Category Archives: Articles

Article: Cheap Grace

Occasionally I read an article that is too good not to share. This is one of those articles.  I hope you find it as meaningful as I do.

It is entitled, “What is Cheap Grace? by Andy Gill.

There’s so many different forms of grace: Hyper-grace, free grace, costly grace, and then there’s what we’re discussing here today, cheap grace or, cheapened grace.

 What is Cheap Grace?
Cheapened grace, similar to cheapening or watering down the gospel is what happens when we water down the message of Christs to make it a bit more “palatable.”

This term is usually attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer as many recognize it from his influential book, The Cost of Discipleship.

Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Bonhoeffer goes on to say, cheap grace is to hear the life of Christ preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.”

It takes the teachings of Christ’s and re-accommodates them to fit the comforts and desires of society.

Essentially, it was the birth of a consumeristic version of Christianity. 

It’s pseudo spirituality; a lie packaged in the form of the gospel.

It’s the same concept as marketing companies telling you that their fast food chain is healthy;

it’s the same psychological strategies used to manipulate our behaviors in order that we continuously consume their products.

With pharmaceutical companies admitting to knowing their products were addictive to corporations purposely creating products to be addictive (e.g. Starbucks, reward programs, video games, porn, smartphones, etc)… it’s a constant battle against these “powers” to take back control of our own behaviors and to re-infuse meaning into our daily schedules.

If the grace you’re receiving doesn’t lead to a transformation then it’s safe to say that what you received quite possibly may have been cheapened.

 The Cost of Cheap Grace…
You can’t find meaning if you’re constantly numbing.

We live in a world that seems to be becoming more and more vacant of meaning or significance. Said another way, maybe it’s not that our world is becoming vacant of meaning so much as it’s becoming inundated with so many meaningless things.

In Bonhoeffer’s definition of cheap grace, we see the lack of value and/or meaning being stripped from Christianity [that is without cost]. This leads us into a meaningless faith.

There is no such thing as meaning without cost; similarly, there is no such thing as Christianity without cost.

In the words of writer Stephen Mattson, “Consumerism drives us towards a selfish lifestyle of safety, comfort, and privilege. But Christianity is meant to point us selflessly to the cross, where Jesus was persecuted, publicly humiliated, abandoned by his friends, and tortured to death — penniless, homeless, and apparently defeated.”

Meaninglessness, this is the cost of a cheapened form of grace. We’re so far convinced that this falsified version of Jesus is the answer to all of our problems that we’re lead into a life of complicit laziness.

Cheapened grace, in my opinion, becomes a sociopathic form of grace when we recognized cheapened grace and yet, continued to disregard our call to change.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” – Apostle Paul (Romans 6:1-2)

It’s a complete misunderstanding of what salvation is. Salvation is not the avoidance of hell; neither is it the entrance into heaven. Salvation is a transformation in the here and now.

We live in a world in which has completely normalized selfishness. It’s taken unhealthy lifestyles and marketed them as the answer to our problems. We’ve become convinced out of fear that unless we selfishly hoard, save, and protect ourselves by keeping others out and down that we’re in danger of not “living our best life”.

The gospel, in my opinion, is counter-cultural. It’s not driven by fear but it’s lead by love.

 

 

Article: God’s Intentions

If you believe in God, then you know you were created for a purpose. If you don’t believe in God, then there is no purpose or meaning because it is by chance that we are even here at all. It is that simple.

If you believe we are here by some random cosmic roll of the dice, life is what you make of it and then it is all over. If you are lucky, you will find some like-minded people to spend time with that will bring some happiness in the midst of the randomness of your short time here on Earth.

I am not one of those people. I believe that God created everything! Not only that but when God decided to create humanity, God had a purpose. We get a glimpse of that purpose only after humans messed everything up. In Genesis 3:8 we discover an indication of God’s intention for humanity.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…

You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with God’s intentions for humanity?” It is simple, actually. When God created us, it was done so that we might be in relationship with Him while simultaneously being in relationship with one another. The story of creation in Genesis points to the fact that God wants to spend time with His creation especially the part of creation that was created “in our (God’s)image”and “in our (God’s)likeness.” (Genesis 1:26).

God created us to be in relationship. Most of you know that humanity chose a different purpose for themselves.

Even Jesus—God in the flesh—reminds us that the most important thing is to love God and love each other (Matthew 22:37-40) but we struggle with that don’t we?

We see God’s intention’s once again in the book of Revelation when we get a glimpse of “heaven.”  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with humanity, and God will live with them.’” Revelation 21:3 God wants to be in a loving relationship with us now and always. The same goes for how we treat others.

Yet the world struggles with this in a mighty way. Children being separated from their parents at the border because they committed a misdemeanor. (FYI—almost all are still separated) Glad the justice system doesn’t do those who speed in their cars since that is also a misdemeanor. I saw on the news of a teenaged black man shot and killed by police in East Pittsburgh because he fled the car at a traffic stop. Add to that, the hate of humanity on display on social media every day.

I wish it would all stop. What if we just loved people instead of wishing harm? What if we helped people instead of thinking, “They get what they deserve”? What if we showed compassion instead of rushing to judgment? What if we walked a mile in someone else’s shoes before we so easily condemn from our recliners?

No, I am not saying everybody gets to do what they want and we just love them. (That is often the counter-argument to love.) What I am saying is that I am not giving into hate. I am not succumbing to cruelty and I most definitely will not judge someone by the color of their skin or nationality.

This is a dangerous business. Jesus talked about love and forgiveness and look what they did to him. They killed him for it.

Thankfully, God knew this would be the result and used that senseless violence to do something most unexpected. God used the murder of Jesus to forgive us. It sounds crazy but it is true. Then God raised him from the dead to show us that hate doesn’t rule the day in God’s Kingdom… love does.

If Jesus can forgive the criminal on the cross next to him why can’t we love our neighbor?

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: The Problem at Our Border

On Monday, May 7th, a decision was made to separate children from their parents at our southern border if they attempt to cross our southern border illegally (which is a misdemeanor).

There is an estimated 2000 children (updated number) being held in facilities along the US-Mexican border.

Some would say that if someone breaks the law, there are consequences. Others would say that this is a deterrent to stop further illegal immigration.

It may be legal to separate families, but it is cruel.

I would ask, do two wrongs make a right? (Families crossing the border illegally + families being separated by law enforcement = a just decision).

There are other ways to handle families who cross the border illegally that does not involve separation. I am not advocating for open borders. I am calling for compassion.

When I reflect on the story in the gospel of Matthew of when Joseph and Mary fled with baby Jesus  because of King Herod’s jealousy, I am glad to hear Jesus was not separated from his parents when they arrived at the Egyptian border.

You have heard me cite this verse before because it speaks to this issue clearly.

 “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9  Also see Leviticus 19:33-34

How do we love our neighbor as ourselves while still having boundaries? I am not convinced separating families is loving or even “tough love.”

Our Presiding Bishop released a statement with other religious leaders regarding this issue. Below is that statement.

Recently, the Administration announced that it will begin separating families and criminally prosecuting all people who enter the U.S. without previous authorization. As religious leaders representing diverse faith perspectives, united in our concern for the wellbeing of vulnerable migrants who cross our borders fleeing from danger and threats to their lives, we are deeply disappointed and pained to hear this news.  

 We affirm the family as a foundational societal structure to support human community and understand the household as an estate blessed by God. The security of the family provides critical mental, physical and emotional support to the development and wellbeing of children. Our congregations and agencies serve many migrant families that have recently arrived in the United States. Leaving their communities is often the only option they have to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm. Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children.   

 As we continue to serve and love our neighbor, we pray for the children and families that will suffer due to this policy and urge the Administration to stop their policy of separating families.   

 His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Diocesan Legate and Director of the Ecumenical Office
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America

 Mr. Azhar Azeez President
Islamic Society of North America

 The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton, PA
Chair, Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

 Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr.
Presiding Prelate, Piedmont Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

 Bishop H. Kenneth Carter, Jr.
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

 The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop Episcopal Church (United States)

 The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister & President
United Church of Christ

 The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 The Rev. David Guthrie
President, Provincial Elders’ Conference
Moravian Church Southern Province

 Mr. Glen Guyton
Executive Director
Mennonite Church USA

 The Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

 Rabbi Rick Jacobs 
President
Union for Reform Judaism

 Mr. Anwar Khan
President
Islamic Relief USA

 The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller
President, Provincial Elders’ Conference
Moravian Church Northern Province

 The Rev. Dr.  J. Herbert Nelson II
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church (USA)

 Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

 The Rev. Don Poest
Interim General Secretary

The Rev. Eddy Alemán
Candidate for General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

 Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III
Presiding Bishop, The Eighth Episcopal District
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

 The Rev. Phil Tom
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches

 Mr. Jim Winkler
General Secretary & President
National Council of Churches USA

 Senior Bishop McKinley Young
Presiding Prelate, Third Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Church

 

 

Article: Radical Welcome?

 

Take a look at the table above (if you can read it). It shows the difference between being an inviting church, an inclusion church and a radical welcome church. These are just labels and have no official designation or meaning but their descriptions found just below in “The Message” line tells us a lot. I think it begs the question, “What kind of church do you want to be?” and “What kind of church are we?”

An “Inviting” church might be very friendly to all, but there is an expectation that any new comers that decide to stay will be assimilated in to the dominant identity (and culture) of that congregation. For many Lutheran churches that is white and of Northern European descent. Lutheran churches that take this approach tend to stay mostly white.

An “Inclusion” church wants to be more diverse. They make an effort to welcome people of differing backgrounds but there is no real change in how the church “does church.” This type of church has good intentions but does not have the capacity to change how it can truly incorporate and value others from differing cultures but of the same faith (Lutheran/Christian). These churches struggle to retain people of differing cultures because value is still placed on the dominant culture of the congregation (white and northern European).

A “Radical Welcome” church not only works toward being more diverse but they also value what the “other” brings to the congregation. As the note says in the table, a Radical Welcome church says, “Bring your culture, your voice, your whole self—we want to engage in true mutual relationship.” This type of church is intentional about incorporating the gifts and values of those who are not of the dominant culture of the congregation.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (of which we are a part of) has been struggling with this for many years. One can look at this issue in many ways. I think it is valuable for us to think about how welcoming we are… after all one of our core values at Bethel is “hospitality.”

If the expectation is, “everyone is welcome but in the end we expect you to be like us” we are going to be more like an “Inviting” church and less like a “Radical Welcome” church. If we are going to connect with people on a deeper level in Silicon Valley with all of its diversity, it may be worth our time to think about how receptive we are to the cultural differences of others (including some of our current members) and how to lift up those differences in a positive, affirming way.

I have zero expectation that everyone should be alike within the Body of Christ. Yes, we all share the same identity as the children of God but how do we also recognize and value those who bring different ways of practicing their faith within the Lutheran expression of Christianity? I don’t have the answer to that today but it is worth asking the question and pondering for a while.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Principles

I ran across this phrase and it resonated with me. “It is always easier to fight for ones principles than to live up to them.”

 This appears to be true from what I can see. What do you think? There is a war of words going on in our country and compromise is nothing short of a curse word. Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who brought the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration to light believes our nation is in (what he terms) a “cold civil war.” It is a war of words and there are two distinct sides. Each side is trying to either tear down the other or win converts. It isn’t working.

Human beings (us) are more concerned about what others are doing than doing the harder work of defining our own principles and striving to live up to them. We are much better at trying to impose our will on others than the hard work of self-reflection and self-discipline.

The issue itself doesn’t really matter, it could be anything. It is the behavior not the issue(s) I am talking about and it is the behavior that I want to address.

It is a fool’s errand to think we can make someone do (or believe) something if they don’t agree. Yet what do we see? People getting louder and louder about something they are passionate about wrongly thinking that if they are more brash than the “other side” they will either give in or give up. In the end, it will only cause further alienation.

The Christian church in America (not just the Lutherans) is declining because many outside the Church views us  as being hypocritical in our moral pronouncements on certain issues and people even if we aren’t doing that. This hurts all of us but most of all it hurts the cause and mission of Jesus which is all about love. But it is not just that. The world sees the Church acting poorly as individuals and wonders why we don’t live up to our own moral judgments and/or why we are so full of hate and exclusive.

Even if we aren’t doing those things at Bethel, we are lumped in the churches that do. This is hard to overcome.

Did you ever notice that Jesus never made anybody do anything? He never forced his will on anyone. Sure, Jesus instructed the disciples and even sent them out to share the good news of God’s love but he never, ever forced them to do it. He didn’t make the rich young ruler sell everything he had and give it to the poor so that he could follow Jesus and inherit eternal life. Nope, Jesus let the decision rest in his lap and this man decided to walk away. Jesus understood free will better than we do.

Why is it that the Church (in general) and some Christians tend to act more like Darth Vader of Star Wars in trying to impose their version of Christian moralism on others rather than letting people choose for themselves whether or not they want to experience the life changing love of Jesus? There is a big difference between imposing a moralistic ethic on people and loving on them in Jesus’ Name…I’m just saying.

All I am trying to make clear is this, maybe we should worry more about ourselves as individuals and trying to live up to our own principles than trying to impose our moral framework on others.

Let’s just be kind and compassionate.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

 

 

Article: The Pentecost of Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal was quite the human being. Born in 1623, Pascal’s mother died when he was 3, and his father moved the family from Clermont-Ferrand, France, to Paris, where he homeschooled Blaise and his sister.

By age 10, Pascal was doing original experiments in mathematics and physical science. To help his father, who was a tax collector, he invented the first calculating device (some call it the first “computer”).

With this last invention, he had made a name for himself (at age 19!) and began his richly diverse scientific career. He tested the theories of Galileo and Torricelli (who discovered the principles of the barometer), culminating in his famous law of hydraulics.

He wrote important papers on the vacuum (not the cleaning your carpet kind), on the weight and density of air, and the arithmetic triangle. He developed the theory of probability, which is still used today. He invented the syringe, the hydraulic lift, and is credited with inventing the wristwatch and mapping out the first bus route in Paris. See I told you he was quite a person!

Yet he was also a committed Christian (Roman Catholic). He spent many hours studying the Christian faith in the same way he studied the things mentioned above.

It is one thing to be knowledgeable and quite another to know God.

One evening in 1654 he met God and this is what he wrote about the experience…

The year of grace 1654.

Monday, 23 November, . . .

 From about half-past ten in the evening until about half past midnight.

 FIRE.

 The God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob.

 Not of the philosophers and intellectuals.

 Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace . . .joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. . .

 Renunciation, total and sweet.

 Complete submission to Jesus Christ. . .

He recorded the experience (called the “Mé-morial”) on a piece of parchment, which he carried with him the rest of his life, sewed inside his coat.

Can you imagine? A moment so profound that you write it down and carry that piece of paper with you for the rest of your life. This moment “rocked his world.”

It was not (in his words) a philosophical or intellectual encounter. It was way more than that! It was an intimate, emotional, up close confrontation!!!! Blaise Paschal encountered the God of Pentecost! He experienced the grace, tenderness and power of the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday we will again hear the story of the giving of the Holy Spirit to that small group of believers as found in Acts 2. My hope and prayer for all of you is that you feel the touch of that same Spirit promised to us. It is good to hear the story again but it is better to experience the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When you believed, you were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13b-14

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

 

 

 

 

 

Article: Thank You

 

I am extremely grateful for all the kindness shown to me and my family last Sunday. If you were not at Bethel on May 6th, let me fill you in. It was my birthday and we had a party at church. Not only that but we also celebrated the 20thanniversary of my ordination. The actual date of my ordination is the 24thof May but we combined these two events on Sunday and we had one big party at Bethel.

I also convinced my father (who is a retired pastor) and my son Carl to come out and join us for the weekend.

I figured this would be a low key affair. Church, lunch, birthday cake and then go home. I had told the staff (the party planners) that I didn’t want anything more than lunch. As it turns out the bishop wrote a really nice letter that was read during our worship services (with a fake llama delivering the letter at the 10:45 worship). The celebration continued at lunch where we served hamburgers and sausage to about 200 Bethel members and friends. That is a lot of people! Once again I am humbled by the turn out.

I figured the party was wrapping up when Tom, Patricia, Amanda, Dawn and Dave (Bethel’s program staff) came forward and said very, very nice things about me. I prefer them to talk behind my back because they embarrassed me with kindness.

Later on, Rachel and my father relayed all the nice things Bethel members said about me to them. I am floored by your thoughtfulness.

On our way home, Rachel opened the cards I received and read them to me (I was driving). Wow. I am not sure I am worthy of your love. Seriously.

I am so moved by your kindness and I wonder to myself if you really meant those things? (I know you do.) I think I am ok and I can hold my own in the pastor department but I am not sure if I am things you said to me and about me. I always feel like I could do more yet you assured me that what I am doing is enough. Thank you.

I do feel loved by you. I am deeply touched. I am not perfect but I do try hard to be a leader, caregiver and shepherd. Thank you for affirming my call to be a pastor these past 20 years. I will always cherish this day and that I shared it with you.

I am grateful for your love and I am thankful to be a pastor in the ELCA and more specifically… I am joyful that I am your pastor at Bethel.

With love,
Pr. Ben

Article: Sin and Confession

Sometimes we keep the sin in our lives well protected, guarded, covered over with lies. Sometimes we are not free enough to own our sin, so we cannot be healed of it. An unacknowledged wound cannot be healed.—MACRINA WIEDERKEHR, Seasons of Your Heart

 Sin always wounds the sinner.—CARYLL HOUSELANDER, The Reed of God

 Is sin a big deal? Is confession an archaic remnant of our faith? I’ll answer these two questions right now: Sin is a big deal and confession is important.

We often think of sin like a minor annoyance in the same way we occasionally get headache or twist an ankle. It is a small problem and it is no big deal. We have minimized sin. We all want to paint ourselves in the most positive light. Even I do that.

When we do that (and we do) we are minimizing our need for Christ. If sin is no big deal or a problem in my life, then I don’t need Jesus as much as others. Yikes! We all need Jesus and what he did for us.

Even modern theologians have tried to de-emphasize the atoning sacrifice of Christ while emphasizing that Christ is present with us in our darkest moments. These two theological ideas do not conflict with each other and both are true. Yet many theologians have made it an either/or proposition.

Christ came to us because we were far off from God. Jesus came to draw us close to Him.  How did He do this? Through his death and more specifically the shedding of his blood to cover (and forgive) our sins. It is our sin that causes a spiritual distance between us and God. Even if God is present in our darkest times, our sin gets in the way of experiencing the peace of God’s presence. Look what Saint Paul wrote: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13

 Confession for the Christian is the activity that brings us near to Christ again and again.

This is what Martin Luther says about confession while quoting an early church John Chrysostom.

“I do not say that you should expose yourself in public or should accuse yourself before others, but obey the prophet who says, ‘Show your way to the Lord.’ Therefore confess to the Lord God, the true judge, in your prayer, telling him of your sins not with your tongue but in your conscience.”- Augsburg Confession, Article XV

 It doesn’t need to be a show and it doesn’t have to be done publicly but it is the vehicle that will allow reconciliation. The same applies to our closest relationships. Asking for forgiveness allows healing between two parties.

However, when we can’t see our own brokenness, we minimize sin and we have a hard time establishing intimacy with others including God. A few weeks ago in church, I referenced this verse from Isaiah 64:6 to help us think through our fragile human condition.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

 We like to think our good deeds are really good! See! I am a good person! And when do mess up, that is an isolated incident. It kind of reminds of me of McDonald’s when they released the Mc DLT sandwich. They featured the packaging that “keeps the hot side hot and cool side cool.” It is called compartmentalizing. It may work for a sandwich but it doesn’t in our lives. The verse above reminds us that even our “righteous acts” are sinful in God’s eyes.

That may seem harsh but it points our need for Christ. I completely understand what God is saying to Isaiah. Imagine if we lived in a mud pit and that was all we knew. Guess what? It would not be a big deal that everything we have (including ourselves) was always covered in mud. That’s just how life is. We cook in mud, we clean in mud, we shower in mud. If we lived like that, we wouldn’t even notice the mud but it is everywhere.

That is the way sin is. It is pervasive and infiltrates every part of our lives including our good deeds.

Once we come to realize how sin covers everything in our lives, we are more apt to confess our sins to God. Remember: confession is a return to our baptism where we are washed clean by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

 

Article: Earth Day/Week

April 22ndwas Earth Day. I didn’t have the chance to talk about it on Sunday because we are right in the middle of a sermon series on our core values. (These sermons are available on this website.) Although Earth Day is not on the church calendar, it is an important day because it reminds us that we are stewards. We have been entrusted by God to manage (stewardship) all that He has given us, including the world we live in.

Of course we get conflicting messages found in the two stories of creation within the book of Genesis. (FYI: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two different stories of creation. Genesis 2:4 begins the second story of creation.)

In Genesis 1:28 God commands the first humans to “rule over” creation and “subdue”it. Many Christians have pointed to this passage to treat the world we live in without care. As French President Macron pointed out this week while speaking to United States congress, “There is no planet B.” This is the only world we have.

Yet when we look at the second story of creation we find a different command from God. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The word “work” in Hebrew is “abad.” It means to serve or work for another (steward). That is in addition to God’s command to “take care of” the garden of Eden.

Which one do you believe? Which directive is to be followed? Do they cancel each other out? Throughout scripture, God encourages us to be good stewards (managers) of all the things placed in our care including the world around us. In Deuteronomy 22:6, there is a reference to managing natural resources so that they do not run out. In this case, it is about birds.

In the next chapter, God tells the people of Israel that when they go to war against another nation, they should not chop down the trees of that region because they might produce fruit.

In Exodus 23 there is a command to farmers to let the land rest on the seventh year.

In the book of Proverbs King Solomon writes this, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10It is righteous (a Godly thing) to care for the needs of animals in your care.

When you look at the body of evidence within scripture, it clear that caring for creation is important to God. After creation was complete, “God saw allthat he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

 Most of us are well aware of the potential dangers of climate change and how most of it is caused by humans. Scientist who study such things are in overwhelming agreement over the human impact of climate change. Although this is important work and imperative for humanity to digest and act upon; it shouldn’t make any difference to a Christian. Here is why: we should always be good stewards of God’s creation all the time, period. We should not suddenly start caring just because there is a possible growing problem if not a looming tipping point. As Christians, we should always care for God’s creation regardless of the situation.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

 

 

 

Article: Take Time to Pray

As most of you know, the evangelist and pastor Billy Graham died earlier this year. Some saw him as a saint and others saw him as a sinner. As a Lutheran, I see him as both saint and sinner. He was a child of God and he had the same struggles with sin and being human like the rest of us. He earnestly sought God in his life and he sometimes missed the mark. Billy Graham is like us.

With that said, I ran across some words of his about prayer…

“Prayer is not about using God, it is more often about getting us in a position where God can use us.

 I watched the deck hands on the great steam ship named the “United States” as they docked that ship in NY Harbor. First they threw out a rope to the men on the dock. Then, inside the boat the great motors went to work and pulled on the great cable. But, oddly enough, the pier wasn’t pulled out to the ship; the ship was pulled snugly up to the pier.

 Prayer is the rope that pulls God and us together. But it doesn’t pull God down to us… it pulls us to God. We must learn to say with Christ, the master of the art of praying: ‘Not my will; but Thine be done.’”

 The Bible is filled with prayers, people praying and admonitions to pray. 246 different references to be exact. There are as many reasons to pray as there are troubles and joys in our lives… but I believe Billy Graham has it right. One of the things that happens when we pray is intimacy. We are drawn closer to God every time we pray. Outside of the requests made in prayer, the simple act of prayer creates a closeness with God.

Prayer is an acknowledgement that there is someone who is more powerful than you and is in charge. If that wasn’t true, why would we ever pray? If God is more power than us (He is) then prayer is also act of submission. In prayer we entrust our cares, concerns and joys to the one who holds all things in His hands.

In the south, when a cold air mass moves down from Canada, people sometimes refer to it as a “Blue Norther” and it makes its presence felt! You can feel the wind blow as the high pressure cold air rushes into the warmer area of lower pressure. The greater the difference in pressure between the high and low, the greater the wind speed.

Prayer creates in us a kind of low pressure area as we bow in humility before the Lord. The “lower” we can become through prayer, the stronger the wind will be when the high pressure of the Spirit blows in.

Take the time to pray. Don’t ask for anything. Just talk to God. Let Him know you want more of Him in your life and experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding when we take the time to pray. (Philippians 4:7)

God bless,
Pr. Ben