Category Archives: Articles

Article: Unity Begins with Humility

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4


Some of us are really good at making snap judgments about other people. In the blink of an eye, we assess someone and decide if they are beneath us or someone we strive to be. Once we do that, we start to disdain others who don’t measure up to our standards or beliefs.

It feels like we are wired to establish a pecking order and where we fit into that order.

Societal rules quietly reinforce the notion that we are better than others.

This stands in stark contrast to our calling as people of faith and even how Jesus views us.

Christ could look down on us and view us as poor lost souls without any redeeming qualities. Instead, Jesus loves us, invites to be a part of his family, and then equips us serve others with the help of the Holy Spirit. Wow.

Rather than God looking down on us and shaking his head in disappointment, Jesus invites us in and tells us that we are siblings!

If God doesn’t look down on us why do that very thing to others?

Saint Paul reminds us to be humble. Humility is looking to God for all things and giving God all the credit (glory) for the good things in your life. When we look to God for all things, we are also acknowledging that God doesn’t negatively look down on us.

When we adopt a humble mindset, we treat others more equitably. We are less condescending and recognize the gifts and qualities that others bring to a situation.

Being humble also insulates you against being selfish and self-centered. Rather than always looking out for yourself, you keep others in mind and their needs.

The church (the family of God) is at its best when we care for and serve one another.

This is what happens when we hold others closely in care and kindness…

When we serve others in the church we are not only preparing  “God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” But the end result will be this… “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness humans in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:12-14

Our relationship with Jesus and our unity within the church insulates us from the hate and anger of this bitter world.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Without Excuse

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (to believe). Romans 1:20

Saint Paul is making a simple argument: look at the world around you and you should come the inevitable conclusion that someone is responsible for creating the world we live in.

Is the beauty of our world and even very selves a result of random events?

Some would argue yes, and I would say no. As a person of faith, I acknowledge that God created us and all that we see.

As I have said more times than I count, “The Bible is not science book” but it points to the author of all creation.

Even scientists wonder what caused the universe began. Let me explain.

There is universal agreement among astrophysicists that creation began with a big bang. But what CAUSED the big bang?

American Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated this…

 “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”

Here is what Jastrow is saying, the big bang didn’t just happen. Something or someone caused it.

There has to have been a catalyst, even scientists understand that.

Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of Motion of 1666 tell us that things don’t just happen. Something or someone must have caused the creation to happen.

Although there is general agreement about the moment of creation among scientists, they don’t know how or why it happened.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this big bang, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”

Hmmm… light at the moment of creation. That sounds familiar.

Oh that’s right, the first thing God did when the universe was created.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3

As I said before, the Bible isn’t a science book, but God inspired the author of Genesis to write it down this way. God was there at the beginning and God knew.

Is there someone behind creation or did it come about by chance. If it is by chance, what are the odds? Glad you asked. According to the astrophysicist and astronomer Dr. Frank Drake, the odds of us being here by chance are only one in a trillion…

A one in a trillion chance that the earth has the right combination of chemicals, temperature, water, days and nights to support planetary life as we know it.

We are either here by chaotic chance or by divine purpose.

I choose divine purpose. I choose God.

God bless,

Pr. Ben


Article: Peace and Uncertainty

This past weekend I began a sermon series on Joseph. If you didn’t hear the message, you can listen to it here: Joseph Sermon .

Joseph’s life was filled with lots of downs. More downs that ups. It was as if he lived in the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death” for most of his life.

This week, I have been thinking about what tools and characteristics we need to navigate the most difficult times of our lives like Joseph. Without a doubt trusting God is the first and most important thing. We have very little control over much in this in life, therefore it makes perfect sense to trust in the One who holds the whole world in His hands.

I am speaking of Jesus. He’s in control of all the stuff that is beyond our grasp.

At the Last Supper before his death, the disciples knew something was wrong. They could feel it but couldn’t name it. In that moment, Jesus speaks to the uneasiness of their hearts.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

The disciples didn’t know Jesus was about to be arrested, beaten and killed, but Jesus did. They knew something was wrong, but they couldn’t figure out what it was. Jesus tells them to trust God and to trust him.

Joseph of the Old Testament trusted God in times of great uncertainty and tragedy. Now Jesus is reminding the disciples to do the same.

God was about to take a broken human situation and turn it into a divine miracle. God was about to take the sinful plotting of Jesus arrest and crucifixion and turn it into: resurrection, forgiveness and power.

The soulless of plotting Jesus’ death (because they were threatened by him) ended up becoming the greatest miracle in the history of humanity on Easter morning.

But at the Last Supper, there was only sorrow and worry. Jesus told the disciples to trust God and to trust him. God is in control. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or what the situation is in the current moment… trust God, trust Jesus.

Later that same evening, Jesus gave the disciples a gift before his arrest and death. Jesus chose this “thing” above anything else. That tells me this “thing” is important.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Jesus chose to give the disciples the gift of peace above everything else. He didn’t give them power or patience or even perseverance. All of those are good, why did Jesus offer peace above those other good and needed things?

When we are worried, scared or unsure we will make poor decisions based in fear or anger. When we trust Jesus AND have peace, we are able to surrender ourselves to his care in the bleakest of situations.

Peace will give you ability to trust Jesus even more than you do today.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben

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Article: April ELCA Church Council Meeting

Last week, I was at the church council meeting for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Community Lutheran Church is a congregation of the ELCA. In 2023, I was nominated to serve on the church council of the ELCA.

The national (ELCA) church council operates a lot like our own church council here at CLC. We make decisions on behalf of the entire ELCA in the times between church wide assemblies.

During our last meeting we received reports and acted on some action items.

Here are a few highlights:

Bishop Eaton gave her report and reminded the church council that the ELCA is not an NGO (non-governmental organization) or a social service. We are the Church! Although we are servants, our main purpose is to share the good news of Jesus love (the Word) and share the presence of Jesus (the Sacraments) with the faithful. We need to hold to our calling and not default to being or becoming a service organization.

We heard an update from the “God’s Love Made Real Initiative” that is seeking to organize the ELCA around three guiding principles:

  • We are a Welcoming Church
  • We are a Thriving Church
  • We are a Connected, Sustainable Church

Their work continues and will bring recommendations to the ELCA church council soon.

We also heard an update from the “Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church” that is examining the very purposes of the ELCA that are articulated in chapter 4 the church wide constitution. There are 17 purposes in that chapter of the constitution. They are being evaluated and potentially updated.

“The Budget Prioritization Committee” also reported that they are working on guidance on where financial resources should be allocated based on current and future needs of the ELCA. We expect to hear more at our next meeting.

We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the World Hunger program and applauded their excellent work.

We reviewed the “Draft of a Social Statement on Civic Faith and Life” as well as adopted “Gun Related Violence and Trauma” as a social statement of the ELCA.

We did many other things as well, but those are the highlights. Our church (the ELCA) is working hard to be a relevant church in 2024 and beyond. I am honored to be a member of this church council and serve our larger church body.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben


Article: Purpose and Vocation

Hi everyone, I am in my hotel room in Chicago, Illinois just hours away from my second church council meeting at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Just like last time (and possibly every time) the agenda is packed with lots of items. All of it important as we try to live out our faith in the world.

When I get back, I will update you on the things discussed and examined.

Last weekend, a member asked me if I ever wanted to be bishop (knowing that I was headed to this meeting). I answered that immediately with a resounding “NO!”

Every one of us has a calling or to use a fancy word: vocation. God created each of us in a certain way to pursue a career, a ministry, a hobby that brings fulfillment to our lives. Some people discover their purpose early in their adulthood and others struggle to find it their entire lives.

I am blessed to have found my vocation, my purpose, and my calling. I love being a pastor. More specifically, I love that I am serving at Community Lutheran Church. I can’t imagine a better, more fulfilling calling than that.

I am thankful that God led me to take the plunge and go to seminary back in 1994. I am thankful God orchestrated my visiting Community Lutheran Church as a student in 1996. From that moment on, my life changed. I give thanks that I got to know and then work with our founding pastor, Pastor Ray.

This idea of calling or having a purpose isn’t just for pastors. All of us have been called by God to something. I hope you know what your calling is. As I wrote before, for some it is their career but not always. It can be a ministry a hobby or a relationship! God has called some of you to be the best mentor, parent, aunt/uncle, grandparent, or friend you can be!

Remember this: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus… Colossians 3:17a

God is leading you to something or you have already found it. Dedicate it to him!

I look forward to the meetings over the next several days. I look forward to seeing my dad after that and then coming home to you.

As I was thinking of you and contemplating being gone this weekend, these words came to mind…

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1Peter 4:8-11

God bless and see you soon,
Pastor Ben


Article: Jesus the Passover Lamb

Last Sunday we heard the story of Jesus coming to Jerusalem.

Jesus didn’t live in Jerusalem, but he spent the final week of his life in the capital city of Israel.

It was customary to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover during the time of Jesus. Passover is the primary covenant between God and his chosen people. The Passover covenant originated in Egypt when the Israelites were slaves and God set them free.

Artwork by Alex Levin.

Every year since the time of Moses the people of Israel celebrate the Passover and remember God’s faithful promise to free the children of Israel from bondage.

Jesus appears to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, but he knows something else is going to happen. He even says so… multiple times.

  1. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

  2. When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. Matthew 17:22

  3. Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:17-19

Jesus knew why he was going to Jerusalem and it wasn’t only to celebrate the Passover. He came to die.

In the celebration of the first Passover in Egypt (found in Exodus 12), God commanded the people to sacrifice a lamb to eat and smear the blood of the lamb on the doorposts as a sacrifice to God. Those who carried out that command were released from slavery and eventually made their way home to the Promised Land.

Jesus symbolically became the new Passover lamb. On the night of Passover, Jesus instituted Holy Communion that establishes a new covenant rooted in the blood that he will shed on the cross.

The covenant of Jesus frees us from the bondage of sin.

When Jesus died on Good Friday, his atoning sacrifice was complete and those who trust in him are forgiven and set free to be the people of God. As forgiven children of God, we can eventually make our way home to heaven where Jesus awaits our arrival.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:25

At the very beginning of Jesus’ public life, John the Baptist already knew that Jesus would become a Passover lamb for those who trusted him.

The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

We are free because Jesus took on the burdens that weigh us down.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Idols Get in the Way

Long before Jesus, the nation of Israel was more of a loose confederation of tribes. There was no national government, only the 12 tribes that descended from Jacob’s sons and grandsons.

The Israelites endured slavery in Egypt until God rescued them and gave them the ten commandments and the law.

But they still struggled, like we do.

Before the time of the kings, Israel lost a battle to their coastal neighbors called the Philistines. And this is what happened…

After the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord!

They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.  1Samuel 5:1-5

Dagon was the (false god) of the Philistines. When the ark of the covenant arrived in the temple of Dagon, something interesting happened.

The statue of Dagon tipped over during the night as if it were bowing to the God of Israel (our God).

This happened a second time and it broke the poor statues head and hands off.

Eventually the ark of the covenant was returned to Israel because the Philistines saw it as “bad luck.”

But here’s the thing, just as the Philistines added the ark of the covenant to the temple of Dagon as a spoil of war, don’t we treat God the same way at times?

That somehow, we collect God and add Jesus to all the other things going on in our lives but never make him Lord over all of our joys and all of our messes.

Casual Christianity treats Jesus like “one more thing” in an already busy schedule. There is a belief in Jesus but there is little faith about his power in their life. That being a Christian is just an identity or a label.

This story is a metaphor of how to honor God. The reminder is this: surrender all the other stuff in our lives to Jesus. All of the “Dagons” in our life should bow to the King of  kings and Lord of lords. We may not have idols made of stone and wood, but anything we put above God is an idol. This includes our egos and anything else we withhold from God.

Let me leave you with this word from God…

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’
Isaiah 45:9

We were formed by God to be known by God and to be loved by God. Relinquish your control and let Jesus lead you and mold you into his likeness.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: How Can Life Become Good?

The other day, a longtime member of our church family passed along a handful of articles written by our founding pastor. Although written 22 years ago, they speak to the truth of human nature and God’s plan for our lives.

I am so very blessed that I was able to learn from Pr. Ray as an associate pastor fresh out of seminary. I deeply value Pastor Ray’s words of wisdom and I wish to share them with you today.

How Can Life Become Good?

By Pastor Ray Christenson
June 2002

The world is very busy place. A lot of things are happening-more things than any of us could ever hope to take advantage of. Bells and whistles scream out at us. Visually we are stimulated to the point where our heads must spin in order to take in even a fraction of all that is offered.

If the world is such a busy place with all kinds of opportunities and options, how come so many people are bewildered and bored and claim to have no meaning in their life? How come there are so many folks who are pedaling as fast as they can but getting nowhere? How do you get off the bike in order to smell the roses? How do you focus in on that which is significant and meaningful?

As a pastor I’ve seen more than my share of people who, on the surface, have everything you’d ever want– houses, boats, cars, vacations, stocks and bonds, looks and clothes– but inside are hollow and empty. They’ve seen and done a lot.

They’ve climbed more corporate ladders than even they can remember. But, at those rare times when they sit down and evaluate their life, they’re faced with the fact that they’ve produced a lot of heat but very little light. They’ve touched so many things in life but never really bought in on any of it. Like the wandering visitor in the Fashion Show Mall or Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, they spent the time but have very little to show for it.

Yet how do you live a life that is rewarding? How can you live each day in a way that brings a true sense of satisfaction and joy? The answer is really not as far away as you might imagine.

It begins by understanding that the world is not a place where joy and satisfaction are a God-given right. Satisfaction and joy are not things that will one day just magically drop in your laps. Those who have real joy sought diligently to find it. They also recognized that there is such a thing as “cheap joy”–joy so destructive and harmful to their wellbeing that it must be avoided like poison.

But those with real joy also came to the realization that a life of meaning and satisfaction is not a life that is focused on them and their accomplishments, but on others and what they can do to make the world a better place. History books are filled with potentates and kings who thought that the world was created so that they could amass more and more of more and more. The. world remembers them, but not kindly. There are no holidays named after greedy kings or arrogant business people. On the other hand, those whom the world honors and respects are the men and women and youth who give of themselves in the cause of helping others.

How does life become good? By doing good! How can we live a life of satisfaction and joy? By making it our goal to bring hope and joy to others.

The one who is rich, is not the one with the most money. Instead it’sthe one who understands that their life is a ministry. It’s the one who understands that everything they have is a gift from God to be used to make the world a better place.

The Joy Continues…


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


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