Category Archives: Articles

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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