The Three Holiest Days of the Year

I ran across this picture (see above) today and wanted to share it with you? Who are you choosing to be in this moment of time? Are you ready to move from the “Fear Zone” to the “Learning Zone”? Are you emotionally equipped to move from the “Learning Zone to the “Growth Zone”?

You have a choice. Who do you want to be in the coming days and weeks? Take some time to completely read this chart. Print it, save it on your phone/computer. Refer to it. I think this is extremely helpful.

On to other things…

So here we are…. The holiest three days of the year. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Do they feel holy to you this year? With our lives disrupted with loss, do these days seem special to you? 

They are for me.

These days represent a series of promises that I will carry with me all the way to heaven.

  1. Maundy Thursday: God makes a promise to be with me (and love me) every step of my journey. It doesn’t end there. When I get spiritually hungry, Jesus comes and feeds me. I need to be reminded that I am never that far from the love of Jesus on this road called life.
  2. Good Friday: I am forgiven. Every cross I see tells me that God holds nothing against me and that I am a child of God. There is nothing I can do that can change God’s mind. The cross also reminds me the extent of God’s love. Jesus gave everything in the most excruciating way. There is nothing cheap about God’s grace. It is free to us but cost Jesus everything.
  3. Easter Sunday: Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!  Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Jesus! Not the coronavirus, not death, nothing. We may fear the future, but Jesus is with us and will lead the way! After all, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life! 

I need Easter today and every day. I believe in Easter and the bodily resurrection of Jesus! As the old hymn goes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

Do I wish we would be all together these next three days? Absolutely. But Christ is still risen and nothing can change that fact! Let us celebrate Easter like our future depends upon that truth (because it does and I believe)!

God bless you all my brothers and sisters. I am glad you are in my life. 

Pr. Ben

Article: Do Not Lose Hope

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

When Peter (Jesus’ right hand man) confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus replied with what you read above.

It kind of feels like the gates of Hades are wide open right now and we are under attack. 

But the promise remains… the church will survive. We may suffer but we will endure. 

Jesus reminds us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1Corinthians 12:27). Christ conquered death (and Hades) already. Because we are the body of Christ, we have too. We are the church and we will withstand this season of uncertainty. 

When Jesus said this, he wanted us to know that we stand on the rock of truth! Jesus IS the Son of God. Not a “junior” god but God himself! Our rock is Jesus and not Peter as some suggest. A human can’t do what God can!

I understand that this isolation might cause some churches to close and that saddens me, but I know the Church will continue on until Jesus returns. 

If you attend Community Lutheran Church, I want you to know that I and our entire staff are working hard to keep our church connected and moving forward. We will not stop until we are all together again… even if that means we need to our work from home! We already have a plan in place to continue worship if we are all ordered to stay at home!

We, as a staff, love our church and we love you. We are all-in! We are committed to the mission of this church, devoted to Jesus and dedicated to you. 

In this season of isolation, please share our worship and daily check-ins with your friends. Invite them to join us online! We can still share the love, joy and hope of knowing Christ from our homes!

Even in this scary moment, there are still opportunities to share the love of Jesus. God didn’t cause this pandemic and Christ doesn’t want anyone to suffer or die but I also know that God can breakthrough any situation and change lives. 

I am here for you and so is Jesus. 

As the world is changing around us, don’t think for a moment Jesus is going to let the Gates of Hades and all that stands behind those gates to prevail. I already know how this story ends, Jesus wins. 

God bless you.

Clean Hands. Clear Minds. Caring Hearts.
Pr. Ben

Article: Do Not Worry

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

There is a lot to be worried about these days: The stock market, corona virus and the possible impact these things might have on our lives in the next few months or even years ahead.

I get it. Some people are terrified and some think it is all overblown. As a pastor (and most likely your pastor) I don’t have the liberty to dismiss anything that might affect our congregation in potentially devastating ways. 

I will not overreact, nor will I panic. I will use the best information I can get and in consultation with our staff make decisions that will hopefully keep everyone safe. If I am wrong, I’ve barely inconvenienced anyone and annoyed a few. That is acceptable to me. 

I will also follow Jesus’ instruction. I don’t have the time or the energy to worry about tomorrow or speculate about what might happen next week/month. I’ve got enough on my plate for today. 

In case you were wondering, I do not believe this is a punishment from God. Jesus loves us and wants the best for us. 

We are called to be people who trust that Jesus will guide us forward and when we can’t move ahead anymore we are invited to rest in the presence of God forever. 

Even though we are asked to trust in Jesus’ love, remember we aren’t asked to check our brains at the door. We need to do things like wash our hands more and remove ourselves from large crowds of people (especially if we are in a high risk category). 

When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world, he said this to them…

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 

Shrewd means showing sharp powers of judgment or being astute. Jesus was saying… Be smart! Understand the risks! Do what is prudent! And at the same time living in such a way that you aren’t causing harm to others (innocent as doves). In this moment, it may mean staying away from others because you have a cough or are running a fever. You may feel well enough to be out in the world but you may expose others to something that might be catastrophic to them. 

Our presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton reminds us of the challenges in Martin Luther’s Day when she wrote…

“In 1527 the plague returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. Understandably, people were anxious and wondered what a safe and faithful response might be. In answer to this, Martin Luther wrote Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague. In it, he emphasized the duty to care for the neighbor, the responsibility of government to protect and provide services to its citizens, a caution about recklessness, and the importance of science, medicine and common sense.”

“To provide care for the neighbor, Luther recommended that pastors, those in public office, doctors and public servants should remain in the city. Luther himself remained in Wittenberg to care for his people. He recommended that public hospitals be built to accommodate those with the plague. He condemned those who took unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in danger of contagion. Luther also encouraged the use of reason and medicine.”

Luther wrote, “God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body. … Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence.” (Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague, 1527).

Love your neighbor as yourself while caring for yourself. Sounds like good advice in the moment. 

Remember: CLEAN HANDS. CLEAR MIND. CARING HEARTS.

God bless you all…
(Live Long and Prosper)

Pr. Ben

Article: The Joy of Sacrifice

Here is something no Christian wants to talk about: Sacrifice. Oh sure, we don’t mind talking about what Jesus did for us on the cross but personal sacrifice not so much. We prefer our faith walk to be tame if not easy. We live in a consumer driven society where the customer is king…and we are royalty.

I understand that the first rebuttal to what I just wrote is this, “What about grace? Jesus gave it all so that I don’t have to do anything but believe in Him.”

I do not deny the grace and forgiveness of Christ at all! God always takes the first step towards us. Jesus did exactly that when he took on all of our shortcomings, jealousy, anger, self-deprecation and uncontrolled behavior. There is nothing that can prove our worth to God other than Jesus loving us and claiming us as God’s children. Our value is found in what Christ did for us.

What I am getting at is our voluntary and willing response to the love of Jesus. We can’t earn anything as it relates to our connection with God, but healthy relationships are a two-way street. Beneficial bonds are reciprocal. Vital connections always involve give and take. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to sell your house and give all your possessions away. No, I am asking if following Jesus is the most important thing in your life or is it something else? Does the love of Jesus inform how you treat others, what you spend money on and even vote? (After all it is an election year.) Or do your opinions and comfort take precedent in important decisions? 

I absolutely believe that I will spend eternity with Jesus. I will only gain admittance because of what Jesus did for me on Good Friday. Not even being a pastor gets you in the door up in heaven. I am getting ready for what comes next. Let me tell you, I want to fit in when I get there. The best way to do that is to respond to the grace Jesus already extended to me. That sometimes means saying no to things that gratify me…yes, that’s right sacrifice and self-denial.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1Peter 2:11

We are bombarded with messages from culture that can be summed up in the popular advertising campaign of Nike athletic shoes: “Just Do It.” Do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others, yet some of these things diminish our faith in the One who loves us the most especially when we indulge ourselves rather than building the Kingdom of God right here and right now.

I want to let you in on a little secret… there is joy in sacrifice. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Don’t Add to Grace

When Saint Paul wrote a letter to the church of Galatia, he reminds the Church of the essence of the message he preached: Grace. This reminder was necessary because Paul was receiving reports that the church in Galatia had added something to the free gift of love that Jesus gives to all who believe, but it wasn’t a helpful addition. 

How did this happen? After Paul left to go plant other churches, traveling preachers came to Galatia and convinced these Christians that the grace of God was not enough. They needed to do something too—this is when the erroneous notion of “works” or “acts” began to muddy the promise of the grace of Christ. 

Paul, wanting to correct the misguided and heretical teaching of these itinerant preachers, wrote the letter we know as “Galatians.”

In chapter 3, Paul asks a pointed question, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Galatians 3:2

Folks–we can’t earn God’s favor! The nicest, purest, most gracious thing you or I have ever done pales in comparison to God’s holiness and compassion. Paul totally gets this and so does the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. 

Isaiah writes, “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.” Isaiah 64:6

We have a deep need for God to come to us (thank you, Jesus!) and there is nothing we can do to climb our way to God. 

Our relationship with God is all about the love God has for us and it is free—this is grace! 

Yet, we are reminded that our actions in this life have consequences. We may be forgiven and loved but our decisions still carry weight. Here is how Paul puts it, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow.” Galatians 6:7

This spiritual truth is lived out in two ways. One cannot say they follow Jesus and then live contrary to the command to love without God taking notice. Also, a person who expect others to love and respect them while treating people poorly will be sorely disappointed; a person reaps what they sow. 

However, if you sow love and kindness wherever you go, you will receive a harvest of the same. My life shows abundant proof of this. I am humbled by the love and support shown to Rachel and me in the past few months. If you are one of those people, thank you. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben