Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Stop... Listen... Look

 This week at Community Lutheran we are continuing our sermon series entitled KCLC Radio, and this week we are featuring the 1967 hit by Buffalo Springfield:  For What It's Worth.  Personally, I feel like this song is very recognizable, or at least the chorus is:

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down 

It is a pretty catchy tune, but the words are also filled with some very valuable lessons that show up in the Bible:  Stop… Listen… Look…  Jesus even tells us not to rush to conclusions.  Are there times in your life that you need to allow a little space for the Holy Spirit to move?

Jesus said to the disciples and us, “But when the Spirit of truth, comes,
it will guide you into all truth. It will not speak on its own; but will speak only what it
hears, and it will tell you what is yet to come. 

I know I find myself rushing from one thing to another every day.  No matter how early I wake up, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything.  Every morning I try to start my day with a workout.   Next, I make breakfast and feed the kids.  Then I try to help get the kids dressed, brush their hair, and feed them their second breakfast.  After that, we have to change their outfits because they got dirty, search for their missing shoes, brush their teeth, and by this time they are hungry again.  Life can move pretty fast, and regardless of how your life may look, it is important to stop and breathe.  The Holy Spirit is working in our lives, but we do have to take a moment and experience it.

I am blessed in countless ways every day.  I can see amazing acts of kindness, love, and mercy, but I need to slow down a bit to really cherish it.

Today I hope you can all allow the Holy Spirit to move in your lives.  I hope you feel the presence of God, and I hope you can all share a bit of God’s love today!

Blessings!

 

Brian Ward

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Believe in Love

 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
 For I am the Lord your God,
-Isaiah 43

I have a lot of love for these verses from Isaiah 43.  Whenever I hear it, I am drawn back to my days as a summer camp counselor in the mountains of Colorado.  We used to sing a worship song that was based on this scripture, and even today it reminds me of the sweeping mountain views, the star filled nights, and all the wonderful relationships that were formed that summer.

Today, I am still drawn to these verses in times of suffering or when people have lost hope.  I believe in a God who came to this earth to love – not to condemn.  We have a God who promised never to abandon us in spite of the trials we may face or the road blocks we build for ourselves.  We are loved, and I believe that God is constantly trying to help us to understand this message.


When I was a camp counselor, I felt like there was something powerful binding all of us together.  We were all different, but we believed in each other.  The Holy Spirit’s work was real and available for every one of us.  Today, in a season of quarantine and national division, hope seems much further away.  However, I believe God’s Word still stands.  I believe God is still coming to this world with love and hope.  God has not chosen to abandon us.  So what if we started to open our eyes to the real presence of God. 

Today I hope we can let go of the evil that divides us from our neighbors.  Perhaps we can look inward and deal with our own hurts and pains to discover a deeper truth about ourselves.  I hope we can all find a way to hear God’s Word and be witnesses to hope.  Let’s stand for unity, grace, and forgiveness. 

 

Blessings,

 

 

Brian Ward

Thursday, September 17, 2020

From Broken to Hopeful

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

-Matthew 6:25-27

Today we have fires in the west, hurricanes in the south, and the corona virus is raging all around us… This year seems to be full of things to worry about, and I have spent a lot of time speaking with people whose lives have been flipped upside down.  There are people who are sick and isolated.  Others have recently lost their jobs and homes because of the recession.  Parents are struggling to balance their work with child care.  Finally far too many people are searching for meaning in what seems like an endless void.  Life is not easy, and the pressure can be immense!

This week at Community Lutheran, we are taking time to find ways to relieve the anxious pressure of the world.  Instead of losing ourselves in the endless cycle of fear, God has come to give us hope. 

As we look at our world today, it is easy to find reasons to despair.  However, I believe God always works in moments of vulnerability.  A colleague of mine once reminded me not to fear the rock bottom moments of life.  Instead, he told me to think of these times as a gift.  These moments of vulnerability can open us to new perspectives and opportunities.

Today I hope we can all open our hearts to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  I pray that God’s grace would bring meaning to our lives, and I pray that God’s love would lead us to a new path of hope.

Blessings!

 

Brian Ward

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Spiritual Fruit of Self-Control

 FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Self-Control | Life-Giving Water

 Earlier this week, I woke up in the middle of the night to hear my two year old son calling out.  He doesn’t have an extensive vocabulary, but I thought I could hear him saying, “Stuck! Stuck!” When I entered his room, I found him in a tangled up blanket with his head on his pillow, but his feet were falling off the bed. I put him in a more comfortable position, and he simply said, “Thank you Dada.” Then he immediately fell back to sleep.

 

This experience made me smile, because I was able to help in a real way.  My child was “stuck,” and I could make everything better.  I love the moments when I have the ability to change things or control my environment.  However, I realize there will be a day when it will not be as easy to fix my son’s problems.  As I look out at the world, I would love it if I could just fix the pain that I see.  However, it is not always that easy.

This week in worship we are looking at the spiritual gift of Self-Control.  There are so many problems that may seem overwhelming, but the Bible reminds us to start with our own hearts.  We do not always have the ability to control or help others, but we can control our own actions.  We are God’s children, and we can decide to let love into our hearts and share it with others. 

 

Blessings,

 

 

Pastor Brian

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Spiritual Gift of Goodness

God has called all of us good.  The church is supposed to be a light in the darkness, and we are called to share this light with the world.  However, some days it can be pretty hard to see the good in our lives. The news is filled with awful stories ranging from the corona virus to political divisions to acts of bigotry and hatred. Sometimes the Good News that brings hope to all people can seem rather hidden.  So where is God’s goodness?

God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
-Micah 6:8
 

Finding good in the world doesn’t have to be left up to those who believe in fairy tales. God is asking us to believe that the goodness of all creation is present all around us.  These words from Micah 6 were written after a foreign army stormed through Israel destroying much of the land. The nation was in an incredible state of turmoil, and there was every reason for the people to see hatred and division in the world around them.  However, the prophet was reminding people of the simple gifts they had to show love.

Living in the Goodness of God - May 6 - New Horizons

Today there are a number of reasons we can complain or dismiss the needs of others, but God is also leading us to a different path. This week, in spite of some of the bad news out there, I also got to see my two little boys playing and laughing together. The two year old loves to chase after his big brother. He runs wherever his brother runs and climbs whatever his brother climbs. Now, this never lasts too long. Either one boy gets annoyed or somebody gets hurt, but these two kids are also filled with love. They care for each other. We are all part of a family. None of us are perfect, but God is with us. There is good in the world, and I believe we all have a chance to see this every day.

In the Bible, God calls each of us good. Today I hope that you can all seek to discover the good in your lives. I hope you can all find a bit of love and a bit of hope wherever you are!

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Patience and God's Blessings

Do you have the Spiritual Gift of Patience? 

I have heard it said that a person should never pray for patience, because God will give you the opportunity to use it.  :)

The truth is, whether we pray for patience or not, we all need it in our lives. We spend a lot of time waiting, and this can either drive us crazy or it can open us to God’s work. I hate waiting, and I really don’t know anyone who likes just standing around. However, there is a Bible verse that I would like to share that comes from the book of James:

 

See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the early and late rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another…

-James 5:7-9

  

In this analogy, the farmer knows he or she can’t rush things… We have some amazing technology in agriculture today, but there is still a need for faith. The farmer can plant, tend, and harvest the crops, but there has always been a certain element they cannot control. A crop will not grow overnight, and we cannot force the weather to obey us.

Today we have a ton of technology and power at our disposal. However, we still cannot force a virus to obey us. We cannot make other people obey us. We still need to live by faith each and every day. I think we really have to ask ourselves if we want to spend our time worrying about all the things we cannot control.

Personally, I also love how these verses from the book of James tell us not to grumble against one another. Waiting can easily turn into grumbling, frustration, and resentment toward others.

Today I hope we can take a little time to be present in the moment that we are in. Sure, there are lots of wonderful things to look forward to. I am excited to gather with others in person. I can’t wait for my kids to reach their next milestones as they grow up. (I really look forward to the day when I won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night!) However, the Bible tells us that each day is a blessing. Let’s not wish this day and the blessings we have right now away. Let’s live each day by faith trusting that God walks alongside us in our journey.


Blessings!

 

Pastor Brian

25 Bible Verses about Patience - DailyVerses.net


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Let Joy into your Heart


What does joy mean to you?

A few weeks ago my family had an opportunity to drive up to Mount Charleston.  It was a hot day in the valley, and it was so refreshing to take the kids somewhere that wasn’t 110 degrees! 
 
We had a super fun trip playing in a little stream and wandering through the forest. One of the most memorable moments came soon after we arrived.  We got out of the car, and our one year old son just started saying, “Wow!” He doesn’t know very many words, but at that moment he just wanted to express the wonder and awe he felt in his heart!

As we grow older, I know there are times we push our feelings down.  Nothing surprises us.  We can find ourselves living through another hot day wishing we were somewhere else.  We complain. We get frustrated, and we do it all again tomorrow.  However, this week we are talking about joy.  Joy can break into our lives at any moment.  We don’t need to wait for Christmas, Easter, or whenever this pandemic ends.  Joy is present all around us if we open our hearts to God’s Grace. 

Today I hope you can feel the wonder and awe of the moment.  Sure, it is easy to find things to complain about.  That list is never ending… However, God promises that Joy is present.  Have you taken time to say thank you?  Perhaps you can step back and just say, “Wow!”

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Where is love leading you?


Love is an amazing thing…

Love can give us hope in the darkest moments.  Love gives us joy that surpasses all understanding.  Love is also present in our tears.  When we lose someone we care about, love is there.  When our preschooler heads off to kindergarten, love is there… (Now if school is canceled because of Covid-19, I might become a little less sentimental about getting my preschooler out of the house. However, love does have incredible power! :)

Love allows us to experience empathy, and this is an incredible thing.  Empathy allows us to love our neighbor in real ways, but this is not always easy.  The same compassion that gives us joy also leads us into the hurts and sorrows of others. 

In the Gospel of John 11:35-36, the Bible says Jesus grieved with his followers when someone he loved died:

Jesus wept.
Then the people said, “See how he loved him!”

I have always felt that this was a powerful verse…  It shows how deeply Jesus loved his followers, and it shows how deeply He loves us. Christ’s love is not just some academic or theoretical thing.  Jesus loves us in a meaningful way.  There is no failure, fear, or disappointment that can separate us from God.

Today I hope you can all take a bit of time to trust the love God has given you.  May you recognize that you are loved just as you are.  May you also take time to let love break into your hearts.  Let’s stop the judgment and open our hearts to something much bigger!

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Do not fear


Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.
-Jesus in Matthew 14:27

When was the last time you were afraid? Do you believe that Christ walks with you in the darkest valleys?

There have been times I have let fear get the best of me. In high school, I could worry about some pretty mild things:  Did I have enough friends? Could I run fast enough? Was I getting the best grades? These can be interesting questions, but some of these little things can consume us if we allow them to. If we aren’t careful some of these mild fears can destroy us. Rational fear is one thing. This kind of fear can push us into action. Irrational fear can leave us feeling sick, and it can pull us away from the people we need to move toward.  

In the Bible, we are told over and over again not to be afraid.  Jesus repeatedly warned his followers not to let fear rule their hearts, but over and over again the disciples succumbed to the powers of fear, anxiety, and desperation…

Over the last five years, my wife and I have noticed that it has become much easier to build friendships in our neighborhood.  Now this is not because we are trying harder.  In fact when we first arrived we would do everything we could to meet our neighbors, but everyone seemed so busy. In general, there seems to be a fear of people we don’t know.  However, since we had our two kids, we’ve somehow managed to meet everyone. The kids love meeting other children and adults, and the neighbors seem to love meeting us – even as crazy as we are… As far as time goes, we have actually been much busier, but we have found more time for what really matters. It certainly doesn’t make sense to fear each other.  I am so grateful for the other people in my neighborhood. I am thankful that my kids love getting to know the people around them.

Today I hope you can all think about the fear in your life.  I hope you can take the time to understand your fear.  Perhaps you need to use it rationally, but I hope you can also let go of the irrational and move forward into this beautiful world God has created!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Have Faith in Love


Yesterday Pastor Ben shared a poem in the 3pm online gathering time.  It was titled:

Anyway

Gift Ideas for Him or Her Mother Teresa Do it Anyway | Etsy

It struck me how easy it is to find reasons not to give your very best. 

Other people could do a better job.
No one will pay attention to me.
People may not like me.
I may be rejected.
I may be hated.
I may fail.

I can always find reasons to give a subpar effort.  However, we are in a sermon series where we are taking a look at the miracles of Jesus.  Jesus went out of his way to stand up for justice.  Heal people in their time of need and rescue the oppressed.  Even when he was criticized for his work, he kept fighting for love.  When his friends left him, he chose to love them anyway. 

Today as I look at all the fear, animosity, and chaos in our society, I believe Jesus is calling us into action.  How is God calling you?  I serve as a pastor, but we all have a calling.  When I go home, I am also a husband and father, and I feel pretty ineffective at times! The kids are totally out of control when I’m watching, and I’m still scrambling to figure out what I need to do to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary.  (Our anniversary is on June 12th. Is that coming up soon? :) 

Even though I am not perfect, my family needs the love I have to offer.  I want to be the person who will stop and be present fully with the people around me.  I want to cherish these moments.  I want to take time to celebrate and give thanks with love.  Today I hope you can all find every excuse to give the love you have!

Blessings!

Brian

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pentecost


Happy Pentecost everybody!!!

This is a very special week in our church. We are celebrating the day of Pentecost. It may not be the most well-known festival we have, but it is essential to the work of the church today. Pentecost is the celebration that honors the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the day where we boldly declare that God has not left us alone.  The Spirit continues to live and move in among us.


Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:16

Pentecost - www.familypriest.com

Have you ever had moments where you felt truly alive? Perhaps you felt a fire burning within you. Maybe you felt called by God to start a new job, move across the country, or let go of a traumatic history… The promise of Pentecost states that God is always reaching into our world to bring hope and guidance.

This past week I was reminded of a girl from a youth group I led several years ago. This girl had faced a number of trials. She had lived through gang violence. She never had much food, and she had just been diagnosed with cancer… All of this happened before she turned 18! Sometimes life is not fair! However, she also had this incredible spirit of grace. She cared about people. She asked incredibly thoughtful questions, and she was always at the church ready to serve. When it was time for me to leave that community, I felt incredibly blessed to have known her. The Holy Spirit was working through her, and she had an incredible impact on my life.

I feel this story is important, because it reminds me that God is working in each and every one of us. It is not all about me or my own personal calling. God is working in the church as a whole, and sometimes the people who seem the most insignificant are actually the most valuable! The church needs each and every one of you, even if you don't feel very noteworthy.  You are loved and God is working in the midst of us all!

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Asking the Big Questions...


“Who are you, Lord?”
-Acts 9:5

When was the last time you asked any of the really big questions of God?  Some of you may be living in a pretty dark season of life, but has there ever been a time you had to totally reframe your understanding of faith?

This week we are taking a look at the Apostle Paul. In his early years, Paul thought he understood God. He believed he was right, and he assumed anyone who challenged him was wrong. He was ready to judge others, and he wanted to prove his own worthiness. However, God changed his heart. Paul experienced an act of grace, and that transformed his entire way of life.

So where are you at today? Do you believe you have all the answers, or are you filled with questions?

The Bible certainly states that questions are important. Personally, I have been struck by the inquisitiveness of my five year old. Every night before he goes to bed, he wants to talk about some really big mysteries… What are black holes? What are the other planets like? What kinds of animals lived before the dinosaurs? Who is God? The list just keeps going. Now, I am aware that he is trying to delay bedtime a little bit. However, he has a genuine curiosity about the world, and it has even sparked my own desire to learn more. He has a truly open heart that is ready to learn… as long as it means I will let him stay up a little bit later… :)

I am often reminded that without challenges, we do not grow.  There is no desire to open our hearts to new understandings of God. Like the apostle Paul, it is easy to believe we are already perfect. However, it is my hope that we can all be renewed in our minds. May we experience a childlike faith that brings hope to all people!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, April 30, 2020

When trials turn to hope...


How much has your life changed in the last few months?
Do you trust that God is with you?

This week in worship we are taking a look at the story of two disciples who wound up in prison.  Jesus had just commissioned them to go out and share the Good News, and they wanted to preach, heal, and love. However, everything flips upside down when they are thrown into a jail cell.

What do you do when life turns against you?

What do you want
to eat today buddy?
Personally, I don’t feel like I have any right to complain about difficulties.  I am blessed with my place at the church, and I am blessed with my family and friends.  However, I can still become overwhelmed.  Recently my kids have thrown all-out tantrums because I won’t let them crawl into the dishwasher or eat the mud on their shoes. It’s hard! However, an interesting thing will happen when I take time to reflect on these moments a few days later.  If I have the opportunity, I will look back at a picture or think of a crazy time, and I can’t help but to smile. If I stop to take a breath and experience the love, I am able to experience the joy.  In the Bible there are numerous stories of people who realized God was always with them, but they never realized it until long after the trial passed.
 
Today I hope you can take a bit of time and look backward.  Take time to forgive yourself if you lost your temper… We all get lost in the moment!  However, I hope we can open our hearts.  May we all believe that God is always with us!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Do you believe in the promise of Easter?



He is risen! | Jesus is alive, Bible, Matthew 28Happy Easter!  Christ is Risen!

Easter is a time of celebration.  However, we are also trying to get used to this new season of quarantine.  I know I am having some difficulty finding a bit of hope in the midst of all this. 

As a family, my household has been trying to find activities that we all like to do together.  It’s hard!  One person wants to climb a mountain, another wants to go for a walk, and then the kids want to either roll around in the mud or scream as loud as they can.  We just can’t agree on one thing!

However, every once in a while we can all agree on watching nature programming on TV.  (I guess that tells you we are all a bunch of nerds!) We get drawn into these wild places, and we love to watch the unfolding stories of snow leopards, grizzly bears, or elephants.

Remdesivir demonstrates success against MERS in rhesus macaques
Who wouldn't love this little
monkey?
I saw a bit of an episode recently showed a clip of a Rhesus macaque.  (It’s basically just a little monkey.) The narrator stated these animals are aggressive and xenophobic primates.  Their social status is determined by who they were born to.  Then they are either treated as royalty, or they are isolated, rejected, and preyed upon.  All of this was known at birth.  Honestly, my whole family was a little upset watching a few of these poor little guys getting picked on.  They were just born to a mother of low social standing.  It also made me think that people are not always that different.  Sadly human beings can be just as brutal to one another, and if we don’t take time to open our hearts a little bit, I think we can revert back to this awful behavior. 

LD 2560x1600, Grace Richard archive | Lake in the mountains
All creation longs for grace!
I believe the Earth longs for grace.  There are moments when grace creeps into our world and offers an explosion of hope.  There are little moments when people choose to work together.  There are moments of love in spite of desperate circumstances.  The animal kingdom will do this too.  One animal can choose to love another.  The Bible says all creation is longing for redemption.  The whole world is searching for grace.

Today we are living in uncertain times.  Are we going to give in to evil and self-serving behaviors?  Is it possible to allow grace to move us forward?  When life is flipped upside down, do you still believe in love’s power?  Do you believe in Easter?

I hope and pray that all of you will open your hearts to find a bit of grace today.  I hope you all know that you are loved, and I pray that you will find love.

Blessings!


Pastor Brian