Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Year!

I love Christmas!  I love the celebration, the food, and the time with family and friends.  However, I have a confession to make… In some ways, I seem to get more joy in the anticipation of Christmas, rather than Christmas itself.  As soon a Christmas is over, I’m looking ahead to see what is next...  When I really stop and think about it, this is how I live my life.  I’m often trying to get to the next big event, and when I get there, I find myself thinking about where I could go next.   Now, I know I need to take some time to step back and just live in the joy of the season.  However, we live in a world that is constantly moving forward.  I think there is something inside each of us that is searching for something new.  We look forward to the NEW Year.  We find hope in a NEW day, and we delight in seeing something new and different.  Many times I think this is a very good thing.  However, I think it can also be pretty dangerous.
Throughout the Bible, God’s people are also searching for New Life.  They think they will find it in victory on the battlefield or through a bigger kingdom.   However, time after time, God’s New Life shows up in ways the people didn’t expect.  This week we are beginning a sermon series entitled “Making all things New!”   It is my prayer that we would continue to search for God, but I also pray that we might be open to seeing all the new and unexpected things that God is doing along the way!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Closer to Christmas...

Wow!  This week has been crazy!  There is so much stuff that needs to get taken care of before Christmas.  On a normal week, I will try to get out to the mountains or go on a long bike ride at least once.  However, there hasn’t been time for any of that this week.  I’ve got to prepare for Christmas!  There are sermons to write, people to serve, and last minute details to iron out.  Most of the time I feel like I’m barely staying above water…

Christmas is supposed to be the time where we remember God is with us.  God is here right now, and we are living in God’s New Creation!  However, in the chaos of life, there are times we can ignore the blessings that are right in front of us.  This week we are looking at the story of the Shepherds.  In the time of Jesus, the Jewish people had long lived in severe poverty and oppression… but then these ordinary Shepherds received Good News.  The Angels came to them proclaiming that God’s Kingdom had arrived!  They were called to open their eyes see that God was with them!

So often, I find myself wishing for some great new adventure or experience.  However, today’s scripture reminds me that New Life is right here… in front of my nose.  There are relationships of Grace, Hope, and Love right in front of me.  It is my prayer that in the midst of this busy season, we may all see the love that is present.  May we open our eyes and see that the Kingdom of God is here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sharing the News!

Christmas is just a few weeks away!  Are you spreading the Good News?  There are so many things I love about this time of year.  However, there are times I get lost simply rushing through life.  Instead of sharing in the joy of the season, I can become overwhelmed by all my concerns, worries, and frustrations.

In our services this week, we are looking at the role of Angels in the Christmas story.  Personally, I feel that Angels are very mysterious, and there are so many questions I have about them.  However, one thing is for certain:  Angels came to proclaim God’s Good News to the world!  In fact, the word “Angel” actually means “messenger.”  Angels can’t wait to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Recently, Kira and I were talking about all the good things we couldn’t wait to show our new baby after he is born.  There are so many people, places, and events that will bring him so much joy… There are mountains, bike rides, and all kinds of other messes that I can’t wait to get him into!  More importantly however, there is love I can’t wait to share with this little guy!  I think God looks at each one of us with the same kind of enthusiasm, only much greater!  God can’t wait to show us all of the wonderful things this life has to offer.  I think we are all called to be messengers of this joy.  Let us share the Good News of what God is doing in the world around us!



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Unexpected Adventures!

“Oh dude!  Not good!”  That’s what a new friend of mine kept saying to me on the side of road earlier this week.  (Except he used a few more colorful adjectives to describe the situation…) 

Every time I ride, I have to be ready for some kind of chaos...
It all started when I decided to ride my bike to Mountain Springs.  I’ve done this several times, and I thought I was totally prepared.  However, about 12 miles from my house I hear a BAM… and I feel my rear tire go flat.  Usually, that’s not too big of a deal, but this time the tube was so shredded it was not holding a patch.  That left me stuck a few miles outside of Blue Diamond trying to find my way back home.  That’s also where I met my new friend.  He was riding his bike the same way, and he stopped to help.  He turned out to be a really neat guy.  He was from Germany, but he talked like a surfer from California.  The two of us used our cold and numb fingers to try and glue and patch my shredded tube back together.  Each time we had the same result… “Oh dude! Not good!” 

We are in the midst of our Advent season, and this week we are taking a look at Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.  Their trip was filled with unexpected events!  This young couple had to go on a long journey, and there was no way for them to call in any reservations.  They simply had to hope someone would open their doors to them along the way.  They didn’t know who they would run into.  They just had to hope that God’s promises for them would be realized.  In the end, their journey could be seen as a failure.  The baby is born in a manger, they are far from home, and things won’t get much better.  However, Mary and Joseph decided not to dwell on all the awful stuff.  Instead, they found hope that God was working in the unexpected.
The Journey to Bethlehem was filled with

I think we all need to keep that in mind.  In spite of the best preparation, we will all face uncertainty.  We can choose to become annoyed and frustrated, or we can find God’s blessings right where we’re at.  For me, my bike ride was not what I expected, but I got to meet my new German surfer/biker friend, and I could give thanks for all the people who helped me get me to a store to buy a new tube.  Soon enough, everything was fixed, and I was on my way back home.  Sometimes life does not work out as expected, but God is there.  That’s something I know I have to keep in mind… especially when I heard my back tire blow out for the SECOND TIME on the way back to my house! 

Keep Adventuring!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks and Preparing for Christmas!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I love this time of year and all the excitement that surrounds it.  As a church, we are also diving into the season of Advent next week.  The holidays are here!  Christmas is coming!  Are you in the Spirit?

I guess there is somebody else who knows how to pack their
bike better than me :)
Earlier this week, I wound up shopping and running a bunch of errands.  For some people, shopping gets them into the Holiday Spirit… That has never been the case for me.  I went out early with a list of groceries and supplies I needed for the house.  A good shopper probably could have gotten them all in a couple hours, but I had no such luck.  I spent hours wandering around in Costco alone, and I was unable to find anything I was looking for.  I wound up just standing in a bunch of long lines and getting a bunch of stuff I didn't need.  Of course, I had also ridden my bike to the store, so I had to figure out how to get all of that useless stuff back to the house (By the way, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to ride a bike to Costco, but that’s what I do…)  After that, I wound up going between Lowes and Home Depot looking for the best deals on the other supplies I needed.  At that point, I had my car, but I was still having issues.  Have you ever tried to fit a 3’ by 5’ piece of hardy board into a Toyota Corolla?  It’s kind of hard, and it makes for an interesting ride home… At the end of the day, I had acquired a bunch of things I didn't

need, I had probably found the worst deals in town, and I was not a happy camper.  It’s a great way to start off the holiday season, right?  I can’t wait to really start the holiday shopping…

Let's try and remember and give thanks for what this season
is all about
I know a lot of you are probably super excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  (I know a few of you who would never put the Christmas tree away if you had a choice!)  However, there are others who are struggling to get into the spirit.  All the shopping, people, and expectations can cause a lot of stress this time of year.  This week we are looking at the story of Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah from the Gospel of Luke.   Elizabeth and her husband were very old.  Both of them seem to have long ago given up on any hope that their lives could ever change.  However, Elizabeth and Zechariah received news that they were becoming parents.  God’s good news was breaking into their lives.  Zechariah couldn't believe it.  Sometimes in the midst of everyday life, it’s hard to see God’s Spirit moving.  However, Elizabeth opened her heart to the good news.  Sometimes we all become set in our ways.  We doubt anything new can bring hope.  However, today’s scripture reminds all of us to have faith that God is doing something new.  I pray we can all find a new way to celebrate and Give Thanks for all that we have!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sheep and Goats!

"He will separate the people one from another as a
shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" :)
Ok, so I have spent way too much time on this week’s blog post!  I have researched, questioned, and stayed up late thinking about it.  However, after all of that, I’m still not getting anywhere.  (It’s been pretty annoying!)  This week our scripture passage is once again from Matthew 25.  Jesus is telling his disciples that one day the Son of Man will return in all His glory.  On that day, Jesus says He will separate the people, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will take those at his right hand (the sheep) and welcome them into His kingdom.  However, to those on his left (the goats) he will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!”

Umm… Yikes!

As much as I try and make sense of that, it’s just not working for me...  People have used this image of Jesus as a Judge to persecute and discriminate against all kind of individuals.  Other people have faced judgment from others their entire lives, and they may wonder if Christ will now condemn them too…  However, I wonder if we may be missing the point.  Throughout the Gospel, Jesus has tried to teach us that we are already His sheep.  There is nothing that can change that!  We are a part of His flock, and He loves us just as we are.  Yes, there are times when Jesus tells us we will get lost, or we will stray away from the fold.  However, we are His sheep, and we belong to Him. 

We are all just Sheep!  Let's live happily 
in the arms of our Shepherd!
It’s easy to spend our time focusing on the evil that is in the world.  However, the parable makes it clear that it is not up to us to judge.  It’s not our job to decide who is in and who is out.  Our job is just to be sheep.  We follow the shepherd, and we live out our faith.  Sure, we will get lost, but we have a shepherd who will always come back for us.  In the end, I think that is a message we all need to hear!


Pastor Brian

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cherishing our Gifts!

We met a the Jackaroo Ranch!  It's a Bed and Breakfast that is owned by some
of Kira's family members.  It is an amazing place!
Last weekend, both of Kira’s parents celebrated their birthdays.  Usually, it’s pretty hard for her whole family to get together, since everyone is spread out across the nation.  However, this year we all decided to make an effort to meet up, if only for a short time.  We met at a home near Wimberley, Texas – the hill country...  Much of Kira’s family still lives in that area, and it was a great place to get together.  I had never been to this particular place before, and I had no idea what it was going to be like, but I have to say, I was pretty impressed!  Just looking outside the door, we saw rolling hills, a beautiful river, and all kinds of animals.  I couldn't wait for my morning runs to go out and explore everything.  I ran close to 9 miles a day, and I had to force myself to turn around to make sure I made it back in time for breakfast.  I loved it!

However, the scenery was only a small part of the trip.  This was the first time in years so much of the family had the chance to get together.  It was also a chance to meet new people and celebrate together.  The only problem was the trip was too short.  It’s amazing how much we packed into that weekend!  Every day we were walking or running through the hills, exploring the nearby towns, playing games, sitting around a bonfire, and just laughing like crazy.  Of course, we also ate a ton of food!  We stayed up late, and we woke up early just to enjoy every moment together!  Kira and I came back from the trip totally exhausted, but we were also completely fulfilled at the same time!  Beautiful!

This week our Scripture passage is once again from Matthew 25.  This time we are looking at the Parable of the Talents.  This parable asks us if we are going to use all the gifts and treasures God has given us… or are we going to simply ignore and squander these gifts?  The trip to Texas helped me to give thanks for all the gifts that we have in this world.  I really hope and pray we can all take time to live life to the last drop.  May we always see the blessings around us, and may we take advantage of every second!

Peace and Blessings!


Another Picture of the Jackroo Ranch looking down toward the River

One of the many amazing meals that were prepared
while we were there!

While everyone one else was working hard I was busy breaking things
in the kitchen...
We filled this place with a lot of wonderful people and we will
take away so many memories!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Be Prepared!

Getting excited for the new baby!  It's a boy!
Well, it’s a boy!  That was the big news in our house this week!  Kira had an ultra sound and the doctor said everything looks great. However, just to make things a little more interesting, we had the doctor write the gender of the baby down and put that in an envelope.  Then we gave the envelope to a friend who would make us either a blue cake or a pink cake.;. Then we just had to throw a party, cut the cake, and enjoy the surprise... It's a boy!

Right now, everything is pretty amazing. However, there are times when reality sets in and I realize I have a lot to figure out in just a few short months.  It seems like every day my wife and I are reminded of something else that needs to get taken care of.  We’re excited, but we also wonder… are we prepared?

The scripture we are looking at this week is all about preparation. (Sometimes I feel like these verses were chosen just for me!)  We are reading from chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, the parable of the 10 bridesmaids.  At the end of the story, Jesus warns everyone to Keep Awake, or Be Prepared!  I think this story is a good reminder for me, because it’s not just a parable about being prepared for all of these worldly things.  I think this parable is really asking us if we are prepared spiritually… God is offering us an amazing and abundant life.  We don’t want to miss out on opportunities that bring God’s grace, hope, and love into this world.  Being prepared spiritually is different than being prepared for daily living.  There are always things to worry about, and there will always be things that I will forget about and mess up on.  (Personally, I know I spend hours each day dwelling on these things…) However, I know I am being called to open my eyes to what truly matters.  I think that is what Christ is saying to me this week.  Yes, there is a lot of stuff to worry about, but I need to take time to see what is really important.  It is my hope and prayer that we would all take a little extra time to prepare for what really matters.  Can we take just a little more time this week to pray, open our hearts, and ponder what God is doing in this world?  God is offering us each so much more… if we just take the time to notice.


Pastor Brian

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

All Saint's Day

Recently, I was looking at how full my calendar was.  There are all kinds of youth activities, service projects, Boy Scout programs, and discipleship groups that I am a part of.  I can’t think of the last time my wife actually sat down and ate a nice quiet meal together.  However, I have to admit, we want to live like this.  We like to stay busy.  Sure, life may get a little stressful, but we love going places and trying new things.  I love working at a church, because I have so many wonderful opportunities to stay involved with different groups.  However, I was thinking about a scripture passage recently from Ecclesiastes 3: 
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
3 A time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance…

Busy, Busy, Busy!
Sometimes there are so many things going on, I simply chose to stay busy with the new and exciting adventures.  I look for the next activity where I can laugh, dance, and build things up!  However, I wonder if I am taking any time to break down, weep, and mourn?  All Saint’s Day is coming up this Sunday.  Growing up, I don’t think I ever realized this day existed.  (I was always too busy eating my leftover candy from Halloween!) However, All Saint’s Day is a day where we take time to remember those who have died.  We can also remember those relationships we have lost or the people and places we’ve had to leave behind for one reason or another.  That’s not something I like to dwell on, but I really do believe it is important.  Sure, I think we all need to stay busy, but we also need time to grieve.  Life changes so fast.  We need time to give thanks for the love that that has been passed on to us.  I think we all need space to grieve too.  We need to have time for closure and time to say goodbye. 

Blessings!  May each of you find peace and comfort this All Saint’s Day.

-Pastor Brian

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spirit of the Reformation

So, this past week has been a blast!  My parents came down from Minnesota, and we've been trying to pack as much into this week as possible.  Kira and I are still pretty busy with work, but we've had time to check out the city, go for a couple hikes, and just laugh and spend time with one another.    

Seeing my parents also made me think about my life’s journey.  Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “How did I get here?” Personally, I never could have guessed or imagined that I would wind up as a Pastor in Las Vegas!  First of all, I never dreamed I would become a pastor.  Second, I’m from a small rural Minnesota town… How did I wind up out here in the desert? However, small opportunities in my life led to something that I would never change.  I love where I am at.  I love where I came from, and I can’t wait to see where I am going…

God's Spirit is making something new!
Have you ever taken time to look at your life’s journey?  Are there people or events that drastically changed the way you live your life?  This week we are celebrating Reformation Day.  This is a wonderful celebration in the church where we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever happens in life, we are called to remember God is here, and God is moving in this world!  Sometimes life is difficult, but I believe God is making something new… I believe God can create new life in ways that we can’t possibly imagine.  I pray this week that we may all be open to the Holy Spirit’s work in all that we do!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding God's Wisdom on a Confirmation Retreat

Camp Foxtail - The camp where our confirmation kids went
earlier this month
A couple weeks ago, I went on a confirmation retreat with the 9th grade students from our congregation.  I love teaching this group of kids, but sometimes it can get really difficult.  If I’m teaching something that the group doesn’t think is relevant, if it’s too ethereal, or if I just sound like I’m lecturing, they will simply shut down, and I will wind up talking to myself.  So, to avoid that, I’m constantly wondering if there is any way I make the class a little more real and a little less boring. That’s why I love going on retreat to the Mt. Charleston area.   There’s just something about the mountains that makes us come alive!  There’s no way you can be bored!  
Well, at least that’s my perspective… but many of the kids did tell me how amazing the trip was.  Some of the youth even got up before the sun rose to go for a run with me in the 35 degree mountain air.  We jumped over rocks, climbed a couple thousand feet, and we even had a real snowball fight.  Of course, we also had time at the end of the day to simply sit and worship around the campfire… Amazing!  It was so much fun to see these kids living with such passion!

The fall colors were on full display that week!
The trip was also a chance for some walls to come down.  There were opportunities for the youth to share what was going on in their lives.  They had the chance to talk about some of the difficulties they faced.  Sometimes, I forget how much kids have to go through in this world – it can be pretty tough!  We all need a community that will support us in our times of trial.

This week, in our sermon series, we are talking about wisdom literature in the Bible.  Personally, I don’t believe wisdom is just about the facts we have to memorize… Instead, I think Biblical wisdom is really about finding Hope.  When people built kingdoms, they passed on their hope to the next generation.  When those kingdoms fell, and the people had to live in exile, they still passed on the hope they had found.  Through the good and the bad, God’s people shared words of hope.  That is wisdom!  That is also what we’re trying to pass along in confirmation.  It’s not about memorizing all the facts just for the sake of memorizing them.  We are trying to help one another to believe in God’s love, even the darkest moments.  Biblical wisdom cannot take away the pain we all have to face, but it can help us to realize we are not alone.  We have a God who always stands with His people – through the good and the bad.  That is what Jesus is all about! It is my prayer that we would unashamedly share this hope with the world.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Learning to Trust

As some of you may know, my wife and I just purchased our first home in Henderson, NV.  We love the area and the house, and we know we are blessed in so many ways.  However, there are also times when we feel like we are getting in a little over our heads.  Before we moved, it seemed like we were always busy.  We got home, we ate dinner, and we went to bed… not much time for anything else.  Now, after the move, things have gotten even busier.  We have to find time to set everything up in the new house, fix the leaky toilets, replace the water heater, and who knows what else.  I feel like I’m at Home Depot all the time, but I’m not catching up on anything.  It makes me wonder what we’re going to do when we have the baby!  How in the world do people have time for any of this?  People tell us these years before having kids are pretty carefree.  Then, when we have a kid, we will know the meaning of crazy!  Which leaves me wondering, “How will this ever work?!?”

Where I spend much of my free time these days...
I had a friend tell me recently that I can’t spend my time worrying how life is going to work out.  When the time comes, “You just make it work…”  This doesn’t mean it will all be easy. (It won’t be!) However, you have to have faith… You have to trust that God is there… This week we are talking about trusting in the Lord, and for me, that is not easy.  I like to have things planned out, and I like to know what’s coming next.  However, no matter what age or stage of life you are in – you never know what will happen.  It’s my prayer that we could all learn to trust in God, and believe that God is doing something Great! 



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I got out of town for a couple of days.  We went on a quick hiking trip to Great Basin National Park, which is a crazy awesome place!  You have to drive through 300 miles of desert to get there, but it’s pretty incredible!  We got to climb two of Nevada’s highest mountains, we touched Nevada’s only glacier, and we were out of contact with the rest of the world… if only for a couple days.  I love taking time just to be in the mountains, see the leaves change color, and scramble to the top of a thirteen thousand foot peak.  Nature helps me to feel alive, and it helps me to cherish every moment of life, from the sunrise to the amazingly starry nights.

At the top of Wheeler Peak 
However, my trip to the Great Basin would not have been nearly as meaningful if I did not have anyone to cherish these moments with.  It may seem kind of crazy to go backpacking, sleep on the ground, and climb every mountain in sight with my pregnant wife.  However, my wife and I find that we actually grow closer together on these trips.  We challenge one another to appreciate everything around us, and we take time to give thanks for the gifts we have in this world.  I know I would not grow nearly as much if she was not there…

This week we are beginning a new sermon series called Iron sharpens Iron that is based on the book of Proverbs.  The series will ask us if we are taking time to be in relationship with others.  Sometimes this world gets pretty crazy, and it can become hard to really build relationships beyond simply becoming Facebook friends.  We need people in our lives that will challenge us, motivate us, and hold us accountable.  Are we taking time to build these kinds of relationships?  This week I hope we can take time to appreciate the relationships we have, but I hope we can also build new relationships that will challenge us to become better people every day!


Pastor Brian
Nevada's only glacier... just a dirty pile of snow by the end of
September, but still pretty neat!

In just about a couple of hours Kira would be at the
high point of the mountain in front of her :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Matthew 21 - Authority

“By what authority are you doing these things?”

In our Bible story this week, the chief priests and elders are questioning Jesus’ authority.  They don’t want to listen to Jesus or follow Him.  That’s actually a common complaint of many people today.  Why should I care about someone who lived so long ago? How can I relate to Him?  What’s the point?  When I first glanced at this story, it seemed like these questions came from people who just didn't get it.  However, in some ways, I really respect the people who ask these questions.  Unless we honestly ask the hard questions, it’s easy to wind up just following blindly, and that can lead us to hypocrisy.  It becomes easy to simply say the “right” thing; condemn the “wrong” people, and never ask why we’re doing what we’re doing...

So, why do we follow Jesus?  Are we following Jesus?  I know if I really let this question sink in, I realize that I’m following a lot besides Christ.  We chase after money, health, possessions, etc...  In Matthew chapter 21, the chief priests didn't realize they were caught up chasing after their own glory.  They thought they were following the Bible, but in reality, they were just hypocrites… Could it be that many of us are in the same boat?  I say I am a Christian, but do I really think about what that means?  I think this story was written to help us ask those hard questions.  What are we following?  What really brings life to the world, and what is truly important?