Rebirth, Renewal, New Life

Getting under contract is super-exciting and super-scary at the same time.  On the one hand, after 5+ years of searching (and setting up for worship more than 300x), is awesome to find a location that we love.  And there is good reason to love it.   Here are a couple of highlights:
  • The location is great. It is right off of one of the main streets in our historic downtown.
    • One block north is Festival Park (undergoing a $6,900,000 renovation as you read this!
    • It is next to the public library!
    • It is only 2 blocks from the new $40,000,000 River Walk project.
  • It is where people like to go.
  • There are over 200 public parking places right around it (public lot to the north, library and street parking). This means we means we don’t have to maintain a full-sized parking lot (that saves us roughly $200,000 over the next 20 years!)
  • We can “build to the edges” of the lot. The lot is less than one acre, however, we could (in the future) more than double the size of the existing facility (current building is 8500 sq/ft.
  • It has existing infrastructure we can work with.  The lot has a totally open 8500 sq/ft building.  It is pretty basic, but the taller end has over 20 ft ceilings.  This can possibly save us hundreds of thousands of dollars on the final project.
  • We can move forward quickly-there are a lot of moving parts to make this happen, but it is very conceivable that we could be worshipping in our new location in less than a year

That all said, the former auto repair garage is, well, ugly.  To say that it will need some work is an understatement. You are going to have to use your imagination (like imagine that it is not mustard yellow).  We know we have to change the outside and the inside to make things work for worship, classrooms and a gathering space.  Is it worth the trouble and expense?

To be honest, I kind of like the idea of renewing a tired, old building.  As a believer, I can’t think of a better metaphor for the work that will be happening inside. Not the building of walls, but the building of souls.  We come to God’s house spiritually tired, and spiritually ugly. Yet, the Holy Spirit renews us through the simple message of the Gospel.  God thought you were worth fixing, worth forgiving.  God thought you were worth the expense. How beautiful that the Bible calls the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit renewal, new life and rebirth because that is just what we needed.

Can you help? There are a number of ways that you can help our mission.

  • You can donate directly to our building fund at
  • You can pray that God removes all roadblocks and, if it is his will, we will be worshiping in our place.
  • You can reach out to WELS Kingdom workers (Builders for Christ) to see if you can help with Mission building projects in Castle Rock or around the country.

CEF Loan Application 2 Phelps looking North

How do I study the Bible?


This is a great question. There are a ton of resources for studying God’s Word. However, I think that might be the biggest problem. If there was only book to read, I think we would be in pretty good shape. Get book-read book. However, there are literally hundreds of Bible translations, not to mention the thousands of devotional books.

Where to start? I see four possible ideas:

  1. Open your Bible and read a little each day.  I know, I know, some of you are driven people, so you like to try to knock off the whole thing. We are in this for the long game…take a breath and take in a little of God’s Word each day.
  2. Subscribe to a few “quick hit” type email devotions.  I like the videos at  or the simple devotions from both sites make it super-easy to subscribe to the regular emails.
  3. Jot down thoughts, prayers ideas or questions you may have so you can remember them or ask questions/investigate later on.
  4. Pray before or after your regular devotion time.  Regular is important. For me, I try not to have my first sip of coffee before I read some in my Bible.

Hope this helps, if you are looking for resources, please reach out,


What does a pastor do?


If you are reading this, you are probably part of our church family at Eternal Rock.  Welcome!  That is a big deal and it is big deal to me that I get to be your pastor.   Technically, “pastor” is just and old English word for shepherd.  The idea is that just like a regular shepherd cares for, encourages, looks after and on occasion admonishes, sheep, so I am called, by you, to care for, encourage, look after and (sometimes admonish) in order to take care of your spiritual needs.  Let me give a couple of examples:

You are in the hospital and you are sick, I can stop by to encourage you with God’s promises in Christ.

You have a baby, I usually stop by to check in and help you get started with the baptism process.

You are facing a difficult decision, I can meet and talk about what are the are the Biblical principals that are pertinent to your decision. For example, you parents are near the end of their life or you are facing a new job.

You are looking to be growing in your faith (always a good thing!) God does this through the study of his Word. How do I help? Not only do I focus on God’s Word for us to grow together on Sunday, but I am more than happy to point in the right direction or even order some great biblical resources.

Be a confidential ear to listen to a personal confession that is weighing you down.

Offer pre-marriage or post-marriage counseling.

Admonishment?  I am guessing this may have made you bristle just a little. Don’t worry, it makes a bit uncomfortable writing it.  This is one of the harder parts of my job because I know my own sinfulness and shortcomings.  However, sin is a dangerous thing. Even a little sin can infect the whole person.  Also, you never know what sin may take someone’s heart from God.  By discipline or admonishment, I simply mean accountability.  The Bible encourages us to regularly confess our sins and trust in Jesus for forgiveness, it also encourages us to talk to people we care about who are wrapped up in sin.  As such, one of my responsibilities as a pastor to “spiritually admonish” members who are in habitual sin.

Partner with you when you have kids to raise them up in the Lord.

Help answer any questions you may have about the Bible.  Really, text, call or email me anytime.

This, of course, is just a short list, but hopefully you have some idea how I can be helpful.

In Him,


What about Proposition 106-The Right to Die?

Physician-assisted suicide is not an easy topic.  However, it is on our ballot this November election, so we need to consider it from the perspective of the Bible

Biblically, the passages are clear against suicide. God reminds us that our times are in his hands (Psalm 31:15). Or, the fifth commandment, “You shall not murder” (this includes taking one’s own life). Besides this command, we have various other passages that command us to take care of the body God has given us.  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Even the prayer of Hannah makes it clear that, “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). Nowhere in the entire Bible is suicide condoned, much less encouraged.

So what is the problem? 
We have hearts.  Most of us have family or friends who have had to face cancer. We have compassion, we have empathy, and we have a desire to support them in their fight. However, the terminal aspect of certain cancers is unnerving.  Kim Kuo said it well, “Yet certainly people of faith have unique questions to ask about terminal illness. Namely, are we willing to surrender to our Creator the specifics of how and when we die? How much do we actually trust him with our final days?”

Regardless of our trust in the Lord, it is hard to see someone we love suffer. About a week ago I saw the aftermath of a deer/car crash. The deer, however, was not dead. As I drove by, with officers standing guard, the deer was struggling and it certainly appeared that there was severe damage to his hind legs, such that he could not stand. The deer, with his majestic set of antlers, was still truly beautiful. For some reason, that made his inevitable death harder for me.  As I drove by, I could only guess the outcome of this accident. The deer was killed. I doubt many of us would argue against the necessity of killing a severely wounded wild animal. I also doubt many of us would take a friend to task when it comes time to “put down” their dear family pet.  Should the same principles of compassion and mercy apply to people?

Why is it any different for people?
First, people are not animals. We were not created as just another animal. Genesis sets the tone as God took special care with the creation of men and women. It is only of us, that God declared that he would make us in his image, so image of God he created us. This care goes beyond his image. Each of us is created with soul and the soul was paid for with the blood of God’s own Son.  That in itself makes us and the one life we have on this earth valuable.

Second, we are not promised in this life that God will remove all our troubles. In fact, in this sin-filled world, it is just the opposite. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).  So what it comes down to is not if we will face troubles, but how we face these inevitable trials.

Can good come from the terrible?

As believers we see this from two angles.  Is there spiritual good and is there earthly good? It is easy to spot earthly good from bad situations. A mother starts MADD or money is raised to help awareness.  Spiritual good is not as tangible.  We can think of the suffering of our Savior. No father would want his son to go through what Jesus did, yet God, who was able to stop it, did not. Why? he allowed him to suffer to attain the greatest good imaginable for us. In the end, it was Jesus’ suffering that pointed to his glory.  Still, even on this earth we can see good come from the terrible.

  • Lauren Hill, who lived her final days facing terminal cancer and raised awareness and 1.5 million dollars towards finding a cure.
  • Our own member Tracy, who faced cancer with dignity, brought her family together and had a chance to express her own faith to her boys.
  • My former member in Washington, Lisa, whose 5+ battle with cancer inspired hundreds.
  • Maybe you someday.

The truth is we were not made to die. Since Adam and Eve our world is no longer perfect. With sin, came death and it all of its consequences.  Death is terrible and certain deaths are worse than others. Terminal illness has to be among the most frustrating for the participant and observer.  There is pain, migraines, nausea, chemo, anxiety, drug side effects, changed personality. Yet even in this situation, we are not called to be God. God is and God gives us promises.  The Bible tells us that God will be with us, that we can cry out to God, that God hears our prayers. The Bible reminds us our death is just a doorway to a life with God in heaven. Death is just difficult. We can’t understand why, but we can trust in our Savior who suffered more than we will ever have to…for the greatest good…for us.

Call Received

Call Received 
This past week I received a “call” to Resurrection and Life Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minnesota. While many of you may know exactly what this means, there are still others who may be a little bit confused. Let me help clear up some of that confusion.
What is a call? While God entrusts every Christian with the call to share their faith with the world, there’s also a special role in sharing the Gospel called the “public ministry.” These are people who have been “called” by the Holy Spirit through a congregation to share the Gospel and the Means of Grace in a public way, on behalf of and in the name of other Christians. When the Bible gives examples of public ministers, it uses words like, deacon, evangelist, apostle, prophet, teacher (Ephesians 4:11). Today, titles for public ministers that you may be familiar with are pastor, teacher, staff minister, etc. As a church prayerfully “calls” someone into this public ministry, we believe that it is as if the Lord Himself is acting through the church.
                  Public ministers need to be called by the church. But how? The Bible doesn’t give Christians the prescribed way to call a public minister. When calling Mathias to replace Judas, the disciples drew lots (like an ancient “picking straws”) to settle on Mathias. They believed that through prayer the Lord would guide the outcome of the lots. Today, there are many different ways or methods used in the Christian world to call ministers. In the Catholic Church, a public minister is told to leave their current congregations and to serve at a new one. In other places, pastors seek out a “call.” They may even apply or interview for a pastoral or teacher position. In our church body, the WELS, the pastor doesn’t seek out the call. In other words, our pastors do not actively seek out or apply for jobs at other churches. Instead, the church issues a call to a candidate who may have the qualifications and gifts for a particular position and congregation.
                  When a pastor receives a call, like I have, in reality he is holding two calls. The Lord, through God’s people, has called you to the church you are currently serving and to the church that has issued the new call. It is our practice then that a pastor will prayerfully consider both calls and decide which congregation he can best serve. There are many things that a pastor should consider when deliberating a call (we will talk more about this April 24th) There’s not enough room to go into all of them. But just a few…it is important for a pastor to think about which situation he feels that he can best serve the Kingdom with the gifts that God has given him. It can also be important to listen to comments from the members of the congregations, comments of other pastors and others who know him well. It’s also important for a pastor to listen and discuss these things with his family, because he has important responsibilities as a husband and father.
While the process varies from pastor to pastor. Here is what you can expect during the coming weeks as I deliberate and come to a decision.
  • April 13-call received to serve in Minnesota
  • April 14-announce call to Eternal Rock staff and Leadership Council
  • April 15-announcee call to the congregation via the eLetter
  • April 17-23-contemplate where Eternal Rock is at as a church and see how I fit into that future.
  • April 24-special 9:00am Bible Class/Discussion about this particular call. I would be giving my thoughts about where we are at as a church, how you and I fit into that future and answering any questions about the call process, etc. At this point, I would be looking for some feedback.
  • May 1-anticipated decision.

3 Easy Ways to Pray with Your Kids

Prayer is just one of those things we are supposed to know how to do. However, this is hardly the case for everyone. Sure, most of us probably have the main parts down: put your hands together, close your eyes and ask God for something. Yet, if you are wondering if there is more to it, you are right…


My parents encouraged me to pray from an early age.  I think my childhood consisted of three main prayers:

  1. Prayers before eating
  2. Prayers at bedtime
  3. Prayers for a snow day, Legos, a fire engine and other essentials.

Today, I see kids start formulating simple prayers around 2 or 3 years old. Their prayers are obviously not complex but even simple prayers like, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this food” are learned. When the kids were just days old, we tried to pray simple prayers at bedtime and before meals.  I think this gets the kids in that habit, even before they know what is happening.  Here are three great ways/times to pray with your kids:

Pray before meals

This one is pretty simple, but we do it with a slight twist.  In our house, prayer responsibilities rotate by day (e.g. Owen prays every Friday).  That person is also responsible for clearing and cleaning the dishes that day. The rule is simple. When it is your day, you pick the prayer. The choices come down to three:

  • A prayer we have memorized as a family (see examples here).
  • A prayer they read from a book or prayer sheet (see link above)
  • A “special prayer” which just means they say a prayer from their own heart.

Pray at bedtime

This is much like meals, but at bedtime each child has their own prayer that they memorized. There are a couple examples below.  No, they don’t say it every night, but I think there is a sense of comfort in having a routine. Even today, when I feel overwhelmed, I often say my prayer from simpler days when I was a child.  Here are some example bedtime prayers:

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay

Close by me forever and love me, I pray

Bless all the dear children in your tender care,

And take us to heaven to live with you there.

(Away in a Manger, verse 3)


Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

May angels watch me through the night

and wake me with the morning light

(traditional children’s prayer from the 18th century)

Prayer of Confession

I am guessing that your kids don’t need much help learning to ask God for things that they want, so I will just skip to one many families overlook: prayers of confession.  I aim to do this on Sunday evenings. This is not because my kids are so great that they only need to confess sins once a week! The routine is pretty simple. On Sunday evenings I talk to each of my kids before they go to bed (away from the other kids). Sometimes this is just in the hallway while the others are brushing their teeth. I ask three things:

  1. Are there any sins that you want to confess? If they can’t think of any, I ask something like, “Did you always listen in school this week?” or “Were you always kind to your sister/brother this week?”
  2. Are you sorry for these sins?
  3. Why should God forgive these sins? (Jesus died on the cross for all my sins and rose again on Easter).

Finally, I say, (and you can too) “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I make the sign of the cross, give them a hug and kiss, tell them I love them. That is it.

One final thought:

Yes, I know confessional prayers may sound just a bit over the top. And yes, it does become more difficult as the kids have grown older. However, I am consistently surprised how often there is something that is burdening their young consciences. I am also encouraged by the sense of relief they have to hear out loud that their sins are forgiven because of Jesus. Do my kids think I am little weird? Probably. Do they know that Jesus’ has paid for all their sins? Certainly.

Discussion: What prayers did you grow up with?

 How do I pick a Bible?


If you feel a bit overwhelmed about picking a Bible, you are not alone. There are literally hundreds of Bibles on the market. There are study Bibles, reference Bibles, cross-reference Bibles, application Bibles, teen Bibles….

Stack-of-BiblesOn the good side, publishers are trying to reach the needs of the millions of Bible readers. On the pessimistic side, since the Bible is the number one selling book of all time, publishers are attempting to capitalize on people seeking to know Jesus. So how do you wade through the oceans of Bible options?


I wish I could just recommend a single Bible and that would be the end of the post. However, that would be a bit simplistic. Different Bibles have different uses. (You can skip to the bottom to get my recommendations.)


Before we go any further,  I should note that not all versions of the Bibles are not the same. Maybe you have noticed this already. Bibles basically break down into two categories: translations and paraphrases. Translations are versions of the Bible that seek to give the reader the closest version to the original Greek and Hebrew text. Examples include:

  • King James Version (KJV) this is the one with the thee’s and thou’s.
  • New International Version (NIV) this is the most popular translation in the USA and the one we read in church most of the time.
  • English Standard Version (ESV) this is good translation, but the wording feels strange at times to me.

The Second category includes paraphrases. Obviously, to have a version of the Bible called a “paraphrase” does not sound very good. However, the point of the paraphrase is to help the reader understand what the Bible means by conveying the idea of the text rather than a word-for-word rendering. Basically, this means an individual is doing some of the interpretation of the text for you.  This is good and bad. The good is that it is often easier to understand. The bad is that you could be missing something from the original.

For example, I am sure you recognize this line from Shakespeare,”O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” A paraphrase may instead say something like, “Where are you, Romeo?”  Both phrases mean basically the same thing, but one is more understandable.  I have both paraphrases and translations in my Bible collection. The two most popular paraphrases include:

  • The Message-this is popular and makes the Bible sound like contemporary writing. I enjoy reading a passage or two from the message (especially the Epistle letters like 1 Corinthians), but I prefer not to read it in larger chunks.
  • The New Living Translation-(NLT) This version is closer to a translation and makes reading the Bible a little easier.

 RECOMMENDATIONS according to how you will may use them

  • Mobile-AcroBible NIV-I know there are free versions, but I like the AcroBible because I don’t need a WiFi/Data connection to read. You can find a link to the various device versions here. 
  • General Reading and Study-NIV 2011 or NIV 1984 Study Bible with notes by CPH. The choice of which NIV Bible you chose comes down to preference.  I have Bibles that range in size from pocket size to a few different study Bibles.
  • Audio BibleInspired By…The Bible Experience. This version has a variety of performers. It is hardly perfect, but it is pretty easy to listen to and uses the Today’s NIV version.  The link is to the New Testament.  Generally, I have trouble staying focused to just the audio.  I prefer to listen and follow along in the Bible.

Honorable Mention:

  • Bibliotheca Project-As of this writing, I have mine on preorder and can’t wait to use it for my morning reading!
  • Archaeological Study Bible-This version has interesting notes, but way too big to transport.
  • The Story-This is an abridged version of the Bible in chronological order. It was designed to be about the length of a novel, so it is only about 300 pages or so.  It also has nice transitions that let you know what happened in between the Bible sections.  They have books for kids, teens and adults.

QUESTION? -What is your favorite Bible?