Pastor Ben Unseth

Ben Unseth is a long-lost Minnesotan delighted to be repatriated from California. In addition to serving as a pastor, he teaches and serves on the board of directors for Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute, has published books, managed sales teams, and led a social service agency.

 

He would love to welcome you into an encouraging community—Resurrection Lutheran Church. At your pace, he can help you dig into a few big questions: Why are you here? Why did God send Jesus into the world? What does the Bible have to say about you and your life?

 

He delights in helping people discover meaningful relationships, fulfillment in their work, and freedom from life’s negative baggage.

 

He helps people understand that you can reconnect with your Creator (Luke 19:10), experience a life of fulfillment and purpose (John 10:10), and find freedom from wounds and nagging habits (1 John 3:8).

 

His favorite blessing is from Moses’ last words to God’s people:

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

May the Lord bless all your skills and be pleased with the work of your hands.

May he ride across the heavens to help you.

May you abound with the Lord’s favor and be full of his blessing. Amen

Contact: pastor@resurrectionmankato.org

Newsletter articles:

April 2021

Wanted: Disciples of Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disciples belong.

 

Christians, disciples, belong to Jesus. We are his followers, his apprentices. As we journey through Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday offer unique opportunities to experience the passion of Jesus. Join Jesus in the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane. How did his first disciples respond to his arrest? Why did Jesus allow his unjust suffering and trial? Count the minutes and hours as Jesus hangs on the Cross for you and for me.

 

There are no shortcuts to apprenticeship. Follow Jesus step by step through this sinister, essential conspiracy.

 

 

Disciples do.

 

Sometimes I have looked down at Peter for cutting off a man’s ear to defend Jesus. Jesus, however, did not disqualify Peter for rash action. Peter was a do-er. Nothing happens without do-ers. It is easier to be an observer, or a thinker, or a donor. Jesus calls us to do. Jesus tells us to talk to people about him. Pray about whom God wants you to talk to. Then, invite that person to come to church with you—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, or another Sunday. It may be the scariest thing you have ever done. Jesus will guide you.

 

 

Disciples become.

 

When I was in middle school, I would quiver with pain when my knees bumped the bottom of my desk or the crossbars on a lunch table. I was in my growth spurt, and growing can hurt. God is growing you into a fruitful disciple. I wish that he would roll up my life in bubble wrap and scoot me unbumped, unbruised to heaven. He loves us too much to do that. He will use the storms and the manure of this broken world to grow us into phenomenal fruitfulness. Good trouble is where God finds us…and grows us.

March 2021

Prayer Is High Priority…and the Focus of Our Lenten Worship!

 

If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why should we pray?

 

1. Jesus and the Apostles Give Us the Example of Praying

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). “Peter went up on the roof to pray” (Acts 10:9). Paul said, “Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3).

 

2. Jesus and the Apostles Call Us to Pray

“Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). Jesus did not say, “If you pray.” In triplicate, he said, “When you pray…. When you pray…. When you pray” (Matthew 6:5, 6, 7); then he promised, “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (v. 6).

 

Paul said, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). James said, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” (James 5:13).

 

3. God Is Overwhelmingly Stronger and Wiser Than We Are

When we work, we work. When we pray, God works! God is the God of grace, or favor. When you are working in the light of God’s favor, it is like sailing with the wind at your back. It is like playing tug-of-war with the 800-pound gorilla on your end of the rope. You become unstoppable. Resources? God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). Wisdom? God says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God makes a way through “the sea,” through “the wilderness” (Isaiah 43:16, 19), or whatever impossibility rises up against you. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). When we pray, we unleash God on our problems.

 

Sometimes we struggle because God does not work on our timetable; we don’t like to read “Wait on the Lord.” We stumble because God, in perfect wisdom, sometimes answers with “No, I have something better for you.” However, we can trust our Good Shepherd.

 

During each of our Lenten Services, we are exploring and practicing a different kind of prayer through the Psalms:

 

 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 5:16-19). Come pray with us on Wednesday evenings!

 

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

February 2021

The God I Almost Knew

Two years ago I buried my father.

 

As I wrote those simple words now, my eyes welled up with tears. It’s difficult to explain precisely why. I miss his voice. I miss listening to him pray for every child, grandchild and great-grandchild. I miss playing Scrabble with him. I miss talking about the Bible with him. I miss his stories.

 

And yet, he is the man I almost knew.

 

Einar Unseth was a guarded man. As a pastor, he built the habit of speaking cautiously. By temperament, he avoided conflict and would avoid saying what he actually thought about something if there might be friction. By upbringing, or some other factor, he wanted to remain in control of what he was involved in. That made it difficult to discuss issues with him when I was growing up. He did not welcome my thoughts if they differed with his. Thus, we never learned to converse openly.

 

We loved each other. We respected each other. We shared faith in Christ, our understanding of the Bible as God’s inspired Word. However, I am not sure if I knew my father—not as I could have known him.

 

To know someone is a treasure! To know Jesus is essential! Yet talking about Judgment Day, Jesus said that he will tell some religious people, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). Jeremiah gives us an invitation from God for personal relationship: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me” (9:23-24).

 

I urge you to reconsider Ash Wednesday and Lent this year. It is not a season to suffocate yourself. It is an opportunity to expand your relationship with Christ. In these six weeks together, we will explore prayer through the Book of Psalms. On Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17), we will focus on Listening to Jesus. In our Lenten Worship, we will focus on Talking with Jesus:

  • about Your Mistakes – Psalm 103 – Prayer as Confession – February 24

  • about Who Is in Charge – Psalm 50 – Prayer as Consecration – March 3

  • about Your Day – Psalm 95 – Prayer as Thanksgiving – March 10

  • about His Day – Psalm 145 – Prayer as Adoration – March 17

  • about Your Calling – Psalm 67 – Prayer as Intercession – March 24

 

Jesus does not want to be the God I almost knew. Come, let us draw near to God, and he will draw near to us. We will never be the same.

 

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

January 2021

My Best Gift to You

King David said that the Bible is “more precious than gold, than much pure gold…sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:9-10). God said that his kings should keep a copy of God’s Word with them and read it, and David took this seriously. He said that God’s Word is “more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (119:72). When life seemed dark, David declared, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (119:105).

 

In 2021, the very best gift that I could give to many of us is a successful trip through the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. But there’s a problem with that. Most people do not read books. Pastors do not like to admit this, but it is true.

 

Daily devotionals are the greatest tool ever for getting people to read Scripture on a daily basis, but devotionals do not get us through the whole Bible. Christians aspire to read the Bible, but it feels like a high hill to climb.  If we start in Genesis, many give up in Exodus, or if we are strong, in Leviticus. We run in to parts that are awfully hard to understand. We have never read giant books like War and Peace or Moby Dick. Tackling the 1,189 chapters from Genesis to Revelation feels huge!

 

May I repeat? The very best gift that I could give to many of us is a successful trip through the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. My good news for you: We have a way to do this together this year!

 

We will read one chapter a day (not 3 or 4), and we will understand the whole Bible from beginning to end. We will read chapters that can be understood on their own. We will read chapters from the Old Testament that tell the story of God’s work among his people and chapters that point us to Jesus—the Messiah and Savior. As we read key chapters from the Old Testament, our Sunday readings will be weekly visits to the New Testament. As we walk through Lent toward Easter, we will find special Lenten readings, and we will read the Gospel of Luke in the month leading up to Easter. When we begin the New Testament, our Sunday readings will be weekly visits to the Old Testament, especially the Psalms. We will read the Gospel of John and selected chapters from Acts and the Letters (Epistles).

 

Special readings will lead us up to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. At Thanksgiving, in a season of New Testament chapters, we will enjoy a full week of Psalms. At year’s end, we will have read chronologically from Genesis to Revelation, from every book in the Bible!

 

You will never be the same!

 

This is a no-guilt project. If you miss some days, jump back in on the current day. If you want to read those missed days, good, but do NOT worry about it.

 

There are booklets in the entry if you want to see the whole year’s readings. Or, simply follow along in the newsletter calendar, or on Facebook to see each day’s reading.

 

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

December 2020

Advent Worship—Resurrection Reunion

It is time for a Resurrection reunion! Our last service all “together” before COVID-19 was March 15, eight and a half months ago.

 

In the Old Testament, Moses calls for a weekly "day of sacred assembly” (Leviticus 23:3). In the New Testament, Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” COVID-19 has made gathering very difficult.

 

I love to have our services on Facebook and Youtube because almost everyone can participate. However, we do not get to see each other, to smile at each other, to hear each other’s voices.

 

All that will change on Wednesday! We are gathering for Advent Worship on Zoom on three Wednesday evenings—at 7:00pm December 2, 9 and 16. We will be together—face to face and hearing each other.

 

There are three different ways to join our Advent services:

 

1. Simply click on a Zoom link that we will send you via email. The next step is to click JOIN WITH VIDEO and then JOIN WITH AUDIO. With that, we should be able to see and hear each other. If you are not accustomed to Zoom, I can try a practice session with you ahead of time to make sure everything works. You do not have to wait till 7:00pm to join.

 

2. Online, go to zoom.com, and enter the Meeting ID and Password. You can get the Meeting ID and Password from me or by calling the church office.

 

3. If online does not work for you, come to the church building. You can join me in the sanctuary. If you plan to come to the sanctuary, please let me know ahead of time so that I can set things up to work smoothly for us.

 

NOTE: If you are on Zoom, please click MUTE at the lower left of your screen. (Otherwise, the cumulative background noise will make it hard for everyone to hear each other.) When you are ready to speak, click UNMUTE. And then, MUTE again, after you have spoken.

 

How will the service flow? A discussion time at the beginning will allow us to hear each other. We will read and pray together and hear God’s Word. We hope to include an online song.

 

Please join us at 7:00pm CT Wednesday as we worship together!

 

In Christ,

Pastor Ben

November 2020

Giving Thanks?

 

There are always reasons not to give thanks. School buildings closed last March with a breathtaking suddenness. Businesses were forced to lock their doors, and too many have ended in bankruptcy. Two hundred thousand Americans have died with COVID-19. I and many of you have a family member who has contracted this mysterious virus. Nor can we declare how our world will fare in 2021.

 

In this same window, a police officer stands accused of murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis. In the days after Floyd’s death, rioters and looters destroyed $500 million in property. Nightly protests, sometimes riots, in Portland, Oregon, have mirrored similar protests and destruction in many cities from coast to coast. The election and its aftermath is a matter of serious concern.

 

Thanksgiving and Christmas, two of our favorite holidays for hugging family and laughing together, are approaching quickly, and we do not know whom we will see this year or how we should act with the loved ones we do get to see—hug, shake hands, wave? Share a meal? Sit together or far apart?

 

People’s mental health and emotional stability may be at its weakest since World War II or the Great Depression. If we had a date when NORMAL would return, we could adjust our expectations and grit our teeth. That is not how life works.

 

When the Pilgrims saw America in November 1619, they happily assembled to read Psalm aloud: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

 

Four months later, more than half of the Pilgrims were dead. Our equivalent would not be 200,000, but 189 MILLION deceased. I cannot even imagine that scope of loss. Imagine waking up in Mankato-North Mankato with the announcement of 28,000 funerals!

 

And after their first harvest, the Pilgrims gathered to give thanks to God. Thanking God is worship. We acknowledge God as our provider and ourselves as unentitled receivers of his goodness. We do not have to feel like it to give thanks. We may struggle with anxiety and anger, but we can choose to give thanks.

 

Habakkuk’s honesty is a good example for us, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?... Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 1:1; 3:17-19). Amen.

 

Though Habakkuk was surrounded by uncertainty and sorrow, he made a choice to give thanks. Good footsteps for me to walk in.

 

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

October 2020

Pruning? No Thanks, God!

 

I don’t like being pruned! Pruning hurts. It destroys my beautiful—and very impressive—foliage. I have worked hard at growing these new branches. I have invested so much energy into this tremendous growth. I beg and plead, but the Orchardist does not heed me. I leverage my case with passion, logic, threats, compromise, all to no avail.

 

The Orchardist prunes me. And it hurts. And I feel so much smaller, so much less. Will the Orchardist never learn?

 

And the Orchardist wonders:

Don’t you see the purpose of being a fruit tree? The only thing that matters in the end is fruit. No orchardist tallies the books in October with how many bushels and pecks of leaves were gathered. No orchardist records how many new branches were started that year or the average dimension of the boughs. The only thing that matters in the end is fruit.

 

The Orchardist’s logic feels upside down. Strong limbs, multiplied branches? Surely they are good. Lush, abundant leaves? Surely they should be preserved. Yet, again and again, the Orchardist shears my best work. The Orchardist allows storms to reshape me. I have such a beautiful vision for my future…if only the Orchardist would heed my wisdom.

 

And then I read the Orchardist’s manual:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:23).

“But if you will not listen to me…. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit” (Leviticus 26:14-20).

“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives” (Proverbs 11:30).

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).

Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it” (Isaiah 27:2-3).

“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12).

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:8, 16).

 

Please prune me. Amen.

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

September 2020

 Why Is Our Church Here?

 

I am not here for me. You are not here for you. We are here because of Jesus.

 

So the guiding question is: Why did Jesus come?

 

The Bible answers this question in simple, powerful words:

  1. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

  2. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

  3. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).

 

Why did Jesus come?

  1. He came to rescue people from being lost and estranged from God, to restore them to being found and reconciled (Luke 19:10).

  2. He came to fill people’s lives with purpose and joy (John 10:10).

  3. He came to give people freedom from lies, addiction and oppression (1 John 3:8).

 

This means a lot of things that I do not tend to think about when I gather to worship with people who accept me and appreciate me, with people who share my values. I forget some very important truths:

 

Jesus loves my unemployed neighbor more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor with chronic illness more than I do.

Jesus loves my disoriented, international student neighbors more than I do.

Jesus loves my foster kid neighbors more than I do.

Jesus loves my feuding neighbor spouses more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor thinking about suicide more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor drowning in credit card debt more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor in jail or prison more than I do.

Jesus loves my refugee neighbor more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor with financial struggles more than I do.

Jesus loves my addicted neighbor more than I do.

Jesus loves my hungry neighbor more than I do.

Jesus loves my disabled neighbor more than I do.

Jesus loves my underemployed neighbor more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor who has lost hope more than I do.

Jesus loves my neighbor crushed by shame more than I do.

Jesus loves my lonely neighbor more than I do.

 

I am not here for me. You are not here for you. We are here because of Jesus. How can we serve together as Christ’s ambassadors to focus on one of these needs? Jesus will guide us.

 

Let us pray. Let us discuss.  Let us serve in the name of Jesus our Savior.

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

  

August 2020

 Peace in Crisis

We and our neighbors need good news because we are in a generational crisis. We are under siege by enemies we do not know how to defeat.

 

Every generation faces crisis. Some crises come suddenly. President Roosevelt told America that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Overnight, America plunged into three and a half years of sacrifice and desperate conflict.

 

Some crises emerge gradually. In 1959, the U.S. had fewer than 1,000 members of our military in the Vietnam War. By 1963, we had 16,000. However, when we left Vietnam in 1973, 2.7 million Americans had served! When President Eisenhower sent 1,000 in the 1950s, he did not plan for millions to follow and for nearly 60,000 Americans to lose their lives. Crises create fear because we do not see the end.

 

Since Vietnam, we have seen limited national crisis. The war in Grenada in 1983 lasted only a week. Gulf War combat in 1991 lasted barely a month. However, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, in 2001, shook us to the core! How could we fight an enemy that we could not see? Nineteen years later, we have learned to live with the unquenched enemy of foreign terrorism.

 

In 2020 we face two great crises that strain our families, our social ties, businesses and civil society. To flatten the curve of COVID-19 virus infections, America largely began to quarantine in March. Virus deaths peaked in April, with hospitalizations and deaths greatly decreased since May. But the virus remains a threat.

 

While a record number of people felt stressed from COVID-19’s unemployment, Minneapolis police officers were charged with murder for the death of George Floyd on May 25. Large protests have expanded into rebellion. Nightly large crowds in Portland, Oregon, have engaged in protest, and sometimes riot, since May 28.

 

Virus deaths have declined, but we remain cautious and concerned. Protests and riots are isolated, but we remain cautious and concerned. What would Jesus say?

 

On the terrible evening of his arrest, Jesus promised his disciples…and Blue Earth, Le Sueur and Nicollet Counties, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). After Jesus was brutally executed and buried, and his followers had lost hope and fearfully locked themselves in a room, our resurrected Jesus came and blessed them again, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

 

No matter the crisis, Jesus promises his peace and presence: “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Tell yourself. Tell your neighbor. Jesus is our king of peace.

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

July 2020

 Adjust and Trust

Christ’s promises are true:

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

“Surely I am with you always” (28:20).

 

These promises are especially comforting because church life feels upside down. COVID-19 was the first tidal wave to rock our boat of safety and freedom.

 

While the internet mocks “Karens,” one of my favorite Karens gave me some great advice for this turbulent time we are navigating. She said that Jesus calls us to ADUST AND TRUST.

 

The governor told us to stay home. Our church canceled worship services. Adjust and trust.

 

Eight weeks later, we began services online. Four weeks later, we added services together in our sanctuary. Adjust and trust.

 

As a pastor, I visit with people on their patios. I don a mask and gloves to serve communion. Adjust and trust.

 

People sit in the entry as a no-singing area. We forego coffee and snacks together. Adjust and trust.

 

Christ’s promises are true:

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

“Surely I am with you always” (28:20).

 

However, the neo-barbarian response to George Floyd’s murder is a second tidal wave that rocks our boat of safety and freedom.

 

With church buildings being attacked across the country, I double-check the door when I exit to make sure it is locked. Adjust and trust.

 

On June 22, a “social activist” with more than one million followers declared that most statues, paintings and stained-glass windows of Jesus should “come down…come down.” Adjust and trust.

 

Christ’s promises stand true:

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

“Surely I am with you always” (28:20).

 

We will pray. We will love our neighbor. We will offer the good news of reconciliation and hope to our society that is destroying its own roots. I am learning to adjust and trust.

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

June 2020

 Face to Face—Complete Joy!

We have continued worshiping and serving as Resurrection Lutheran Church every day during the quarantine. But things have not felt normal! God created us to live together. I ache with the Apostle John as he wrote: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

 

We begin our return to normal this coming Sunday, June 7. We can come together again. We will hold off from the hugs we long to share, but many of us will come together. To promote health and safety, we will use some safety precautions that you can read about in our COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. We will use every other pew, to support social distancing. We encourage you to wear a mask, but it is not required. The entry, or narthex, will be a no-singing area. We will bring communion to you so that we will not clump together in the front of the sanctuary. If you feel safer coming at 10:15 to receive communion, we welcome you! If you do not feel safe coming together yet, please call the church office so that I may bring communion to you.

 

It is my privilege and joy to join Resurrection in serving and witnessing to Blue Earth, Nicollet and Le Sueur Counties. I am eager to visit you at your home. Please let me know what day is good for you. Call the office, or email me at pastor@resurrectionmankato.org.

 

In Christ,

Ben Unseth

(507) 345-4455

1735 E Main St, Mankato, MN 56001, USA

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