2016 is waning as this post is being written; some folks may not read this until 2017. This does not stop the need for reflection and refocus.

This has been a year for momentous events in my life.

To name a few:

  • Graduating with my Master of Divinity Degree
  • Being accepted as the pastor of Grace Bible Church of Astoria
  • My wife giving birth to our first child – Bennett Joy Murray

august-28-2016-bernedottegraduation with brit.jpg

A few other exciting moments were

  • Teaching through James at Moline Baptist Church during my final semester of seminary
  • Running a personal best 1:31:19.45 half marathon
  • Watching over 70 kids come through Grace’s VBS
  • Assistant coaching the South Fulton Rebels
  • Taking 3rd in the Astoria Lions Club 4 mile run (my older brother won)
  • Preaching through Acts at Grace Bible Church
  • Preaching through Genesis at Grace Bible Church
  • Rode in a combine
  • Tagged a cow’s ear


1st 2nd and 3rd . dang justin.JPG

As a pastor, I also saw a lot of firsts that I will not put down. That is because 2016 also saw much pain and confusion.

Life is not simple. It is actually very crazy.

But, I enter 2017 and reflect upon the exciting moments I have to sit back and be exceedingly grateful. So often I hear the phrase “you deserve it” or “you earned it.” But this year has shown me the opposite.

I deserve none of it.

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that I haven’t worked hard, or that I haven’t dedicated my entire life towards glorifying God and being in the ministry. What I am saying is that God did not owe me anything. I also cannot claim that I am more qualified than all of the other people who applied to my job.

But, God in his grace placed me into my body, my family, and my church. When I start to think that I deserved any of this, then I take God’s credit away. I make Him into a less generous, merciful, and sovereign God when I say I deserve what I have.

I end up putting God in my back pocket.

As I reflect upon all of the pain and confusion I have witnessed over the past year, I also come to these conclusions.

  • I need to grow in sympathy
  • I need to grow in patience
  • People need to hear about the love of God
  • People need to see the love of God
  • More prayer is needed

In Luke 7, Jesus gives a parable to rebuke the religious leaders who were disgusted at him for allowing a sinful woman to wash and anoint his feet.

The parable goes like this:

41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”

43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.”

“That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”

To put the debt into focus, the first one would owe around $65K, and the other would owe around $6.5K.

This year has taught me that I need to always remember that I am the one who owed $65K. I need to live knowing that each day I need God’s grace.

One of the ways that I am going to remind myself of this need for grace and mercy is to read through the Bible in 2017. I challenge you to join in with me on this challenge.

Happy New Year!

Pastor Ben