Racism and Hurricanes

A couple of years ago, I preached a message on the subject of racism. It’s probably a topic that we as a church should address more, but I thought I would reiterate some of the points of that message as a reminder since this issue is as bitter and divisive as ever.

I believe:

  • Christians should be a united group, in mind and heart and voice, from every tongue, every tribe, and every nation. (Revelation 7:9)

  • In the Kingdom of God, all are equal. (Galatians 3:28)

  • Salvation is equally and generously available to all. (Romans 10:12)

  • Racism is sinful and evil, a condition that betrays a reprobate heart and distance from the saving grace of God. (James 2:9)

  • It is the Church, not culture nor politics, that should be the mouthpiece of God in declaring God’s amazing Grace to all races and accepting all into worship together. (Romans 15:5-7)

6 Months after Hurricane Katrina obliterated New Orleans, I had the opportunity to serve on a missions trip there. It was surreal to drive through quiet, empty neighborhoods and see an X on every house from where first responders had searched. Around the X were numbers,,, indicating those who had been rescued and those who had perished. It was crushing to drive by and see 1’s and 2’s spray painted in the column of those who had been found dead in the home.
It wasn’t the brunt force of the actual storm that sank New Orleans. It was the massive amount of water that it brought through the Gulf of Mexico into the artificial canals of NO that toppled the levees and washed away entire neighborhoods. New Orleans is… or was predominantly African-American.
I’m a curious guy, especially when I travel. I pay attention to the culture, the history, and the news. This event was especially vivid given the circumstances, so I soaked up every thing I could experience.
While we were there, I believe ABC News did a report that I saw as were were sitting in a restaurant. I think you can view it here. There was a growing group of African American residents claiming that the city or state or federal government had intentionally blown the levees in the poorer, minority neighborhoods in order to spare the more wealthy white and the historical neighborhoods. What a fantastic accusation. I get that the government was pitifully slow and inept at their response to Katrina, It took a week to get power and water to the Superdome. A week!! I also understand that nearly 93% of the 1900 people that were killed during Katrina were African American. But to claim that it was intentional…really? Sounded like a conspiracy theory to me.

Except that it was happened before. At least twice. In 1927 and in 1965, the city government set dynamite to the levees without warning to the low income and minority neighborhoods that were destroyed.

No wonder that there was a lot of built up frustration.

2 thoughts really hit me as I begged God to help me process this incident:

First, it’s my job, as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a member of His Church to live as a shining example of love and grace to those of other races, cultures, or geographies. I have no excuse to be slack on this responsibility no matter what my base emotions or whatever rational I employ to be dismissive of my brothers and sister of other ethniticies. I also must realize that there is a perspective that others may have that I could not possibly realize.

1 Peter 2:12 tells me to “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.”

In every case, I must be found honorable in the eyes of my friends of color. I have a duty to conduct myself in such a manner. I grieve for and repent of the past when I recognize where I have failed.

Secondly, it is also my duty to express empathy and patience to those who are hurting in ways I cannot possibly understand. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. That only comes through mutual love and understanding. We cannot have empathy with our brothers and sisters of color if our hearts are not open to their perspective. And in the spirit of charity, I pray they seek to understand mine as well.

It can only happen when we listen but it will surely die when we attack each other’s character as “racists” or “race-baiters” from behind our keyboards. I fully repent of believing that social media is a proper venue for this and implore us all to have face to face conversations. Make a friend if you have to. Speak to your neighbor who wasn’t born here. Ask questions. Find common ground. Share a meal. Pray for them. Love, forgive, heal. Let nothing stand in your way of this.

As this topic continues to rage in culture, may we, as the Body of Christ, embody this exhortation:

Colossians 3:13-14 

accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.”

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Barlow - Newby Family Fire Fund

My name is Pastor CJ Nissen and I serve as the chaplain as well as Firefighter/EMT for the Carlisle Fire and Rescue Department. 

Last night we responded to a mobile home fire that destroyed the entire home. Although we were there early and responded accurately, the home and its contents were destroyed by either fire or smoke.  Carlisle Fire and Rescue, Hartford Fire, and Northern Warren Fire fought this blaze for over 5 hours even though everything was complicated by freezing tools, pumps, and breathing equipment.

The homeowners, Billie Jean Barlow and Josh Newby lost everything. They have a 12 year old daughter, a 16 year old daughter, and a 19 year old son living with them as well. This is even made more sad by the fact that they are not able to rely on much for insurance to help them out. Fortunately, they are able to stay with a parent for the time being. 

Their needs are "everything."

As a community, I am calling on you to respond in kindness and compassion to help meet their needs. We've set up a fund through our giving portal. Unlike GoFundMe or similar sites, we will not keep any fee and your entire donation will benefit the family (except a 2.75% credit card fee issued by the processor). 

Thank you for your kindness!

Donate Here

Clothing Donations and other donations:

Thank you for your generosity. Kenzie Mayer has offered to collect items for donation. She can be reached here:

Kenzie Adrian Mayer  515-443-6855 or on Facebook




Choose a logo!

We've conscripted an army of graphic designers to come up with some logo options! Choose one of the logos below!

Rejects - For fun, here a few that did not make the cut!   

        Note: No, you can't vote for these. They're not good. We rejected them. Probably for a reason. 

        Note 2:  We were going to use "Clarity Church" as a church name before we decided to let the church decide on a name, and you can see a couple of those old logos here. 




Name that Church!

Hey Church!

Come to church on Sunday and you'll get to vote on a new name for our church. We originally were going to narrow it down to 3, but we had so many good names that we were left with 8. 

On Sunday morning, everyone who is 16 years or older and either a member -or- considers themselves part of our family is welcome to vote!  Here's how voting will work:

  • Round 1 - You will be handed a ballot with 8 names. You'll choose 1.  We will collect the ballots and find the top 3 most popular. 
  • Round 2 - You will be handed a ballot with the 3 remaining options. You'll choose 1.  The top vote getter will be the name of our church!

After we choose a name on Sunday, Pastor CJ will commission a handful of graphic artists to design logos (this isn't as expensive as it sounds!). You'll be presented with all the good ones on February 5th to vote on your favorite. We will also submit documents to the Secretary of State to legally incorporate. Also, thank you for understanding that we're in a little bit of a time crunch here and we must choose a name by Sunday to incorporate and get a bank account, etc by the end of the month.

Here are your name finalists (In random order):

  • The Ridge Church
  • New Creation Church
  • Restoration Church
  • Crossings Church
  • Three Rivers Community Church
  • Commission Church
  • Carlisle Family Church
  • The Bridge Church

Names were filtered by the Advisory Team based on these criteria:

  • The name should not be generic
  • The name should not be denominational
  • Preferably use names that speak to core values of our church
  • Preferably connect us with our region
  • Names cannot be confusing or hard to explain to the non-believer

If you have any questions, please call, email, or text Pastor CJ! See you Sunday!

The Advisory Team



To my friends in Carlisle

Dear friends and fellow citizens of Carlisle,

My name is CJ Nissen and I have the privilege of serving as the chaplain for the Carlisle Police Department and Carlisle Fire and Rescue. I’m also firefighter and EMT for the City of Carlisle.

That’s relevant because I want to tell you about the quality of the men and women that serve Carlisle as Police Officers from the vantage point of someone who’s seen them in action up close.  While your only interaction with our police force may be during a traffic stop or at a community function, I’ve seen and heard from them at some of the hardest times of their job.  

You may not know this, but our officers are on scene for nearly every tragic circumstance in our town. They are there first for every major medical call, every car wreck, and every tragedy. Our cops don’t just enforce the legal code, their primary responsibility is to put themselves between us, the citizens of Carlisle, and danger from both within and without.

Several times I have entered a scene to see one of our officers drenched in sweat because he’s been furiously performing CPR on a victim alone. I’ve witnessed one of our officers embrace an older gentleman who just lost his wife, then watched the same officer take out the man’s garbage just to be helpful. We responded to a rollover accident and found the officer had climbed under the car and was holding the hand of the victim reassuring her until FD arrived. I once observed the arrest of a completely inebriated female driver who launched desperate and baseless accusations at the arresting officer, but he treated her with dignity, discretion, and compassion. I listened as one of our cops mercifully and non-judgementally convinced a man to voluntarily get treatment for his addictions.

I share these anecdotes because it’s important for you to know that our officers care for the citizens of our town on the worst day of their lives. The efforts of their concern do not come without a tremendous amount of personal vulnerability, empathy, and frankly, at times, awkwardness. But our cops are still willing to intercede in this way.

Like you, I woke up Wednesday to the news that Urbandale Police Officer Justin Martin and Des Moines Police Sgt. Anthony Beminio had been assassinated while on duty in early hours of the morning. 

We’ve seen other incidents like this recently in places like Dallas, San Diego, and Baton Rouge, but never here. If I may be so bold to speak for all of us in Des Moines area, while we watched in horror at those events on the news, they still seemed far away. Now, we’re going to mourn for two brave men that we may have known, or had some connection with socially, or at very least we shared the common bond of being a Central Iowan with.

Given the climate of anti-police sentiment and the recent targeting of police members by murderers, I can say with certainty that the cops of our nation and even our small town are hurting, they’re discouraged, and they’re concerned about the future of their professions. Their wives and husbands fear every morning that they watch their spouse strap on their body armor and leave for work. They wonder if today is the day that a simple traffic stop goes bad. On top of normal dangers of getting struck by a car on a roadside or dealing with aggressive people who are chemically impaired, they must now worry that there are people who are actively targeting them for assassination. 2016 has been a hard year for law enforcement.

The point of this essay is simply to encourage all of us to rally behind our law enforcement. We have firm and fair peace officers who deserve our support.  I encourage you to pray for them by name. You can find them listed here and your fire and rescue personnel are here. Consider the simple gesture of displaying a blue light in the front of your home to remind our officers that we’re praying and grateful for them. Though our current culture en masse is discouraging for law enforcement, let’s make sure our cops are encouraged and empowered to be the best that they can be by a community that supports them.

Finally, be honorable, respectful, and forthcoming in your interactions with our officers.  Romans 13:4 says “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good.” We should all be grateful that we live in an orderly society, but with that means that we all have an obligation to work with our authorities. They should find us supportive and humble, not combative and defensive. It’s in all our best interests to maintain a civil society, and that begins with our own good conduct.

As a member of public safety in Carlisle, please let me thank you for your constant support and encouragement. As a fellow citizen with a family, thank you for joining with me to encourage efforts to make ours the safest town to live and raise our kids.  


In the precious love of Jesus,

CJ Nissen

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