Category: Thoughts about God

Lutheran Doctrine: Doctrinal Error

While engaging in discussion in a private Facebook group about these topics, I decided to dig out a couple theology papers I wrote in college on Lutherans and on fellowship. They are very relevant and I still believe what I wrote back in college. Experience and maturity would probably push me toward more nuance in my language, but that doesn’t mean the content of my words is wrong. This paper is on some very public doctrinal issues with the LCMS and ELCA.

This isn’t to say my own synod (WELS) is perfect. I’ve outlined one area of improvement in the past: specifically regarding the role of women in the church. Also, all synods are human institutions, and humans are sinful.  However, I believe that adherence to sound, scripture-based doctrine is important, and this is guiding this paper.

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Lutheran Doctrine: Fellowship

While engaging in discussion in a private Facebook group about these topics, I decided to dig out a couple theology papers I wrote in college on Lutherans and on fellowship.  They are very relevant and I still believe what I wrote back in college.  Experience and maturity would probably push me toward more nuance in my language, but that doesn’t mean the content of my words is wrong.  This paper is on Christian fellowship.  (The title is just a nod to Lord of the Rings, it doesn’t really mean anything.) Enjoy!

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The role of women in conservative Lutheranism

I’m a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and have been my entire life. I didn’t really get a solid appreciation and knowledge of what that meant from a historical and theological perspective until my college theology courses at Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC). Through my study in coursework and research for papers, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of my faith body and why we do some of the things we do. This deeper understanding includes the origin and traditions of our liturgy, as well as the concept of fellowship. More recently I’ve been thinking and reading more about why women aren’t allowed to vote or serve as voting members on boards in our church. What I found was more than I expected.

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Life of Pi and the Problem with Relative Truth

Back at the end of 2012, I previewed Life of Pi via a sponsored post.  Part of the sponsorship was a free copy of the novel (movie tie-in paperback).  In summer of 2013 I got around to reading it and Summer 2014 I was able to view the film, on my parents’ DVR.

The book is well written, with an good storytelling and interesting plot.  The film is just an abbreviated version of the film, with brilliant visuals.

I won’t spoil any major plot points, but the themes and some of the logic of the main character Pi to me seems flawed.  The major theme of the story, solidified by the ending, is that you can choose your own truth and choose what to believe as truth.

For example, the story starts off with Pi as a Hindu, and very early on it progresses with him becoming Christian and Muslim, all while staying Hindu.  He sees no problems with being all three at once.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Hinduism or Islam, and I have a lot more to learn about and from my Christian God, but I do know that Jesus clearly says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  There is one and only one way to know God in heaven, and that is through Jesus.  Faith in what he has done: he lived the sinless life we could not live and he died the death we deserve.  Then he conquered death and the devil by coming back to life from the dead.

Pi’s problem was that he was more interested in following rituals and being part of the different religious communities.  He cared more about how religion made him feel.  It enhanced his earthly life.  He really didn’t get the eternal point of Christianity or accept the Truth.  Author Yann Martel doesn’t get the point either.  The truth is without Jesus, mankind meets eternal suffering in hell.  With Jesus is paradise. You see, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I’m going to end with a quote from my lovely wife Alyssa.  I couldn’t say it any better, so I’m going to just let her say it.

That’s the beauty and the pitfall of relative truth – sure you can decide what you want to believe and that’s all fine for the here and now, but what about later?  How can believing what you want in this life have any bearing or control over an eternity that you can’t be certain about?  Of course one might choose to believe there is no eternity and then just forget the whole thing- but I don’t really think that even someone who believes in relative truth would be really comfortable with that. “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”(Ecclesiastes 3:11) We know innately that there has to be something more than this life, but I think people think they can ignore that inkling because they can’t control what happens in eternity. Ultimately, that’s folly. It’s foolish to believe whatever you want, to just be concerned about this life, because just because you believe in some arbitrary thing does not actually make it real (“what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul…” or something like that).

The Election: What God has to say and other thoughts

I’m not going to share my opinions, I’m just going to quote the One who really knows what He’s talking about.  (Then I’ll quote Jon Foreman of Switchfoot.)

Romans 13:1-7

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Matthew 21:15-22

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

 1 Peter 2:13-17

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Some other wise words…

Finally, I’d like to share with you some of the words of Jon Foreman, a Christian man from the band Switchfoot:

The self-evident truths that bind us together as a nation are not our arguments or our greed. Rather, the shining hope of our land is the democratic notion that all men are created equal, with equal access to liberty, justice and civil rights. In a government of the people, by the people, for the people, we define ourselves. The American Dream is your dream. And my dream. We are the problem and the solution; we each have an irreplaceable role in our communities and in our nation. No matter what the statistics say, people are not numbers. And neither are you. You can serve our nation in ways that even the president cannot.

Every day you cast your ballot—with your time, with your money and with your actions. You vote for the president once every four years. But what about the 1,460 days in between? The question facing our country is: What kind of nation do you want to live in? Yes, the United States has problems. But has there ever been a generation free from worry? Our country is run by fallible people who make mistakes like you and I. But my heroes, my favorite Americans, are the ones who spend their time changing the world instead of complaining. People who are facing the irreducibly complex issues of our times with practical love and tangible solutions. Because America starts in our own backyard.


The trouble with a democracy is, you’re in control. And we’re all counting on you, for our economy and our nation. For better or for worse, you were born into a place of privilege and responsibility. Our country could use a few true patriots, modern patriots, rational patriots.

You can read the whole Op-Ed here.  I would recommend it.


“Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

When we think of “hope” most of us usually think it of it as an action.  “I hope that the Packers win.”  “I hope for a good job.”  “I hope today goes well.”

The thing is, though, this isn’t hope.  At least not how God sees it.  Hope is a state of mind, a state of body, a state of self.  And there is really only one place our hope should be, and it isn’t Obi-wan.

Do a search for hope and every one has something to do with putting our hope in God.

God is firm.  He is truth.  God is the hope.  Hope comes from Him.  We hope in Him.  There isn’t much else that matters.

Hope in God does not dissappoint. – Romans 5

God is the hope that know no bounds. – Psalm 65

Hoping in earthly things: comfort, possessions, wealth… is futlle.  Only true hope in God can outlast life and overcome death, sin, and suffering. – Job

There is only one hope. – Ephesians 4

What does Easter really mean?

Easter means much more than just extra church services, baskets full of candy, or egg hunts. Easter is God’s fulfillment of His age-old promise. Man (and woman) had directly disobeyed God. They sinned. This sin doomed mankind forever and our daily sin digs us into a deeper hole. But God promised to save us from our sin.

To Satan he said,

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel
. (Genesis 3:15)

He promised to Satan someone who would be a Satan-crusher, a Savior of mankind. God fulfilled part of his promise on Christmas.

Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God…While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.” (Luke 1-2, selected verses)

God sent his Son as our Savior. He lived his life perfectly in our place, but he had to do more than that. He had to take upon himself the death—the punishment—that we deserved. Isaiah prophesied it hundreds of years before…

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all
.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Isaiah’s prophesy came to fruition through Jesus’ death on the cross. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle… Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19 selected verses)

Jesus’ death was the end of the sacrificial substitution Jesus had to fulfill. That is why he said, “It is finished.” But Jesus was not done there; he rose from the dead, in full glory conquering not only sin and the devil, but death as well.

We celebrate His glory with him on Easter. But Easter doesn’t have to be the end of the celebration, celebrate Easter every day because with faith, your sin is taken care of! We are saved!


Sheep and Goats? A short devotion on Matthew 25

Passage to consider: Matthew 25:34-46

“…the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

When was the last time you helped a stranger? or done something decent to someone you don’t really like? or shown love to those who don’t deserve it?

Jesus told this parable entitled, “Sheep and Goats”. He was showing how God will divide EVERYONE on Judgment Day, the same way a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The sheep are the believers, the goats unbelievers.

God has called all of us (as sheep) to lives of service. He sent his son in love to save us. This means we don’t get to do whatever we want. Doing whatever we want got mankind into the mess of sin. We need to show love to everyone, especially those who don’t deserve it, because doing so shows love for God. God says, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

When we ignore others, or avoid opportunities to show them love, we ignore God. God says, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

Those who ignore God will go away to eternal punishment. In other words: Ignoring God’s call leads to hell. We have been given the opportunity of a lifetime an eternity, let’s not blow it.

Short devotion: Psalm 57:10-11

Passage to consider:

Psalm 57:10-11
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

How many people can you put your FULL confidence in? Not many, I’m sure. For me it is my parents and my fiancé.

But God is different. His faithfulness is so great it reaches “to the skies.” HE will never leave us; HE will always have our back. HE loves us.

David is writing this psalm while fleeing from Saul. David was afraid for his life. He knew his situation was grim, but he cried out to his God for help. He trusted in God’s love and faithfulness, and praised his God. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

We can have that same confidence in God’s love and faithfulness. We should praise his name.

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