Resentful Faith

While visiting another Lutheran church in the area as the gathered worshipped the LORD through the prayers and praised God through the songs, across the pews I saw a man, arms folded, a closed lip face saying, “I dare you.”

How can you be resentful in worship when we should be joining the angels in singing and celebrating the glorious grace of God?

If you say to yourself that you won’t sing louder; if you argue within your spirit against the invitation to give yourself to worship – Right there! Right in that thought of your rebellion dwells your sinful resistance.  If you hear the Word in a sermon and you are whispering in your mind, “Pastor, you can pound sand!”; just perhaps you have a resentful, rebellious faith.

Is your resistance because the call to worship is unbiblical or contrary to faith? No. Is being resentful and stubborn to the invitation of God unbiblical?  No. Unfortunately we see a lot of stubborn resistance in the Bible.

After people fled from the Babylonian siege in Judah into Egypt, the wives gave themselves over to worshipping a goddess. Even though idolatry and false values were the reason for all their previous troubles, still they traded the LORD for gods and priorities that have no power to give life. When the prophet Jeremiah warns them, they resent the prophet for meddling (Jer 44:1-30).  Is that your attitude?  “Don’t tell us how to be faithful to God.”  Do you have a resentful faith where you want Jesus, but don’t want him “telling me what to do!” 

In worship, we gather not for our amusement. We gather to celebrate the glory of God. When your pride and your resistance to worship gets your hackles up, you are not worshiping or faith-filled to God. When you are offended for being called to worship regularly, your stubborn nature is resisting God’s grace.        

As redeemed sinners we need to recognize that the very act of worship is spiritual warfare. That the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God and the Gospel of our Crucified Savior are doing battle with the false gods and values embedded and bonded to our human nature. Worship is about the very act of being called, exorcised, out of darkness and brought into God’s marvelous light by the Spirit.

How can we resent the Lord who loves us stubborn folks so much, that not only does he give us the blessing of each breath and each day, but gives his own beloved Son to die on the cross for our stiff-necked sin to release us into the joy of faith?  Rather than stubborn resistance, we have been reconciled to God through Christ so we may bask in God’s grace, love and forgiveness. Rather than arm folded resentment we are called to angel flying joy of praising the One who loves us.

Since Jesus endured the cross and its shame so that we may gather in the joyful assembly, we have something to be joyful and excited about. In the presence of God we glory in the hope and joy we have received through Christ. As God’s people we are celebrating the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. 

Christ wants you to have the full measure of his joy. Faith replaces resentment. Be filled with faith.

May the proven genuineness of your faith result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7)

Pastor Douglas 

You Can’t Have God’s Kin-dom Without God’s Kingdom

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? –Mark 4:30

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness* with our spirit that we are children of God. –Romans 8:15-16

The first time I read the phrase “kin-dom of God,” I rolled my eyes. It looked to be another attempt to make Christian terminology politically correct—something I have a personal aversion to. So, when I was asked to write a piece on this particular phrase and its usage, particularly amongst progressive Christian circles, I thought I now had an opportunity to academically hammer the phrase.

However, after research, I have become a little more sympathetic to the term. Although, as the title indicates, there is no “kin-dom” of God without the Kingdom of God. Explanation is in order.

The Origins of Kin-dom

Multiple sources trace the origin of “kin-dom” to Georgene Wilson, a Franciscan nun, who spoke it to her friend, mujerista theologian, Ada María Isasi-Díaz.1 Isasi-Díaz then incorporated it into her theological framework and wrote about it in her work “Kin-dom of God: A Mujerista Proposal.”2 Unfortunately, I was unable to find this primary work online, so I am dependent upon a lengthy article by Bridgett Green, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Seminary for insight into Isasi-Díaz’s thoughts.3

For Isasi-Diaz, “kindom” better reflects Jesus’s familial understandings of the community of disciples. Jesus envisioned an extended family with God as father. He announces that all who hear the word of God and do it are his family (Luke 8:21; cf. Mark 3:31-35 and Matthew 12:46-50). Further, Jesus links discipleship to membership in the family of God, saying that any who have left their blood relatives for the sake of the good news will receive back hundredfold in relationships and resources now and in the coming age (Mark 10:29-30, Luke 18:29-30, and Matthew 19:29). Jesus creates and grounds his community of disciples in the principles of kinship—and kinship with God comes not through blood relations but through participation in the duties and responsibilities proclaimed in the Torah and by the Prophets. “Kindom” evokes these values in horizontal relationships among all God’s beloved children, calling disciple communities to live into familial ideals of inclusion, mutual support, and sharing of resources.4

Professor Bridgett Green

I am quite sympathetic to this understanding of how disciples of Jesus interact with each other. St. Paul is emphatic that when we trust in Christ, we are adopted sons and daughters of God. Paul incorporates familial language throughout his letters, in the same vein Isasi-Díaz highlights. If highlighting this aspect of Christian thought was all that was going on, I don’t think there would be much of an issue with using the terminology of “kin-dom” as it would simply be an emphasis of the language of family used throughout the New Testament. However, there are proponents of this terminology who want to get rid of kingdom language totally and replace it with kin-dom. I find this problematic.

Why Erase Kingdom?

According to proponents of “kin-dom,” the language of kingdom presents multiple problems. It has been used by the church to make itself an earthly kingdom with earthly power and might.5 It tends towards exclusivity and can foster competition between kingdoms sometimes leading to violence.6 It is patriarchal in nature.7 And it “includes the specter of humiliation, subordination, punishment, exile, colonialization, sickness, poverty, as well as social, political, economic, and spiritual death.”8

In their view, “kin-dom” represents a much better understanding of what Jesus taught about God’s overall rule and what Jesus’ parables lead us toward.

Let’s work through a few of these things and offer some critique. First, I think we must separate the intent of Jesus’ teachings on God’s Kingdom (and the vision of how it works when God rules) from how sinful human beings have appropriated it. Many of the critiques of kingdom language resonate with the experience of human history, and one needs only pick up a history book to see the truth of what is being said. However, does human failing nullify biblical intent and understanding? Hardly.

Several years ago, I attended a mandatory boundary training in my synod. We were cautioned and steered away from using familial language to describe the church. The reason? Because families are places where abuse takes place; where neglect happens; where harm and pain are caused. It was not until a day or two afterwards that it hit me: not a single good thing was shared about what happens in families. No one spoke about parents who lovingly raise and sacrifice for their kids. No one said a word about how spouses care for each other and build one another up. No one spoke about the emotional support and foundations that are laid to help us cope with things that happen in life. No one said a thing about how the vast majority of parents feed, clothe, shelter, and spend hours upon hours of time with their children raising them to be productive citizens of society. All of the focus was on the bad, and not a single thing was said about the good. Do we abandon the metaphor because there are times of failure? Absolutely not!! Especially when the biblical witness emphasizes the metaphor so much.

I believe the same application is warranted here. Yes, there are, but the vision set forth in the Gospels, epistles, the book of Revelation, and even in the Old Testament lead us to use kingdom language. Why? To emphasize the goodness of God’s rule, and to show that there is a future hope which is a corrective to the failings of humankind.

Second, the kingdom of God is indeed exclusive, and I do not think this is something we as Christians should feel shame about. Paul is explicit in his writings that a person is either “in Christ” or “in Adam.” There is a strong line of demarcation, and the only way to go from one side to the other is through the cross. Essentially, a person either trusts in Christ’s work for salvation (in Christ), or they trust in themselves (in Adam). Either one trusts in grace for one’s righteousness, or one trusts in one’s works. There is no middle ground.

When you trust in Christ and His works, you shift your allegiance. No longer do you live for self: for self-indulgence; for self-affirmation; for self-preservation. Instead, you live for Christ. You live for God. No longer do you lay claim to the throne, but the rightful, righteous ruler is now seated upon the throne of your heart. You now serve a new master. (Romans 6) This is at the heart of the Christian creed, “Jesus is Lord.” You are announcing that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. You no longer rule over your life. Jesus does. And when He is king of your life, you enter into the Kingdom of God.

If you do not trust in Christ’s work, then you are not in the Kingdom of God. You are consumed by other hungers. You are on the outside looking in. In this fashion, the Kingdom of God is indeed exclusive, but, this does not lead to violence and conflict. It is self-righteousness which leads to such things, and a person who knows God’s grace is not self-righteous. They know they have no righteousness of their own. They know their sin. They know their dependence upon God and Christ’s grace. They also know they are commissioned to make disciples of all nations. They know the great command to love their neighbors as themselves. They do not seek to impose the faith or the Kingdom by imposition, but rather by invitation. The doorway to the Kingdom of God is always open, and the desire is to welcome all. Even though it is exclusive, it seeks the inclusion of all. This is not something to be ashamed of in the least.

A final word about patriarchy. Please know that I am using the following definition of patriarchy: a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line. The Kingdom of God is a patriarchy since God is our Father. As such, this is a rather neutral understanding.

However, there is another definition of patriarchy which oftentimes gets applied. “A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” The Kingdom of God was never meant to be such a thing. One would garner that self-evidently from Jesus’ own teachings on the Kingdom as well as St. Paul’s baptismal theology. However, living this ideal out on earth has proven to be quite difficult, and the Church has fallen very short of the ideal.

But again, the question must be asked: do we abandon the language because the ideal has not been met? No. There is no justification for that. You cannot change reality just by changing language.

Embracing Kingdom

And the reality of the Christian faith is this: you cannot have the “kin-dom” of God without the Kingdom of God.

As I hinted at previously, our Christian faith begins with God’s great grace poured out through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This grace captures and changes our hearts so that our allegiance shifts from ourselves and the desires of the flesh to allegiance to God and the desires of the Spirit. This is a vertical relationship, and it is primary. It must take place first. For through it, we actually fulfill the first and greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Everything starts with this vertical relationship.

Then, it moves to the horizontal. Then, it moves into our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then, it moves to the second great command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is where “kin-dom” language can come into play, but again, we must be careful.

Our neighbors may not share the same allegiance that we do. Our neighbors may not have Jesus as their King. They may still be “in Adam.” They still may belong to the kingdom of the world.

I was struck by a paragraph in Professor Green’s article:

This is the expansive sense of family to which Bishop Oscar Romero appealed when he exhorted the soldiers in El Salvador in 1980 before his assassination. He reminded them of Jesus’s vision of kinship, reminded them that we are all children of God, that we are connected through an honor code that values all, that provides security and a foundation for each person to be able to extend themselves into the community without losing their identity and sense of self.9

Bishop Romero appealed to the idea of “kin-dom” with the soldiers of El Salvador, but they still assassinated him. Why? Because they were serving a different master. They were serving a different king. They were not serving the King of kings and Lord of lords. Their hearts had not experienced the grace of God which would lead them away from committing such a heinous crime. The vertical relationship must always come first, and the Church’s primary job in the world is the proclamation of the Gospel which makes disciples of all nations–which calls our neighbors to have the same allegiance as we do.

To erase kingdom and replace with “kin-dom” means to place the second commandment above the first. It seeks to establish the kingdom without the King. That is not an option within the Christian faith, and it ultimately leads to failure. You simply cannot have the “kin-dom” without the Kingdom.

1. Florer-Bixler, Melissa. “The Kin-dom of Christ.” Sojourners. Nov. 20, 2018.,

Green, Bridget. “On Kingdom and Kindom: The Promise and the Peril.” Issuu. Fall 2021.

Butler Bass, Diana. “The Kin-dom of God.” Red Letter Christians. Dec.15, 2021




5.Butler Bass.

6.PCUSA. “Bible study at GA223 will Explore ‘kin-dom’ versus ‘kingdom.’” Feb.12, 2018

7.Montgomery, Herb. “A Kingless Kingdom.” Renewed Heart Ministries: eSights and Articles. May 31, 2019.



Letter From The Director – April 2023

My Heart Will Go On

On April 14, 1912, at 11: 40 PM ship time, the British passenger liner, the RMS Titanic, hit an iceberg, which caused her hull plates to buckle inwards in a number of places on her starboard side, and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea.  Over the next two and a half hours the ship filled with water until just before 2:20 AM ship time, on April 15, 1912, when she broke up and sank with over fifteen hundred people still on board. 

One hundred years later – April 15, 2012 – was a Sunday.  In fact, it was the Sunday after Easter.

That day I preached a sermon entitled, “My Heart Will Go On.”

I am sure you recognize that phrase as the title of the main theme song of the 1997 blockbuster movie, “Titanic,” a fictionalized account of the sinking of that great ship.  It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as members of two very different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage.

Recorded by Celine Dion, the song “My Heart Will Go On” quickly became the number one song all over the world.  The fact that that song became Celine Dion’s greatest hit, one of the best-selling singles of all time, and the world’s best-selling single for the year 1998, I believe shows a deep longing in the human heart.

On the Sunday after Easter, April 15, 2012 – one hundred years after the sinking of the Titanic – I shared with the congregation during the sermon that I could imagine the disciples – after the resurrection of Jesus – gathering together many times and sharing thoughts and feelings very similar to the ones that are expressed in Celine Dion’s song.

“Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you.
That is how I know you go on.
Far across the distance and spaces between us
You have come to show you go on.

“Near, far, wherever you are 
I believe that the heart does go on.
Once more you open the door and you are here in my heart 
And my heart will go on and on.”

In one scene in the movie, as the ship is sinking, Leonardo DiCaprio says to Kate Winslet, “Do not let go of my hand.”  Kate Winslet replies, “I will never let go.”

And the resurrected Jesus says the same thing to us today.  “Do not let go of my hand” and “I will never let go of you.”  Therefore, because of Easter, like the original disciples, we too can say, My heart can and will go on.

First, because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN.   

Have you ever been halfway through a project and then wished that you could start out all over again?  A lot of people are living their lives that way.  They get halfway through life and then they wish that they could start out all over again.

We have all done things that we wish we had not done, said things that we wish we had not said, and thought things that we wish we had not thought.  We all have regrets.  We all carry a heavy load of guilt.

A lot of people cannot move on with the present and the future because they are stuck in the past. Some guilt and/or regret has them all tied up.  They are allowing a former relationship to mess up all their current relationships.  They are saying, “I guess I am just going to have to sit out the rest of my life.”  They are carrying around this huge emotional baggage, and they are wondering why they are so unhappy.

The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2: 14, “He erased the record that stood against us with its legal demands; He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Jesus nailed all your sins to the cross.  He paid for all your guilt.  Which means that you do not have to pay for it anymore.

He was nailed to the cross so that you can stop beating yourself up.  He wants to – and He can – forgive your past.  He can cancel all of your debts – all of your emotional debts, relational debts, and spiritual debts.  He can cancel them all.

Like a bill that has been paid, once it has been paid, you can forget about it.  The same thing is true with your sins.  Once God has forgiven it, you can forget it.  It is like when you pay a bill online.  Once you have paid it, you can get a receipt for it.  If anyone says it has not been paid, you can show written proof that it has been paid.  The Bible is written proof that the debt for our sins has been paid.  Why would anyone not want to be a follower of Jesus if for no other reason than just to have a clear conscience?  Because of Easter, your heart can go on because your past can be forgiven.

In our First Reading for Easter Sunday, in Acts 10: 43, Peter is at the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion.  He says about Jesus, “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Paul wrote in Romans 8: 1, “There is therefore now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Jesus.”   

Did you ever have an Etch-A-Sketch?  What can you do if you mess up the picture on an Etch-A-Sketch?  You can flip it over, shake it, and then turn it right side up again, and there you will have a clean slate.  The cross is God’s Etch-A-Sketch.  He wants to and He can give you a clean slate.

Because of Easter you can know for sure that every single thing that you have ever done wrong can be completely forgiven.  There is therefore now no condemnation.  Jesus did not come to rub it in.  Rather He came to rub it out.  Jesus said in John 3: 17, “I did not come to condemn the world; rather I came to save the world.”  He wants to help you.  He wants to change you.  He wants to give you a new beginning.  Because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN.

And then second, because of Easter your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PRESENT CAN BE MANAGEABLE.

Several years ago I was driving on one of the southern California freeways during the middle of the day when all of a sudden my windshield started getting pelted by dozens of little objects as if it were hailing.  But the sky was clear.  Then I thought that maybe I just got hit by a bunch of gravel that came flying off of a truck in front of me.  But there was no truck in front of me.

Then I realized that I had gotten hit by dozens and dozens of bees.  There were splattered bees all over my windshield and mangled bee bodies on my windshield wipers.  I must have run into a swarm of bees.  I was just glad that I was not riding a motorcycle with my mouth open.

And the truth of the matter is that you never know when you might run into – or get run into by – a swarm of something.  Much in life is unmanageable.

Somebody once said, Maturity is when you figure out that you do not have it all figured out. Maturity is when you realize that you cannot control everything that life is going to send your way.

Faith is realizing that you cannot control everything in your life, but God can. So why not look to God and ask Him for His help.  Let God take charge of your life.

Many people say, “My life is out of control.  I feel powerless in my situation and powerless to change my situation.  I feel powerless to break a bad habit, save or sever a relationship, get out of debt, or get on top of my time, my schedule, and/or my finances.”

We all need a power that is greater than ourselves and that is outside of ourselves.  You were never meant to live life on your own power.  The Bible says in Ephesians 1: 19-20, “How incredibly great is His power to help those who believe in Him.  It is the same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead.”

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can help you rise above, deal with, and face your problems.  The same power that God displayed in the resurrection of Jesus two thousand years ago is available to you in your life right now.

We do not know what the future holds, but we can know who holds the future.  Even if it is out of our control, it is not out of God’s control.  He can give you the power to face it and deal with it.

In the Gospel writer Matthew’s account of Easter Sunday morning the angel says to the women (28: 5), “Do not be afraid,” and Jesus says to the women and the disciples (28: 10), “Do not be afraid.”  But we all have many reasons to be afraid.

John mentions three people in his account of Easter Sunday morning – Mary Magdalene, Peter, and “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,” who is generally considered to be the disciple John.  Each of them had reason to feel that their life was out of control.

Mark 16: 9 describes Mary Magdalene as the one from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons.  How those demons gained access to her life – and what kind of destructive affect they had on her life – we do not know.  But before she met Jesus her life must have been out of control.

Peter had real issues with lack of impulse control, and John must have been a real hot-head, because Jesus called John and his brother James the Sons of Thunder.  Yes, all three of these first witnesses to the resurrection before meeting Jesus were living lives that were unmanageable and out of control. 

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4: 13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  No problem is too big for God.  No situation is hopeless if you turn it over to Him.

The Bible does not say, I can face all things through the power of positive thinking.  Nor does it say, I can face all things if I get myself sufficiently all psyched up.  Rather it says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

Because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN and BECAUSE YOUR PRESENT CAN BE MANAGEABLE.   

And then, third, because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR FUTURE CAN BE SECURE.   

One of the universal problems that we all have is death.  Everybody is going to die.  Someday I am going to die, and someday you are going to die.  Only a fool would go through life not preparing for something that is inevitable.

Will Rogers once said, Worry must really work because almost nothing that I worry about ever happens.  But death happens – sooner or later – to everybody.

It just does not make sense.  But so many people get so busy with the here and now that they do not stop to think about and prepare for what is 100% certain to happen.

A group of children were asked to write down what they believed about death.  An eight-year-old wrote, “When you die they put you in a box and bury you in the ground because you do not look so good.”  A nine-year-old said, “Doctors help you so you will not die until you pay their bills.” Another nine-year-old wrote, “When you die, you will not have to do homework in heaven unless your teacher is there too.”  And then a ten-year-old said, “A good doctor can help you so you won’t die.  A bad doctor sends you to heaven.”

The truth of the matter is that every one of us will die.  But many people do not want to think and/or talk about it.  But still, there is a deep, universal, human longing to know, “What is going to happen to me after I die?”  Because of Easter, your heart can and will go on because you can know for sure what will happen to you after you die.

Because of Easter, your future can be secure because if you believe in the Christ of Easter, then you can know for sure that you can and will spend eternity with Him.

Because of Easter, your heart can go on because YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN, YOUR PRESENT CAN BE MANAGEABLE, and YOUR FUTURE CAN BE SECURE.  Why would you not want to give your life to and live your life for the Christ of Easter?   

I pray that you experience the depth of God’s love and the joy, hope, and power of the resurrection during this Holy Week.

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

A Review of Think.Believe.Do

A concerned member of the ELCA contacted me, asking me to do a review of a new curriculum from Augsburg Fortress’s Sparkhouse. That curriculum is entitled T.B.D.: Think. Believe. Do.  Sparkhouse touts it as their newest youth curriculum.  A blogpost describes T.B.D.

as a new small group series that gives students the tools to articulate, investigate, and test out their beliefs on a broad range of topics that connect to their daily lives. However, the goal isn’t to come away from each series with a settled idea about the topic. Although they might feel more settled than they did before. Instead. T.B.D. focuses on how students think, not just what they think.

Currently, T.B.D. offers six topical courses on Prayer, Sin, Mission, Salvation, and Bible, broken up into four sessions each.  Each session begins with a “Provocative Statement” before moving through three major sections: Think, Believe and Do.  After answering a series of thought provoking questions in their journals, students watch a video and reflect on two Bible Passages.  Following this, they come up with an honest statement of what they believe as individuals and as a group.  Finally, the group brainstorms a low risk way to test out that belief in the following week. 

The Video

In the videos that accompany each session, a young person wrestles with questions about the topic of the session.  This is very interesting.  Like many people today, both young and old, the character in each video turns to the internet, searching for an answer.  As you would expect, answers come from all quarters.  The internet search yields many quotes from the Bible.  Quotes are also given by Luther, Augustine, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, St. Benedict, and other Christian teachers.  Others come from more dubious places, like Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins.  This is what you would expect from an internet search.   The character in the video is left with more questions than answers as a result.  Pastors and catechists are very familiar with the kind of idiosyncratic views that people develop from their use of the internet. 

Values Clarification

The question is where to turn.  The answer is more than a little surprising.  After pondering challenging statements, watching the video, and looking up two Bible verses, the students are immediately asked to formulate their own responses to the questions.  The result is something very similar to the kind of “values clarification” that was practiced decades ago.  It’s almost as if the students are told, “You’re on your own.  The Bible is unclear and unreliable.  The Christian tradition is too varied and contradictory.  Who’s to say what is true.  You need to chart your own path.”

As a person who grew up in the 1970s, I am quite familiar with this way of teaching.  I learned to ask open ended questions and to accept the challenge to decide for myself.  Fortunately for me, I had pastors and college professors who pointed me to the answers.  (I attended a Lutheran college.) Otherwise, I would have been lost.  During my senior year of college, the process of asking open questions and deciding for myself overwhelmed me.  I realized that I was drowning in a sea of meaninglessness and purposelessness.  In the midst of this, I became acutely aware of my sinfulness.  It was then that I turned to the things I had learned from my pastors and professors.  In particular, I remembered what I had learned about the Cross and the Resurrection.  If I had been left entirely to my own resources, I don’t know where I would be.

A Third Resource?

In T.B.D., youth are presented with two resources with which to interpret the Bible: 1) the confusing diversity of answers given by the internet and 2) their own wisdom and the wisdom of their peers.   It’s too bad that a third resource is not introduced into the discussion, namely, the wisdom of the Creedal and Lutheran tradition of interpreting the Bible. If the person teaching this curriculum is a pastor or a well catechized lay person, T.B.D. might not be harmful.  The same would be true if it was used with well catechized youth.  As one reads the lesson book and watches the video, it is easy to identify answers to the questions that are raised. 

For instance, in the unit on Prayer, the video character, a young woman, wrestles with the meaning and purpose of prayer.  What does the Bible teach?  How is one to pray?  Does prayer change things?  Why pray if God already knows everything?  As I watched, I thought to myself, “It’s too bad the Lutheran tradition doesn’t have a simple but profound explanation of the meaning of prayer; or even better an explanation of the Lord’s Prayer.”  At one point, the character finds a link to an article on St. Benedict.  She decides to download his daily prayer schedule to her calendar, only to be shocked by the notion that it calls for prayer seven times a day.  Again, I found myself thinking, “Too bad Luther didn’t simplify the seven hours of prayer on behalf of the laity, reducing them to two or three times a day.”   At another point, the character does a search for the Ten Commandments, hoping that there is something there about prayer.  She concludes that the Ten Commandments are no help, since prayer is not mentioned.  As one knows, however, Luther’s interpretation of the Second Commandment has a lot to say about prayer. 

Unanswered Questions

After reflecting on this curriculum, I am left with a final question.  Is the failure to use the catholic and Lutheran tradition a bug or a feature of T.B.D.?  In other words, do the developers of T.B.D. assume that teachers and facilitators will make use of the Great Tradition and the Lutheran Confessions?  Have they simply forgotten to explicitly remind facilitators of these resources?  Or is the intent to encourage students to utilize the widest possible resources, from St. Benedict to Richard Dawkins, to formulate their own system of beliefs?  If so, the result will not be formation in the Christian faith, but instead in an eclectic post-Christian form of spirituality. 

Ironically, I can remember a time when Augsburg Fortress was criticized for being too Lutheran, too Confessional, too heavy in doctrine.  Other publishers, like Group Publishing and Youth Specialties, were preferred because they were more user friendly, more engaging, and more broadly Evangelical.  To see a curriculum that makes such sparse use of the Catechism and the Lutheran Confessions is surprising, and not an improvement. 

November 2021 Newsletter

Critical Race Theory (CRT) v. The Cross, Redemption, and Transformation, Part II

 “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:23-29, NRSV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ —

The introduction of Critical Race Theory (CRT),into all segments of our culture, has created a massive outcry throughout our land because of its crushing and deceitful agenda; partly because it attempts to lure the general populace in — especially the most innocent among us, our children — through a dishonest narrative and then will unashamedly ambush and exploit its victims. But many are not taking the bait, and that populace is now waking up to such trickery! CRT is misleading and guises itself with different descriptive language to avoid naming itself for what it is, Critical Race Theory. It represents a wolf in sheep’s clothing (cf. Matthew 7:15) and a ‘hireling’ (cf. John 10:10-12) and will — in the end — morph into a new type of law which is controlling, vindictive, and even destructive. Thank you for allowing me to unpack further the juxtaposed distinctives between the philosophical ways and intent of CRT and the theological-biblical ways and intent of the Cross of Redemption and Transformation, specifically in light of Galatians 3:23-29.

As I shared in Part 1 of this article, Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker was one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s closest colleagues and advisers. Dr. Walker was a legendary key leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, having served as the Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the tumultuous years of 1960-1964. Too, he was a co-founder of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality), chief of staff to King, and King’s ‘field general’ in the organized resistance against notorious Birmingham safety commissioner “Bull” Connor, and so much more. He was with King for the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, that produced the “I Have a Dream” speech where King challenged ALL citizens of the United States of America for civil and economic rights and called for an end to racism. His work was not in vain!

Waking up to a new reality

Steve Kinsky says this about Dr. Walker, who co-authored an essay with him (“A Light Shines in Harlem,” September 24, 2015, RealClear Politics) regarding education reform and race relations. This is just part of what they wrote: “Today, too many ‘remedies’ — such as Critical Race Theory, the increasingly fashionable post-Marxist/postmodernist approach that analyzes society as institutional group power structures rather than on a spiritual or one-to-one human level — are taking us in the wrong direction: separating even elementary school children into explicit racial groups, and emphasizing differences instead of similarities. The answer is to go deeper than race, deeper than wealth, deeper than ethnic identity, deeper than gender. To teach ourselves to comprehend each person, not as a symbol of a group, but as a unique and special individual within a common context of shared humanity.” Their analysis of CRT was and is spot on, especially regarding our shared humanity. And, from our perspective as Christians, this “shared humanity” involves original sin and, ultimately, our great need for the Cross — The Cross of Redemption and Transformation, not CRT or any other such false narrative, pedagogy, or gospel! It’s been six years since the publication of the Kinsky-Walker article, and now thousands upon thousands of parents are witnessing first-hand how some public schools are shaming, harassing, confusing and often brainwashing their precious children, often pitting child against parent (cf. Luke 12:51-53)! In other words, mothers and fathers do know better than the largely compromised system of public school education on what is best for their children and what they should be taught! Many parents are waking up to the problems and underlying deceit of CRT. They are now quickly discovering that it is weighty, cumbersome, disorienting, and massively intrusive. It is an illegitimate ‘disciplinarian,’ without any sense of grace or mercy. Law without Gospel. (Perhaps) without knowing so, they are gaining strength through Galatians 3:25 — “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Reflect just a moment on the fullness of this one verse and how it speaks volumes on the acute errors of CRT.

Recently, the state of Virginia became the epicenter of intense debate over CRT — a veritable spiritual battleground for the soul of the next generation of Virginians. The decisive outcome of the vote for the next governor of Virginia (and many other key public servants) reflected a complete repudiation of not only CRT but other radical agendas. So, why such a dramatic voting shift in the opposite direction? I strongly believe it was not because the citizens of Virginia suddenly wanted to support “white supremacy” (as the mainstream media purports, along with other vicious comments) but, instead, they were intuitively aware of the overwhelming and insufferable nature of CRT. To speak plainly, folks in general are fed up with hearing such hateful and racist rhetoric being spewed towards fellow human beings. Virginians, and many Americans, have been experiencing a ‘foretaste’ of how a new type of ‘guiding principles’ — law — might transpire and begin to dictate what is right and wrong, and how it could literally upend our nation as we know it. Good people are upset and voted accordingly. They love their children and their children’s children. Mama Bear has been poked and has now awakened!

A word from Galatians 3:23-29 — There is NO distinction

In light of the headline passage from Galatians 3:24-29 above, we celebrate that Christ has come and that the world, potentially, has been and can be set free: “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.” (v. 24) In this verse, the Greek word for disciplinarian is παιδαγωγὸς/paidagōgos which translates as trainer, a tutor, not only a teacher but one who had charge of the life and morals of the boys of a family. He was a legally appointed overseer, authorized to train (bring) up a child by administering discipline, chastisement, and instruction, i.e., doing what was necessary to promote development. In our present-day public ‘schooling’ environment, we entrust our children with teachers — whom we have authorized — to train and ‘bring them up’ in particular ways. But now that environment has radically changed and the disciplinarians are those we have NOT authorized, those carrying the CRT teaching. As Christian parents, our identity and authority rests in Christ and Christ alone. It is upon that foundation we claim Christ as our final disciplinarian. I believe this is what people genuinely desire. Christ did not come as a cruel and condemning taskmaster but as Saviour (John 3:17). We are no longer subject to a disciplinarian and under the law (Galatians 3:25; 5:18), for in Christ Jesus we are all children of God through faith (Galatians 3:26). Apart from Christ, the <Mosaic> law can quickly become burdensome and even deadly. In 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul writes: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Of course, the Law of Moses, a grouping of  books (Torah) or “letter/s”, was a series of writings to regulate moral and civil actions telling people what they could and could not do; but, too, they were instructions on how to live in the land; i.e., in Deuteronomy 8:1-“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply …”, Psalm 119:1-“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!”, and dozens of other biblical references. As the cloud of confusion is lifting, it’s becoming clear that those behind CRT are bent on writing their own “series of writings to regulate moral and civil actions telling people” what they can and cannot do, hoping to remove and replace the traditional role of parents serving as the primary disciplinarian … and, especially the parents who place their faith, ultimately, in Jesus Christ as their disciplinarian, not CRT.

“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed” (Galatians 3:23) Luther had profound insight regarding “the law” apart from faith, specifically in light of this verse: “The Law is a prison to those who have not as yet obtained grace. No prisoner enjoys the confinement. He hates it. If he could he would smash the prison and find his freedom at all costs. As long as he stays in prison he refrains from evil deeds. Not because he wants to, but because he has to … But the Law is also a spiritual prison, a veritable hell. When the Law begins to threaten a person to death and the eternal wrath of God, a man just cannot find any comfort at all. He cannot shake off at will the nightmare of terror which the Law stirs up in his conscience.” Any law, even the Mosaic Law, will lead to bondage. By now, I think you understand that I am not comparing CRT to the Mosaic Law but only suggesting that CRT is becoming law, except without God involved in any way, shape, or form. Through the implementation of CRT, the State/Government desires to become the schoolmaster, the custodian, the guardian, and the disciplinarian. Again, with the State, there may be no grace, no freedom, nothing but confinement indeed. (Project Wittenberg, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, 1535 by Martin Luther/trans. by Theodore Graebner, Chapter 3, pp. 135-149, Galatians 3:20-29, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949)

The other obvious problem with CRT is how it automatically marks and makes a distinction with people groups through a hodgepodge of terminology. For instance, it regularly employs the label ‘white privilege,’ typically defined as a “concept that highlights the unfair societal advantages that white people have over non-white people. It is something that is pervasive throughout society and exists in all of the major systems and institutions that operate in society, as well as on an interpersonal level.” (“What Is White Privilege” by Arlin Cuncic, updated on August 25, 2020) At least a part of this particular definition, along with the rest of the noted article, kind of makes sense but then breaks down quickly when left as absolute fact/law without grace and mercy; and, especially, if not filtered through the heart and mind of Christ and His redemptive and transformative work at the Cross. From Galatians 3:28 we read, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for ALL of you are one in Christ Jesus.” There is no distinction!

Walter Myers III, who is the Principal Engineering Manager at Microsoft Corporation in Irvine, CA, holds a master’s degree in Philosophy from Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, and is a member of the Advisory Board for the California Policy Center (CPC), recently wrote a fascinating piece on CRT. This is how he concludes his essay: “How will we ever find peace among the races if we can’t look at each other as individuals, person to person, based on actual facts and intentions? We simply cannot reconcile as a people if we allow ourselves to be judged by the ethnic, race, and gender essentialism of Marxist-style power groups, and thus we should reject CRT … Indeed, America has had a long and horrific period of chattel slavery followed by Jim Crow and racial codes that persisted well into the 1960s and 70s. But these practices ended as more Americans understood the gross violations of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. As a black man, I have seen tremendous progress over my lifetime, and while I’m cognizant racism will always exist, simply because evil will always exist, the only systematic oppression I see currently is the failure of public-school systems across America to prepare black and brown children for future economic success. It is the greatest tragedy of our time. And what is abundantly clear is CRT does nothing to advance the basic mission of K-12 education, while doing much to detract from it.” (Discovery Institute, American Center for Transforming Education, “Critical Race Theory — The Marxist Trojan Horse”) Certainly, CRT is becoming more than a distraction. Its disciplinarians are hoping to steal away the hearts and minds of our children. Jesus Christ, our disciplinarian, has set us free through His blood of redemption and transformation.

What the world needs now is HESED — Steadfast Mercy!

Our hope lies in this Word from Galatians 3:23-25, notably as it speaks on our freedom in Christ: “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Throughout the history of the People of God (the Israelites), it was imperative that they remain ‘dependent’ upon the continual and merciful intervention of God. This ongoing and unfailing mercy of God was and is known as God’s Hesed; otherwise, they were lost and would die. Hesed is a Hebrew word almost beyond description, even pushing the boundaries of our comprehension. Hesed kept the law in balance. Apart from the “Hesed”/חֶסֶד of the Lord God YHWH — the completely undeserved, unconditional, loving kindness and mercy of God (named over 245 times in the Old Testament), the Mosaic Law could breed guilt and harshly assign punishments for violating the law, even issuing death sentences to offenders with seemingly very little — if any — grace and mercy attached to it. Of course, this Law was “only a shadow” of what <was> to come … “the substance <belonging> to Christ” (Colossians 2:17). As a stiff-necked people with very clayish feet, we are always tempted to fall back into the law, any law … even a law of lawlessness, especially when we drift from Hesed … the completely undeserved, unconditional, loving kindness and mercy of God. And now, of course, we have been set free! Here’s the incredibly Good News — this ‘hesedness’ was eventually fulfilled in the Incarnation of God, the Father, in Jesus Christ! We can now be proclaimers of such mercy and breathe life into our world, no matter what we face. We can’t say it enough: What the world needs now is mercy, especially revealed fully in Jesus. And, of course, we’ve been called to communicate this message of mercy, and shout it from the rooftops (cf. Matthew 10:27) — MERCY! If we don’t, others WILL fill that void with a counterfeit form of mercy — like CRT! Do you see what’s happening?  

Unlike the present-day “law of the land,” aptly described in our primary “letters,” the Constitution/Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, CRT has no grounding in a Judeo-Christian God. In the end, it is god-less. It has no biblical understanding of Hesed or Mercy. Because of the God-void in every human heart, CRT has created this false narrative in trying to communicate mercy. It answers only to itself, thus “keeping us subject to a disciplinarian” and “under the law” (Galatians 3:23 & 25). I believe this terrible reality is exactly what our nation has been experiencing without being able to name it, an intuitive sense that something is not right. What our country — the world — needs now, more than anything else, is Hesedness, the Lord’s steadfast and unfailing Mercy, not a pseudo-mercy that is, in the end, merciless.

We all understand that the Cross lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, and without the Cross we have no faith at all. What took place at Golgotha was the single most important event in all of history — it was the central event of the human race. And, herein, lies the inherent flaw and great deceit/lie of CRT. Where there is no mercy with CRT, the Cross exudes Mercy. In Part I of this article, I clearly articulated that racism is a reality. It is dreadfully sad and awful, and damages each of our souls. In Walter Myers III words, “… while I’m cognizant racism will always exist, simply because evil will always exist, the only systematic oppression I see currently is the failure of public-school systems across America to prepare black and brown children for future economic success … And what is abundantly clear is CRT does nothing to advance the basic mission of K-12 education …”

In the end, for all of us, this life is all about pursuing and proclaiming the steadfast love and mercy of Jesus Christ and Him alone. There is a harvest of folks (cf. Matthew 9:35-38), including many of the so-called CRT proponents, who have not yet tasted such a mercy. Let us consider how we can effectively and faithfully engage in such a challenge. In the final installment of this article, Part III, I hope to raise two simple, logical and rationale questions: What is the end-game/purpose of CRT? And what was/is the end-game/purpose of Calvary? Until next time, stay the course …

In His Immeasurable Love and Mercy, 

K. Craig Moorman

Mission Developer/Pastor of River’s Edge Ministries/NALC-LCMC

Mt. Airy, Maryland

Devotion for Thursday, January 25, 2018

“The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness. You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there.”  (Psalm 68:17-18)

The Lord God has always been about His business and the ways of the wicked one are forever thwarted. Though the battle rages, the war is over. Each generation is offered the opportunity to come into the presence of the Lord, taste His goodness and see, and even from among those who rebel, there are those to whom the Lord grants grace. The Lord gives gifts to those who come to Him.

Lord, in so many ways, life is so simple. You offer grace that we may walk in peace. You give gifts to those who love You. You provide amply for all. You desire that we would abide in You as You abide in us. Take me away from the insanity of this world and let me see clearly Your goodness that I may walk in Your ways and uphold Your statutes wherever I am at all times.

Lord Jesus, humbly You have come bearing the gift of salvation for all who believe. Lead me, O Lord, into the way of goodness that has forever been established. Guide me ever closer to Your ways that I would walk in them. Help me now and always to simply abide in You as You abide in me that I would live in the eternal freedom which is mine by Your grace, purchased by You on the cross. Amen.

Devotion for Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Thursday, January 4, 2018 Devotion

“You have crowned the year with Your bounty, and Your paths drip with fatness.  The pastures of the wilderness drip, and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.  The meadows are clothed with flocks and the valleys are covered with grain; they shout for joy, yes, they sing.”  (Psalm 65:11-13)

In every season you can see the hand of the Lord.  Life is created, sustained and given bounty in spite of all human interference.  God provides and keeps the balance.  Do not be deceived, for the mocker will claim it is chance; but the hand of the Lord is clearly seen for all who will look.  Look, see and rejoice in God your Savior who provides for even the birds of the air.

Lord, I get caught up in the propaganda of this age which continuously throws things my way so that I am unable to think clearly.  Help me see that You have provided for all of our needs and have done so amply.  Guide my thinking to see each day the joy of the bounty You give that I may be one who praises You in all circumstances.  You are good and Your goodness shines through each day.

Lord, the greatest bounty of all is the grace You purchased from the cross.  You gave Yourself that all who look and see may look upon You and see the invitation to come and join with You forever.  Lead my heart to follow after You, Lord Jesus, knowing that You have come to lead the way into the greatest bounty of all.  Help me walk through, around or over every obstacle to remain with You.  Amen.


Devotion for Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017 Devotion

“They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly; they say, “Who can see them?”  They devise injustices, saying, “We are ready with a well-conceived plot”; for the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep.  But God will shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly they will be wounded.” (Psalm 64:5-7)

The plans of the wicked are all the same.  They think what they do is secret, but the Lord who sees all things knows what the wicked do in secret.  It comes to naught.  Look to the Lord and know that He who sees all things knows what is needed and provides before you make the request.  Yes, it seems for a time the wicked prosper, but what they do amounts to nothing.

Lord, help me to have a larger view of things that I may see through time how the plots of those who devise things in secret are thwarted.  Guide me to know truly that You who sees all things cannot be shaken.  Help me trust in Your provision at all time knowing that You are working all things together for good for those who love You.  Lead me, O Lord, that I may be led by You alone.

Lord Jesus, You went to the cross through the efforts of  those who plotted in secret places, yet it fit perfectly the Father’s will.  From this simple place, let me see that no matter what happens, Your hand of grace is upon me and all who turn to You.  Guide me according to Your perfect will to see in You the hope of glory that You have won at the cross through those who desired otherwise.  Amen.

Weekly Devotional for November 22, 2017

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13)

It’s as though the United States Congress just put its entire military at your command, and you respond by saying, “Could they mow my lawn maybe?”  There our Lord Jesus sat, preaching the kingdom of God in all its cruciform power, and this young man wants him to settle a property dispute.  Our Lord’s response was surely just: “Who made me arbitrator over you?”  He’s no arbitrator; he’s the Son of Man and Prince of Peace!

As you come to our nation’s Day of Thanksgiving, remember this great power of the One whom you thank, and His greater, joyful intention for you.  The moisture of the clouds and the grains of the earth are but a foretaste of the “kingdom come,” already pressing its way into earth through the water of Baptism and the Bread of Heaven.  He would give you more than your father’s cash; He’d give you the Father’s kingdom.

How much reason, then, to give thanks!  As you come before Him over the next several days, give thanks not only for the food on the table, but for the Food that ever lasts, His Son, Jesus Christ, and ask Him to share that Holy Feast abundantly, through you and all His Church.

LET US PRAY: O living Bread, my Lord Jesus Christ: thank You!  For what greater reason do I have to give thanks but You?  Unite my gratitude, as poor as it may be, with Your own ceaseless petitions at the Father’s right hand, and make known to all the world the glory of Your cross.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau