By Graham Glover

The United States of America has become our idol. It has become our god. Our worship of it, or at least what we think it should be, consumes us. I dare say it defines us. We talk about what it means to be a good American all the time. Our devotion to living out what we perceive to be the “American Dream” is the benchmark of our success – its fulfillment is what we strive to every day.

We may claim to put God first. We talk often about the importance of family and friends. But nothing beats the U.S. of A. It is our priority. In everything.

By Paul Koch

The readings that were set before the church today are, quite simply, powerful. They get to the heart of the human struggle; they deal with matters of life and death. In that regard, they speak to the center of our faith, our confidence that the grave with all of its terrors and sorrows will not have the last say over the faithful. In Ezekiel 37 we hear that epic story of the valley of dry bones. There, God’s prophet is directed to prophecy to the bones and at his speaking they begin to come together. Like something out of a Hollywood movie, bones move and unite and stand up. Flesh and skin grows up around them. Then he is command to prophecy again to fill them with the breath of God. As Ezekiel does this, they come to life. God declares, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from them, O my people.”

By Cindy Koch

More than three decades have passed. I know this only because the marks are scratched into the wall next to where I try to sleep. Sometimes I stare at those crooked lines, losing myself in the valleys of shadows and dust trapped in those tiny crevices. Sometimes I stay up too late counting each slash, remembering, shuddering as the number keeps growing. On the blackest nights, that haunting record on the wall fades into the empty deep. I strain to see a beginning, even an end, but the darkness is too much.

By Paul Koch

I often wonder just how those outside of the church view those of us that continue to find sanctuary within these walls. How does a person without faith look at the person who gathers with other believers to confess their faith, hear the Word, receive the gifts, and sing the praises of God? Do they think we are foolish or misguided or simply relics from a different time? One thing is for sure, they know that we are not perfect. In fact, they may see us as hypocrites, failing to practice what we preach. Are we those who can live our lives however we want and then just come in here, receive forgiveness, and pretend like nothing happened? In fact, is this part and parcel to being a Christian? Or to put it even more succinctly as St Paul does, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound?”

By Paul Koch

It happens every year. Every year the stores seem to explode with Christmas decorations and music and greetings of “Happy Holidays.” Every year we make plans and figure out what we want to get that specials someone in our lives. Every year we think about the traditions of our families, those we love and those we could do without. Every year, at least for us gathered here in our Lord’s church, we are greeted by the call of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare a way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” That’s right; every year we are greeted by John the Baptist. One thing we can be sure of when we hear from John the Baptist, his voice will definitely go against the grain. It is a harsh and bitter word that he speaks, and it stands out in contrast to the Christmas carols on the radio.

By Jonathan Holmes –

I’ve been struggling lately. I’m tired. I feel weird. Is there something wrong with me? Yes… I can only read so much in a day. My brain will just stop, and I can’t continue, as much as I would like to. Yes, there is something wrong with me… I’m a sinner, and that means I’m affected by sin, original sin – and there is nothing I can do about it.

By Scott Keith

Not long ago, we on the Thinking Fellows podcast had the opportunity to interview Dr. James Nestingen. Dr. Nestingen was my Doctor Father and is a good friend. I always love the chance to pick his brain. This time around we discussed Luther’s seminal work, The Bondage of the Will. Dr. Nestingen provided us with many gems, including the advice of reading the book backward, that is from the last half first and the first half last.

By Jaime Nava

Growing up playing games on a PC, you learn certain tricks. Some games have console commands you usually access by hitting the “~” key (called a tilde, if you didn’t know). If you’re savvy enough, you can use these console commands in single-player games to give yourself all kinds of goodies. You can add millions of gold to your stash. You can give yourself that item you needed to get past the hurdle in the game. One thing I recall doing in my younger days is playing in god mode. What does this mean? It means that you never get hurt and never run out of resources. You are invincible. You become godlike.