Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
I’ve always been more at home in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. When I first came to believe that there was a God, I purchased and read the Koran. I had watched the movie, Malcolm X, a couple months before and thought, “If the Koran helped him straighten out his life, maybe it can help me too.”
In elementary school, children are taught that America was a destination for Christians in search of religious freedom. But that’s not the truth. Not the whole truth anyway. The historic facts are a little less adventurous, a little less heroic. Many Christians came to the “New World” because they’d been declared heretics back home.
Whenever I read the Genesis account of Abraham, I’m more impressed that he’s often a clumsy, mess of a man than that it’s “faith that’s accounted to him as righteousness.” Abraham is godless when God comes to him. Terah, Abraham, and their whole family live right down the road from Babel. They worship the goddess Nana.
Some have built an entire theology on the false assumption that when God commands us to obey or believe, we have the ability to obey or believe. So then, what's the point of all God's commands? They show us what the power of sin has done to us...
“The strongest person in the room doesn't win the fight," she said, "it’s whoever's the meanest…” I was fifteen years old when my aunt taught me that. Her words of wisdom became something of a mantra for me. “Don’t start a fight unless you're meaner than the other guy.”
How do we respond when a Christian acknowledges that he's fallen into doubt about the existence of God and his purpose as a Christian? What about a pastor who struggles to keep up the mask of faithfulness, but of late isn't convinced anymore there's a God?
While I was still an over-eager seminarian the professor warned me, “Mr. Riley, this is exciting stuff. It’s exciting when you first learn about justification by faith alone in Christ alone. That’s because Law and Gospel is heady stuff! But be careful. When you climb into a pulpit and you get to preach every week you’ll learn that the people you preach to don’t much like justification talk.