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.
The power and pressure of sin on us, from conception to the grave, is immense. That's why we struggle to differentiate sin from sin. "Maybe," we imagine, "if I can just stop lying to my spouse about going out for drinks after work, and dedicate myself to being a better parent, and..." We wrongly believe that we're sinners because we sin, but that's not the case.
Jonah doesn't care about Israel's great enemy. He certainly doesn't want to be the first prophet in history to leave his own country and preach to a people who regularly attack, rob, rape, and enslave Jonah's family, friends, and neighbors. So far as Jonah is concerned, he'd rather drown in a watery abyss than show his face in Ninevah.
If we get past Sunday School moralizing what do we discover in the Old Testament? We read about remarkably immoral people loved by God. The Old Testament is one long history of God's reckless love for unlovable sinners. Godless Abraham. Murderous Moses. Arrogant, womanizing Samson. Tyrannical Solomon.
A pastor who's got his antennae tuned up for a person's confession will listen for where the First Command has broken loose in a Christian's life. He will listen for where the command has laid him open and left him naked and exposed and ashamed before God and his neighbors.
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.”