Pastors' Study

Your pastors are always learning and growing in their faith as well.  Feel free to check in on this page from time-to-time to see what's been helping to shape them as disciples of Jesus lately.

Pastor Andrews - 

  • Currently reading:
    • Extreme Devotion – Voice of the Martyrs
  • Recently finished reading:
    • Who is Jesus...Really? - Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett
      • This is one of the three books in the "Coffee House Chronicles" series, all by the same author duo.  The aim of the series was to put apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) into short, easy to read books at a price point low enough you can afford to leave them behind on a table in a coffee shop for someone else to be intrigued and pick up.  This book provides genuine historical evidence and argumentation for the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Not a fictional character, a myth, someone made up to promote an agenda.  He was born, lived, and was crucified.  There's no clear order to the books laid out online, so I unfortunately read the story out of order.  If you are interested in these, here's the order: Is the Bible True...Really?, Who Is Jesus...Really?, and Did the Resurrection Happen...Really?.
      • Truly, this book has the same pros and cons as the other two books in the series.  Pros: this little book handles the apologetics quite well and it puts it into a story of college students that is easy to follow and helps keep the reader's attention.  Cons: there's a lot of decision theology ("I chose to accept Jesus into my life") which is not what the Bible teaches; rather, we were dead in our trespasses, but God made us alive in Him (Ephesians 2).  That remains my one grumble with the whole series.  If you are discerning and able to read the book without being tempted by that particular false theology, this book, and its series, are well done and worth a read.
    • The End of Woman - How Smashing the Patriarchy Has Destroyed Us - by Dr. Carrie Gress
      • Why do I read and talk about feminism as your pastor?  Because it is arguably atop the list of the devil's most dangerous and successful lies in recent history.  He has used this lie to undermine God's institution of marriage and family.  And, by and large, we've all grown up in it (it's older than most know) to the point where it's hard to even recognize it.  Contrary to the belief of popular culture, rejecting feminism does not equal hating women.
      • American culture says in order to speak to something, you must be an expert.  By extension, in order to discuss feminism, you must be a woman.  Both of those notions are in error, but I thought I'd follow that path for this particular topic and book choice.  What would a woman, Christian, and expert have to say about feminism?  Dr. Gress is a woman, a wife, a mother of five, and also a doctor, serving as a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a scholar at the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America.  She has the background allegedly necessary to address the topic.  So, hear it from her: "Feminism’s failure, at root, is its misdiagnosis of what ails women.  Feminists have worked hard to mitigate women’s suffering, but by trying to eliminate our vulnerability, by making us cheap imitations of men, and by ignoring our womanhood.  Setting off in the wrong direction, the prescribed fix can’t really fix anything.  Instead, it has erased women one slow step at a time.  As those slow steps get faster and faster, women find themselves at risk of being erased from the movement that once purported to liberate them, finding themselves undefined in an increasingly progressive world.” – pg. xxiv
      • This book is a good read, but it's fairly dark.  Dr. Gress explores the origins of modern feminism, tracing it back to the 18th century, and examines how much the devil was at work in its founders (heavy occult influences and extremely broken lives).  The concluding part, "The Way Home," meant to give direction and hope for a better way forward, seemed far too short in comparison to identifying the issues.  Who should read this one?  I'd recommend it to those who enjoy history as well as to those who aren't sure that feminism is actually an evil thing.  But, it's more of a gloomy read.
  • Great sermons I've heard recently:
    • Rev. Jeremy Rhode - The Transfiguration of Our Lord - Rev. Rhode calls out the devil's attempts to distort reality, and points us to the truth that is found in Christ and His Word. 
    • Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller - Christmas Eve - It is often said that pastors put the most effort into their sermons for the high holy days of Christmas and Easter.  As this is the time when many people are visiting or returning to a congregation, this is a great time to go listening to sermons from other faithful pastors.
    • Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - Rev. Wolfmueller is a mastercraftsmen of analogies to help us ponder our faith.  This is a fantastic sermon, including one of those analogies, that's worth a listen.
    • Rev. Jeremy Rhode - Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Tackles the culture's favorite Bible verse "you shall not judge."
  • Other digital media:
    • Referenced in Pastor Andrews's sermon on 6/16, here's a video of a pastor going out into his community because he was concerned about a play promoting sin and the twisting of Jesus' words in his local community.  We can debate individual moments on how he handled each conversation, but the video as a whole shows how the world views our faith and our attempts to speak the truth of Jesus in the midst of darkness.
    • An episode of A Brief History of Power that provokes some interesting thoughts on anger and depression, especially in young men.  My take away is that we need to relearn how to teach our sons to become men in a time where that's considered evil.  But, I think most of us would agree that our civilization is falling apart, and the next generation will need strong and faithful men to help start rebuilding communities again.
    • A KFUO program, Thy Strong Word, with host Rev. Phil Booe interviewing seminary professor, Rev. Joel Biermann, "A Christian Approach to Political Discourse."  Essentially, as we know that our faith is part of everything in our lives, how do faith, politics, and Church interact?  There are some useful ideas to chew on in this episode.
  • Quotes of note:
    • “Imagine, for a moment, that you are the enemy of St. Paul.  You hate him.  You hate his preaching and teaching.  You hate his friends.  You hate his work.  You hate the way he looks.  Everything about him makes you crazy.  You want him to suffer.
      “You get your friends together. ‘I hate this Paul,’ you say.  ‘We need to get him.  Let’s kill him.’
      “They all nod in agreement.  Your friends are a bunch of thugs.  But one of them says, ‘I saw a letter that Paul wrote to Philippi, and in it he said, ‘For me, to die is gain.’
      “’We don’t want that,’ you say, frustrated.  ‘Well, let’s cause him to suffer.  Let’s throw him in prison and torture him.’
      “’Yes!’ they all shout, except for another friend who says, ‘I was reading a little part of a letter he sent to Rome.  He wrote, ‘Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,’ and some other nonsense.’
      “’Yeah,’ said the first guy, ‘he said something like that in the letter I read, about being granted the gift of suffering.’
      “’Just great,’ you say with frustration.  ‘What are we going to do?  Let him live?’
      “’Well,’ says your friend, ‘he also said in his letter, ‘For me, to live is Christ.’’
      “There’s nothing you can do to Paul!
      “He rejoices in death.  He rejoices in life.  He rejoices in suffering.  He is content with plenty.  He is content with little.  His treasure is Christ, and this can’t be taken from him.” – A Martyr's Faith in a Faithless World, pg. 193-194.

Pastor Otto

Welcome to my study!  

"O Lord, how shall I meet You?"  With these few words you see what I value.  I know I will see our Lord Jesus in the life to come, so each day I give thanks for His forgiveness and mercy.  He is answering our prayers even now.  We believe in Him who is risen from the dead, who intercedes for His people whom He has bought with His own blood.

I will date each entry and keep all my posts, in case you would like to spend more time in the future looking and learning.

May 6, 2021

The Book of Esther.  I'm reading and re-reading this account in Scripture, since this is the Bible class I'm teaching on Wednesday mornings.  I teach using the ESV (English Standard Version) and also read the NLT (New Living Translation) which sounds more like someone telling the account.  Esther is a woman raised as a believer in the Lord.  She found herself in a position to intercede for others of her nationality.  She is an example of faith and courage.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, by Carl Trueman.  The author shows how our current culture, which values the self as its own truth, is the result of long-held cultural teachings.  The sexual revolution of our times isn't new, but individual choices are now affirmed as inarguable truths.  Trueman walks the reader through sources of philosophical thought which brought us to this era.  He wrote the book to answer a question: If someone says, "I am a woman trapped in a man's body" we would have found humor in this 30 years ago; or, if an individual said this sincerely it was regarded as gender dysphoria.  But in the present time, cultural opinion and legal decisions lean toward accepting such a statement as one's expression of his identity, and those who question it are more likely to be accused of a moral evil.  Trueman's book is neither a rant nor a lament, but a thoughtful observation about holding absolute moral truth in a culture that sees truth located in self.

Strange Rites, by Tara Isabella Burton.  This is an examination of groups which adopt rituals and create meaningful social connections.  Rejecting institutions that historically have given identity to large population groups, smaller groups of like-minded people are affiliating around trends that give them a temporal sense of meaning.  Smartphones and social media give access to micro-worlds of subject matter and life themes as diverse as those who initiate them--those who adopt worldviews from internet-led workouts, Reiki, dramatic performances, Moon Juice, 4chan boards, queer culture, oat milk, protests and benefits, etc.  This book is introducing me to subcultures I didn't know existed, helping me become aware how people raised in stable environments become engaged in peculiar activities that give significance to their lives.

The Chief Divine Service, by Friedrich Lochner.  This German book, written in 1895 to describe the Lutheran worship service, was finally translated into English and printed in 2020.  It is a commentary on the Christ-centered nature of how Lutherans worship, which uses liturgical verse and Scripture to form faith so its object is Jesus Christ.  The book shows origins of spoken and sung responses, and variations in the history of Christian worship.  While the introductory chapters cover historical and practical worship concerns, the body of the book is technical.  For instance, there is a full chapter on spoken and musical variants of Christ's Words of Institution, illustrating differences between the Latin Roman Mass, the German Deutchemesse, and English-language translations and musical arrangements.  It's helpful because I teach Adult Information Classes, explaining why we worship the way we do.

March 6, 2021