Grand Rapids: In Depth Sessions

Answering the Atheists
The Rev. William M. Cwirla

The fool says in his heart that there is no god, but that won’t convince him to believe - nor does it stop him from trying to convince others of his foolishness. Atheism is alive, active, and aggressively evangelistic in our society, and more young people are choosing it as their religious option. Would you know how to answer someone who challenged you (and someone will) on the truthfulness of the Bible, evolution, or the existence of God? Do you know why you believe what you believe?

Pastor Cwirla serves Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California and is the President of the Higher Things Board of Directors. 

The Law, the Gospel, and the Rest of Your Life
The Rev. George F. Borghardt III

God deals with us two ways: the Law and the Gospel. The Law shows us our sins.  The Gospel delivers to us Jesus, who saves us from our sins. Every Lutheran knows that, right? So, what about the rest of your life? Can the Law and the Gospel tell us what to do after high school? Or who to marry? Or what college to go to? What's the Law and Gospel say about that? Everything! Bring your Bibles and Catechisms.

Pastor Borghardt is the Associate/Youth Pastor at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Conroe, Texas and serves as the Conference Executive for Higher Things. 

Relationships and Identity in a Technological Society
The Rev. Gifford Grobien

iPod, Facebook, texting, and Twitter. Technology is just a better, faster way of doing things, so it must be good, right? Wrong! We’ll take a look at the use of devices and the ideas behind them. Can the internet affect your relationships? Does technology change the way you think about other people? See how a Christian worldview actually shapes the way we use technology and care for others. And we’ll consider how our identity is grounded in Christ, and why this gives true security in an increasingly hurried and mobile society.

Pastor Grobien serves as the Assistant Pastor at Emmaus Lutheran Church, South Bend, Indiana. 

Organist Boot Camp: When You've Been Recruited
Mr. Chris Loemker

Learn some basic, yet very important information about the instrument you’ve been asked to play - the organ. Discuss the mechanics of the instrument, registrations, the leading of hymns, practice strategies and much more. This sectional is intended for those who are new to the instrument as well as seasoned musicians looking for some new and creative ideas.

Chris Loemker holds an Organ Performance degree from Indiana University-Bloomington and has been involved in Lutheran church music in various capacities for the past 24 years.  He is also the Music Director for the 2009 Sola Conferences. 

Now that You’ve Assumed Room Temperature…
The Rev. Paul Philp

So you’re dead - now what? If you’re going to die (and you will, eventually, unless Jesus returns first) then this sectional is for you. We’ll examine the grim, grave, and grotesque aspects of the wages of sin, and answer the question: What happens when I die?

The Rev. Paul Philp is an Admissions Counselor at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri. 

The Twilight Series: Love…and Blood?
Mrs. Sandra Ostapowich

Twilight has it all: forbidden romance, chivalry, tragedy, glamour...oh, and vampires! Some say that Edward and Bella epitomize a modern love story. There’s a dark side of their relationship amidst all the passion and romance that makes things seem even more exotic and romantic! But is this really how love is meant to be? Let’s take a step back and take a more objective look at what the Twilight series actually teaches about love and relationships and compare it to the Scriptures.

Sandra Ostapowich serves as the Christian Education & Youth Director of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colorado, and as the Secretary of the Board of Directors for Higher Things.  

The Holy Doggie B.A.G.S.
The Rev. Mark Buetow

Forget “paper or plastic!” You need these B.A.G.S. The Holy Spirit’s job is to bring you the forgiveness of sins...but how does He bring it to you? In the Holy Doggie B.A.G.S., of course! Come and learn how the Holy Spirit delivers what Jesus won for you and just what exactly those B.A.G.S. are.

Pastor Buetow serves Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, Illinois and as the Information Services Executive for Higher Things. 

As We Sing, So We Believe
The Rev. Adrian Sherrill

Music teaches. And music in Church especially teaches us of Christ and His Gospel. We’ll learn what and why we sing while we explore Lutheran hymnody and why it is filled with Christ and what He has done for us. Learn who wrote many of our hymns, what they sang, and why we still sing with them today.

Pastor Sherrill serves as the Associate Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado. 

Freed by Christ to Serve with Mercy
Deaconess Jennifer (Waters) Asher

Christ has had abundant mercy on us. He brought us into the care of His Church. Together, as His people, we are free to serve our hurting neighbors. We run into hurting people everyday. We’ll discuss how we’ve received mercy, why we are merciful, and creative ways to show mercy to others.

Deaconess Asher is the Director of the Deaconess Program at Concordia University - Chicago,. 

Six Days or More
Mr. Steve Peterson

Can the Bible and evolutionary theory be made to be compatible? Does it really even matter as long as I still believe in Jesus? Why hasn’t the issue been settled by modern scientific facts or data? We’ll take this seemingly complex and long-running debate and make some simple sense out of it.

Steve Peterson is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Surviving the Pot-Holes of Life
The Rev. Dr. David Balla

Life has its ups and downs, and sometimes it’s just the pits. Many people face depression at some point. We’ll look at Bible passages, with Luther and others who have written in their struggle with depression. But we won’t stay in the pothole of depression. God’s victory over sin, death and the devil will help us out.

Pastor Balla serves Trinity Lutheran Church in West Chicago, Illinois. 

Know Your Gnot! 
The Rev. Kent R. Schaaf

Have you ever felt like a can of soda about to explode? Have you ever felt like you had some sort of inner sparkplug that keeps you running? Have you heard about the “lost” books of the Bible? Did you know that your body, and all matter is evil? These may seem like crazy questions, but they all from an ancient heresy called gnosticism. Learn to see this is gnot the truth.  

Pastor Schaaf serves All Saints Lutheran Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Emerging Style or Enduring Substance?
The Rev. Thomas C. Messer

Does it really matter how we worship? Is it possible to maintain our Lutheran substance while employing various emerging and evangelical styles? What’s all the fuss about anyway? We’ll explore the theology of worship taught in Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions, and compare that to many of the current popular trends. Which is more likely to last? 

Pastor Messer serves Peace Lutheran in Alma, Michigan. 

On a Mission from God
Miss Suzanne Zobel

Learn from someone on the front lines of mission work about the joys and challenges of confessing Christ in foreign fields. Some overseas missionaries experience actual physical battles; all are engaged in spiritual battles. Learn what weapons work best to confess and teach Christ.

Suzanne Zobel, a DCE, serves Lutheran Heritage Foundation in mission education in both Africa (Sudan, Rwanda, Zambia, Liberia and other countries) and the U.S. 

Defending Your Faith in the Hallways
The Rev. Nathan Sherrill

You overslept! Mom drops you off at the corner, where you dodge the stoners playing hacky-sack. Jogging through the halls, locker doors swing open with their five pointed stars, heavy metal rockers, and nude pictures. You turn the corner only to ram into two girls making out. Ugh! Looking up from your fallen books you see a new poster on your door for Darwin’s 200th birthday. Your faith is assaulted more in school than anywhere else. Time to start defending it, or get out your party hat.

Pastor Sherrill serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa. 

Sanctifying Life in the World
The Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch

The liturgy of the Divine Service is the foundation, the beating heart, and the penthouse of the Christian faith and life. The Christian lives from that liturgy in the world, and lives within the world on a weekly journey back to the Divine Service. Daily prayer, within the home and family and with the congregation, likewise flows from the liturgy of the Divine Service and back to it again; so that one is always living to and from the Lord’s Altar.

Pastor Stuckwisch serves Emmaus Lutheran Church in South Bend, Indiana. 

Kickin’ It with Qoheleth: The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes
The Rev. Joel Fritsche

There’s a time to be born. And there’s a time to die. Somewhere in between is life. Is it worth living to its fullest, or is it just a chasing after the wind?  What does Qoheleth, “The Preacher,” have to say about all of this? And where is Jesus in these bits of Old Testament wisdom? Come and see what Ecclesiastes has to say - and learn how to pronounce Qoheleth.

The Rev. Joel Fritsche is an Admissions Counselor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri and a member of the Board of Directors of Higher Things. 

Watching the Watchmen Watch Us Watch Them
The Rev. Scott E. Stiegemeyer

The popular graphic novel, Watchmen, was recently made into a major film. There’s a lot of philosophical ideas about ethics, human nature, society and government underlying this wild and gripping story. Christians need to be equipped to respond to the attitudes of the world from an informed, and yet compassionate, viewpoint. Come to this no-nonsense evaluation of the Watchmen’s philosophical and theological meaning and impact.

The Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer is the Director of Admissions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.