Pastor's Blog

Chris Boehnke

Chris Boehnke

Hi! My name is Chris Boehnke (a good German name pronounced “Bane-key”). Tracy, my wife, and I have been married for 21 years and God has blessed us with four beautiful children: Joshua (18), Lauren (16), Nathaniel (13), and Mikayla (9). I treasure my wife and family among the greatest gifts God has given me in life.

I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska – the heartland of the Midwest – by two loving parents, Don and Linda. I grew up attending a conservative but vibrant Lutheran congregation, while also experiencing excursions into other evangelical and charismatic church environments. This exposed me to a breadth of Christian practice and teaching that has incited me over the years to ask a ton of questions and to seek deeper understanding regarding what “the church” is and what it’s central message, “the Gospel,” is all about.

While my interests were in art (drawing and painting) and language (excelling in German) at Millard North High School, I ended up completing a B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Nebraska in Omaha (I consider philosophy “the art of asking good questions”). I attended Concordia Seminary in St Louis to finish a Master of Divinity in May 2000. Since then I have served as a shepherd-teacher for followers of Jesus in Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, and now Michigan. I happily reside with my family in Grand Haven, Michigan, where I serve a community of Jesus followers in Spring Lake called Lakeshore Fellowship. When I’m not reading or studying one of several books at a time, I enjoy spending time with Tracy and the kids, going for walks in nature, relaxing at the beach (with a good book!), cycling, exploring new things and places, watching Star Trek, or painting.

Along the way I’ve encountered many casualties of organized Christianity – those who have been sorely hurt, turned off, offended, or just disenchanted with all its stale rules and rituals. My desire is to compassionately hear and love those who have been broken or turned off by the church and those who have rejected an ugly God they can no longer worship. I want to wrestle alongside those who have nagging questions and doubts about who God is and what our place in this ugly world is. Most especially, I want to paint a better, more beautiful picture for them and for the world – to reimagine – who God is as unfailing, relentless LOVE, gloriously revealed in Jesus the Messiah-King.

I invite you to join the conversation!

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Heal Broken Lives

Is following Jesus and serving like Him an obligation we need to fulfill? Not at all. Following Jesus and serving others flows out of the healing rest we have in Him. We serve not because we have to. We serve because we want others to experience the same Sabbath rest and healing in Jesus. This Sunday our message is "Heal Broken Lives" based on Mark 6:1-16.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Look No Further. Listen to Jesus.

How do we know who God is and what He's like? We can get confused even if we try to piece together a picture of God from the Bible itself. After the disciples saw the brilliance of God's glory radiating from Jesus, Moses and Elijah faded away, and they saw Jesus alone. This Sunday our message is titled, "Look No Further. Listen to Jesus." based on Luke 9:28-45.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A Scandalous Love

"Love your neighbor as yourself."  Do we get to choose who our neighbor is that we love?
We tend to pick and choose whom we love.  Jesus, however, calls us to receive and express "A Scandalous Love" that puts no limits on who our neighbor is.
This is our message for Sunday based on Luke 10:25-42.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

God Longs to Gather Us to Him

A mother hen wants to gather her chicks under her wings to be safe from danger.
This is the image Jesus uses to describe His ministry as it reveals God's heart for us.
"The Heart of God" is the title of our new series starting this Sunday with the message, "God Longs to Gather Us to Him" based on Luke 13:1-9; 31-35.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

God Will Put All Things Right

Sunday, March 19, 2017

God Relentlessly Pursues Us

Have you ever lost your keys so that you had to relentlessly search and look everywhere to find them? 
What does God do when we or other people get lost? 
The Good News is that "God Relentlessly Pursues Us."  This is God's heart for us as we will hear in the message this Sunday based on Luke 15.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

God Saves the Lost

How well can you see? Our spiritual problem is that we're blind and we don't really see who God is. 
But Jesus opens our eyes to see in Him the heart of God who wants to transform our lives so that other people can also be reached with His saving love.
"God Saves the Lost" is our message this Sunday based on Luke 18:31-43; 19:1-10.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


It was early morning on the first day of the New Year 2017.

While enjoying a quiet, peaceful breakfast and drinking my cup of coffee, I decided to check the news on my Galaxy tablet.

My sense of New Year’s peace was brutally interrupted by a news story about a violent mass shooting in Istanbul, Turkey.

At 1:15 am, a man with a long-barreled weapon entered the popular Reina nightclub. After shooting a civilian and a police officer, he then opened fire on the revelers partying inside. The gunman, in an act of merciless cruelty, sprayed bullets in every direction. 39 people were killed and almost 70 others were badly wounded.

Nearly two-thirds of the people killed were foreigners celebrating the New Year. Perhaps they were hoping 2017 would be a better year than 2016. This horrific event was a stark reminder that the kind of violence our world experienced in 2016 is going to happen again and again throughout the New Year.

What can we do to bring hatred, violence, war, and bloodshed to an end? How can we work to bring peace into our world?

The standard answer people often give – even many Christians – is that nations and individuals need to arm themselves to the teeth so they can protect themselves against violence.

Meet strength with strength. Overcome force with greater force.

A few weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia would reinforce and strengthen its nuclear weapons capability so Russia can “neutralize any military threat.”

In response, President-Elect Trump declared he would beef up America’s military power and expand our nuclear arsenal. Then he said, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” Trump stated his policy aim as President will be to “achieve peace through strength.”

So, the question we need to ask is this: Can the threat and use of violent force stop the threat and use of violent force?

The answer is: NO!

Violence can never stop violence.  In reality, violence always begets more violence.

“Whoa, time out!” I can hear someone say. “What about the importance of a strong government and military against foreign attack, and a strong police force to deter and stop crime?”

Good question. Let me respond with another question: Has a strong government or law enforcement ever eliminated crime and violence?The answer should be obvious. No, they haven’t.

Now, God does indeed use the law and order of human governments – even corrupt and violent ones – with their military and police forces to restrain the evils of violence to varying degrees. Law and order’s restraint of violence is undoubtedly better than violent anarchy and societal chaos!

And we thank God and pray for those in government, including our soon-to-be-inaugurated President, and law enforcement as they serve to curb this kind of evil.

Human government, however, with it’s top-down authority and power structure is not God’s solution for violence, because it can never eliminate violence.

This is especially true when human authority on any level – or any human interaction – resorts to violent force as the preferred and primary means of governing and achieving outward peace. The more violent force is used, the more violence will proliferate.

Think of the apostle Paul’s words in chapter 13 of his letter to the Jesus-followers in Rome. Paul exhorts this Jesus community to be subject to the “governing authorities,” because God was using these authorities as His servant “to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” in society.

Here’s the shocker: Paul commands them to honor and be subject to the rulers of the Roman Empire!

But, he also exhorts these Jesus followers to non-violently resist Rome’s ungodly values and beliefs and to live with goodness and love for everyone – even the corrupt, violent rulers over them.

At that time, the Roman Empire was maintaining the Pax Romana – the “Peace of Rome” – through it’s mighty military machine and by whatever violent force was necessary to quash any insurgency, even death by crucifixion. This military-violence-ensured “peace” was the euangellion, or good news, of the Roman Empire. The emperor was declared to be Lord, a son of god, who ruled as “savior” to bring peace to his kingdom.

This was a false gospel of peace. And it’s a false gospel of peace that many people still cling to today – even professing Christians.

Unlike Jewish zealots, who longed for a violent revolt to overthrow Rome, Paul encouraged followers of Jesus to engage in a non-violent love revolution to bring real peace – spiritual, physical, and political.

Consider what Paul says later in Romans 13:

“Love must be sincere…cling to what is good…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay evil for evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge my friends…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 13:9,14,17-19, 21)

This love revolution of goodness that overcomes evil and violence flows out of our Spirit-filled union with King Jesus, who is our Peace. He is the Prince of Peace advancing His kingdom of peace around the world.

Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

How is Jesus calling you to be a peacemaker in the world today?

(Next week we will continue with part 2 of “Blessed are the peacemakers”)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Assassin’s Creed. Underworld: Blood Wars. Live By Night. Star Wars: Rogue One.

These are some of the current movies playing that have a significant amount of violence in them. Mass killing and destruction, blood and gore, torture and cruelty.

With each passing year, the movies we watch have gotten increasingly more violent, especially with the refinement of computer-generated special effects. Americans consume cinematic violence like a drug we can’t get enough of – as Roman citizens did at the gladiatorial games in 2nd Century Rome.

With each desensitizing dose, we need to up the next dose to get the same thrill.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus made this observation about the role he saw violence playing in society: “It is the structuring principle of reality.”

Indeed, for many it is.

Mankind believes numerous lies, which motivate our violence. At the core of violence is a fear of death that drives the belief that through violence we can get what we don’t have – we can satisfy our desires.

James, the brother of Jesus, put it this way: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill? You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:1-2).

Scripture traces this pattern of desire-induced violence back to the narrative of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Abel received God’s favor for his animal offering, but Cain, his brother, didn’t receive God’s favor for his harvest offering. Cain wanted what his brother Abel had. And when he didn’t get it, in his jealous anger he murdered his brother.

“The LORD said, ‘What have you done? Listen, you brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’ ” (Genesis 4:10). This is the first recorded act of violence in the Bible, motivated by Cain’s twisted desire to eliminate the threat to his satisfaction.

In reality, the Triune God of Love, the Giver of life, gives us what we need and He satisfies our desires. He is our highest Good.

God gave Adam and Eve life and all they needed that satisfied their desires. Everything was “very good.” Made in the image of God, they lived in the Sabbath rest of God’s good presence. They were whole and complete, lacking nothing.

This is what the biblical word shalom, or peace, means. Not just the absence of conflict or violence, but wholeness, health, and harmony.

The loss of peace always begins with the lie whispered in our ears that God is NOT completely good.

Once we’ve accepted this deceiving bait, our minds are darkened with fear and shame to believe we must take control as judge to determine how to satisfy our desires. This is the nature of sin.

It’s interesting that the first usage of the word “sin” is in the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:7). Here is where the seed of self-centered desires are expressed in their ripest fruit – violence and death.

Violence and death continue to escalate until Genesis 6 when the world is described as perpetually wicked and violent. So God sends –  perhaps “allows” (?) – a violent flood to kill everyone except a man named Noah and his family, so they could start over again after the flood.

But did the violent death of violent people through a flood stop the violence on the earth? NO!

More importantly, however, is the fundamental question: Is God a violent God?

Is God really a good God who is for us? Or should we fear that God has a violent streak and might not be completely for our good?

These questions raise a hornet’s nest of further questions about how to read certain Old Testament portrayals of God as a “Warrior King” who appears to violently destroy His enemies. (These must wait for another day).

The Good News of Jesus reveals that God is NOT a violent god. He is pure Goodness and He is a holy, just Love.

We get a glimpse of God’s true nature in Genesis 9:9. After the flood God makes a covenant-promise with Noah to never destroy the earth with a flood again. The sign God gave for this covenant is the rainbow.

A rainbow literally refers to a “bow” – as in a bow and arrow weapon – that appears with its many colors in the sky after a rainstorm.

The answers to all our questions hinge on the answer to this question: Which way is the bow pointing if it had an arrow lodged in it to shoot with violence?  

The arrow of violence is pointed UP not down!

In other words, God’s heart and will is NOT to shoot the arrow of violence down at mankind, into our lives, or at creation. God’s heart and will is to allow the arrow of mankind’s violence to be shot up at Him, into His heart, to absorb our violence.

Look at Jesus. Scourged. Nailed. Bleeding. Dying on a Roman cross of execution. 

Here is the non-violent, enemy-embracing, sacrificial love of God.  Here the rainbow is fulfilled.

Jesus allowed us to do our worst violence to Him so He could give His best for us. The goodness of God’s self-giving, sacrificial love overcame the evil of violence and death with His death and resurrection.

Look “to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  (Hebrew 12:24)

Abel’s blood cries out and says “vengeance!” Jesus’s blood cries out and says “Peace!”

(Next week we continue with part 3 of “Blessed are the peacemakers.”)

It’s a difficult time to be a follower of Jesus.

There are numerous places on earth, however, where it’s more than difficult. It’s dangerous and deadly to publicly follow Jesus and confess Him as Lord.

Every six minutes a Christian believer is put to death for their faith somewhere around the world. This is based on a new study by the Center for Studies on New Religions (Censur) in Italy. In 2016, 90,000 Christians died for being a follower of Jesus.

Christianity is the largest religion in the world. It’s estimated that there are about 2.4 billion Christians distributed all over the world. With a current world population of about 7.2 billion, Christians make up 33% of the people in the world.

Massimo Introvigne, the Director of Censur, reports that Christians are also the most persecuted religious group in the world (along with other religious groups being persecuted as well).

30% of those who died for their faith in Christ were victims of terrorist violence or government persecution. Close to 70% of those martyred were victims of tribal violence in Africa where Jesus followers “refused to take part in violence.” 

Last year 11 Christian missionaries, including a 12-year old son of a ministry leader, had the opportunity to leave their ministry base in a town near Aleppo, Syria. The ministry director for the region urged them to leave because of the increasing violence. But they decided to stay.

They insisted they wanted to remain, because they were convinced God had called them to share the Good News of Jesus with those caught in the crossfire.

On August 7, 2016, ISIS militants entered the village and captured these missionaries. On August 28, their captors demanded that they renounce Christ and convert to Islam. Each one refused to renounce Christ even after being brutally tortured.

They stood firm in their confession of Jesus as Lord. As a result, each one was crucified and left hanging for two days.

Jesus told us that we would be persecuted.

On the evening Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of the twelve disciples, He warned them after their last supper together:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ 

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. ” (John 15:18 -21)

Why this violent hate?

Jesus is the embodiment of God the Father’s love, justice, and mercy for all humanity.

The Father sent Him to bring healing to the sick. Freedom for the captives. Restoration to the broken. Justice to the victims of injustice. Hope for the hopeless.

Here is the faithful love of God our Creator for His blind, rebellious, and violent creation.

Why would we refuse and reject Him? 

Why would we stomp on His gift of love, violently tear it up, and throw it away? 

Why would we torture and kill the Creator of life?

This is the blind insanity of our self-centered corruption called sin. When we look at the crucifixion of Jesus, we view the depths of our perverse rejection of God.

Yet, in Jesus’s death on the cross we also view the magnitude of God the Father’s undying, relentless, love and grace to rescue each of us no matter how broken, perverse, or evil we are. 

God loves us with a self-giving, sacrificial love even when we fiercely reject Him.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more will be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:8,10)

The Father’s reconciling love in Christ is at work to turn and change our dead, darkened hearts to trust in Him. So when we receive His love by trusting in Jesus, we then become bearers of this reconciling love – this righteousness of God.

Jesus transforms us to look like Him as we follow Him. But this means that we too will face suffering and persecution because of His name and righteousness.

Yes, it will be difficult, dangerous, and even, for some, deadly to follow Jesus. 

But how could we not follow Him? Jesus is our love, our life, and our supreme joy! 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

(Next week we continue with “Blessed are those who are persecuted,” part 2)

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Meet Pastor Chris

  • Hi! My name is Chris Boehnke (a good German name pronounced “Bane-key”). Tracy, my wife, and I have been married for 21 years and God has blessed us with four beautiful children: Joshua (18), Lauren (16), Nathaniel (13), and Mikayla (9). I treasure my wife and family among the greatest gifts God has given me in life. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska – the heartland of the Midwest – by two loving parents, Don and Linda. I grew up attending a conservative but vibrant Lutheran congregation, while also experiencing excursions into other evangelical and charismatic church environments. This exposed me to a breadth of Christian practice and teaching that has incited me over the years to ask a ton of questions and to seek deeper understanding regarding what “the church” is and what it’s central message, “the Gospel,” is all about. While my interests were in art…

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A Congregation of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod