Evolution: A Defense Against. Sorry to Have Been Right

In my book, Evolution: A Defense Against, I spend the first 111 pages showing that secular materialism (Evolution without interference from a divine being) is not tenable. Then, in the last chapter, I warn against secular materialism as a driving principle for ordering society:

They (Secular Materialists) see life as a struggle for power among groups or classes of people. The strong will survive. The weak will be destroyed. But in this Darwinist hell, the underclasses continually rise up, and must be controlled by various means by the upper classes. If the upper classes fail to control the proletariat, then the fittest survive, the former rulers become the oppressed, and the new rulers become the oppressors, who will also find themselves continually fighting for survival. In such a world, there is no place for family, because family implies love and self sacrifice. Love goes against the Darwinian vision of every being out for its own survival. Virtues such as duty, honor, sacrifice, or love have no place in an arena where only the strong survive.

Such a vision of secular materialism has been tried. Gulags, re-education camps, enforced famines, and mass death have always followed such policies and visions. North Korea continues to severely oppress its own people in an attempt to impose their atheistic utopia. Such a utopian vision is not worth contemplating, let alone instigating….

With no higher purpose than survival, there is no reason to strive for higher virtue, and no cause worth sacrificing for. Unless it brings satisfaction to the individual in some tangible and immediate way, there is no reason to pursue it. Why would there be? In a directionless and random world, you must take what you can get, while you can get it. If that is sexual independence, then one must sow many wild oats. If it is power, then climb the political ladder. If wealth, then amass it. But, in all these things there need be no regard for others. Those whom you crushed in your quest were less fit. The only caveat is you better hope you are not the less fit one.

At the time I wrote it, I feared it was too far fetched. Would people read the book, follow along with the scientific definitions and argumentation, and then at the end say, “NON SEQUITOR! He jumped the Shark!”. I didn’t hear that in the fist two years of the book’s release. And I suspect now I never will.

This saddens me. I wish I had heard people say it. I wish they still would. I would be thrilled to know that such a vision can not realistically happen. But alas, it already is. I mentioned some aspects that were rearing ugly heads at the time. Now, with COVID, we are seeing a full-fledged denial of our humanity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently changed their website (they say it was a migration, and nothing was “scrubbed”). They no longer stress the importance of children seeing faces. Anyone who has ever seen a baby knows the importance of facial expressions. They will mimic them, even changing their mood to match your expression. Peek-a-boo is based on this truth.

Meanwhile, it can’t only be pastors who are noticing the cruel torture and harmful effects the lockdowns are having on the elderly, especially those in nursing homes. If you look up experiments in isolation, you can find a study of Rhesus monkeys – such experiments were considered too brutal for human experimentation. Except the results were so dramatic, they were deemed too unethical even for animal experiments to continue. So ethical scientists don’t perform isolation experiments on animals anymore.

Let me repeat that: ETHICAL SCIENTISTS DON’T PERFORM ISOLATION EXPERIMENTS ON ANIMALS.

And yet we are doing large scale isolation experiments on humans. Not with informed consent, but by fiat from above. Masking and isolation are being imposed. And the masters of these experiments – the “Scientists” whose expertise is beyond question – are materialist monsters who do not bother to follow their own rules.

At the beginning of the lockdown, I heard from a pastor friend who warned me about these men. He said, “They’ve had a plan to lockdown America to fight a supposed pandemic. They published papers on it in the 1990’s, they just haven’t gotten to try it out.” Well, they’ve tried it out. It failed. And now they are doubling and tripling down. They are grasping to hold onto their power. They do not want it to go away.

This is no longer about science in any meaningful sense. Nor are the supposed experts able to explain what expertise they have that says human beings are better locked away from loved ones than being able to see them.

This whole thing is monstrous. And I wish I hadn’t been right. But I knew I was. I wish I hadn’t been right so quickly. But here we are. We need to pray that our leaders be brought to repentance or brought down. And that our nation regain its sanity. We can’t continue to live these lives of isolated despair.

For those who seek a better answer, I recommend going to church. For those who wonder why our leaders are so far removed from reality, I recommend “Evolution: A Defense Against.” The darkness of the soul I describe above is really what many people believe to be true. And in Evolution: A Defense Against, I explain why that dark path is untenable. I think there is a better way. A way of light and truth and beauty.

(Also available on Kindle!)

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Nursing Home Access: Impenetrable Wall

Pastors are still being kept from providing pastoral care to our members in nursing homes. This is obscene, and the laws designed to keep this exact scenario from happening are being used to enforce the policies. It is a truly wicked situation. Members are suffering, and pastors are beginning to show signs of PTSD, at least in my conversations with them. (Except there is nothing “post” about it. The horror drags on.)

I’ve put together the following. It fits on a business card, and can be carried by members. If they are admitted to the hospital or a nursing home, they can show it, and (in theory) the hospital should contact the pastor to do a “compassionate care” visit, even if the facility is under a COVID lockdown. It has two significant limitations: 1) Many nursing home residents aren’t aware enough to show this, and 2) I don’t know if it will work even if they were.

That’s the problem. I’m not a lawyer. The synod has lawyers on retainer. You would think this might be a priority for them. But the truth is, our synod’s leadership isn’t being kept out of nursing homes, because they don’t generally serve congregations. So they don’t even know it’s a problem.

We have a crisis of basic pastoral care. And I’m not hearing much of anything about it from those who are overseers in the church. So, maybe one of my dedicated readers will see this and forward it to someone who can make a difference.

Here’s the proposed card. Front:

And here’s the back:

Here’s the text, in case you want to copy/paste it:

Please Contact The Reverend Martin Luther at ###-###-#### to arrange for a Compassionate Care Visit.
Thank you.

I am requesting access to clergy of my choice in accordance with RFRA and RLUIPA. This is a request for a visit for the purpose of “Compassionate Care”, in order to meet my need for religious and spiritual support, in accordance with federal law and HHS memo Ref #QSO-20-39-NH, which says that “Compassionate Care Visits, and visits required under federal disability rights law, should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status… or an outbreak.”
If you do not believe that this request should be granted, please contact the facility Ombudsman.

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Bible Study Suggestion

A lot of pastors have been reading through Catechetics this summer, and it looks like a fair number will be adopting Teach These Things in the fall for Catechism instruction. That’s great news! Thanks to everyone who has taken a chance on my materials. I appreciate it. And the feedback I’ve gotten makes me more appreciative. I’m glad my materials can help pastors with instructing their members.

But there is another book that has been slowing in sales. I think it may be partly because of the increase in interest with my other books, and partly because Amazon wasn’t listing it even when you type in the title. (I think the latter problem is fixed).

The book is Evolution: A Defense Against. It’s been a bit of a sleeper hit so far. But there are two groups that have responded with – excitement is actually too modest a word. “Voracious excitement”, maybe? And their response means I’m hitting my target.

The first group is pastors with a scientific background. By this I mean more than just “I took Chemistry in College”. I mean pastors who are second career, and their first career was in an active scientific field. This is a small group among our pastors, but an important, and often overlooked one. In many cases, they can and still do engage with the latest scientific literature. That has made them invaluable in the last two years or so, when we were all told to “listen to the science.” They were able to separate fact from fiction, and give us a reasonable and faithful path through the madness. But it also means they know what is being taught and practiced these days in the scientific community, and they know where attacks on the faith are being made.

The other group is high schoolers. They are the ones in the trenches, being taught all of the evolutionary secular-materialist nonsense. The book was written with them in mind. I am honored that they are receiving it well and finding it useful in their struggles against the old-evil-foe. It’s why I wrote the book. It’s why I work hard to bring these sort of materials to market. And why I am making this suggestion to pastors/youth directors, etc.

If you are looking for a book that attacks evolution and modern scientism at its roots, a book that gets to the real problem and shows the prevailing worldview for the naked emperor it is, consider studying – or reading through – Evolution: A Defense Against with your youth. It’s available from Lulu or Amazon for only $9.99. Think again about the two groups most pleased with it: Scientific theologians, and students who must endure hearing about evolution on a daily basis. They are the ones who know what we need to defend. And they are the ones who are responding most positively to my book. That means, I wrote the right book.

If you are a parent, I also recommend it. I guarantee this sort of nonsense is being peddled to your kids starting in kindergarten. If you want to be able to understand and respond to what they are hearing throughout their school years, I think it is a must-read.

You can order it at Lulu HERE, and at Amazon HERE. Happy reading!

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Report on Continuing Education

I sent the following report to the district Continuing Education chairman. For those who desired to attend, but could not, the recordings seem to worked, and I am processing them now. Once they are finished, I’ll let you know how to access them. Report follows:

The Continuing Education Class in Catechesis was held last week on Monday and Tuesday. We looked at classical and progressive educational philosophies, and compared those with the purpose and philosophy of catechesis. We then looked at various models/methods of catechesis, and addressed various challenges to proper catechesis. Tuesday afternoon, we looked at the five-fold use of scripture in preaching, with an eye toward making sermons more catechetical. 

8 men attended, representing 3 circuits in the Wyoming district, and members of two additional districts (MN S, and IA W)

There were 10 hours of instruction. 

The materials were well received, and there was much good discussion during the dinner on Monday. (We had chili. It was also well received.)

I announced that, God Willing, I will be offering a class next year on the topic “Apologetics”. The goal is to look at different types of / approaches to apologetics, and examine how pastors can effectively train their members in apologetics. More information should be available after the first of the year.

I wasn’t sure what, if any report I should make, but thought you’d at least like to know how it went. I can give more details if you desire. 

+INJ+

I realize that’s a pretty boring description, but it will have to do for now. I’ll have more information later, as we get closer to making the lectures available.

Also, for those interested in next year’s class, dates are still TBA, and I didn’t mention it to the district leadership, but I can announce the Monday evening meal will be BBQ pork sandwiches.

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Sermon for Trinity 8

We come to the warning part of the church year. The next few weeks are warnings against false belief. We start out with a direct warning against false teachers. This is a second commandment issue. We learn in the second commandment that we must not curse, swear use satanic arts lie or deceive by God’s name. False teaching is lying in God’s name. True, the second commandment also covers lying under oath in a court of law. But the largest lie in God’s name is when people claim to speak for God and claim to teach his word, but do not. Jesus warns us against this again later in Matthew’s Gospel. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” That’s what happens when someone teaches false doctrine. They speak a commandment from the heart of man as if it were actually from the mouth of God. Their worship is in vain. It does not honor God, it blasphemes him.

This is first of all a warning to pastors. Pastors must be careful that all they teach is the true word of God, and is not mixed with error. Pastors are to be shepherds, not ravening wolves. It’s why our church places such a high value on pastors being trained properly to read and interpret and teach the word faithfully. But it is also a warning to the flock. You must not listen to any teachers that teach falsely. They are not to be brought into the church, and if they are, you need to show them the door. To do this, you must be in the Word, constantly hearing and learning it, and you must also be watchful at all times. And when you hear the word preached to you, you must be like the Christians in Berea in the book of Acts. We are told that they were noble, because “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

This is the standard we follow. When someone brings you the word of God, you are to say, “Is this what the Word of God teaches? Or is it the invention of men?” If it really is the Word of God – you must hear it, learn it, stand by it – even be willing to die for it. If not, if it is really the commandment of man masquerading as the doctrines of God, then you must not listen to it, and you must be willing to fight against it with all you have. This may be as simple as saying, “That is not what the Word teaches.” But it may also be that you must give up even your life. Paul talks about this in our Epistle in Romans – comforting us with these words, “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Our sufferings in this world are not worth being compared to the glory that is to come. So no matter what may happen as a result of our good confession, we willingly make that confession of faith. The Word of God is that important.

And if it were just that the Word were important on its own merits, that would be enough. God said it, he is the creator of the universe, he made us and still provides for us, and protects and defends us in order that we would thank and praise serve and obey him. So God saying it is certainly enough reason to fight and if necessary die for the truth.

But there is more to it than even that. Jesus also talks about the fruit of the teaching. False teaching bears bad fruit. The true doctrine bears good fruit. That’s another reason to be careful. Fresh fruit ready to be eaten is a wonderful thing. But how immediately disgusting if you find out the fruit has gone bad. And it isn’t ever just one piece. You know that bad fruit destroys the fruit around it. That’s why we must be careful. Because false teaching infects and destroys all it touches, and the bad teaching continues to spoil as it moves outward, turning more and more away from the word and promise of salvation given by our Lord Jesus Christ.

So how do we recognize the bad fruit of false teaching, before it destroys us? That’s the real challenge.

But here we are also helped by our Lord. The fruit of the prophet or preacher is those who follow. And where do they follow? Where does the teaching lead? To whom do they look for salvation? And what sort of salvation are they looking towards? Does it lead to human wisdom and human works, or to love of God and our neighbor – in that order.

Today there are a lot of prosperity preachers – if you just send me $10, then God will return it a hundred fold & you will have many dollars. But that’s just greed. Even if they were not just lying to get their grubby hands on your money, the fruit of their teaching is “more money for you!”. It’s turning you away from God to what you get for you. That’s not the love of God and your neighbor at all. That’s building an earthly kingdom of wealth – and wealth is quickly undone.

Back during the battle for the bible, the false teachers came with words we knew – freedom of theGospel,but they didn’t at all mean the same thing. They wanted to use freedom as freedom to decide what parts of God’s word to listen to, and what parts to ignore. That leads to self-regard and self-importance, not to love for God and his word.  And that’s what Jesus means by “They come in sheeps clothing.” They come with words that sound familiar, but they use them differently. That’s why it’s important for us to be in the Word of God, to know our catechism. Because that pattern of speaking is important. And if others come – even if they come with words we recognize – but they come with a different way of using those words – that is not the pattern of sound words, it will not lead to the true fruit of the Gospel. It is a thornbush and a thistle. Bad fruit. It will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

We never know where the next wolf will try and sneak in. We can’t pick the battles. But we know the Lord is with us. This is also a great consolation. It is why we pray that God would give us the strength. We prayed, “We can not do anything that is good without you, so by your Spirit, may we be enabled to live according to your will.” We must turn to the strength which God gives us, not our own strength. That is the only way to win the battles against the ravening wolves and their false doctrines.

Remember the famous account of King David in 1 Samuel 17 – long before he was king he was a shepherd boy for his father. And he was given the task of watching the sheep. Simple enough. Until a bear came, and a lion came. And he killed them both with nothing but a slingshot. Not because he was so strong, but because he had been given strength by God to fulfill his task. His Father told him to watch the sheep. He obeyed, and so his work was pleasing to God. And when that lion and bear came, he trusted in God. So when Goliath was taunting the armies of Israel and no one dared to fight him, David saw it and was mad. He wasn’t a solider in the army. He was delivering food to his brothers – who were all bigger and stronger than him. But it was scrawny little David who said, “I’ll fight him.” He was too small to fit in armor, so he went up against the great giant in his shepherd’s outfit. No protection of any kind. One blow with Goliath’s sword, and he was done for. David wasn’t afraid. Because unlike the armies of Israel that looked at the might of the Philistines and the size of Goliath’s sword, David looked at the might of the Lord who was fighting for him. God gave him the victory over goliath. David had picked up five smooth stones. He only needed one.  Goliath fell at the first shot, and David killed him with his own sword.

That’s the promise we have from God. That even though we are overmatched, we will not be overcome. Don’t take it as a promise of an easy life. Jesus says ravening wolves coming to destroy. Paul says “Suffer with him.” Jesus was crucified. But it was in his death – his total defeat – that he won the absolute victory. In his death, he won the forgiveness of sins for you. He beat back death, and broke its power. Even Satan and Hell are thrown down, and their reign is finished. That’s how it is for God’s people. We don’t win until we have been defeated. That’s when God gives the victory. Because that’s when we know that it was him, not our own efforts, that won it for us. And so we turn to the rock and refuge, the mighty fortress, instead of to ourselves. So that even if we forfeit our lives for the sake of the Gospel, we know there is a crown of life that awaits. We go from this shadow life to the real life of God in Christ Jesus. The more we are defeated, the more we win the victory.

And that’s why we must have the word preached purely.  So that our victory in Christ Jesus is not turned to us and our own works. We can not win. Only Christ Jesus can do that.

In Luther’s day there were men who wandered about teaching and preaching their own thoughts. Luther called them “Infiltrating and clandestine” preachers. They brought their bibles along, and said a lot of the right things. They were impressive and dramatic and a lot of people were taken in. Luther writes and says, “Where is their call? Who called them to teach.” And he actually quotes the verse in our Old Testament lesson, “”I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” That’s why the church still calls pastors today. The pastor says “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you your sins…” But why does he say that? Because in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, the church called him. It’s a Divine Call from God. Not from any one person. The congregation, advised by the District, and supported by the other pastors in the area all  act together in God’s stead to get to point of calling a faithful pastor. No one person does it. That is also a great comfort – especially when congregations or pastors go through tough times. It means the pastor is God’s servant in your midst. He isn’t just setting up his own thoughts. So you can know that the forgiveness he brings is Christ’s forgiveness, not his own. That was the problem in Jeremiah’s day. Men coming claiming a vision and saying, “Everything will be fine.” Jeremiah came with the Word of God and said, “Jerusalem will be destroyed if you do not repent.” And the people didn’t like what he said, so they didn’t listen to him. And Jerusalem was destroyed, just as God had said through Jeremiah the prophet. In Luther’s day many came claiming a vision. Luther points to that word of Jeremiah. Did God send you?

This leads to another question – How can you know that your congregation teaches the truth? Today there are a lot of options out there – you can find a church that will tickle whatever fancy you have. Will say whatever you want to hear. But we are warned by Jesus to listen only to his word, and only to pay attention to those who speak that word, and to listen to no one else. That’s why we spend so much time making sure pastors are able to teach rightly, that they are properly called, and ordained and installed in accordance with God’s will.

The fruit of our Lord’s word is an eternal inheritance. The fruit of the false teachers is self-involvement, trusting in your own works, or merits or decisions. That leads finally to death and condemnation. We have such a great treasure from our Lord Jesus – forgiveness, life, and salvation in him. Let us not despise or neglect such a great treasure as this. Let us trust always in his death for the forgiveness of our sins, and not in our own works or merits.

In Jesus name.

Amen.

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Sermon for Trinity 7

Here is my sermon from Sunday, in case you were unable to make it to church. If you were able to make it to church but didn’t go, I recommend that you make a greater effort to be there this coming Sunday.

God provides. It’s a lesson we learn our entire lives. And yet, it’s one that we already know. We learn it even when we are little children. We teach it to our children. But this world is so difficult and so distracting, that it never hurts us to learn it again. This week, we hear the feeding of the 4000 and get to learn it even better. And that’s a good thing.

There are two miraculous feedings in Jesus ministry. He feeds the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. That’s the 4th Sunday in Lent. And then in midsummer we have Jesus feeding the 4000 with seven loaves and a few fish. The 5000 gets more attention. Relatively speaking it’s a greater miracle. More people fed with less food. But a miracle already breaks the rules for how things work in this world. We can’t just magic up some food. So, it could be feeding 100 with those seven loaves, we are still not able to fill stomachs without going somewhere to get more. A miracle, however small, is still miraculous, still proof of Jesus divine power. It’s why the world rejects the idea of miracles. But these are not some children’s games. The people in Jesus day weren’t backwater rubes, easily fooled. They saw the lame walk, the blind see, the dead raised. And today, they feel their stomach’s filled. Jesus can make food at will, because he is the Word of God, who was with God in the beginning when all things were made. Without him, nothing was made that has been made.

So our Old Testament reading – the creation of Man and the planting of Eden – is about the work of our Lord Jesus Christ just as much as the feeding of the 4000 is. There was nothing, then God spoke and it was. The heavens and the earth, the sun moon and stars, the sea and land, the animals, plants, birds, fish. It was all created by the Word of God. Jesus was there. And when God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, Jesus was a part of that divine conversation. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is far greater and deeper than the mystery of seven loaves and a few fish. And yet we confess this great mystery – the Father who creates, the Son who is with him in the creation, who is the Word of God itself calling forth light from darkness, and who was there when the Man was formed out of the dust of the ground, when the garden was planted in Eden. Our heavenly Father provides for us. But so does the Son. We can’t separate the work of one from the other in that way, as if the Father is the only one active in creation. John tells us in the Christmas reading, “The Word was with God and the Word was God, and all things were made through him, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

Here is God, dwelling among us. Bread isn’t a hard thing for Jesus. He made the ground produce every tree that is good for food. Not by going out and planting seeds, but by an act of his will. He willed it, and the trees came into being. Now, the plants produce the seeds to keep the food production going year after year, because God created them to do so. It’s all the work of God.

So, by the time we get to the desolate place with the 4000 and the seven loaves and a few fish, God has been providing for humanity’s needs for a few thousand years already. Each stalk of wheat, each new lamb or calf, each apple, all given by him. The disciples don’t know how they can possibly feed the people – even though Jesus has already done the feeding of the 5,000. So he repeats himself. He feeds the 4,000. Do you get it now? Food or no food is all the same to him.

This brings us to another point – Jesus can make food anytime he wants. When he turns down the temptation of Satan, “If you are the Son of God command these stones to become bread” – we see that he is not under the rule of Satan like we are. He has not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. That’s why he endures the 40 days with no food. Not because he can’t create food out of stones. But he hasn’t come to be comforted in his body and fattened up. Instead, he fasts nearly to the point of death. He has come to teach and perform signs and wonders not for his convenience, but as a sign that Jesus is the promised one from heaven, so that when he is killed on that cross, we would know that he died for us. That’s why Jesus came, and it’s what he does.

So, his own comfort and need, he denies. Others in need – he is distraught. He really is. He says “I have Compassion on the crowd…” The word for Compassion – is Splanknizomai. It’s the word for when you are so concerned about your neighbor that you feel a sinking feeling in your stomach. These people are about to pass out. He can see they are worried, they realize now what a mistake they made, and they are trying to figure out how to get safely back home. He is filled with hurt for them. He wants to help them.

These are people who came with him into the desert to hear him speak. They listened for three days – they ate all their food. You can almost hear them three days earlier, “This is certainly enough. We’ll be back tomorrow, maybe the next day at the latest. Otherwise, the basket will be too heavy.” And off they go. Listening to Jesus teach. What an example they are to us – listening for three days. He would have long since healed all the sick – they were in a desolate place, not a city where more and more would keep coming. They wanted to hear and learn the Word of God. May our ears be so attentive, may our hearts be open to receive the Word and promise of God at all times.

Three days in, this is going from pleasant jaunt into the fields straight to “potential catastrophe.” Jesus is moved with compassion for the crowd. And so, he tells the disciples to feed them. Gather some food, hand it to me, and wait while I multiply it. But that’s not how they see it. Not enough food here. We can’t feed them all.

It’s one thing to say, I trust in the Lord. It’s another to trust in him against all evidence and even what your own eyes see and your own reason tells you must be true. We don’t see miracles now like they did then. Don’t plant, the grain doesn’t grow. Don’t work, the food isn’t on the table. He doesn’t arrange for miraculous feedings like this anymore.

But then, he only did it twice in his ministry. And both times there were other reasons for it. It wasn’t because he was planning some food-commune where the people bowed down and then every day at 8, noon and 6 a meal was placed before them. They try that after the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus heads for the hills – literally. Now, he heads for the lake. He feeds them, then sends them on their way. This is the conclusion of the instruction. He crosses over the sea of galilee, and is immediately questioned by the Pharisees. They want a sign from heaven. He refuses and warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees – which is a warning against false doctrine. The disciples think he’s giving baking tips, and complaining because they didn’t bring bread with them. Jesus next words are worth hearing – even though they are right after our reading.

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

This isn’t about food. The feeding of the 5000, the feeding of the 4000, was never about food. It was about God providing for his people. Jesus doesn’t need loaves. “We didn’t bring bread!” – they still can’t see beyond the things of this world. That will eventually change. Once the death and resurrection of Jesus are finished, once the Spirit descends on them, then disciples will be the apostles – the witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. And they will proclaim him boldly, and will suffer much for the sake of the Gospel.

Now, we have this account recorded for us, so that we would not doubt the goodness of the Lord in our own day, when unbelief runs so rampant, and hearts are cold, and prayers are weak. We have this example so that we would set our minds on things above, not the things of this earth.

We spend our whole lives learning this lesson – that God provides for us and takes care of us and will never forsake us. And we learn it so that at the end, when we face death, we will not believe what our eyes see and our ears hear even as they fail, but we will know of the resurrection. We practice this at funerals – we lower the body into the ground in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. We practice this at the Divine Service, “Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen the salvation that thou hast prepared in the sight of all people.” That salvation is the body and blood of the Lord that we just took into our mouths at his command. We are given life through that promise.

We practice this because Satan never stops lying to us. “Did God really say?” Did he say “do this often in remembrance of me”. Aren’t we fine without this word and promise? Isn’t our faith strong enough to do without the services of the church? And he’ll wait until the end and say “Did God really say that if you repent and you turn away from sin then your sins are forgiven?” “Because you didn’t really turn away from your sin did you?”

And that’s when we must trust not what our eyes see or ears hear, or even our minds perceive, but we must trust the word and promise of our Lord Jesus who was there when we were formed from the dust, and who not only created, but recreated us in his death and resurrection. We must see with the eyes of faith that when Christ forgives sins through his Holy Church, those sins are forgiven. The guilt is taken away. And there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

And that’s the true lesson behind all of this. God provides for us. He provides food and shelter and clothing. So also He provides us with the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, he takes the sin away and gives us life in place of death. And our eyes can not see that in this world. Not until he returns and raises us to the new life he has promised us in his own resurrection. That’s why we confess this new life in the creeds, and why we continue to hear and learn that God does provide for us. So that we would not get caught up in the things of this world, but set our eyes, our minds, our hearts on things above.

So that, as we learn to trust him for daily bread, which he provides each day, so also we would learn that is gracious and merciful to forgive our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and to raise us up on the last day.

Grant this Lord, unto us all.

Amen.

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Inflationary Fear Porn

One of the important things about the Liturgy is that it is constant. It is always there, always forgiving, always consoling, always comforting, always guiding, always instructing. It does its job, and it does it so well, it is a mirror of heaven. It is always right (and rite!), and allows us to lose ourselves in the beauty of the love and mercy of our heavenly Father.

Years ago, during the worship wars, (Even from their beginning) those who defended the liturgy pointed out that, if the goal was to excite, you would need ever larger excitements, ever larger thrills, ever larger insanities, to keep people interested. And so it is that a recent video showed a guy wiping out on his motorcylce in the church service.

But this is not just true in the church. It’s true for everything. If you go with the big, the wild, the amazing(!) you must continually get bigger, wilder, amazinger, until finally, you can’t rationally continue. But if profits are driven by this creed, the only option is to become irrational.

As a pastor, I don’t recall a time when people have been so frightened / enraged / enthralled by the news. Sure, in a conversation over coffee the news might come up. “Have you seen… So tragic…” *Sad head shake and sigh* Now, people are greeting me with “Pastor, have you heard the latest…”

The problem is the news is not neutral. It doesn’t exist to inform. It exists to make a profit. No profits = no high paying jobs. As has been said, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Twenty years ago, a Chicago station was going to report substantive news, using famous anchors with high name recognition. Five months later, they were cancelled, and the news was back to reporting warehouse fires and traffic accidents.

Nowadays, with Orangemanbad out of office, news ratings have collapsed. So what to do? Up the outrage factor to 11. And if that doesn’t work, up it to 111, or 1111, or even (and we are quickly approaching this) “Infinity… Plus One.” And so politicians are – not ironically – invoking the Nazis. On both sides of the aisle it’s happening. Reporters are breathlessly reporting the latest outrage, and the outrage grows. You can listen on the left or right and here about the other side: Riots! Looting! Corruption! Scandal! LISTEN FOR ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES TO THIS LIFE-CHANGING NEWS THAT CAN’T WAIT, right after this word from our sponsor. DO NOT TURN OFF THE TV BEFORE LISTENING TO THIS WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR!

It’s nonsense. Turn it off. Seriously. If we are to survive as a nation, the thing we most need is to turn off the news. Stop giving them power over your emotional state. You’ll get anxious for the first few days – “What is going on? We need to know!” your mind will scream at you. Ignore it. Mow the lawn, take a walk, read a book, build a shelf, fix a fence, do anything else. Watch a John Wayne movie. Watch literally anything else. But stay away from the news for a couple of weeks, and see if things don’t return to normal. The world is starting to burn. But if we all just turn off the outrage porn, maybe we can contain the fires, and put them out in time.

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“But what About Symposium?”

Every time I object to Lutheran conferences inviting non-Lutheran speakers, I get “well-akshuallied” with the Fort Wayne seminary symposium. Theology is the art of making distinctions, and the failure of even pastors to understand this distinction is indicative of our own inability to do theology. Hopefully I can explain things clearly.

The sheep are to be fed. They are not to be knowingly exposed to wolves because these particular wolves are interesting or have big names that draw lots of crowds. Pastors feed their sheep. They defend against wolves. If we are to come together as the church, we do so as the church, with faithful pastors and teachers to instruct faithfully. In the words of one of my members “Pastor, why would do they invite a X to speak? If we wanted to be taught by X, we would join the X church!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

But what about Symposium?

Symposium isn’t a free conference in the classical Lutheran sense. Those are conferences where Lutherans get together to exchange ideas for teaching the faith, to identify problems (heresies) that have arisen in the world, and to offer solutions. That’s a free conference.

Historically there is one area where one might invite a heretic to speak. A disputation. The seminary hosts a disputation each year. Highly regarded men from around the world are brought in, they give a paper to explain their own position, and a seminary professor has a chance to respond to them. At least in the old days, this was how it worked. It might not be a direct attack, but if something was in error, it was dealt with by the professors in a later paper. That the papers were generally prepared ahead of time showed how well informed the professors were about what was being taught. It wasn’t a chance for the seminary community to be taught by them, but to hear what they were teaching and respond to it. Professors graciously acknowledged areas of agreement, and respectfully pointed out areas of disagreement. This was a useful exercise for future pastors, because we could see how to respond to those who only partially confess the truth, and train our minds to see the line between truth and error – even and especially in those who are charismatic speakers.

I would never have believed how much a heretic Richard John Neuhaus was, had I not heard him give his testimony to the symposium at the seminary. He was graciously received, but by the end, it was obvious why he was no longer a part of our church, and his errors were manifestly evident to all. It was a clarifying moment. I didn’t need to hear a professor respond to him on that occasion, though I got an earful in my classes later that week.

So, why don’t we call them disputations, and invite laity? Several reasons.

1) They aren’t disputations. There is no response to error. The people arrive assuming they will be instructed and fed, not challenged and required to be on the defensive. Nor are most laity (and apparently a few pastors) trained to distinguish between the two.
2) At the seminary, the biases are acknowledged and on display – “Dr. John Doe, Professor at this denomination seminary”. We know where they are coming from. At lay-conferences, it is sometimes impossible to learn what church a person even belongs to. I once spent FOUR HOURS trying to track down the affiliation of a speaker at a conference, to no avail. I was assured that they were well qualified to speak, endorsed by so-and-so. Turns out, so-and-so endorsed someone else who couldn’t make it. They had never heard of this guy. Also turns out the guy said some pretty terrible things at the conference. That’s why I warned my congregation away from it.
3) We don’t know what they will say. An expert on evolution may suddenly (and it has happened) veer into Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. This is why we don’t invite people to speak at our churches who just want to hand out bibles. Because they also speak about other topics and once they are up there, we can’t stop them.
4) Pastors are called to be shepherds – that is to face the dangers of the wolves, and to protect their people from those wolves. We must learn the ins and outs of heresies. But if our people are untroubled by the heresies, we don’t even need to teach them about it, lest it become a scandal to them. Why in the name of all that is holy and proper would we intentionally invite a wolf to speak and expose our sheep wolvish doctrine, especially if it is a person who presents the error well?
5) Yes, it is mean of me to call them wolves. But if you don’t think those who confess errors as the truth are wolves, then you really need to brush up on your theology (Try John 10, and the Large Catechism on the 2nd Commandment) and you should NOT be planning conferences of any sort. That’s the explicitly scriptural and confessional definition. And if you disagree with that definition, let me know. Because it means I have another wolf to protect the sheep from.

SHEPHERDS DON’T INVITE WOLVES TO FEED THEIR SHEEP.

Yes, the church can plan disputations. I’ve seen them, even at the lay level done well. But it is different than a conference. And in such cases, they need to be clearly identified as such, as the Symposium is. The speakers need to be clearly identified by their church membership (or whatever false teaching they will represent), and it needs to be on our terms – that is, we get the final response. I’ll never forget the words of one Reformed speaker at Symposium, who was only half-joking, “We need to hate each other intelligently.” For that, a disputation can serve a good purpose. It can also serve to help sheep who are being led astray to see the truth and reject the errors which have ensnared them. But if the goal is instruction, catechesis, edification, etc. of the laity, then keep the speakers true. If not, you are violating the second commandment. And that’s still a sin.

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The Pattern of Sound Words: Let Neighbor Remain Neighbor

I’m doing research for my continuing ed class on Catechesis. (Message or email me if you’d like to attend. There is still room!) I’ve been looking through the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, and I noticed something. Scripture talks of our neighbor. Because of this, the Lutheran Confessions also speak of our neighbor. The Large Catechism (the best ethical treatise ever written outside of Scripture) is fairly thick with it. But in the Roman Catechism the language isn’t neighbor. It’s society.

It may not seem a big difference. But it is.

Neighbor is a person. He stands in a relationship to me. And there is proximity to neighbor. It doesn’t only mean the guy in the house next to mine, although it does include him. Neighbor is all of the people God has placed near my calling and station in life. So, first is spouse, then children, parents, siblings, people on my block, co-workers, local authorities, etc. etc. It moves outward from me. And the largest responsibility I have is to those closest – those whom God has placed in my station and calling. I am responsible to feed my children each day. If my neighbor is hungry, I am responsible to help him get food. But (except in extraordinary circumstances) I don’t provide food each day. I may help him to find a job, or give him the occasional cup of sugar when he runs out. I do help the poor in my local place by giving to the local food bank. But I don’t cook the food for them and then watch them eat it. I do that for my kids. You get the idea.

Neighbor keeps everything in its proper place.

Human Society is the whole big general mish mash of people on earth. It is the man in the house next to me as much as it is the man who lives on the opposite side of the globe – and certainly no less. All of society works together(?). And if society is a thing, then I have a responsibility to this Human Society. The problem is, that can’t be quantified. Because it is everywhere, it is also nowhere. It doesn’t end, so it also can’t have a beginning.

And because it is everywhere, and I am responsible to everyone in everyplace, it causes all manner of mischief.  For example, if my neighbor is a drunkard, I can provide assistance to him to help him stay on the wagon. I can drive him to meetings, I can offer support to him in his struggle. But if society has a problem with alcoholism, then the solution is to pass a law banning the demon rum. Prohibition is born of such nanny-state do-goodism. But those solutions never work. Well intentioned though they may be (and I would argue quite often they aren’t even well intentioned), such ideas always cause more harm than they do good: the law of unintended consequences.

Also, because I am here in this place, I should not presume to understand how to solve the problems your neighbor has in your place. My town does not have a large contingent of homeless people. Yours does. According to the doctrine of neighbor, I should help the poor in my place, and leave you to help the poor in your place. According to the doctrine of society, I can start dictating how you must solve your homeless problem, because it is mine as well. It doesn’t really matter that I have no clue what has caused it, or how to solve it. The point is the intention. And those intentions end up far astray.

We have seen prohibitionists (alcohol, tobacco, soda pop, salt, monounsaturated fats, etc.),  moral majorities, social justice warriors,  teenage climate warriors, etc. None of them has ever done the least amount of good, but they have done much harm. How much better the entire society would be if I showed love to my neighbors, and you showed love to yours, and we left it at the scriptural definition.

Ah, you say, you are going too far with your analogy. It need not be that way. We can certainly teach our young about society without drifting into crazed social justice. Think of the good we can do by working for the improvement of society!

I give you the three headings in this section of the Roman Catechism, in order:

1) The Person and Society
2) Participation in Social Life
3) Social Justice.

While Rome may not intend the same meaning as Social Justice Warriors in our day, it is all of the same cloth. Social Justice Warriors didn’t arise independent of the ideas in the Roman Catechism (Though they usually renounce Roman doctrine), and they didn’t pick the name out of a hat. It is just a little bit farther down the path of the same error.  Lutherans have rejected “social justice” since society first started talking about it. And we have done so for a reason. We have a neighbor. And we show love to him. That’s enough of a responsibility, and by keeping the language straight, we keep our doctrine intact.

Let’s keep our neighbor as our neighbor. It will solve a lot of problems, and prevent many more. The world can try and improve society, and stay up late at night stewing over injustice. Lutherans help and serve their neighbor during the day, then we say our prayers, and go to sleep at once and in good cheer.

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Teaching the Catechism

Evidently this is the time of year when pastors figure out what they are going to be teaching for next year. And evidently, there are pastors who are 1) dissatisfied with the current materials they use and 2) are talking to people who are using “Teach These Things: Catechesis for the Lutheran Parish.”

How do I know this? Because all of a sudden, after a quiet year, I am seeing more sales. They are, figuratively speaking, through the roof. For the last several years sales have been consistent but slow. Every few weeks someone buys a copy. In the last month, I’ve seen sales of both the print-at-home e-edition (Download it HERE) and the already-printed-and-bound version through Lulu. (Order HERE I don’t have an Amazon version because it doesn’t work well as a regular paperback. The Lulu one is spiral bound so it can lay-flat while you teach.)

If you know someone who is struggling with catechesis, or might benefit from looking at things a little differently, now is the time to recommend a change. Apparently, with COVID finally receding, people are looking at doing things differently. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback over the years about Teach These Things. Maybe now is the time to give it a try.

PS. If you are interested in the principles behind Teach These Things, then you should try Catechetics, Fixing Confirmation. That’s available at Amazon or Lulu.

PPS. If you are interested in learning more about catechesis, and eating locally sourced chili while talking to the author, then you should attend the Continuing Education Class in Pine Bluffs this August 2-3. It’s only $50 for the class. If you leave a comment, Pastor Winter will contact you via email about registering for the class. If you want to learn more, here’s a flyer:

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