Coming Soon: New and Improved Game Show!

For years I’ve been encouraging the “Catechism Reveiw & Game Show” as a no-more-tears version of the old-school Catechism public examination. There is a great value to having a public examination/review of the catechism. But “tales of shared suffering” should not be among those benefits.

As one pastor friend noted, we have this great gift that we offer to children, that offers the bounties of God’s grace and mercy free of charge, just as soon as they work and suffer for two years, capped by a terrifying trial.

The Catechism Review and Game Show gives a chance for catechumens  to demonstrate that they have learned the catechism, it gives the chance for the congregation to review and re-learn the catechism, and it gives the chance for the whole thing to be done in an upbeat Gospel-oriented atmosphere that is appropriate for the Sacrament of the Altar.

This year, as my last child is about to be admitted to the Sacrament, I thought it would be good to review the questions I use – see if I’ve lost any cards, or if there are any areas that could use a tweak or beefing up.

Wow. I’m glad I did. Either I’ve lost some cards, or I missed some important things. And there’s a few questions that actually answer other questions. I’ll be reviewing those, improving them, and then posting the results with the NEW AND IMPROVED CATECHISM REVIEW AND GAME SHOW that any pastor (or other catechist) can use in the parish.

Of course, it goes best with Teach These Things: Catechesis for the Lutheran Church. But even if you don’t buy that, this gives the framework for a good-time catechism review that the whole congregation can enjoy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sermon for Oculi

For the Old Testament reading today, I used the TLH reading – 2 Samuel 22:1-7

Jesus casts out a demon. He is accused of using demonic powers to do it. “If I cast them out by Beelzeboul, by whom do your sons cast them out?”

The name Beelzeboul comes from the same root word as Baal – that ancient idol from the Old Testament that the Philistines worshipped. Baal is used in so many idol names that it almost becomes a synonym for false gods in the old testament. That’s because it means lord. In this case, Beel – lord zeboul of the house. But Jesus says, such a house can never stand. It must fall. Satan is a false Lord. He promises to give what he does not posses. He calls the good things of God evil, and that which is wicked, he calls good. He twists the word of God, and tries to steal the title of god for himself. He offers that title to humanity, knowing it is not his to give. If only you take the fruit that is able to make you wise like God. If only you fall down and worship him, all the kingdoms of the earth can be yours. He is the strong man, fully armed. And his spoils and riches are the souls entrapped in lives of sin and death.

Jesus is the true Lord of all. He is the stronger man, who comes and takes away all that Satan has – all the armor in which he trusts. All the spoils and riches he thinks are so secure. As we confess in the creed, “Jesus descended into hell…” so Jesus will march into the domain of Satan and burst the the bars of death and the gates of hell.

We aren’t there yet. That’s Easter talk. Today, Lent 3, we have the Gospel reading of the man possessed by the mute demon. The mute demon is cast out by Jesus. But then there is a warning. The people complain that he is casting out demons by the work of the lord of demons. Ridiculous says Jesus. How could that even work. Satan working against himself would be futile. No, this is a work of God. But beware. Even if a demon is cast out, if nothing is put in his place, he will return. That is, even if a person is torn from Satan’s grasp, unless their body and mind and spirit are filled with the things of God, the words and works of God for his people, the Spirit of the living God who dwells in each Christian – unless we are filled with that, then the demons will return. They will come and bring seven even more wicked than themselves. The last state is worse than the first.

Because you had the word of God spoken to cast out the devil to renounce all his works and all his ways, and then, instead of filling yourself with the good things of God, you went after worldly pursuits, desires of the sinful flesh. And instead of the word of God, you were sold the lies of Satan. And so the word of God did not remain in you. You rejected and cast it aside, and now, things are worse than they were to begin with. That is why we pray each week “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Because there is no middle ground between God and Satan. We are either a child of God, holy and righteous in his sight for Jesus sake, filled with the Holy Spirit, or we have rejected that, and are the spoils of war for Satan.

That’s the warning. A few weeks back, we heard the account of the sower, who sowed seed that began to sprout, but, either for lack of roots, or choked by weeds, did not mature and bear fruit. In both cases, the plants withered.

Today, we have even stronger words than that. If we hear the word, receive it, but do not remain in that word of God, do not continue in the way of the spirit of truth, then we open ourselves to be in even worse shape than we were before we believed. As Luther says about the Lord’s Prayer – it is not enough that a person build a city. It must also be defended. So we must defend the word of God that dwells in us from the Devil’s attacks against us. Whether he attacks with difficult times that are difficult to endure, or  the constant press of worldly concerns and social acceptance. We end up rejecting the Spirit of God, the faith that is given as gift, and we go back to our former state – only now it is worse.

We see this in King Saul. The Old Testament reading is a Psalm of David, when he was delivered from his enemies, and from Saul who was trying to kill him. Initially, Saul was blessed by God as king of Israel. But then, he grew arrogant, he ignored the word of God, he intentionally went his own way. And when confronted by God’s prophet, he refused to hear, refused to repent. He stood firm in his sin. He rejected God. And so, he was oppressed by a spirit. He became an enemy of God. Ultimately, he was rejected by God as king, and David was promised the kingdom in his place. Continued impenitence against God and his word resulted in God turning Saul over to his sin. That is a way that God renders judgement even in this world. Turning us over to our sin, confirming us in our impenitence. Saul stands as warning against rejecting the word of God. God patiently bore with him for a time. But not forever. David stands as promise of the grace and mercy of God. Yes, David committed great sins. But he repented of that sin and returned to the Lord. It is one thing to stumble and fall in weakness. It is another to despise the clear command of God, to harden the heart against that word when it is brought to us with the call to repent, to intentionally reject and turn away from what God requires.

In the Epistle reading we hear of the temptations to sin, the things that the devil and world incite us to go after. Paul says “But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” He then warns against crude talk. We are given mouths to praise God, not speak in crude ways. Paul also against covetousness. He calls it idolatry. When we seek those things which God has not given to us, we declare that God has not given us enough. He has not properly provided for us, and so we will get them ourselves. We do not fear, love and trust in God above all things. At one time, we were of the world. But now we are called out of the world, separated from the world, in but not of the world, by the word of Christ, by the washing of water and the word. We have been given our true heavenly Father, who promises to give us all things. We no longer need to go after worldly pursuits. And in 2000 years of so-called advancement, since Paul wrote those words to caution us against fornication and coveting, those are still the two great sins the world offers to Christians to tempt them away from Christ and His Holy Church

That is why we join David in giving praise to God that he has delivered us from the hand of the enemy. The Lord God is our rock and fortress, as David confesses, and as we sang in the sermon hymn. And though waves of death encompass us daily, though the snares of death are all around us, he hears our pleas for mercy. He hears us from his holy temple, and he rescues us.

That is what Jesus tells us at the end of the Gospel reading. For all the warning and danger throughout the reading, he ends with a promise and a blessing. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. That is why we attend to the Word of God diligently as a church, in our families, in our workplace, and in all we do. That is why we take time during the season of Holy Lent for fasting and prayer. That is why we walk again the path to the cross of Christ. Because it was on that cross that he won the salvation of the whole world. It was on the cross that Jesus won the forgiveness for your sins. Rescued you from death hell and the devil. And it is in the word, spoken over you when the water was poured, that you were given the eternal salvation of the cross. In that water you were joined to the cross of Christ, the devil was driven out from you, and the Spirit now dwells within you. Hold fast, guard that promise, that salvation that you have been given, by constancy in the word and prayer.

For Jesus Sake and in his name.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unmasking the Wolf

Over at the Concordia Publishing House blog there is a very timely article by Charlea Shueler: It’s My Church’s Fault I Fell Away. She says,

I had a conversation with a friend who said, “I mean, yeah I was raised Lutheran. But I mean, I’m not anymore. I started really learning about science and social issues and I realized that religion is just so old-fashioned, and my professors couldn’t all be wrong.”

Was it his church’s fault? His parents’? His own? At some point, my friend felt let down. He truly believed that he had been lied to—he hadn’t been prepared—and when he came up against opposition, he didn’t have the foundation to stand firm.

The firm foundation is the Word of God. And in that word we are told about Satan and his lies. The best defense against the lies of Satan is to expose them for what they are. This is called apologetics. And it takes the lies which Satan tries to tell us, and shows that they don’t actually hold together. Not only that they disagree with the Word of God, but that they do not solve whatever problem they claim to solve, even on their own terms.

The best recent example would be the lie that you really want to try out living together before marriage. This is a lie that is still repeated. Pastors hear it all the time. We have 50 years of objective evidence – gathered even by those who despise God’s Word – that tells us this is a lie. You can find books and papers even from secular authors that explain why it is a lie, without ever referencing to the Word of God. For those in the church, we teach our children “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. God’s been saying it since the creation of the world. Satan has been lying about it since the garden. And people listen, because it is what they want to hear.

The biggest institutional lie – one that is government backed – is that we evolved from single celled organisms to human beings with no Divine Creator. Atheist scientists, atheist philosophers, and all manner of thinking people who are not Christian reject that as a laughably inadequate answer. But for children in our schools and universities, they are fed a steady stream of this lie, and Satan ensures there are no dissenters. Can they all be wrong? Well, yes.

<COMMERCIAL ALERT> I have collected a bunch of those lies into one convenient place, and then exposed them. It’s called Evolution: A Defense Against. And you can get it at Lulu  ($10 paperback) or Amazon ($8 Kindle) now.

Miss Schueler asks

So, did your church leave you hanging with unanswered questions and disbelief? Did they hand you to the world not recognizing the hard decisions you now need to make?

The answer doesn’t have to be “Yes”. You can give an answer to the lies of Satan with the Word of God. But it can also be a tremendous help to realize what the lies are. Satan tries to sneak in as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The lies are attractive, and seem to fit in with what we know. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can be hard to spot. A wolf with the sheep’s clothing stripped away is easier to discern.The first step in countering the lies of Satan is knowing what the lies are.  In Evolution: A Defense Against, the lies are exposed.

I will even make the same offer to Miss Schueler that I made to the Saint Louis faculty: If you would like to read Evolution: A Defense Against, and give me honest feedback, I will send you a review copy for free, as a thank you for your work defending the faith. Because, as a pastor, my favorite activity is teaching the Word of God. My second favorite is taking sheepskin off of wolves.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ooo, ooo!

Who has the best readers in the world? This blog. Last night I said I was hoping for a top #100,000 book, today I look and…

Wow! Evolution: A Defense Against sales are not just holding steady, they are taking off! Just a hair’s breadth from the elusive 50,000… do I dare to dream? What will tomorrow bring? You tell me… Click HERE for the Kindle e-book, or HERE for Lulu Paperback.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dreams Can Come True

Two days ago, I noted that my Amazon sales rank was #176,055. I also said that my goal was to have a top #150,000 book on Amazon.

Well, today my dream came true!


That’s right! Thanks to your generous support, I am now a top #150,000 author at Amazon! In fact, I blew right past 150K to settle in at #145.5 K.

This is an exciting moment for me. It makes me wonder if maybe I can crack the top 100,000! It’s a long stretch from where we are today. But I think it could happen. So please, if you’ve purchased it, and you liked it, and you know someone who likes reading e-books, let them know about Evolution: A Defense Against. With your help, another dream could come true…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Country Parson Talks about Safety

I am involved in a discussion over at FB about gun control, mental health, arming teachers, etc. It has been a good, thoughtful discussion with some of my relatives back east. I share one of my comments, because this is what is swirling in my head, as I send my children to school each week day, and enter the pulpit each weekend. I think it makes sense, even without the surrounding context, and I share it here for your consideration. FB doesn’t allow paragraphs in comments, so I have broken it up to make it easier to see.

I ask these questions because, despite calls on the left for “more gun control”, that is not a viable solution in the United States without a change to the Second Amendment. And that will not happen in the foreseeable future. Restricting the purchase of rifles with pistol grips (so-called assault weapons) will stop no one. Semi-automatic weapons can not be reasonably banned, or even restricted, given the massive number of guns already in circulation. A ban would only be on the continued sale of new weapons, not possession of those already out there.

One may wish to change the second amendment, just as one may wish the police could respond faster to such incidents. But I am trying to find common ground based on solutions that could actually realistically happen. Faster police cars? I think that would not provide a faster response. “Voting them out” is not likely to happen, given the historic retention rates of incumbents. Is there a policy proposal that could gain traction to help prevent this?

I’m really trying to wrap my head around possible solutions. But most of what I hear assumes a world we do not live in. “Better parenting” is a great idea. How do we achieve that? Father not in the home comes up time and again in these cases. Should we make divorces harder to get? Is that a policy proposal we should consider and discuss? Would it pass? Anti-depressant drugs come up as a common factor as well. Should we restrict or ban those? Would such a proposal be effective, or possible?

Mental Health is an important issue as well. Can we improve mental health care? Are we willing to give the government more authority to involuntarily commit people for their own (and other’s) safety? Where do we put them? Are we willing to increase spending on that to a degree that it will make a difference? Do we increase taxes, or decrease spending elsewhere, and where would that be? How much will we allocate? Would 50 billion short term, be enough to provide the buildings? 100? What about the ongoing maintenance? That will likely be another 50 or 100 billion / year. Do we raise taxes by 300/per person to cover that?

When you add up the costs of “improving mental health”, I think armed police or teachers would be a far cheaper solution. But that doesn’t treat the mentally ill people who need help. And yet the law greatly restricts involuntary commitments. I am on the local hospital ethics board, and their hands are tied. We need significant changes in the law and in funding models to make “improve mental health” a reality. Is there the political will from the electorate to allow/require elected officials to make those changes? I am not convinced there is.

Gun control is good in theory – if we could actually get rid of all guns. But that’s sort of like “getting rid of all nuclear missiles”. It’s a nice idea, but it simply will not happen. North Korea will not give them up. Do we disarm ourselves to make a point? People in Wyoming will not give up their guns. Even if the political will existed to repeal the second amendment (and it does NOT exist), it would be as effective as prohibition of alcohol was. But it would not lead to bathtub Gin. It would lead to armed resistance. And many in the police or military would likely refuse to carry out orders to confiscate weapons.

Should we put metal detectors in our schools? That would also be almost a billion dollars just for equipment. There would also be the need for armed officers to oversee those. (If the officers are not armed, what would be the point) That would be around 50-100 billion dollars a year.

I am seeking a proposal that has a reasonable chance of passing in the real world, that has a reasonable chance of reducing these incidents. I believe arming teachers that are properly trained, or providing armed police in the building (not the parking lot) are the solutions most likely to be implemented that have a chance of reducing these incidents. True, arming police and arming teachers are two different solutions. But I am willing to discuss either one together or separately. Is there another solution we could find that could be implemented in the reasonably foreseeable future to prevent or significantly reduce the number of these incidents? That is my question.

I then added this as a separate thought:

Perhaps one possibility is that the federal government starts a program that will fund local municipalities to do both/and: provide training for teachers who wish to be armed while also provide armed officers in schools. Communities could choose one or both solutions if they wish. This would give local control to choose which of the two easiest-to-implement, and most-likely to produce good effect (at least I believe them to be) solutions works best for each community. Would that be an acceptable compromise?

Of course, FB works better with “on the fly” comments, not well thought out argumentation, so the above are just my jotted down thoughts mid-conversation. But the comments got too long for FB (even though I pressed <enter> anyway), so I share them here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sticking with it

I’ve been hearing about long shipping times to receive Evolution: A Defense Against. I’ve been hearing about them from myself as well. I do not yet have my own copies in hand. I hate waiting, and it looks like it will be after the weekend before it arrives.

Lulu uses some pretty slow shipping options, to help keep costs low. So far, my package has visited Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Colorado. I’m hoping it heads straight north at this point, instead of doing a few days in LA.

I was tempted to move to Amazon/createspace, which offers prime members 2 day free shipping once an item is printed. But here’s the problem: They require that you not sell it at a lower price anywhere else. And their formula for royalties would mean the price would jump from $10 to $12.50 on both platforms. Lulu offers lots of discount coupon codes. If you put something in your cart and go away, a lot of times they will send you a 20% or 30% off code via email. (Use SHIPIT2018 to get free shipping until the 25th!) I like their business model. And I like that not everything in the world is being run through one company.

So, we learn patience. And I will stay with Lulu. For those who want to read it today, I recommend the Kindle edition.   That is at Amazon, because Kindle. (It’s currently at #176,055 in the amazon ranking. Maybe you could help me achieve my dream of having a top #150,000 Amazon book!) But for those who want to own a real-world copy, sit back and have a cuppa while you wait. And have another when it arrives.

And if you really can’t wait for the paperback, Lulu does offer a faster shipping option for a few dollars more. And because I am not going with Amazon, you can take or leave the higher price. It’s your choice. Happy reading!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments