Friday, December 31, 2021

Thoughts on Psalm 46

The Last Judgment - Cranach the Elder
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:2-3).

God isn't going to stop the earth from giving way, or the mountains from falling. Not ultimately.

In fact, He is going to cause it to happen on the Last Day, when Our Lord Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. He will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God. The dead in Christ will rise first. Those who are alive at His coming will be caught up to meet Him in the air. "And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

That's when the earth will melt, and the mountains will fall, and seas will foam, and why we won't be afraid.

We don't have to be afraid because we are in Jesus. We are part of His body. We are safely concealed inside the fortress, the God of Jacob, by our baptism into Christ.

This is the help God gives His people at break of day. His city, Zion, wherein He dwells is set apart. It is holy (v 4). When Jesus lifts His voice and the earth melts, the city of God's people will not fall. This is also how He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth (v. 9). He doesn't do it by diplomatic means. He doesn't put a magic spell on everyone to suddenly make them nice. He judges the wicked. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear. He burns the shields with fire.

Knowing the heavens will disappear with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare, we should look forward to this day of God. We should wait for it eagerly, living godly lives that are set apart from the unbelieving world (2 Peter 3:10-13).

But living life soberly isn't being afraid.

We don't need to be afraid. Not of the end of the world. Not of war. Not of economic collapse. Not of disease. Not of our death. Not of anything. We belong to Christ. He bought us with His holy, precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death on the cross. We will live under Him in His kingdom. We will serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. No more sin, no more death, no more devil.

We will look on from inside His mighty fortress as He carries out His judgment, and throws the devil, death, and all the wicked into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 7-15).

We will rejoice as He remakes creation anew. ###

Women's Ordination?

Herman Sasse was one of the foremost confessional Lutheran theologians of the 20th Century. Sasse was born in Germany in 1895. He survived service in the Great War and went on to earn a master's degree in theology. He taught at the University of Erlangen in Germany, where he participated in the ecumenical movement. Sasse, Bonhoeffer, Niemoeller, and others opposed the Nazis and spoke out about their mistreatment of the Jews. He survived the Nazi era because he was a popular lecturer, and the dean of the university where he worked was able to protect him. After World War 2, Sasse left Germany for Australia, where he was instrumental in creating the Lutheran Church of Australia. He died in 1976.

Sasse was committed to the idea that scripture is the divinely inspired word of God. Throughout the debates on the role of women in the church during the 1960s, Sasse did not pull any punches. In his essay, "Women's Ordination?", he briefly discussed the development and spread of women's ordination throughout the church in Europe and Australia and why it needed to be resisted.

Sasse wrote that the so-called liberation of women has been good for society. It has also influenced the Church in many good ways. Now there are female teachers, physicians, and women working in a wide range of professions who previously would have been excluded from those jobs by virtue of their sex. Now that women have access to other areas previously denied them, the movement has focused on the pastoral office, something perceived to be one of the last strongholds of male superiority. The office of Pastor, however, is different from other vocations. There is a scriptural prohibition against women holding that office.

In America, groups like the Salvation Army, the Quakers, some Pentecostal, Methodist, and Congregational churches had female ministers. In Germany, the first step down the path to women's ordination was taken with the introduction of female vicars. Their job was "to minister to women in institutions" and assist pastors. However, the female vicars crept into full ministry roles during the war when men were not available.

Acceptance of female pastors happened in the German Protestant church by years and years of decay and compromise and by the loss of Biblical authority. Because of the influence of rationalism and the acceptance of the higher critical method of Biblical interpretation, Sasse says that the pastoral office was changed. It became an academic office instead of a spiritual one. The pastor gradually became something more like a professor or philosopher rather than one who cared for souls. While there were indeed some hold-outs, the matter of women's ordination has been settled in the German Protestant churches for a long time.

In the Swedish state church, where pastors are considered civil servants, there was a disconnect between the bishops, the government, and the laity. They are appointed by the king. Liberal politicians worked to change the law to allow for female pastors. Less radical church leaders did not fight against the changes because they thought such a contentious debate on the role of women would destroy the church. The moderates figured if they could preserve the church's structure, it would remain a means for proclaiming the Gospel, even with women's ordination. This faction consoled itself by believing that the ordination of women did not hinder the Gospel and that only a man-made law was being removed.

Contrary to the Swedish bishops, however, the laity reacted strongly against the ordination of women. Confessional clergymen organized against women's ordination. There was still disunity among the confessional Lutherans and confusion about their actual goals. At the lay level, however, the issue was simple. The average laymen might not have been able to understand precisely how a given heterodox preacher was deviating from scripture and the confessions when delivering his long and erudite sermon. When, however, he saw a lady at the altar in contradiction to the plain reading of God's word, he knew that something was wrong.

This apparent contradiction between the concept of women's ordination and the plain reading of scripture, which was clear to the average layman, is the foundation of Sasse's argument.

It is to this idea which, in good Lutheran fashion, Sasse appeals. He says there is no need to make human arguments against women's ordination. God's word plainly excludes women from the office of the holy ministry. Paul explicitly excludes women from the ministry in his first letter to Timothy. He makes clear that this prohibition is universal, i.e., binding for all Christian congregations of all times, in his first letter to the Corinthians.

To those who would cite Galatians 3:28 to try and justify the ordination of women, Sasse says it is a twisting of God's word. Galatians 3:28 is talking about salvation, not the pastoral office. It does not do away with the difference between male and female, in the sense that the differences between male and female are meaningless and that all roles are now unisex. There is no contradiction between Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 14:32-40. In terms of His saving grace, Christ makes no distinction between male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, etc. In terms of the Church carrying out its functions of proclaiming the Word and administering the Sacraments, Galatians 3:28 does not apply.

It all comes down to whether or not you believe God's word is true. The words of scripture are plain and simple to understand in the vast majority of cases. The corrupt mind of a sinful man can rationalize any explanation he wants to make him comfortable in his sin. We human beings are adept at twisting God's word to explain why what we do contrary to God's commands is OK. With issues like women's ordination, scripture is clear. The pastoral office is forbidden to them. But we want to ordain women, so we say Paul was a misogynist. We twist Paul's words and make him argue against himself. That was a cultural prohibition, not a theological one. Sure, his words are plain and meant what they said when they were written, and in that particular place, but they don't mean that for us today.

Doesn't that sound like Satan's original lie to Adam and Eve? Did God really say...?

Sasse concludes that female pastors are deceived and misled. He calls on all to pray for them and that Christ would abide with us and cause the light of His word always to shine among us and illumine us.

God can and does work for the good of those who love Him. God can bring blessing from unlawful ministerial acts. However, that does not make the ordination of women contrary to God's word acceptable. We should not count on such a blessing, especially when we deliberately and knowingly act contrary to what God has told us. Sasse warns faithful Christians not to attend churches that have embraced the ordination of women to the pastoral office, even out of curiosity. They certainly should not kneel at their altars for the Lord's Supper.

At who's altar you kneel, their doctrine you confess. ###

Friday, December 24, 2021

I Am the Alpha and the Omega

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8).

This is Jesus telling John that He is Yahweh. Yahweh, often rendered in our Bibles as the Lord, is who we encounter in Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth...

John already knew this, of course. John's Gospel, like the other three Gospels, is littered with accounts of Jesus confronting His people with this fact. Jesus is telling John so that John can continue to tell us.

Jesus told the Jews to whom He came that He was God in many different ways. One way Jesus does this in John's Gospel is by saying "I am". I am the true vine. I am the bread of life. I am the door. Before Abraham was, I Am. This is significant because God revealed His name to Moses as "I Am Who I Am". In other words, He is God, the self-existent one. He is the one who is, who was, and who always has been.

The Jews understood that Jesus was calling Himself God by calling Himself "I Am" and they tried to stone Him for it. That was the penalty for such blasphemy, recorded in Holy Scripture.

Except that it isn't blasphemy if Jesus claims it, because He is Immanuel, God with us. 

This is the same message Jesus and the disciples preached: God came into human flesh as a man and died on the cross for us, as the ransom for our sin, so we could have forgiveness and eternal life.

This message is what Christianity is.

That Jesus is God incarnate is the only reason what He says is binding. If He were not God, His words would have no more weight or authority than those of other teachers. If Jesus is just a man, then His commands are just opinions. You know what they say about opinions.

So, do we listen to Jesus? If He is God, we had better. Jesus' resurrection proves that He is. 

But what He tells us is not a list of rules to follow to please Him. He doesn't give us tasks to accomplish to make ourselves better, or to atone for our own sin. He tells us that He is God, and He has taken away the guilt of our sin by the shedding of His own blood. He offers that gift to us when we hear people proclaim His message, when people are baptized into Him, His death, and His resurrection, and when they eat His body and drink His blood in the Lord's Supper. He empowers us, through His Word, by the working of His Spirit, to believe it, and to turn away from our sin. He makes us who were dead in our trespasses - really and truly spiritually, damned-for-all-eternity dead - alive.

Only God can do that. ###

Friday, December 17, 2021

The Sin and Doom of Godless Men

I read a devotional resource recently which used as the kernel for its brief message Jude 16:
These men are grumblers and fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
It was a be-a-better-person message recalling the image of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Don't be a grumbler, boasting about yourself like Scrooge. There was redemption for him. He changed to be more likable. Because of Christ's birth, we can be transformed too.[1]

Indeed, we may be transformed by Christ. But what kind of transformation? Christ wasn't born into this world to provide us with a good example to follow, though He certainly also is that. Christ was born into this world to die on the cross as the ransom for many, the sinless sacrifice for our sin. Jesus was born into this world so that we could have eternal life.

The transformation we have in Jesus is from being dead in our sins, to being alive in Him. The being-nicer is a by-product of that, and it certainly isn't of primary importance.

Be advised: I say this, of course, being a cantankerous person.

Anyway, Jude 16 isn't about people who are crabby during the holidays. It isn't about Scrooges being convinced to treat their Bob Cratchets better. It's about false Christians. Apostates. The final judgment. It's about the Christian life in this fallen world and calling us Christians to persevere in the faith in the midst of it.

Jude is talking about the sin and doom of godless men.

Jude is warning the Church about apostates. Jude is reminding all of us of the warnings of the Apostles: that false teachers, false prophets, false apostles, and false christs would come and would deceive many people.

This is the consistent message of all the Apostles: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. He did this for you. Now, act like the new man that you are. Love and serve your neighbor. Gather together to hear God's word. Pray. Baptize. Eat Our Lord's body and blood, proclaiming His death until He comes. Watch your life and doctrine. Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.

The men who are, as Jude calls them, grumblers and fault-finders who follow their own evil desires; who boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

We can rest assured, however, that these godless men will be convicted of all their ungodly acts when the Lord Jesus returns with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone on the Last Day.

He calls us to persevere. What does that look like? First off, according to Jude, it looks like remembering what we have been told already about the state of things and acknowledging it is true. We have been told that scoffers would come, and follow their ungodly desires. They would divide the Church. Second, knowing and acknowledging this, "build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit." Gather together to hear God's word and to receive His gifts in His sacraments. Call upon His name in trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

End Notes

[1] Gunn, Scott, editor. 2021. "Forward Day by Day: Daily Devotions for Disciples." Devotion for Friday, December 3. Cincinnati: Forward Movement, an agency of the Episcopal Church.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Some Thoughts on the Carnivore Diet

I bought the book, "The Carnivore Diet" by Shawn Baker, MD after hearing Rev. Jonathan Fisk talk about it in episode 011 of his podcast "Stop the White Noise," Pain and Crosses. Overall, it was a good read. I got through it in a couple of days. There is certainly a lot of good information in it for someone looking into the carnivore diet (as I am).

Rev. Fisk has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pounds living this new carnivorous lifestyle, and is, according to his own testimony, the healthiest he has ever been.
He's even learning jujitsu now.

By contrast, I'm a fat guy who likes to eat sugar and sit in a chair. I get winded thinking about jujitsu. I knew that before I began reading the book, so I didn't need the hard sell to be convinced my lifestyle wasn't optimal.

It all seems to make so much sense, especially the way Dr. Baker lays it out. He is certainly spot-on in his assessment of how the pharmaceutical industry, along with food-processing corporations and animal rights activist groups, control what our diet looks like today. They all have interests in telling Americans and the world what to eat. That the developed world is being pushed toward a plant-based diet by the powers that be, as Dr. Baker discusses, seems obvious to me as well.

Even White Castle has a version of the Impossible Burger.

That this push toward a plant-based diet has its roots in the religious beliefs of the Seventh-Day Adventists is not as obvious, but the information is there for the reading. Dr. Baker points the reader in the right direction to learn about that interesting development.

The basic premise of carnivore is simple. Human beings don't need to eat plant material. We didn't evolve to digest fiber. All we need is meat, fat, water, and salt. Dr. Baker goes through the science of the carnivore diet theory. He answers common objections to the diet in a rational way, and casts reasonable doubts on the settled truths of the nutritional community. He also confronts vegetarian and vegan opponents head-on about the health claims they make for their respective lifestyles. I'm not going to get into all the arguments. I encourage anyone who is interested in these things to buy the book. It is interesting and worth the time to read.

There are a couple things I just can't get my head around, though.

Foremost is the issue that the human digestive system is more similar to that of cats and dogs, in that it isn't designed to process plant material (fiber). Along with that is Dr. Baker's belief in evolution being responsible for this. To be clear, Dr. Baker says that humans are able to extract some nutrition from plant material, but we weren't intended to use plants (i.e. fruits, vegetables, and grains) as our primary source of nutrition. That role is supposed to be filled by meat. 

While discussing nutrition, Rev. Fisk said that it is amazing that God would use two things that are poisonous to us - alcohol and bread - to save us. Perhaps it is a bit of hyperbole and I'm just taking it too literally. Certainly, we eat too much carbohydrates. I'm not sure I am ready to classify bread as poisonous.

Clearly, plants, including bread made from grain, have been integral to man's diet throughout history. This is what scripture records both before and after the flood.

According to the Bible, man started out as a vegetarian. First, God put man in a garden after He created him. He gave Adam and Eve "the trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food" (Genesis 2:8-9; 16). After the Fall, because of the curse man had to eat the plants of the field by the sweat of his brow, "through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life" (Genesis 3:17-19).

After the flood, however, God gave man animals as food: "The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything" (Genesis 9:2-3).

God did, of course, give some rules for the eating of meat. But I don't think God's covenant with Noah indicates that we were changed so that we couldn't eat plants and had to only eat meat.

Notably, God feeds the Israelites with the bread from heaven, manna, while they are in the wilderness during the Exodus. He also gives them meat in the form of quail when they complain about having to eat the manna. This certainly was miraculous, and God could have also miraculously made them able to digest bread without a problem, just as He caused their clothes not to wear out. Maybe today's bread is different from our old-fashioned breads from Bible times. Obviously, manna is different from the loaf of pre-sliced Butternut white bread that we buy at Walmart. And, maybe manna is called the bread of heaven in a figurative sense, and it is really some other substance entirely. It is definitely a symbol of Jesus, who is the true bread from heaven. This is what He explains to His followers in John 6 that causes them to abandon Him.

Jesus also feeds the multitudes with loaves of bread on two separate occasions. Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). All of these things seem to indicate that, rather than changing mankind from being an herbivore to a carnivore, God made us omnivores after the flood. We are able to digest both bread and meat.

Is our American diet screwed up? For sure. Are we being manipulated to eat processed crap which isn't good for us so corporations and politicians can make money and have power? I think so. Is sugar a powerfully addictive drug? Yes. I had a much more difficult time quitting tobacco than going 24 hours without a candy bar, which was stunning to me (I wish that was an exaggeration).

Of course, if you believe, contrary to the laws of thermodynamics, that the universe created itself spontaneously out of nothing, and man evolved upward from a state of simplicity to states of greater and greater complexity contrary to entropy over a period of millions of years, you more than likely disregard what the Bible has to say about many things, including man's diet.

Anyway, if you are interested in nutrition things, check out this book. It was interesting. ###

Friday, December 3, 2021

Notes on “COVID Vaccines and Fertility”: An Issues, Etc. Interview with Lyman Stone

Summary: Lyman Stone, of Demographic Intelligence, discusses the issues of COVID-19 vaccines and whether or not there is evidence they affect fertility. Mr. Stone suggests that, after collecting data for more than nine months, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines negatively affect fertility, or cause miscarriage. Mr. Stone believes that contracting COVID-19 is a bigger risk to the health and survival of a baby in-utero than receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. There are ethical concerns surrounding the vaccines since fetal cell lines are used in their development, manufacturing, and testing. For this reason, individuals should be careful to look at all the available data regarding the vaccines and should be allowed to make their own choice of whether or not to be vaccinated.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a public database to report adverse reactions after receiving a vaccine. VAERS only became widely known during the pandemic. It has existed for decades. There is, however, no verification process for claims. People can report that anything happened.

To pharmaceutical companies, vaccines are important, but they don’t make a lot of money on them. They are often “loss leaders.” Pharmaceutical companies pay into a fund designed to pay out for adverse reaction claims. There is a low standard of evidence for adjudicating these claims.

Hospitals are legally required to report to VAERS. The database has experienced a rise in private reports during the pandemic.

The general public has expressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines and their possible effects on fertility and pregnancy. This is probably because people remember the problems surrounding drugs such as Thalidomide. These issues were horrific, highly publicized, and deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness. Also, drug trials are generally not conducted on pregnant women for ethical reasons, so data is lacking. In April 2021, before the vaccines were widely in use, these concerns were reasonable.

As of November 2021, there are dozens of studies examining COVID-19 vaccines and their effect on fertility. During randomized control trials, all the involved pharmaceutical companies were required to report miscarriages among the population of pregnant women who were vaccinated. The study showed that incidents of miscarriage were lower among vaccinated pregnant women than among non-vaccinated pregnant women. Approximately 60,000 women took part in these randomized control trials. About 24 became pregnant.

Since COVID-19 vaccines have been in use, there has not been an excess of miscarriages. In fact, Mr. Stone says that there has been a slight baby boom from the pandemic.

VAERS included 2,000 reports of miscarriage. There have been between 200,000 and 300,000 pregnant women vaccinated since the vaccines received emergency approval for use. That works out to a miscarriage rate of approximately 1%. The regular rate of miscarriage for the general population is about 15%.

It is harder to test whether or not the vaccines affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. One of the reasons is that such a study would need approximately nine months to a year of follow-up. Enough time to properly assess this issue has not yet elapsed. There have been roughly six studies at IVF clinics that examined the survival of human embryos implanted in vaccinated women versus those implanted in un-vaccinated women. So far, there has been no difference in the survival rates.

The vaccine can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle in the short term. Usually, those using hormonal birth control or hormone therapy for other reasons are affected. The data shows that these groups can experience a disruption in their menstrual cycle for a month, but it subsequently returns to normal.

Moreover, according to Mr. Stone, none of the COVID-19 vaccines contain synctocin-1 or similar chemicals, which have been of concern to those skeptical of vaccines.

COVID-19 itself has risks for pregnancy. According to a large population study out of California, COVID-19 infection in pregnant women increases the odds of low birth weight and early delivery. This makes sense for a respiratory disease that has the tendency to reduce blood/oxygen levels.

COVID-19 is not good for babies in the womb. After more than a year of vaccinations and increasing data, there are fewer concerns about the vaccines harming fertility. People should take care not to follow bad advice from the internet, but they should be allowed to make their own decision on whether or not to be vaccinated.

Mr. Stone believes that the United States should leave the World Health Organization. He says that the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are not trustworthy. When deciding whether or not to become vaccinated, he advises individuals to cite studies and look at data, not just what the CDC says. One must look at actual data and where it came from.

Mr. Stone is concerned about abortive cell lines in vaccine production. A lot of other vaccines, however, also use abortive cell lines. This usually means that the vaccine was tested on fetal cells, not that the vaccine contains fetal cells to be injected into a person’s body. Mr. Stone admits that such testing is a huge ethical problem. It equates to the dismemberment of children for medical research. We can’t, however, have a double standard, Mr. Stone says. If we are going to refuse the COVID-19 vaccines, for this reason, we must also reject the others, like the chickenpox vaccine.

Mr. Stone unequivocally stated that the harvesting of fetal cells should stop. The cell lines used to produce these vaccines, however, are old. “It’s not like they were harvested yesterday,” Mr. Stone said. None of the cells were inside a human being. In fact, they are approximately 80 generations away from the aborted baby. While this is ethically worrying, Mr. Stone says that it is not the same as abortions performed today. While we should ban fetal cell harvesting, Mr. Stone questions whether existing fetal cell lines should be abandoned.

Chinese vaccines contain fetal cells. mRNA vaccines use them in research, development, and testing. The Lozier institute provides a comprehensive list of all the vaccines and their connection with fetal cell lines.

There are alternate versions of many vaccines which do not make use of fetal cell lines. Pharmaceutical companies also do not want to use fetal cell lines for many different reasons. Chief among those reasons is that they are hard to work with. Their use also comes with a lot of bad press. They use them, however, because they are effective. mRNA technology is a big step in doing away with using fetal cells in the production of pharmaceuticals. ###


Friday, November 26, 2021

Civil Disobedience

This is not something
the Founding Fathers would have worn.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:2)

It isn't wrong for Christians to engage in civil disobedience. That isn't what Paul is saying to the Romans.

If we aren't we should be doing so. We should be worshipping in defiance of gathering restrictions and masking mandates because these things are paving the way for further violations of our religious liberties.

We should obey God rather than men. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, it made sense to follow the government's recommendations. No one knew what we were actually dealing with and there wasn't any data to go by. After the BLM riots in June 2020, however, circumstances changed. When government officials encouraged the riots because systemic racism in American society was a bigger concern than COVID-19, the proverbial cat was let out of the bag. All of a sudden the governing authorities were not worried about mass gatherings of people without masks and social distancing. They weren't worried about super-spreader events.

That's because the pandemic restrictions were much more about controlling our thoughts, words, and deeds than they were about public health.

Before you point to Romans 13 and Paul's words about submitting to the governing authorities, remember that the Roman Empire in which Paul found himself and the United States of America aren't the same, regardless of what the Marxist history professors say. At the very least, they shouldn't be held up as a 1:1 comparison.

Our government isn't like the government of the Roman Empire. In our system, the people are the governing authorities. It's even written down in the Constitution. Our elected officials are supposed to protect the civil liberties which God has given mankind. When they fail to do this, the people have the right under the Constitution to alter or abolish that government. Usually, we do this by holding elections. Sometimes other actions are necessary.

The issue is that American Christians are looking for a type of persecution that is unlikely to come, and we're ignoring the creeping persecution which actually threatens us. We are waiting for jack-booted thugs to come to our doors and order us to turn over our Bibles at the point of a gun.

But the kind of persecution we are dealing with isn't harsh and violent yet. It's soft and bureaucratic.

Our governing authorities won't directly say "stop worshipping", not yet. Instead, they will progressively change conditions in society by passing laws that paint Christian beliefs and morality as fringe and racist. They will use the media to propagandize the masses into right-think, as they have done so successfully over the past decades until it becomes impossible to worship openly.

Mask mandates are a part of this process.

And, if we keep allowing this type of soft tyranny, it won't be long before the hard tyranny is knocking on our doors, figuratively and literally.

And before I'm reminded for the 56th time today, I know George Washington mandated smallpox vaccinations in the Continental Army. This is not the same situation as that was. 

Mask mandates should be defied because they don't stop transmission of COVID-19, and no thinking person actually thinks that they are protected while wearing a mask. What they actually do is create divisions between people. They make people suspicious of each other, and keep them separated. They make Christians hesitate when it is time to gather around word and sacrament. It is more than an inconvenience. They stifle worship.

Also, this disease is not smallpox.

Another part of Romans 13 that we also shouldn't forget about, however, is the part about the governing authorities bearing the sword for a purpose. If we engage in civil disobedience we need to be prepared to accept the consequences of our actions. The legitimate governing authorities may legally punish us for breaking the law. And, if they do, we must submit to that punishment including, segregation, ridicule, persecution, arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and if it comes to it, death.

I'm not saying that we should volunteer to be thrown to the lions in the coliseum over compelled mask-wearing. Pushing back against an unjust mask mandate is relatively easy, though. If these circumstances are allowed to stand without opposition, things will only get worse. The next infringement will be more difficult to stand against.

If we aren't willing to push back now, we are less likely to do it when the stakes are higher. ###

Friday, November 19, 2021

Jesus Drives Out an Evil Spirit

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching - and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)

Mark records what happened when Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. There is a lot packed into this brief account. Jesus stuns the people by teaching with divine authority. He heals a demon-possessed man. We might not immediately understand how these events relate to us today, but they serve the same function for us as they did for the people gathered with Jesus in person.

The events of Mark 1:21-28 happened right after Jesus was rejected at Nazareth, His hometown. That’s when He told the people gathered in that synagogue He was the fulfillment of the prophets, specifically a prophecy of Isaiah, and the people tried to kill Him for claiming to be divine. Mark didn’t record what Jesus taught in this instance, just what happened. It is, however, a pretty good bet it was the same message He proclaimed in Nazareth: The kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe the Gospel.

Jesus was different. He taught with authority. That’s what drove everybody so crazy.

Jesus didn’t teach like the other rabbis of His time. He didn’t cite other teachers to support the things He said. He did not say “thus saith the LORD” like a prophet speaking on God’s behalf. He spoke like He was God Himself speaking directly to the people.

Because He is God in human flesh.

Jesus taught as the authority Himself. It is the difference between a physics teacher teaching a class about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and Einstein teaching it himself. Those two classes would sound different.

Jesus says that all the prophecies about the Messiah refer to Him. He is the God who created the universe and set up the plan of salvation for mankind. Jesus is saying He is the one who told Adam and Eve the first Gospel. He directed and inspired the prophets. Now He was there in the world. In the flesh.

But Jesus doesn’t just say He has divine authority, He demonstrates it. He casts out a demon from a possessed man.

The exorcism Jesus performs shows both Jesus’ compassion and His authority to say the things that He said. He does this a lot, like when He heals the paralytic, feeds the multitudes, and clams the storm.

The temporal salvation Jesus granted this man who was demon-possessed is a shadow of Jesus’ larger work for all mankind. Jesus came to free all mankind from sin, death, and the devil by sacrificing Himself to pay for all sins on the cross. And, like all of Jesus’ miracles, this exorcism testifies to the truth of Jesus’ message and the authenticity of His claims to be God.

Jesus ordered the demon which possessed the man in the synagogue to be quiet because Satan is not a proper witness. Satan is the father of lies. He is a murderer from the beginning. Jesus’ reputation would be suspect if He allowed Satan to vouch for who Jesus was through His demon minions. Moreover, if Jesus would have allowed the testimony of the demon to stand and to claim the title of Messiah openly at that time, the people would have tried to make Him king.

The time for that revelation was not right. The people, including the disciples, were looking for a political savior to lead a rebellion and establish an independent earthly kingdom.

We don’t need new signs and wonders to believe in Jesus. We don’t need personal revelations. We have the word of God which shows us our sin and calls us to repentance. We have Jesus’ words and the record of the miracles He performed. Scripture is a trustworthy record. We hear Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of God has come in Him, and that He has come to pay for all our sins and give us eternal life recorded for us by the evangelists. We can rejoice that in Jesus, God’s promises are fulfilled, our sins are forgiven, and creation is restored.

We hear Him along with those people who heard Him in Nazareth and Capernaum.

Let’s repent of our sinful desire to reject Him, and believe the good news Jesus brings us. ###

Friday, November 12, 2021

Grains of Wheat

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it produces much grain (John 12:24).
Jesus is talking about death.

Specifically, He is talking about His death. He is the grain of wheat. He is the Seed that dies and bears much fruit. Like a seed, Jesus will be planted in the ground after He is crucified and killed. He will grow up out of the earth like a plant on the third day.

This is why Paul calls Jesus the first fruits of the resurrection. All those people who are in Jesus will also get planted in the ground like seeds when they die. Because we have been connected to Jesus in our baptism, the things Jesus has and has done belong to us. Because we are baptized into Jesus, when He was crucified, it is like we were crucified. It is the same for His resurrection. We are in Him, and He gives us what He has. His death and His resurrection are ours. We will come back to life when He raises us up on the Last Day. That resurrection will be the full crop of which Jesus was the first-fruits.

This promise of resurrection into a glorious body like the one Jesus has is one of the main reasons Christians bury their dead the way that they do.

We act according to the things we believe. Conversely, the things we believe shape the way we act. It's why Christians have, generally speaking, rejected the practice of cremation throughout history. The pagans burned their dead. If you were a pagan who believed your soul went to an underworld, and you wouldn't need your body anymore, cremation kind of makes sense. But if you believe that God will raise up that same body that went into the grave one day when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, if you believe you will enter into eternity in a newly-made creation free from sin and death in a now-glorified body that will last forever, as Christians believe, cremation makes less sense.

Your body is important. It is who you are. It is to be cared for, even in death. Your soul will be reunited with it one day.

Christian burial is symbolic of burying the seed, out of which new life will grow, in the ground. It is a confession of what we believe will happen. Our burial practices are a confession that we believe God's promise of eternal life in Christ.

At the grave, the pastor usually prays to God that He would keep the remains of the Christian until the resurrection. This doesn't mean that God can't or won't raise a Christian who was cremated, lost at sea, or eaten by a bear or something. We believe in a God who created the universe by speaking it into existence in six days. Our hope is His promise in Christ that He forgives our sins and will raise us from the dead to live forever with Him.

Why should it be so hard to believe that God could reassemble the atoms of our bodies long after they have been destroyed, or have decayed into dust?

In John 12, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His death on the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. They don't yet understand all of this, but they soon will. And, they will go from hiding in fear of the Sanhedrin to openly defying all of those who would threaten them with death for proclaiming the Gospel. Why? They saw the resurrected Jesus. They knew He was God in human flesh. They knew that, even if they were killed Jesus would make them alive again.

They had nothing to fear.

Neither do we. ###

Friday, November 5, 2021

Subject to Judgment

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment (Matthew 5:22).

I am super subject to judgment.

I spend a lot of time angry, as anyone who knows me will agree. A lot of the time my anger is amusing. It may or may not even be slightly amplified as part of a bit sometimes. Sometimes it is righteous, like when I'm battling corruption and injustice. Seriously though, there is a such thing as righteous anger. We all like to portray our own anger as that kind. But I digress. That isn't what we are discussing now.

Once in a while, however, it becomes really clear how hurtful and destructive my anger toward another person can be, and why I should get out of the habit of being comfortable getting angry.

Those times that we think our angry reaction is funny, justified, or just normal still ends up hurting people. Then, consider Jesus specifically says He doesn't want us to be angry with our enemies. We should forgive them the way He did. All of a sudden that, "Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect" standard seems less and less attainable.

That's one of the main points of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

The divine standard of perfection isn't attainable. We keep lying to ourselves and acting like it is. When we fall short of it, our reaction is not to admit our wrongdoing. We instead justify however we failed so that there is a good excuse for not hitting the mark. Sure, I lost my temper and got angry like Jesus warned me not to do, but I had a good reason. The person I yelled at said something stupid. They made me angry.

What a lie. The only person who makes you do anything is you yourself.

But, this is human nature after the Fall.

In fact, this is exactly what Adam and Eve did when God confronted them with their sin. Satan, in the form of a serpent tempted our first parents to disobey God. When God asked Adam about it He tried to blame his wife. When God confronted Eve, she blamed the serpent for tricking her. Sure, Satan is the cause of sin and death entering the world. But Adam went along with it. That's why Paul says death entered the world through one man, Adam.

What I'm trying to say is, they tried to deflect the blame for what they did. It didn't help.

The problem is sin in general, and with anger specifically, is with us. If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But, if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Not because we confessed our sins, per se, but because of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

We can't control others, but we can work to control ourselves. We can work to live by the Spirit. We can try to stop acting like we did when we were led by our sinful nature. We can cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul says, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:24-25).

And when we fall out of step with the Spirit and sin, we confess it. We repent of it. And we believe that we are forgiven because of Jesus. Jesus, working by the power of the Holy Spirit through His word makes us able to do this.

Before my confessional Lutheran brothers out there say it, I am not advocating works-righteousness. It isn't works-righteousness to try and act better. It is to remember baptism, to return to it, and to drown the Old Adam, who still clings to your flesh and wants you to act like an ass.

It is sanctification. Even the Lutheran Confessions say that the regenerate man can cooperate with the Spirit.

Something else important to keep in mind: Just because you feel sorry for what you did, acknowledge it, and maybe even apologize for it doesn't mean that other people will accept it. Your repentance may not fix the things that happened. In fact, it probably won't. You may have caused irreparable damage, and you may have to live with it. If a murderer murders someone and feels remorse for his crime, he may truly repent of his sin. If God works this repentance in him, his sin is forgiven and he will be raised to life with all the faithful on the Last Day. It won't bring back the victim, repair the broken lives, relieve the trauma, or get him out of being punished for his crime. There are real temporal and eternal consequences to sin.

And Jesus says that to be angry with our brother is to murder him.

He also told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you, "...that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. [God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:44-45).

That fact shouldn't discourage us, though. Jesus told us that in this world we would have suffering and trouble. We can be encouraged, though, because Jesus has overcome the world by His death and resurrection. ###

Friday, October 29, 2021

I Love Big Brother

I stopped wearing a mask several months ago.

There is enough scientific evidence to convince me I should be more worried about the possible health consequences of wearing a mask all my waking life than the dangers of contracting COVID-19 (from which I have already recovered). Couple that with absolute lack of evidence that masks stop transmission of the disease and the incredible hypocrisy of the elites who institute such draconian mandates, and I've had enough. I'm done wearing masks. Either I will not wear one, or I won't go to places that require them, even if that is incredibly inconvenient.

I thought everyone else around me was done as well. They certainly complained about it enough. All my friends and colleagues expressed staunch support for my civil disobedience. Imagine my surprise when I was the only person at work and in my neighborhood to stop wearing a mask indoors, in deliberate disobedience to the inconsistent and ridiculous mandates. Everyone likes to talk a good game, but no one wants to subject themselves to the slightest possibility of discomfort or conflict, even if it means retaking control of their lives.

Civil disobedience only works, however, if it is coordinated and undertaken by large groups of citizens. Mine has failed.

So, I give up. No one is following me. They are content to do as their progressive overlords demand and grumble about it quietly behind their face diapers. I can't continue to fight a one-man battle against the usurpers of our civil liberties.

Especially since I have now been beaten down back into my place. The powers that be have finally taken notice of my pathetic attempt at civil disobedience and cut me off at the knees. If I weren't alone in my defiance, there might have been a chance for it to succeed.

Mel Gibson's movie "The Patriot," tells the story of one patriot standing against the oppressive regime, fighting single-handedly to save his family and his country. There are two problems: 1) it is fiction, and 2) the character on whom The Patriot is loosely based, Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox), had an organized network of other patriots to support him in his resistance.

And that is something I don't have. A network of support. Watching Fox News, sharing conservative links on Facebook and Twitter, and making snide passive-aggressive comments about Democrats under your breath when someone comments about inflation or the price of gas may make conservatives feel smugly superior, but it doesn't actually do anything to help.

No one person can be successful in resisting the government. He may at some point be vindicated in his beliefs, but he will first be crushed.

I don't mean to be hyperbolic. I'm not saying I'm on the level of an American founding father because I don't put on a mask when I walk into Target. The stakes aren't that high yet.


That's the thing that discourages me the most, I suppose. If we aren't willing to push back against this relatively moderate infringement of our rights by refusing to wear a mask in public, who in their right mind thinks any significant number of people will resist serious oppression, if and when it comes?

We are talking about mask mandates, which the vast majority of people subject to them rightly think are ridiculous.

I know for a fact that the vast majority of people around whom I live and with whom I work think they are ridiculous. I know my family thinks they are stupid. We literally talk about it all the time.

Nevertheless, everyone continues to submit to them. It's just easier that way, I get it. But it's only more manageable in the short term. It's less of a hassle to get into the Walmart or to go buy stamps. But when you look around a year or two later, and everyone is still wearing masks without a thought, only now you're required to get the vaccine and like it or else you'll lose your job, and people who dare to ask common-sense questions like, "If the vaccine is supposed to protect you and you get one, how am I a threat to you if I don't?" are called fringe lunatics, and you can't go places without showing the government-directed corporate Gestapo your vaccine start to realize that maybe we, as a society, should have pumped the brakes on this whole thing a lot sooner.

That's something we could have done...something we could still be doing by refusing to abide by ridiculous indoor mask mandates. This march toward total domination of the individual by the State will only end when we, as free people, decide that it will end.

But I quit. I'm out.

I've now been formally ordered to submit. I will spare the gory details, but I have now concluded that I have no reasonable alternative but to comply. If all the people who had hushed subversive conversations with me about how stupid the mask thing was would have translated their words into actions, things might be different for us all. But they didn't, and they're not. I held out as long as I could, but without broader support, I now capitulate.

Perhaps in the end, before the bullet enters my brain, I to will also win the victory over myself and come to love Big Brother, in addition to just submitting to him. ###

Friday, October 22, 2021

Notes on "Why I Don't Get Involved in the Creation Debate"

    I believe in a literal six 24-hour day creation. I think the creation account given in Genesis is to be read plainly and understood as presented.

    Generally speaking, the old Synodical Conference Lutherans believed in the literal six 24-hour days of creation.

    According to Rev. Jordan Cooper, other American Confessional Lutherans who were not affiliated with the Synodical Conference did not necessarily hold this view. (Cooper, 2018) These were not the followers of Schmucker, or other unorthodox Lutherans in America. He describes them as Confessional Lutherans who believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. They believed that Moses wrote the Torah. They believed that Jesus was a real person, that He was God incarnate, that He was really crucified to death, and that He truly, bodily rose from the dead. These were men like Charles Porterfield Krauth and Henry Jacobs. (Cooper, 2018)

    To generalize, the reason these non-Synodical Conference Lutherans held to a more figurative view of creation had to do with how they understood the genre of Genesis. Today the debate over a six-literal-days creationism in Lutheranism is framed more between confessional versus liberal. Rev. Dr. Cooper suggests this probably has to do with the fact that confessional Lutheranism in America today is defined and shaped by the old Synodical Conference, and the synods of which it was comprised, most notably the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. (Cooper, 2018)

    Like Dr. Cooper, I also don't like to get involved in this debate because I just can't wrap my brain around it. Maybe this is because I am a life-long member of the LCMS and have been thoroughly indoctrinated into that way of thinking.

     If, however, you are willing to believe in an omnipotent God who can create the universe ex nihilo by speaking it into existence, why would you think that He couldn't do so in the time period of six literal 24 hour days? A plain reading of the text would suggest this. We aren't dealing with a poetic or an apocalyptic writing fraught with symbols to be interpreted.

     The other choice is that God created the world in a different way than He recorded through Moses in Genesis, but He didn't want to tell us for...reasons.

     This seems like the same kind of argument the Jehovah's Witnesses make for their interpretation of Jesus' resurrection. They say that Jesus' body did not rise from the dead. His resurrection was spiritual, they say. He could vanish and walk though closed doors. He could materialize and de-materialize at will, not unlike the angels, manifesting a body when they needed one. When you point out His post-resurrection appearances, they tell you that Jesus made it look like it was His body so that the disciples would believe.

     Your word is truth, Lord. I believe this is another instance of men who believe the supernatural working of God in this world to be an impossibility trying to rationalize Scripture. Your word is truth, Lord. With man this is impossible. With God, all things are possible. Even creating the world out of nothing by speaking it into existence over the course of six literal 24-hour days. Even raising the dead.

    This is, in fact, the entire hope of the Christian. For if Christ is not raised, we are still in our sins, and our faith is in vain. We are to be pitied more than all other men.

    And at the heart of the denial of the six-day creation is the denial of God's word. It is us giving in to the devil's one and only question, the question he asked Eve in the garden. The question he continues to whisper into our ears today: Did God really say...?

    If he can get us to deny what God really said, he can get us to separate ourselves from God. And, while I will not say it is impossible to believe in Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world while believing the creation account of Genesis to be figurative, I would caution that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. The end of that road of denying the miracles of God and subordinating God's word to man's rationality is loss of faith. It will ultimately lead to the denial of Christ's propitiatory death for the sins of the world, and His bodily resurrection from the dead. ###


Cooper, Jordan B. 2018. "Why I don't Get Involved in the Creation Debate." October 17, 2018. YouTube. 

Friday, October 15, 2021


    So, now that we all admit that we are idolaters, what do we do about it?

    We could do what iconoclasts (literally image-breakers) have done throughout the centuries to combat idolatry: smash the images to tiny bits, and then burn the tiny bits to ash. That’s what the iconoclasts back in the Byzantine Empire did. That’s what many Germans did during the Lutheran Reformation. Luther distanced himself from his one-time friend, radical reformer Karlstadt over this issue. Karlstadt advocated for the removal of all images and this incited iconoclastic riots all over Germany.

    The problem, however, isn’t necessarily with the images, it’s with people. It is a problem with our will. We naturally want things that aren’t good. We are given Christ, the image of the invisible God: Christ crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. Instead, we want anything and everything else. Most of all, we want to indulge the desires of our flesh. We want to be happy. We want to feel good. We want those things right now. The talking picture box in our homes and pockets gives us a steady diet of things which we think will accomplish this, and we plug it directly into our brains.

    So, what is the answer? Are we supposed to rip our televisions and computers out of the wall and smash them to bits?

    I mean, watching less cable news and fewer Tictoks is always good. The point, however, is not to reject technology or to become a hermit. There were plenty of people who worshiped idols before the invention of the television. We are still the same sinners when we isolate ourselves from society.

    The point is to recognize that we want the idol to make us comfortable and fulfill our desires. Our flesh wants more than daily bread. That desire for evil over good comes from inside our own hearts. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells the crowds to cut off their hands if their hands cause them to sin. His point was that it isn’t your hand that causes you to steal or murder. It is your heart that causes those things.

    We can’t cut out our hearts, can we?

    No, but we don’t have to. Jesus has already done that for all of mankind on the cross. He is calling us to repent, and believe the good news. By the washing of water and the word Jesus washes away our sin. He uses ordinary water and the hands of a pastor to do it, but it is Jesus’ death and resurrection that gives the power. In baptism He applies His word of promise to us directly. He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.

    He makes us, who were dead in our sins, alive in Him. ###

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. (Mark 1:9-13)

    Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism demonstrates the triune nature of God. 
    God is three persons: The Father spoke from heaven and declared His love and approval of the Son. The Son, incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and made man, coming out of the Jordan River to begin His work of saving mankind from sin and death. The Holy Spirit, descending on the Son in the form of a dove to strengthen and empower the Son in His mission. Yet, we know that the Lord Our God, Yahweh, is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). 

        Not three gods, but One God.

    And this appearing of the other two members of the Trinity confirms that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises to send a savior to take away sins.

    How God is one God and three persons at the same time is not given to us in scripture. The concept defies human reason. Still, just because we can’t understand how it works doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    Mark does not describe how Jesus was baptized. He doesn’t say whether John dunked Jesus under the water, poured it over His head, or sprinkled it on Him. (Wicke, 2004) So, saying that Jesus “came up out of the water” does not prescribe any certain method of Christian baptism. The important part about baptism is the application of water. This is basically what the word baptism means. Mark instead focuses on the work God was doing in Jesus’ baptism: Sending Him the Holy Spirit, giving Him power through that Spirit, and showing that Jesus was approved by God the Father and was ready to do the job for which He was sent.

    Why did Jesus need to be baptized in the first place? If that is confusing, don’t feel bad. It was confusing to John the Baptist as well. John the Baptist was calling people to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He knew Jesus was the sinless Lamb of God who would be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world. Jesus was the one Man in all of history since the fall who didn’t need the baptism of repentance John was preaching. So why do it? Jesus tell us: to fulfil all righteousness.

    After His baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to do battle with the devil. Jesus would be tempted. The other gospel writers give more details about the temptations. Mark just tells us that Jesus was tempted by Satan. After it was finished, the angels attended him. This temptation was not some fake show. Being a real human being, Jesus got hungry, thirsty, and tired. He could appreciate power and wealth, and all the other things that Satan presumably used to try and get Jesus to deny the Father and worship him. (Wicke, 2004)

    Satan tired to do the same thing to Jesus that He did to Adam and Eve in the garden. Where Adam failed and gave in to temptation, Jesus succeeded. Jesus is a sort of second Adam. The first Adam brought sin and death into the world. The Last Adam brought forgiveness, life, and salvation. This baptism of Jesus is like a second creation, with a new Adam. This Last Adam will correct the mistakes of the first one, take away the sins of all people, and open the way of everlasting life to all who believe.

    As people who are baptized into Christ, we are new creations in Him. Our sins are forgiven, and His righteousness also belongs to us. ###

Works Cited

Wicke, Harold E., 2004. "People's Bible Commentary: Mark." 
    St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.