Friday, December 09, 2011


Does God exist?

He says so.  The evidence for the existence of God is the existence of the natural world.  The mind that says, “I do not see any evidence of God”, is a remarkably incurious thing.  Such an attitude requires that one take the existence of all things as a neutral condition.  Given the state of human knowledge about the nature of reality, that is not a reasonable position.

Once upon a time, man could look at the world as big lumps of “stuff” that had always, in his experience, been there.  In those simple, bygone days, most people took it for granted that there was a deity behind it all, somewhere.  Today, with physics speaking of sub-atomic particles, describing the atomic structure of matter with some confidence, and wrestling with the nature of the forces of all of those things, to suggest that this all “just happened” is risible.

Before the age of genetics, life was a challenge to explain, absent a deity.  The greater the sum of human knowledge and understanding about the structure of living things, and how they function, the clearer it becomes that such elegance and efficiency in the structure and function of life-forms of all descriptions, and their interdependency, cannot be explained by careless and casual reference to some vague metaphysical statement about evolution.  If ever there was a religion built on shaky evidence, flying in the face of both common sense and serious thought, it is atheism.

As the equation is stated in the Bible, “every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”  When one encounters a wristwatch on the beach, no one ever assumes they have stumbled upon a unique natural phenomenon.  The appearance alone suggests manufacture and artifice – the word behind “artificial”.  It is instantly clear that someone has lost their watch.  Similarly, when one comes across an automobile in the woods, even such as has a tree growing up through the floorboards and the roof, one can tell that someone drove that car there at some previous time.  No one mistakes it for a natural formation.

However, when one looks at the intricacies of a living cell, just one of the millions in a plant or an animal, science would have us believe that it just sort of fell together with some sort of inevitability provided by time.   The information stored in a unique and efficient, self-replicating library called DNA, is imagined to have arisen from random happenings.  Information Theory, a relatively new field of study in the last century, has concluded that information cannot arise from random processes.  But the information stored in the simplest cells is huge!  One scientist speculated that there are more bits of information in the simplest living cell that there are letters in all of the books in the world’s largest library combined!

The processes of life as we know it require an oxidizing environment.  The process of forming the chemical components of life, however, require a reducing atmosphere.  In order for life processes to continue, they say, the chemicals of life must be transferred from one environment to another quickly – and the living molecules must be sufficiently complex to protect themselves from ruinous oxidization and able to replicate themselves in order to proceed to develop into more complex life.  With no intelligence and no force directing the process the chemicals would have no way of knowing either of those things, and no method of transport from one environment to another.

Then we come to the incredible complexity of the living cell, and chemical operations which must occur within the cell in order for life to continue.  Looking at an apple as a thing, and a solitary unit, one might be able to imagine that such a process could somehow develop by chance.  Looking at the variety of cells within the apple, and examining the many processes that must occur, and produce a variety of effects, depending on the cell, leaves one with the feeling of having stumbled across a very complex and expensive wristwatch on the beach, and being asked to accept that it pulled itself together into its present form all by itself, through random chemical processes with random resources available.  Either than, or matter has an innate directionality to it that requires it to organize itself into living things, which the dust-bunnies under my bed do not appear to possess.

The structure of matter, being composed of energy bound into some form somehow, and then being further organized into atoms, molecules, elements, planets, and such, cries out for an organizing principle.  Piled on top is life, which comes in an amazing variety and mind-boggling complexity, which cries out for a creator of some sort.  God.  The next question would be who is God?, or which deity is God?, or do we know the deity who is responsible?  But until men can humble themselves enough to acknowledge the painfully evident – that there is a god, and that this deity created, or guided the processes of creation, we are hardly ready to honestly ask and discuss the questions about God’s identity.

When you get there, He has weighed in and we are ready to talk.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hans and Jacob

A poem from my childhood, which my mother kept repeating at odd moments.  I quote it here to preserve it and share it.

To be read with a Norwegian accent, if you can do it.

We were twins
Me and my brother. 
We look so very much alike
You couldn't tell one from the other. 

One of us was Hans,
The other, Jacob was His name
But whether Hans or Jacob
We both got called the same. 

Now one of us is dead. 
Yea, mister, that is so. 
But whether Hans or Jacob
My mother she don't know. 

So, Now I am in trouble
'Cause I can't get through my head
Whether I am Hans, what am living
Or Jacob, what am dead.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Pastor’s Daily Prayer

O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities; especially do I acknowledge my indolence in prayer, my neglect of Thy Word, and my seeking after good days and vainglory.  But I am heartily sorry of them and sincerely repent of them; and I pray Thee, of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, forgive me all my sins, and be gracious and merciful to me.  Yea, cleanse me through Thy Spirit by the blood of Jesus Christ, and give me more and more power and willingness to strive after holiness, for Thou hast called me that I should be holy and blameless before Thee in love.

I thank thee also, O faithful God, for my family, my wife and children, and for all my relatives.  Thou hast given them to me purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.  Preserve them in good health, and give them their daily bread; but above all keep them in Thy grace and in the true confession of Thy name unto the end.

Thou, O God of all grace and mercy, hast also called me, a poor unworthy simmer, to be a servant of Thy Word and hast placed me into that office which preaches the reconciliation and hast given me this flock to feed.  In and by myself I am wholly incompetent to perform the work of this great office; and, therefore, I pray Thee, make me an able minister of Thy Church.  Give me Thy Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of courage and joyfulness, of sanctification and the fear of God .  Fill me with the right knowledge, and open my lips that my mouth may proclaim the honor of Thy name.  Fill my heart with a passion for souls and with skillfulness to give unto each and every sheep or lamb entrusted to my care what is due unto it at the proper time.  Give me at all times sound advice and just works; and whatever I overlook something or in the weakness of my flesh speak or act wrongly, do Thou set it aright, and help that no one may through me suffer harm to his soul.

Glory and honor, praise and thanks be unto Thee, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for all the mercy and faithfulness Thou hast shown to this congregation.  Thy Word has not returned unto Thee void, but Thou hast here fathered a people that knows Thee and fears Thy name.  Give me Thy Holy Spirit, that I may at all times see the good things in this congregation and praise and thank Thee for them.  Bless Thy Word in the future, that it may preserve the believers in Thy grace, convert those that are not yet Thine, and bring back the erring and delinquent.  Gather Thy people as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and be Thou a wall of fire round about Thy congregation.

Graciously take into Thy fatherly care the sick and the needy, all widows and orphans, and all who are in any trouble, temptation, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity.  Comfort them, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may patiently endure their afflictions and acknowledge them as a manifestation of Thy fatherly will.  Preserve their soul from faint-heartedness and despondency, and help that they may seek Thee, the great Physician of their souls.  And if any pass through the valley of the shadow of death, suffer them not, in the last hour, for any pain or fear of death, to fall away from thee, but let Thine everlasting arms be underneath them, and grant them a peaceful departure and a happy entrance into Thine eternal kingdom.

Furthermore, I pray Thee, Thou wouldst at all times fill the offices of this congregation and its societies with upright, honest, and sincere men and women, who have the welfare of their congregation at heart and are able to help me in my office with their counsel and their deeds.  Unite their hearts with me in love for the truth; give them the spirit of prayer for me and for their congregation, so that we may in unity and harmony build Thy kingdom in this place.

And since hypocrites and ungodly people are often found within the visible church organization.  I pray Thee, do not permit Satan to disrupt this congregation through such or hind the efficiency of my office.  If there are such in our midst, let Thy Word be like unto a hammer upon their hearts of stone.  Have patience with them; but if they persist in their unbelief, hypocrisy, and wickedness, do Thou reveal them, so that they may be put forth from Thy congregation.  Give me a forgiving heart towards all, and help me, especially for their sake, to speak and act cautiously.

Preserve and keep the youth of our Church from falling away and joining the world, and keep them from the many sins of youth.  Thou, O Lord, knowest how difficult it is to lead the young on the right paths and to divide the Word of Truth with respect to them; do Thou, therefore, give me particular wisdom and skill to be stern without estranging their hearts, and mild and charitable without strengthening them in frivolity and unruliness.

Mercifully bless the education and instruction of the children, that they may grow up in Thy fear to praise of Thy name.  I commend unto Thee also the nursery of our church, the Christian day school.  Hinder and frustrate all enemies of this institution.  May I ever regard and accept it as a precious gift of God!  Give our congregation able and apt teachers.  Preserve them from an indecent and evil walk and conversation.  Bless the work of our Sunday school teachers, and help them to lead the little ones into the Savior’s loving arms.

To Thy grace and mercy I also commend all my brethren in office.  Arrest and suppress all discord and dissension.  Give me a brotherly heart towards all and true humility, and help me to bear with patience their casual weakness or deficiencies.   Grant that they also may act as true brethren toward me.

Keep and preserve our whole Synod, its teachers and officers, true to Thy Word.  Cause the work of our Synod to grow.  Guard and protect all members of Synod against sinful ambitions, dissension, and indifference in doctrine and practice.  Bless all higher institutions of learning, our colleges, seminaries, and universities.  Accompany all missionaries on their dangerous ways, and help them to perform their work.  Gather the elect from all nations not Thy holy Christian Church, and bring their at last into Thy Church Triumphant in heaven.

Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority in our country, especially to the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this State, and to all Judges and Magistrates.  Endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness and to the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Hear me, most merciful God, in these my humble requests, which I offer up unto Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

Another prayer I use regularly - although not daily - which comes from The Lutheran Liturgy - pp. 117-120.

I reproduce them here so that they will be more widely available.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Pastor's Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Chief Shepherd and only Head of Thy Church, help me to minister unto this flock, to which Thou hast called me as a pastor.  And since I am a man of unclean lips and not worthy to proclaim Thy Word, I beseech Thee, send down Thy Holy Spirit to cleanse my lips, so that I may be bold to preach Thy Word in all its fullness, in season and out of season, ready to offer up the prayers and supplications of Thy people, and willing to serve as a faithful minister of the means of grace.

Help me, O Lord, to give myself wholly to my office by daily meditation and study of the Scriptures, that I may be able to make full proof of my ministry, to feed, to instruct, to build up, to warn, to watch over , and to guide the lambs and the sheep of this flock, which Thou hast purchased with Thy blood.  Let Thy Holy Spirit direct me that I may always speak the things which become sound doctrine and in all things show myself a pattern of good works, and example to the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.

O Lord, make me daily more conscious of the great responsibilities of my high office as Thine ambassador and steward of Thy mysteries, to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of the vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn, to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.  For Thy name and for Thy truth’s sake hear me, O Lord Jesus.  Amen.

from the The Lutheran Liturgy, Concordia Publishing House, circa 1942.

Prayed this every morning in my first parish.  Less frequently after, but it still seems to be a marvelous prayer with which to approach the ministry.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is the Pope the AntiChrist?


Some argue that the office of the Papacy is the Antichrist, not the particular men who hold the office.  It is a silly argument.  The man who holds the office of Pastor is pastor while he holds it.  So, the man who holds the office of the Antichrist is the Antichrist while he holds the office.

Does that mean that Roman Catholics are not Christians?  No.  It means that the Pope is the Antichrist.  Individual Catholics may well be Christians, just as individual Lutherans of the most orthodox denominations may not be Christian at all.  It is not one's label that makes them a Christian.

Those who belong to anti-Christian religious bodies are clearly not Christians.  Those who choose not to belong to any Christian church at all are clearly not Christians.  Those who disavow Christ and the church are clearly not Christians.  But those who profess a faith in Christ may be Christian, and may not be, depending on what they mean by believing, and who they think Christ is, and what they believe about Him and sin and forgiveness and such topics.  Then again, some who profess faith are quite self-consciously hypocrites.  They are not Christians.  But whether they are or not is in the hands of God to judge, not mine or anyone else's.

The judgement that the Pope is the Antichrist is Scriptural and Confessional.  Those same Scriptures and Confessions instruct us not to be judging one another but to leave judgment to God.  We may assess theological statements as to being true and in accord with Scriptures or not, but we cannot judge the heart of another.  We don't have the ability to do it correctly, and we do not have the authority from God, to whom the job of judging hearts belongs.

Sadly, this doctrine of the faith has become a wedge to damage the political campaign of a candidate, and still it is not being addressed or examined for its meaning or truth.  Our nation and the world are the worse for both of these realities.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Ugly Moment

All of my life I have prided myself that I could do just about any job.  And I have at one time or another.

The other day I was sitting in the restaurant watching the help as I waited for my dinner, and it struck me that I could not make my body do many of those tasks for any length of time any more.  If I need to get a job, I now have to be very careful to find one that I can actually physically do!

You know that you are getting old when you have to admit to yourself that you cannot do the things that you once could -- even things you would rather not do.  That flexibility was kind of like an ace in the hole just in case.  Now I cannot do many things just because this body is getting older.

It is a truly ugly moment in one's life!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Why Me?

Sometimes I want to ask that question.  Or "Why not me?".

I just read the district newsletter.  It was full of wonderful articles about people doing things and how wonderfully they worked for them.  I am delighted that they have captured success.

I just wonder why when I do those same exact things, it never has those same salutary results for me.  I go out of my way to help people and if I get a thank you I am doing better than average.  People don't join my church.  They don't come and help me when I need it.  Sometimes, if they have the opportunity, they will turn on me and do or say something nasty.

I read an article about a pastor who began to read through the Bible with his wife.  Suddenly, he had a Bible study with thirty people attending!  Two Bible studies, actually.  I am happy for him.  I have been reading the Bible for decades.  My Bible classes are basically reading through the Bible, sometimes with commentary, and answering questions.  My Bible studies have shrunk, not grown.  Mind you, most everyone who attends tells me how wonderful they think they are!  I have had people leave my congregation for a different local congregation telling me how terrific I am, and that I ought to be the pastor of a large congregation, so that my talent will benefit even more people - as they are on their way out the door!  Why doesn't it work for me?

I am not complaining.  No, really!  I know why the things that are happening are happening.  God works in His own way and at His own time.  I have been doing the same things for decades, and have had varying "success" at different times.  I just find it frustrating to read all the 'how to' articles and the 'we did it this way' testimonials, which all suggest or say outright that if you are creative and clever like them and do things the right way, you will be amazed at the results.

I understand that God works in His own way and at His own time.  I would love to have different results, but I would love even more if people in the church stopped acting as though it is their creativity and their effort that makes things work the way they work.  I have figured out that God grants the prosperity we enjoy, whatever that prosperity may be (actually, the Bible teaches that principle). I just worry that someone who hasn't figured that out might actually take those theology of glory kind of messages to heart and be beaten-up by the sense of failure that accompanies doing all the right things - things others are boasting about making them so successful - and finding their results are not all that impressive.

Limited sucess is hard enough to handle without those who ought to know better preaching to you that the right program or technique is all you need.

When will the church get back to living out and living in her own theology?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A New Trend?

I have noticed recently that fewer and fewer of the Obits list church affiliation for the "dearly departed".

It started with fewer services being held for the departed at any church.  Now it is rare to find a church mentioned in the obituary.  I have also noticed that there seems to be an increase in no funeral or memorial service at all.  The obit simply tells us that beloved so-and-so has died, and will be fondly remembered, and so forth.  Sometimes it says, explicitly, that there will be no service.  Sometimes the mention of any funeral or burial is simply lacking.

I see this as a measure of our culture.  Faith is waning.  People have more generally accepted the evolutionary idea that we are just life forms, and that life is limited to this realm.  The hope or hunger for the eternal has been morphed into the fascination with "ghosts" and the paranormal.

On a similar vein, our local animal rescue establishment is ever expanding, but the local 'help the needy' effort, which is - oddly enough - located right next door to the animal rescue establishment, is small and struggles for support.  It would appear that those cute little animals are more worthy of charity and assistance than our fellow human beings.

Our society is sick, and getting sicker.  Pray for us!

Monday, January 31, 2011

An Odd Thought

I post my sermons on-line.  I also post my newsletter articles.  I do it to make them freely available to the church.

I am flattered and gratified that I occasionally get emails from all over the world about what I have posted.  I received notes from pastors who use my sermons and my newsletters for ideas, for study, for theology.  I receive notes from people from three or four continents who find solace and spiritual substance in my sermons.  I have received notes from vacant parishes acknowledging that they use my sermons to fill their pulpit while they do not have a pastor, or, occasionally, while their pastor is on vacation or absent for some other reason.

I have told my tiny congregation that their continued struggle to exist and support a pastor provides this service to the church at large, and that our congregation is really quite a bit larger than we see on Sunday mornings.  Since my congregation does not fully support me, paying a small fraction of the "budgeted salary and benefits", I find that thought comforting too, when I ask the 'coming-from-my-flesh' question of why I continue to struggle at this task.  I know that I continue because God made me to be a pastor, and called me into this work.

But the thought crossed my mind a while back about the state of the Christian faith in this internet age where many acknowledge receiving from this congregation and its pastor, and appreciating what they have received, but to date, none has ever even asked how they might support this ministry.  The Bible says that a laborer is worthy of his hire, but today many Christians feed themselves for free and consider that the way it should be, and have no sense of how they might return to God for what they have received, or have any idea that they might have some reciprocal obligation to help the laborer continue his work from which they draw sustenance and comfort.

God takes care of me, which is good.  But there is something amiss on the receiving end when there is no curiosity about how they might return something to the one from whom they receive.  Gal.6:6, "Let the one who is taught the Word share all good things with him who teaches."  Like Paul, I have learned to live within the blessings the Lord gives me, but I wonder about the church that has learned to take but not to give.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


As I read the news and the opinions sprouting from what is referred to as the Main Stream Media, I am impressed by one thing, the insanity of what is acceptable today in society.

I pray daily for this nation, but I understand why the Lord allows it to go the path it going.  Sickness and stupidity are not just accepted, but endorsed and encouraged.

Lord have mercy.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Moment of Sorrow

This year I did not receive the annual pocket calendar from CPH.  When I inquired of my friends, they told me that CPH was eliminating them.
I am just writing to express my sorrow -- and my thanks.  My sorrow that they will no longer be available.  I have looked at the regrettable replacement offered by CPH in the form of the online calendar.  Sadly, I cannot fit that into my pocket , and I, unlike my better compensated brethren, cannot afford those cute electronic devices that can access the web and fit into a pocket.
I want to express my thanks for the thirty years of calendars that I have enjoyed.  The one thing that had not changed in my ministry over the thirty years was my dependence on my "brain in my pocket" - the memory helper of that burgundy calendar.  I can track through the past thirty-plus years in the pages of those calendars, most of which I still have on my bookshelf.  I will make do with something else.  It will be a minor inconvenience, and a constant nagging pain for a while, but such is life at times.
Thanks again to Concordia Publishing House for the years of calendars in the past.  I am sorry you that CPH has decided to stop serving the church in that specific way.  I understand some of the likely reasons.  It is just a point of sorrow that it is to be no longer.