Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dirty Rotten Thieves

The following report is from a newsletter that a friend, a real estate agent who helped us find our home, sends regularly.

Air Conditioners are being stolen.

Nope, not the window units, you can carry by yourself, but the big one behind your house.

On Sunday, I held an open house at one of my listings. I went inside and it was 97 degrees. I turned down the thermostat, nothing. I kept trying to work the digital thermostat, thinking it was stuck on a pre-set temp.

After 20 minutes, it finally occurred to me that there was no sound of the unit engaging. I went outside. There was the cement pad, but no unit on top of the pad. The wires were cut. The framing for the unit was partially scattered around the yard. I talked to a neighbor who was mowing the grass for the seller. He did not see anything amiss over the last week.

The property is getting a new air-conditioning unit. The seller informed me today that the cost was about $2700 for the new unit. The owner was not sure if the unit was going to be covered with the insurance.

If you have a vacant home, you need to tell your insurance company. Sometimes they give you six months of time to sell the house. Sometimes, they raise your rates. However, if your property is vacant and something is stolen or vandalized, the homeowners insurance can deny your claim because you did not inform them it was not occupied. They can cancel your insurance immediately, if they find out.

This story was told to me by another agent at Prudential, LeAnna Beat. The bad guys tend to target vacant houses; but who’s to say, they might go after yours or mine next?

So, these units are most likely being stolen by selfish brutes who care only about obtaining money for themselves and whatever their purposes may be, stolen most likely for the aluminum to take to one of the local recyclers. At most, $50. Let’s be ridiculous and say $200 (No way!) But even at this, for a pitiful $200 these creeps cost their neighbors $2700. Moreover, each of these incidents causes insurance rates to go up for us all.

The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. How long would these creeps have to work at a real job for this same $200? How long? About 27 hours. But the real price was probably not even $50, so how long for $50? This would be less than one day of honest work at minimum wage.

How many hours did these creeps spend casing the place to be sure it was vacant? How long did they work to destroy their neighbor’s property? How much more time did they expend on stripping the unity of its aluminum, because such a unit intact would be nearly worthless. The aluminum must be clean of steel and other metals and plastic to be of any significant value. How much time did it take for them to take it to the recycler? In all, they very likely expended more time and energy stealing than they would have expended doing some productive labor someplace, AND they put themselves at risk of harm and arrest. Worse, they injured their neighbors.

This is beyond sad.

But these are mere petty thieves. The damage that they do to society is insignificant compared to the organized thieves who rape entire societies and entire nations.

Consider the ongoing theft that is perpetrated by the central bankers. Amazingly, they not only rob people of everything that they earn, but they convince them to thank them for it.

Through the creation of more and more money, inflation is pressed upon the people. The rate of money creation is greater than the need. Borrowing is the mode of doing business. Thus more and more money is feloniously fabricated from nothing, bringing the value continually downward.

Today 10% inflation is counted as zero. It is counted as the norm of necessary growth. And so what a person possesses today is devalued over time to be worthless, because the value has been absorbed by those who control the supply of fictitious money.

This table illustrates the time frame for inflation at 10 percent.

This table illustrates the continual inflation of the cost of money at the rate of 10 percent annually. The third column shows the amount that a person must add to one’s savings and earnings to maintain the same value. The fourth column shows the actual decrease in the value of every dollar by the end of the year due to the inflated cost of the money.

As can be seen in this table, by the end of the seventh year the cost of the money has almost doubled. Thus, by the end of the seventh year the dollar that was possessed at the beginning of the first year is now worth only a nickel.

Where did the value go? It was absorbed by the Federal Reserve, or the Bank of England, or the Bank of China, or whichever of the central banks for that particular country. At 10 percent annual inflation it only takes 7 years for the Federal Reserve to absorb 100% of the value of whatever is earned and owned. They simply conjure up more fictitious money and the cycle continues.

But it is even more deviously clever than this. The Federal Reserve has confiscated control of the money supply from the people so that the government must buy money to pay its debts. It does this through treasury notes, for which the Federal Reserve prints or fabricates money at no cost to purchase. The government then pays interest on these notes. To pay this interest, more money is needed and so more notes are drafted thus creating more debt and more interest.

Therefore, not only is the people’s money stolen through inflation, but also through ever increasing taxes, to pay the debt that the government forces upon them, for after all, we are the government and therefore we must pay the debts.

Investigating the additional ways in which theft is perpetrated by the central bankers leads to even more heartache and astonishment. But surely this is sufficient to show who the truly dirty rotten thieves are. They don’t just destroy and steal an air conditioning unit here and there. They take everything and strip the people bare so that even what little they have managed to save for their heirs is taxed away.

Will the people eventually wake up? If they finally do, will it matter any more? Can anyone even give an accurate figure for the current so-called national debt?

National Debt Clock

Some additional links:

U.S. Debt


You can do an Internet search and find loads of sites with information on this topic.

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Oh, by the way, Amos and the other prophets decried such things in their day, but as the Lord foretold, the situation is becoming worse and the bankers/beast is nearing total domination.

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E-mail Scams - Beware!

How many times do we need to be warned?

I received the following e-mail today:

Good day,
As requested I give you Invoices issued to you per Aug.


KARLYN Collins

The e-mail had an attachment, a zip file attachment:

Even though I KNOW BETTER, I was sorely tempted to click on the link to see what it was. I actually did click on the link, but stopped the process when my zip program asked for permission. These things are powerfully seductive. One feels the need to check it just to see.

In this case, yesterday I had actually called one of the companies with whom I do business and asked about an invoice number. Today this e-mail arrives in my inbox.

But I did not ask for an invoice. I asked for an invoice #. Moreover, I did not give my e-dresses. Yes, this was sent to two of my e-dresses. This was a red flag, but I was tempted to check the attachment anyway. Thankfully, I did not open it.

I did, however, investigate further. I clicked on the “view” tab and then selected “headers all” to reveal all of the header information for the e-mail. The sender was listed as:

All Tree is my company name. is my domain name. I did not send myself an e-mail with an attached zip file.

Moreover, all of the red flags were present.

* Uninvited and unexpected attached file
* Bad grammar
* Bad punctuation and capitalization
* False e-dress
* Nondescript information
* Unidentified sender/company

A little later, the company that I called yesterday returned my call and answered my question and confirmed that no e-mails were sent by them.

The bottom line is that we must beware. Never open an e-mail attached file unless the sender is a trusted acquaintance who previously informed of the sending of this attachment. NEVER.

Especially never open zip files sent as attachments in e-mails. There is absolutely no reason for an invoice to be sent as a zip file. A PDF file is the standard. But zip files can contain viruses and other malware.

I still am amazed at the power of my curiosity. “Who sent it?” “What is it?” “Just check to see who sent it.”

NO! Don’t be stupid! Leave it alone! Delete it! Do not open it or click on it!

I have heard this hundreds of times. I know this is the right response. Yet the temptation remains strong.

Such is the nature of temptation. The right answer to temptation is always “NO!”

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Obligatory Charity?

Yesterday the phone rang and yet again another caller invaded my presence with a demand for my money. She barely even mentioned the group for whom she was collecting money, but was urgently pressing to send me a contribution packet in the mail.

I explained that we do not contribute to any phone solicitations. I explained this repeatedly, but she persisted, as is the way with phone solicitors.

After a few minutes of this she said, “So you are saying that I should just go ahead and send the packet.”

I responded, “No. I am saying that you should not waste your time.”

She responded with a tone of indignation as though I were unreasonable, but politely wished me a good day.

I continue to be amazed at the presumptions of these callers. Is it because most people have no ability to say “No”? Is it the entitlement mentality that the government and media and government schools and the churches have taught for so long?

Well, at any rate, I would like to remind people that these various callers do not hold a valid obligation over you. You do not owe them anything whatsoever. Moreover, the resources that God has entrusted to you are first and foremost for the support of your family’s daily needs, which He teaches us to call our daily bread. The desire to help others flows from the love that He gives to us in Baptism and renews in His Holy Supper. Within His Holy Communion He strengthens and renews His love to us continually so that we are moved to respond to one another with the same love that He has for us.

But this does not mean that we OWE anything to those who attempt to solicit our resources from us. With the amount of internal fraud in most of these agencies and foundations and societies and churches we are actually obligated to refuse their demands.

How many of our neighbors, living very nearby, do we even know? How many people living within the same block could use a friend? Is not our time and energy and resources better used in getting to know our immediate neighbors and their needs, especially their need for God’s love proclaimed in the Gospel?

If we all had functional relationships with our immediate neighbors and we truly looked to one another with the love of God in Christ, would we not accomplish far more than all of these soliciting groups put together?

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So Much Hurt

Everywhere I turn it seems that I encounter more hurt, both in what I observe in the lives of others as well as in my own life. Hurt, hurt, hurt!

Perhaps the saddest part of this is to realize just how much of the hurt that we encounter and endure is actually the result of our own choices.

This is why the Lord has given us His commandments. His commandments have a threefold purpose.

First they show us what our heavenly Father is like and what He has planned for us. The Commandments teach us His goodness and providence and love. Thus, they show us how we are supposed to be.

But then the Commandments, in showing us the perfection and holiness of our heavenly Father, they simultaneously show us our sinfulness. While showing us the perfection of God and His will, they also show us how we fall short, miserably and horribly short. We do not truly even come close to measuring up. And so the Commandments drive us to despair of our own efforts at goodness so that we fall to our knees and confess our sinfulness and look up to our perfect and holy and loving and merciful Father to hear His holy absolution.

Then also, the Commandments serve as a curb to thwart evil doers. We fear getting caught and punished and so, even though we may not fear and love and trust in God above all things and even though we many not truly want to please Him, nevertheless, we fear the consequences of getting caught. And so a degree of civil goodness is produced, even among unruly and ungodly people. For all government mimics God’s holy commandments, even if they do not realize it.

The hurts that we suffer are all ultimately on account of sin in the world. Our hurts serve us, if we are willing to hear it and believe it. Our hurts continually remind us of our need for the restoration that God works in us through the faith that accompanies the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. Through this faith God restores to us the knowledge of His mercy and love so that we look beyond our hurts to the love of God in Christ. In Christ we experience true relief from our hurts. In Christ we are made to know the holiness of God again, and we hear Him declare this holiness to be ours once again. Even though we do not merit this declaration by what we do, nevertheless, for Christ’s sake, God declares us to be holy. He declares us to be righteous not with our own righteousness, but with His. And His righteousness has no flaws. He declares us to be His beloved children who may freely come to Him in every situation and be received by Him and embraced by Him in His Holy Communion.

When this is where our hurts cause us to turn, everything is made right again. Then our hurts turn to rejoicing and thanksgiving and our hearts are merry and full of Life!

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Confessional Subscription

Does it seem like the churches today who claim to embrace a Confessional Subscription understand this in like manner to a magazine subscription? Do the churches who claim to subscribe to the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church treat their Confessional Subscription like an old subscription to a magazine that upon delivery by the postal carrier is then tossed onto a dusty stack? Do they perhaps dust off the stack from time to time to show others how big their stack is?

A recent post on a “Confessional” blog of a prominent clergyman leaves a person wondering just this. In fact, one of his loyal readers responded with a gentle challenge, which was guffawed and brow beaten into submission.

The post is actually copied and pasted from another blog and then praised as a wonderful example of true Lutheran confessionalism. It is a portion of another translation/edition of CFW Walther’s Church and Ministry.

Isn’t that grand? Isn’t that splendid? Yet another edition of Church and Ministry, as if one translation into English was not sufficient. And with all of the English translations of the Book of Concord, that was translated again not long ago, too. Wow, the Concordia Triglotta and the Jacob’s Edition and the Tappert Edition and the Kolb Edition were not sufficient!

Now the new president of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod has shown how devoted he is to the faithfulness of the LC-MS fathers and has shown how truly scholarly he is by producing another translation of Walther’s Church and Ministry. The portion that is posted by President Matthew Harrison on his blog Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison is entitled, ““Missouri's Position on Intercommunion - Warning! Strong Lutheran Content!” This is copied and posted by Paul McCain at “The LCMS Position on Intercommunion: WARNING – STRONG LUTHERAN CONTENT.”

McCain introduces it, saying:

From the president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Pastor Matthew Harrison, via his blog site. Pastor Harrison is providing the Missouri Synod with a new edition of C.F.W. Walther’s Church and Ministry, this is from his revised translation.

In the Comments section the following comments were shared:

From Jeff K:

Kind of a jarring juxtaposition to the immediately preceeding post where you heartily commend us to listen to Dr. Albert Mohler, a Baptist. Last time I checked Baptists denied the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper and Baptismal Regeneration.

McCain responds:

Insert face palm here.

I invited you to listen to an academic lecture, not to take communion with him.

Good grief.

Then after a supportive comment from an ELCA pastor Jeff K responds:

OK, I figured that you would draw a distinction between a lecture and Communion, and I hope that you would continue to post good things that you hear from Dr. Mohler. May God have mercy on all of us who call on His Name but for conscience sake are not able to share His Supper with each other on this side of heaven. @ptmccain

I offered a comment in which I encouraged Jeff K not to abandon his very valid challenge, and the ever fair and magnanimous and open McCain deleted my comment. Imagine that!

Jeff’s question or challenge is a valid concern. McCain’s answer is typical of the modern understanding of Confessional Subscription. “We hold to a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. We hold them to be true expositions of God’s Word and we treasure them! Just look at how many translations we have made!”

But did McCain even read what Jeff did? Jeff noticed and responded both to the statement by Walther as well as Walther’s quotation from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession from the Book of Concord that Walther boldly quotes and Harrison translates.

First the statement of Walther:

B. Every believer for the sake of his salvation must flee all false teachers and avoid fellowship [Gemeinschaft] with heterodox congregations [Gemeinden] or sects.

Next the quote from the Apology:

2. Witnesses of the Church in Its Official Confessions
Apology: “Nevertheless, we should not receive or listen to false teachers, for they no longer stand in Christ’s place [Christus statt] but are antichrists [Widerchristi]. And Christ clearly commands [befohlen] us regarding them: ‘Beware of false prophets’ (Matt. 7:15). And Paul [writes] to the Galatians: ‘If anyone preaches any other gospel to you, … let him be accursed’ (Gal. 1:9)” (Ap. VII/VIII [IV]. 48; German text, Triglot, pp. 242–43; Mueller p. 162; BSLK 246.20f.).

Let’s see if we can decipher what Jeff must have misunderstood.

Walther says: “Every believer for the sake of his salvation must flee all false teachers and avoid fellowship with heterodox congregations or sects.”

What does McCain say? “Insert face palm here. I invited you to listen to an academic lecture, not to take communion with him. Good grief.”

What does the Apology say? “Nevertheless, we should not receive or listen to false teachers, for they no longer stand in Christ’s place but are antichrists.”

So McCain encourages people to listen to lectures from those whom the Confessions to which he boldly and loudly subscribes say we should not receive or listen to. The Confessions say that such teachers have nothing good to say because they are antichrists. McCain says, just listen but don’t take communion with them.

Jeff says: “Huh?”

McCain says: “Good grief.”

McCain is in agreement with President Harrison. Yet both actually do commune with them as well. Both are in communion with the pastors and congregations of the LC-MS, most of which practice open communion where people who have not even been baptized frequently are communed.

How do I know this? I have read the communion statements of LC-MS congregations where this is what they themselves declare as their practice. I also have spoken with people who are not members of these congregations, who have not been baptized, who do not have any substantive understanding of the faith, who have no idea what the Sacrament is, yet they commune regularly from the hands of smiling LC-MS pastors.

Yes, these people have been some of my customers. Yes, I talk to my customers about what they believe and where they go to church and how they understand the Sacraments. The LC-MS pastors who claim to be so caring and loving and welcoming don’t talk to them about these things, but their arborist does.

So why bother quoting Walther on this issue? Why bother translating the Confessions and quoting them?

What is the point?

It brings to mind the many road signs that say, “Right lane closed ahead.” Which is translated by somewhere between 45 and 85 percent of the drivers, depending on the length of the line:

“Stay in this lane until it runs out and then force your way into line ahead of your neighbors who have respectfully merged and waited their turn.”

It also brings to my mind the many times the same sign has been left posted for weeks after the road work has been completed.

Why do men like McCain and Harrison make so much noise about their Confessional Subscription? Why do they go so far as to translate such things anew and post them for everyone to read, and then deny the meaning of the words when someone asks?

Do you know why? Can you guess?

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

One of the things that continues to leave me in awe about the historic liturgy is the use of the Collect of the Day. Each Sunday these wonderful snippets direct our hearts to important aspects of the daily pericopal readings.

Here is the Collect from this Sunday:

O God, who declarest Thine almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity, mercifully grant unto us such a measure of Thy grace that we, running the way of Thy commandments, may obtain Thy gracious promises and be made partakers of Thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

This collect marvelously directs our hearts to acknowledge what the Lord declares to us concerning Himself. The Lord God to whom we pray is the one who declares His almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity. His primary means of making His almighty power known to us is not through signs and wonders in the heavens and in the earth and in the seas, but in showing mercy and pity.

Is this not absolutely wonderful? Is this not magnificent? Is this not worthy of our full devotion and attention? This is what the divine service is given to teach us and deliver to us. This is what the Holy Spirit calls us to congregate to hear and to receive. Throughout the entire service this is what God works and gives to us.

Notice that the collect directs us to remember that it is through the declaration of God’s mercy and pity to us that we are enabled to run the way of the commandments and obtain God’s gracious promises and we are made to be partakers of His heavenly treasures. Notice that the true faith teaches us that we do not obtain God’s gracious promises through our own obedience, but through His mercy and pity declared unto us. We are made partakers of His heavenly treasure not through our obedience, but through the declaration of His mercy and pity to us. The power is in His declaration. Even the power to honor the commandments and to value them as part of the way through which God blesses us, is through the declaration of His mercy and pity.

God does bless us through His commandments, because He produces the obedience in us through the faith that He gives. For example, He commands that we administer the Sacrament and partake of it together for the forgiveness of our sins and renewed faith in His mercy and grace. Because He works faith in us to believe His good and gracious will and to believe His promise of forgiveness and renewal in the Sacrament, we administer it in the congregation according to His commandment and we come forward and receive His blessings through this blessed means of His grace. This obedience is not something that we choose to do, but rather, it is produced in us through the faith that He generates in us concerning His mercy and gracious will toward us and concerning His promise to grant us forgiveness and renewal through the body and blood of Jesus. At the Last Day, even as He does today, He will count these works that He produces in us as our own works and say “Well done!”

Who but the Lord would even imagine such to be possible, let alone actually to make it so? Truly this requires almighty power, which He declares to us chiefly in showing mercy and pity.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Price of Love

I took this photo of one of dozens of posters that have been stapled to power poles all over our neighborhood. I called the telephone number earlier this week to inquire whether the cat has been found. I was informed that the cat has been missing since Aug. 3rd and has not been found.

I took the photo because it struck me how much these people must love their cat. These posters are everywhere within at least a one mile square, perhaps farther. I count 30 staples in this one poster, and it is a high quality poster. Just the cost of the posters and staples amounts to a considerable sum. Then the time invested is substantial. Additionally a $300 reward is offered.

At first I thought that this is an absurd amount. I would not pay $300 for a dog, much less a cat. But then I began to think of the fact that to fill the fuel tanks on my chipper truck costs over $350. That is just to enable me to get to the job site and do the work of attempting to earn a living. And that is only for my chipper truck. I also have the regular fuel costs of my pickup truck, my chipper, the stump grinder, and all of the chainsaws and other equipment.

From this perspective, I realized that $300 is not as exorbitant of a price as I had first thought. I still would not spend that for a cat, but it causes me to realize that it is not such a large cost in the mind of someone who has lost a pet that is dear to the family.

While I would not spend that much outright on a pet, I certainly have invested many times more than that in time and effort in letters and emails and phone calls and trips to visit family and friends. I have invested many times that in helping needy neighbors, both in actual monetary expenditures as well as in time and effort. The amount of my time and energy and resources and education and emotions that I have invested in preaching the Gospel I cannot even begin to estimate.

All of this reminds me of the endless goodness and mercy of the Lord. His love for us is poured out freely and without measure, and yet at a cost to Him that cannot be calculated. Moreover, His love is despite our arrogant belligerence and defiance and betrayal and blasphemy and disobedience. Such is His fatherly love and will concerning us.

In Matthew 13 we are told that the Lord Jesus told a series of parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. Over the years I have come to realize that my understanding of two of these in particular has probably been entirely wrong. All of the preaching that I have heard and all of the commentaries that I have read seem to share in hearing these two parables exactly backwards from what they really teach and mean.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

For the greater part of my life I have heard these, both from my own perception as well as everyone else’s, as describing how one who hears the Gospel rightly will respond. However, this does not at all fit with the context of the other parables in this series. In fact, this perception and understanding directly contradict what the preceding and following parables declare.

In the parables where Jesus begins by saying, “the kingdom of heaven is like” who is being set forth as the man or the king or the person of action? Is it not the Lord Himself? Is it not God who is being shown to us?

In the two parables above, the treasure that is found and the pearl that is found is us. The Lord is the one seeking that which is lost and we are the ones whom He finds and purchases. In what way do we imagine that we could possibly purchase for ourselves the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven? Selling all that we have would never give us the price or authority to make the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven our own. All that we have is filthy and bloody rags to offer. No, it is the Lord who is making the purchase in these parables. It is the Lord who sold all that He had, and came to the earth to purchase us to be in His kingdom.

Much more can be mined from these amazing parables, but for now I will let this important thought be pondered and move to the objection that our minds tend to raise from the following statment:

Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:51-52)

Our selfish hearts are inclined immediately to cry out: “But see! Here the Lord says that we are the ones to find and bring forth the treasure.”

But this is because we are always inclined first to understand from our own perspective rather than hearing what the Lord is actually saying. The scribe is said to be one which is instructed. Thus the scribe is already a baptized believer, one who has been made a recipient of the outpouring of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and has been thoroughly catechized in the doctrine of the true faith. Moreover he is identified as a householder, that is, a lord or ruler of a house, which makes him a pastor/teacher in a congregation. From his treasure, that is, from the office that has been entrusted to him, the office of the Word, this scribe brings forth both new and old things. So, from what he has already been given by God this scribe brings out for all both old and new revelations. These revelations themselves are already in the texts of the Scriptures, but some have been heard many times within the household of faith and some will be things from within the great treasury of the Scriptures that have not been recognized before. They are from eternity, but nevertheless are new to those who now hear them and receive them.

We do not enter the kingdom of heaven by anything that we do. We do not seek and find it, until we ourselves have been sought and found by the Holy Spirit and baptized into the kingdom. Once we are within God’s Holy Communion, like little children we find the many gifts that are piled up in the great treasury of the Father’s house and we rejoice in the discovery of His wonderful gifts that He has stored up for us from eternity. These are ours in accord with the faith of Jesus, who has made them to be ours, having purchased us at the cost of all that He is. The more deeply that we ponder this the more marvelous we perceive it to be.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is the purpose of life?

A very kind person sent me the following in an e-mail. I also found it through an Internet search at many other locations, including: Celebrate Recovery: Interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren.

I found the following rather inspiring. In an interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren said:

People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond, In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body - but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillion of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act, the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity. We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life: The goal is to grow in character, In Christ-likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you got to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, “which is my problem, my issues, my pain.”

But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her. It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people…You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before.
I don’t think God gives you money or notoriety for you to own ego or for you to live a life of ease. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases. Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church. Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan - to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation. Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God’s purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better…God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He’s more interested in what I am than what I do. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.

While many people find this sort of theology to be helpful and encouraging, the question to ask is whether or not it is the theology that the Holy Spirit has revealed through His Holy Scriptures. Is this really the way?

Not many churches today use the historic liturgy. Even among those who still use a liturgical format, some of the elements of the historic liturgy have been changed and even lost in common usage. One of the very significant losses seems to be the General Prayer. In The Lutheran Hymnal it is found on pages 23 and 24.

Near the center of this marvelous prayer is the following paragraph:

All who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are in suffering for Thy name’s and for Thy truth’s sake, comfort, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Thy fatherly will.

I feel for Rick Warren in his time of hardship and adversity. This is a time of great struggle for him and his wife and all who are near and dear to them.

However, his understanding is wrong and it leads him to make false statements regarding God, life, and the purpose of life.

He and all who seek to know God as the truly merciful and loving Father that He declares and proves Himself to be, would do well to hear and to pray this section of the General Prayer, which is an emulation of what the apostles and their Lord have taught on this matter.

First of all, the purpose of life is NOT preparation for eternity. The purpose of life is to live. We are not capable of preparing for eternity. This preparation is the work of the Lord. The Lord Jesus made this very clear, saying:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (John 14:1-7)

The Lord Jesus is the one who prepares both us and our place in the Father’s house. The Holy Spirit is the one who works within us to convert us and to give us the faith that saves us. He is the one who continually calls us unto repentance. He is the one given to us in Baptism to sanctify us and make us fit for God’s kingdom through the merits of Christ Jesus.

This is not our work. It is not our doing. Rick is right in saying that we are made to be human beings and not human doings. By this I mean that we are not the ones who do the work of preparation but we are the ones being prepared. The preparation is done by the one who was and is and ever shall be.

Rick says that life is a series of problems. From our perspective this is true. But our perspective is warped and corrupted and incomplete at best. Our perspective needs to be set right by the clear statements of the Holy Scriptures. Praying the General Prayer helps us to remember just what the Scriptures declare to us.

Like the Lord very strongly explained to Job, all of the things that happen in our lives, even the things that the Lord allows the devil to inflict upon us, are the Lord’s doing. By faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit we receive these as manifestations of the good and gracious will of our heavenly Father. While many of these things we may never understand fully, on account of what the Holy Spirit teaches us in our hearts we know that all things God works together for our good. Thus, we count even the things that cause us to mourn and to cry out in anguish to be manifestations of His fatherly will.

When this is the perspective worked in us by the Holy Spirit, we realize that we do not need to rationalize in an attempt to understand everything that happens in our earthly lives. We realize that God alone can know the fullness of His purposes and plans. We realize that He alone can see the good before it is revealed in time.

This changes our perspective completely so that with St. Paul we can say:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Philippians 4:11-12)

What St. Paul here teaches is not something that he learned on his own. This was taught to him by the Holy Spirit. This is not merely accepting bad things. This is the knowledge that for those who are in Christ there are no bad things. This is very different than saying as Rick does: “And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.” No. St. Paul instructs us that we are empowered to give thanks to God even for the things that we perceive as being bad.

This is the nature of true faith. It does not rely upon what is seen and perceived. Rather, it relies upon God and His endless goodness and mercy. The true faith praises God in every situation and trusts that what is happening is in accord with His good and gracious will.

Moreover, the true faith does not move us to imagine that the goal of life is “to grow in character, In Christ-likeness.” The true faith teaches us to believe that through Baptism that the Holy Spirit has sanctified us and works within us to show us this new nature that He has regenerated us to receive. This is why the Holy Spirit calls us to confess our sins: so that we may hear God’s holy absolution and call to partake with Him in the Holy Communion of His body and blood. First He washes us into His body and then He feeds us the unity of His body and the forgiveness of His blood. Through this we are brought again and again and again into the knowledge that this is not something that we need to do for ourselves, but what God does for us. He has brought us again into the image of His Son through Baptism and He keeps us alive as branches grafted into the vine, continually receiving the lifeblood of the body which is poured out to all of the members.

It is a shame that so many people who call themselves Christians refuse to acknowledge these means of grace which Christ Himself ordained. If only those who struggle to be Christlike would believe His words and receive Him as He promises to come to us. Then their struggles would be turned to blessing and their sorrows to true joy that cannot be measured. Then they would rely upon Christ, as the true faith is worked in them through the means in which the Holy Spirit works, and they would not need to invent a purpose for their lives. They would not even wonder what the purpose is, anymore than a newborn babe wonders about such things. No, they would simply crave the Word’s pure milk and drink it in as God gives it.

As the thorns and thistles and briars of life grow up around us, as the waves of life’s tempestuous sea rage against us, we tend to look away from Christ and to try to choke out the weeds and to keep our heads above the waves. But we do not have this power. God does. And He is faithful to do what He has promised.

As for myself, I am not preparing for eternity, for Christ has promised that He sent His Holy Spirit to do that for me. Christ Himself paid the price to redeem me and the Holy Spirit dwells in me to keep me in the true faith with Christ Jesus my Lord. This is the eternal will of God, our Father in heaven, who has accomplished all this even from eternity so that the promise was made to Adam and Eve, and continues on to you and to me. So what is left for me to do? What is the purpose of my life? I am told to LIVE! I am told to walk in spirit. I am told to partake of the blessed gifts of life that are administered in Christ’s Church.

Why on earth would I choose to try to find some other explanation?

Romans 1:17 says that the just out of faith shall live. Faith is the source for our life, and faith is God’s gift that is not of ourselves and not a work that we must do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It truly does not get any better than this!

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Courtesy Calls

Don’t you love it when a company has one of its phone representatives to call and the person says: “This is a courtesy call”?

I recently asked the person: “In what way is this a courtesy call? What courtesy are you doing for me? Oh, you mean that I will be doing you a courtesy!”

She responded, “Oh no. This is courtesy call. We just want you to answer some questions for a survey.”

I said, “So what courtesy or favor are you doing for me that you label this a courtesy call? I did not ask you to call. You do not even have permission to call. You are asking me to do something for you. How is this a courtesy call?”

She was befuddled and returned to the company imposed mantra.

I was not trying to be annoying, though I’m sure that she thought so. I was making a point, especially for those who would be listening in to the recorded conversation, something else that I did not grant permission for them to do.

I finally explained politely that I was not interested in doing them a courtesy and ended the phone call. I doubt that the person understood. I spoke politely and made a polite attempt to make my point.

This, by the way, seems to be what is meant by “courtesy” when these callers call. Courtesy seems to be used with the double meaning of “not costing me anything” and being extended “politely.”

Both, however, are false presentations. The call costs me my time, my privacy, and my patience. It also is not at all polite to interrupt what I have planned with an uninvited and unwanted phone call for a request that I do not have any desire whatsoever to grant.

By the way, my challenges listed above were not presented angrily or with raised voice. They were presented politely, but determinedly.

I seriously doubt that I accomplished much of anything, except that I have learned that by handling unwanted phone calls in this way that I usually do not receive more of the same from the same callers. They don’t make any money off of such attempts, so they call someone else.

There certainly is no reason to be mean to the caller. That person is usually entirely clueless, simply a hireling trying to earn some income.

However, working as such a caller is something that a Christian had ought to question for oneself. I had a friend, a Baptist minister, who sometimes spoke of how much he hated being called by telemarketers. Yet, he sometimes worked as a telemarketer to earn extra income. I asked him how he could do to others what he did not want others to do to him? But he often expressed that he believed in a separation between what is done in business and what is done in ministry and in personal life. I challenged this, also, but without effect.

Can a person really make such distinctions and separations validly? Can a Christian really draw a line between what one does in business and what one does in life? What happens within a person where such allowances are made? When the Holy Spirit dwells within a person, does He allow such contradictions to continue? If a person ignores the urging of the Holy Spirit for a long enough period of time, what is the result?

Does David answer this in Psalm 51:11?

St. Paul admonishes the Ephesians not to make sorrowful the Holy Spirit of God in Ephesians 4:30. Taken in connection with Psalm 51, should we be concerned about such grievances against the Holy Spirit? What happens when the Holy Spirit is ignored and resisted to the point of becoming sorrowful? If He urges us to acknowledge where we are wrong and to be turned to what is true, but we continue to ignore Him, what is the eventual result?

Is any sin too small to matter? Is there any sin that can be counted as insignificant? Is there any sin that does not result in damnation apart from the repentance that the Holy Spirit works?

Interesting that this question is the result of discussing courtesy calls, is it not? The Holy Spirit does extend us courtesy calls that have our best interest as their concern. How do we respond? Do we imagine them to be something to ignore? Do we consider them to be undesired invasions into our lives? Or do we give thanks to God that He has not yet scratched us off of His list?

For me, the latter is counted as cause for continual thanksgiving and confession and absolution.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Once upon a time . . .

“Once upon a time . . .” Isn’t this how the innocent and wholesome stories are supposed to begin?

I remember, once upon a time, when the movie industry and TV producers insisted that their movies and TV shows and advertisements merely “reflected” society and did not shape it or define it or influence it or inspire it.

These statements were made in response to concerned citizens and especially those who called for boycotts against certain programs and movies.

I don’t know whether any thinking persons actually believed this propaganda, but it was nevertheless what the media elite claimed and propagandized. While they continued “reflecting” the “societal norms,” society and its views and perspectives and ways did most certainly change dramatically.

Now the movie industry in particular is making a different claim. Now, as The Film Foundation is seeking donations and support for the restoration of old films, now they say something else than what they previously claimed. Now, in the preview and advertisement portion of DVDs they are presenting a video saying that films have had much more influence.

The following is a snippet from this new propaganda produced by The Film Foundation. I decided not to include any sound, and to let the primary message be viewed. Watch for the three areas of influence that the media elites now claim:

So, what three things does The Film Foundation now claim that movies do and accomplish?

Wow! So movies and the media do impact and influence and change the views of people after all. So the violence and the sex and the alternative lifestyles and the theology and the immorality and amorality and the acceptance of divorce and promiscuity and the cursing and the foul language and the taking of the Lord’s name in vain and the mockery of Christians and the Christian faith all do influence and define us after all.

And what do we have now that we did not have before? Have things improved?

Are people living happier lives? Are families more stable? Have addictions to tobacco and alcohol and drugs ceased to enslave people? Have child abuse and spouse abuse disappeared? Has the rate of suicide declined? Have people been filled with hope? Has depression become less of a problem? Has the threat of terrorism diminished? Has worldwide hunger been eliminated? Has peace filled the world? Is the Middle East at peace? Has the economy stabilized? Do we face less debt? Do we suffer from less daily stress in our lives? Are people kinder and gentler and more compassionate and charitable? Is there less threat of violence in the public schools and in our neighborhoods?

Wow! So movies define us. Movies inspire us. Movies are what we dream of.

Thanks Clint! You’ve done a great job! Thanks Scorsese! How can we ever repay you?

I pray that you do not receive the payment that you have earned for yourselves.

God grant that you repent of your definitions and inspirations and hellish dreams and nightmares so that what you deserve may be forgiven you. God grant me the heartfelt desire to turn from your promotion of vengeance and self-justice and violence and unbridled lifestyles and self-defined moralities. God grant you freedom from these as well so that we may embrace one another as true brothers and share together in the everlasting joy of His peace and mercy and love.

Yes, this is a genuine prayer and not mockery or sarcasm. This is what the Lord Jesus teaches His disciples to pray continually, especially in the Our Father.

Of course, the movie industry has not forced anyone to watch their movies. They have seduced people and people have been willingly seduced. How many of us who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus and members of His body willingly pay to watch movies and TV programs that we know are contrary to His will? How much of our lives do we devote to this so-called entertainment? Has this influenced the life of those calling themselves Christians? Has this influenced the activities of the churches? Do the churches stand apart as lights on a hill or do they imitate the media and incorporate their ways, seeking to lure and seduce people rather than unabashedly preaching the Gospel?

Do Christians need to hear the call to wake up and stop sleeping? Do Christians need to check their lamps for oil and trim their wicks? Are we allowing ourselves to be lulled into spiritual slumber? What things in our lives are defining us and inspiring us? Of what things do we dream?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Gentle Dove

Saturday as I was preparing to take a load of willow logs to the landfill, I noticed a mourning dove sitting in the street about a foot from the curb. It simply sat and did not move. I approached and it still did not move. Was it alive? Yes, but very weak.

I thought: “You’ll be killed if you stay there.” So I gently picked it up and moved it to the grass in our yard. But it barely had strength to stand erect. So I thought, “Maybe you need some water.”

I gently picked it up to carry to the makeshift birdbath that I keep in our backyard. It is a tin flat dog water bowl that I use to provide water to the birds and squirrels and other critters that frequent our back yard. It did become very frightened this time but quickly gave up fighting and fluttering.

The poor thing was too weak even to hold its head high enough for this source of water, so I filled a flower pot base with water and propped the dove beside it.

When I returned later in the day, it had regained enough strength to move part way around the trunk of the tree. It opened its eyes more frequently and looked more alert. It did not respond as though it feared me, but simply looked up at me.

Later I needed to cut the grass. So I placed the dove in an open cardboard box and moved it temporarily to our deck. The mower did frighten it and it moved out onto the deck, but was safe from my activities. Later I moved it back into the box and to the tree.

I kept hoping that it could survive till the next morning and possibly have recovered from its sickness enough to fly to safety. If only the other creatures would permit this.

At 11:00 pm the little dove was still there and again I hoped that it would be safe.

Sunday morning I checked again.

I still feel very sad.

Such is the way in this old world corrupted by the sin of Adam, inherited by myself and all of humanity. All of creation moans and groans under the burden to the curse that God placed on the soil for our sake. Little instances like this one are painful reminders that sin truly does equal death. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a) There is no escaping this fact. Nothing that we can do can change this. Nothing.

However, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23b)

What a powerful contrast! What a wonderful declaration! The wages, that which we earn by our actions, is death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord! What we earn and deserve is not what God gives. Rather, He has earned and purchased for us an everlasting gift, Life! He bestows this wondrous gift freely, without charge, without requirement. He pours it out to us with the gift of His Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. He renews this gift as He comes to us in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Absolutely nothing is required of us. Even the faith that causes us to believe is His gift through the preaching of the Gospel in connection with Baptism.

So I could not save the little dove. Yet the Holy Spirit, who has manifested Himself as a dove, has saved me. He comes as gently as that little mourning dove, except not in weakness but with great power. Though He works gently, He presses His way into my heart and into my thoughts and breaks the barrier of my hardened heart and crushes the resistance of my will so that His peace triumphs and rules my heart. This He does for all true believers. First He makes believers of them and then He continually calls them to repent of their own thoughts, words, and deeds, things that earn the wages of death, and gives to them instead the merits of Christ, which restore life everlasting.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

What are you eating?

What are you eating? How are you affected by your diet?

This morning Stephanie commented on how her cravings have changed since we have become more careful about our diet. (Notice that we are discussing diet and not ration. Diet is the substance of what is consumed while ration is the amount. What most people mislabel as diet is really ration.) Stephanie commented that since we have cleaned up our diet and are eating more and more fruits and vegetables, and that we have begun spending the money for organic fruits and vegetables, that she now craves these. In the past I had to fight her to convince her to eat any fruits, but now she says that she actually craves them.

We have eliminated most of the processed foods from our diet, too. Processed food has many unnatural and unhealthy ingredients added to it. Some of the most harmful of these are the neurotoxins or excitotoxins MSG (processed glutamates) and aspartame (aspartic acid). What our bodies crave has changed as over time we have been cleansed of these toxins. We also have less headaches and other aches.

It is amazing to us to observe how powerfully we have been affected by using caution in our diet. As our diet has changed, so also has our desire for pure food increased. We drink reverse osmosis filtered water, and so we can hardly even force ourselves to drink Wichita’s city water from a water fountain or from the tap. We even make our own ice cream, after depriving ourselves for several years because of the toxins added to store bought ice cream. Things like these we make from pure ingredients, purchasing milk produced by herds free from the hormones that are added and from antibiotics and from other things added to milk and milk products. The more that we have done this sort of thing, the more that we crave pure and unadulterated foods. We have actually been changed by what we eat.

The same is true of spiritual food. How many “Christians” truly even consider the purity of what they are being fed in their churches? How many people even know how to identify the pure and unadulterated Word and Sacraments?

This is why St. Paul says:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

When the apostle admonishes that we should work out our own salvation he means that we should very carefully and continually examine the doctrine and practice of our churches to be certain that what we are being fed is not poisoning us. He says to do this with fear and trembling. Why? The reason is that a little leaven leavens the entire loaf. Just a little spiritual MSG not only poisons one sermon or one worship service, but it works its way through the entire congregation and through the very essence of the faith of every worshiper. Moreover, like with MSG in processed foods, spiritual impurity causes the hearer to crave more of the same deadly corruption. For this reason St. Peter also gives a strong admonition, saying:

Having put aside, then, all evil, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envyings, and all evil speakings, as new-born babes the word's pure milk desire ye, that in it ye may grow, if so be ye did taste that the Lord is gracious, to whom coming—a living stone—by men, indeed, having been disapproved of, but with God choice, precious, and ye yourselves, as living stones, are built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1-5 YLT)

Most Christians acknowledge that the Word of God is what is needed in the life of the believer and of the Church. Most “Bible believing” Christians speak of the necessity of the Word. Many even acknowledge the importance of the pure Word. But do they really even know what pure means? Have they truly worked this out for themselves so that they crave the Word’s pure milk? Or have they eaten tainted spiritual food for so long that they actually crave the impurities and additives of their church bodies and of their preachers and of their own sinful hearts?

Since the Scriptures teach that only the pure doctrine saves, should we not stand with St. Paul and St. Peter rather than with those who preach tolerance of impurity?

In my own daily walk I find it amazing how powerfully I am affected in this regard. If I allow any impurity into my thinking or into my spirit or into my activity, this impurity immediately takes over me so that this is what I think, say, and do, and even desire. One stupid song can be so pervasive that it requires a deliberate and determined retreat into the pure Word to rescue me. I often find that the only way to escape the recurring tune and lyrics is to begin singing one of the powerful hymns that I know. The same is true of movies that we rent and watch. The same is true of any of the moronic frauds who claim to be radio evangelists. Even a billboard advertisement on the side of the highway can fill my thoughts with something impure. One jackass driver can likewise fill me with unholy and unhealthy poisons.

But the word’s pure milk empowers my spirit. Returning to God’s grace in my baptism purifies my soul. Setting my mind on the things above where Christ is completely changes my thought pattern. Singing or humming or whistling one of the powerfully rich hymns drives out the impurity and teaches me the true faith again. Then this is again what my soul craves.

But this does not happen if I allow one of the shallow so-called Christian songs from the radio to be my source of strength. These only direct me to my own emotions and my own reason and strength. Such are not the Word’s pure milk, but are full of impurities. These only substitute one spiritual poison for others. In actuality, these don’t really even replace the other toxins but only pile on top of them.

So then, what do you eat? What do you crave? Is this a genuine concern in your daily life?

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blessed with Favor

For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12)

In the Scriptures certain ones of the Lord are said to have been given favor before men by the Lord. Joseph was given favor before Potipher and Pharaoh. Samuel grew in favor before the Lord and men. This is especially said of Jesus. In Acts it is said of the disciples who gathered to the doctrine and communion preached by the apostles.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:41-47)

I was reminded of this yesterday as I was attempting to exit the driveway in my pickup truck to head out to tend to some errands. A man in a van slowly approached and stopped in front of the driveway in front of me, got out and walked toward me. “Do you still grind stumps?” he asked. He then explained that he had a stump that he wanted me to grind for him. I asked whether he needed for me to give him a bid or if he just wanted me to schedule the work. He said that I should just schedule the work and do it because he knew that I would do right by him.

Another of my customers insists on being present when I do work for him. He says that he wants to be sure to be home to see what I do. He says that he wants to make certain that I actually charge him for everything that I do for him. He says that if he does not watch me I will do extra things and not charge him.

Sometimes I would like to take credit for such kindly responses from my customers. But it is the Lord who gives a person favor in the eyes of others. While it is true that I do extra things for people and that I am thorough in my work and that I try to do my best always for my customers, it is the Lord who causes them to look upon me favorably.

In a discussion recently with a couple of neighbors of one of my customers, one of whom asked me to do some minor emergency pruning for him, these people also spoke very kindly to me and of me to one another. The lady also said, “I can see that God is at work in you.”

This sort of statement does not come on account of what I do, for there is far too much wrong in me and what I do for anyone to respond so favorably on that account. To find fault with me and my life and my actions would be very easy for anyone who observes me. Yet this is not the primary response of people. The Lord moves people to see not what I do, but what He is doing in me and for me and through me. Thus people generally say kind things about me and my work. They see what the Lord is doing and His goodness is so complete and powerful that they really don’t see anything else.

I am truly amazed when I observe this. I complain about the many injustices that I see in the world, injustices that I experience personally and that I see others suffer, too. Complain, complain, complain seems to be my way. I talk about the evils of the globalism and one world government movement. I warn about the things that are coming upon the world on account of sin. I point to the many betrayals of governmental leaders at every level. I complain about the destructive and oppressive ways of the central banking system. Yet even with all of this grumbling and complaining and crying out, the Gospel is so powerful that it is what people perceive as ruling my heart and mind and life.

Truly as the psalmist writes: The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Why do they do it?

My wife rented some movies for us to watch. Two of the movies, “The Road” and “Shrink” were based upon suicide and the question: “Why do they do it?” The question was left unanswered, with only the pain for the survivors on display.

Why do they do it?

The answer is actually contained within the nomenclature. The two parts of the word mean self - kill.

Suicide is all about self. Another way of saying this is selfish. Suicide is selfishness manifested in its fullest measure.

Suicide seems senseless until one becomes completely preoccupied with self. Once a person’s thoughts are purely selfish, suicide becomes the only action that seems reasonable.

The reason behind this is what a person encounters through selfishness. When a person is concerned only about self, what does the person find? What the person finds is disappointing beyond what can be borne. The person finds endless weakness and failure. The person finds helplessness and becomes entirely without hope. The person finds no purpose. This leads to terrible frustration. Frustration becomes anger. Anger becomes deep-felt resentment, often first concerning the unfair and uncaring actions of others, and eventually the self-loathing of honest self-examination. The person becomes more and more aware of the inescapable facts of self-awareness. “I hate myself!” becomes the prevailing mindset.

People find various alternative forms of suicide. While it seems to be more and more common in today’s materialistic and hedonistic and immoral as well as amoral society to kill oneself outright, there are many other forms of getting rid of oneself, at least temporarily. Most forms of addiction are just this. Whether it be alcohol, drugs, food, junk food, work, exercise, gambling or sex or pornography, these all are often used as forms of temporarily escaping oneself, or at least of dulling one’s self-awareness. People immerse and drown themselves and push themselves out of consciousness of self through these various indulgences. Even such things as charity and evangelism can be used in these ways.

Why is this so powerful? Why do people seem to be unable to escape these forms of self-destruction?

The answer is that they are already dead.

Since they are already dead, killing themselves and eliminating or attempting to erase or eradicate themselves seems like an answer. “Stop the pain. Make it go away! There is no other way of escape! I must do this!”

This is why God has provided Baptism. Through Baptism the dead and corrupt person is washed away and an entirely new person is raised up to a brand new life. This new person has a brand new image, the image that was lost, the image of God, which is Christ. This new person is alive with the goodness of the Lord Himself. The Holy Spirit comes to the person and fills the person with the very will of God, the good and gracious and holy will of God. With the Holy Supper this is renewed through continual eating of the body of the unity of Christ and drinking of the blood of forgiveness.

So we learn that the answer to the hopelessness of mankind is not ending oneself but being regenerated into the image of God in the unity of the body of Christ. Therein God works a complete change of heart and mind that restores to the person the hope that cannot be found through any other means. Peace truly begins to rule the person’s heart, mind, body, and soul. Then the person hears and understands and believes the answer that the Lord Jesus gave to St. Paul which is recorded for us in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “Sufficient for thee is My grace.” (YLT)

When a person has been converted so that this is what dwells in one’s soul, even the self-loathing suicidal thoughts have no power over the person. No one who knows the pure grace of God in Christ can continue to hate oneself, nor anyone one else. Then one sees beyond the mirror to what God has declared in Christ Jesus. Then hope is restored, and even more than restored, so that true contentment in all things is known and peace rules over everything in the person’s life.

Oh that this would be what Hollywood’s producers would explain on the big screen. But who would buy it? Oh that the churches would preach this without compromise! But who would believe it?

How about you? After all, God has declared it for you. He has purchased it at the ultimate cost so that it would be yours free of cost to you. He provides it continually and without limit in His means of grace in His true Church. Its yours! It is already yours to receive freely through the means of grace.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tree Work

The recent storms in the area have caused a flood of emergency calls over the last few weeks. One of the emergency tree jobs is the removal of an enormous willow that was damaged. One of the broken boughs had a bee hive inside. The bees were not happy, especially as I banged around their hive removing the large broken boughs, including the upper half of their hive. The weather has been very hot as well.

None of the local beekeepers wanted the hive. So, after roping it to the ground I dragged it by means of a rope into the wooded area where they would be of no harm to the people in the area. Amazingly I was not stung even once. I was very careful, but that does not explain that with a cloud of bees swarming about that I was not stung, not even once. Only one explanation fits. Thank you, Lord!

To access the tree I am entering the property through the fence, removing the one panel each day. An alley from the street to the fence measures approximately 90 yards. Thus, I am dragging branches and hauling logs about 100 yards each trip. I’ve been traversing that distance 20 or more times each day, meaning that I am dragging and hauling the debris and equipment and my body over a mile.

Yesterday I needed to climb to a crotch about 60 feet above the ground to rope and fell the double top pieces of about 20 feet. It was a hard climb, since I was not able to position my climbing line sufficiently high to accommodate the last three or four feet. That last three to four feet of bare trunk is amazingly hard without the benefit of the climbing line. Atop this narrowing stick, I roped and cut the top boughs. The second bough caused the top to sway about three feet, then allowing the top to snap back very hard, hitting my forearm with great force. About 15 minutes later, when I was back on the ground, I was able to apply a chunk of the ice from my water jug to help reduce the swelling.

Such is the routine of an arborist.

This, too, is a reminder of how God cares for us continually. The Lord kept me from more serious harm. The area of the top where it snapped back and struck me was sharp and jagged. It easily could have cut me. It could have broken my arm. But it did not. It merely bruised me deeply, leaving me hurting this morning.

How many times in a day is a person protected from harm? Is it even possible to know? Do we even attempt to account for the many ways that the Lord cares for us each day? Even the fact that the cells in our bodies continue to function properly is a miracle. The number of times that the Lord protects us from deleterious cellular mutations and invading organisms is incalculable.

Luther’s evening prayer serves as a wonderful summary and thanksgiving in this regard:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

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Friday, August 12, 2011


As I remember things, McDonald's had an advertisement in the past where they emphasized that they would give us change. Give them a dollar and they would give us change.

It occurred to me this evening, that this is what Obama really meant in his campaign mantra. He (and the FED and Congress) would take our dollars and give us mere change. At least McDonald's gave us greasy food and sugar with our change.

Of course, Obama and Company have given us other change, too. We now have sky-rocketing prices on almost everything, beginning with the price of fuel, extending to every other form of necessary goods and services. With this the national debt has grown to incalculable figures. McDonald's gave us change and fat bodies. The governmental leaders and bankers have given us fat government and banking institutions.

Then, also, where we once had at least the illusion of privacy, now the government and the bankers and the corporations know more about us than we do. While that may not be a change, the fact that we now are aware that they know more about us than we do is a change.

While I thought of this as a humorous thought to share when I first pondered it, having written it, I'm not laughing. I'm not even amused.

I guess I had better pull out the catechism and the hymnal and hear something to lift my spirit again.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Customer Service Blessing

In the post below I share frustrations regarding the abusive and evasive tactics that companies use regarding customer service issues.

In one of my very frustrating attempts at conversation with a customer service representative from another country, after it had become absolutely clear that the representative would be able to be of no help whatsoever to me, upon bringing the conversation to a close, the representative said, “Have a blessed day.”

This impressed me very powerfully. This is what I commonly say to people. When I say it, I mean it. Thus I expect that this person also meant it.

I do not know what this man believes. Neither do I know whom he confesses as his God. Was he calling upon the same God that I confess? I hope so.

Nevertheless, this served as a very powerful reminder to me that the people on the other end of the telephone conversation are real people. They are not just foreigners whom the companies are exploiting. They are not merely people seeking to earn money through a service provider that cares nothing about me.

As I said, it served as a powerful reminder. It is not as though I did not know this. It is not as though I did not care about the other people. Yet in times of frustration, I do become selfish and I forget about the other person. Not always, but sometimes I do.

It was good to hear this word of blessing from the other person. I do not often hear this even among people I see face to face. It was good to be reminded that at least some of the people from far away are like minded and perhaps even my brethren who are unknown to me.

This last thought is especially encouraging. Especially as the churches have become so polluted and dysfunctional, as the Gospel has been mingled with so many worldly thoughts and beliefs, the thought that maybe I have a brother in a far away place whom I have not met, this is an encouraging thought.

It also serves to remind me that James’ warning about bridling one’s tongue should never be ignored. (James 3) This is especially a matter of concern realizing that what one says cannot be taken back. Surely, the greatest concern should be that my tongue never place an obstacle before another person who could have heard the blessed Gospel from me. What does my cell phone service matter contrasted to this matter of everlasting importance?

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Foreign Customer Service

Customer Service today from any of the companies from whom customer service is truly needed seems to be a facade. In most cases the company has exported its customer service to third party providers in other countries. The customer service representatives usually do not have proper access to do what is needed to fix the problem. In addition they usually have not been well trained. Furthermore, they themselves are weary of the constant complaint regarding the language and culture barriers to productive communication.

The problem is real. It is not an imaginary problem that exists only in the perception of the frustrated customer. Even though the customer service representative may have spoken the English language for a lifetime, it is not the person’s primary language. Moreover the culture and geographic differences influence how people think and respond.

Even with British speakers of English the speech patterns and word usage and especially pronunciation is very different from American speakers. If the speaker is Irish or Scottish, the differences are even larger.

So the problem is not primarily the fault of the poor customer service representative in a country foreign to the calling customer. The fault is primarily the company’s. The company does not genuinely care about customer service. The company only cares about providing the facade of customer service, and doing so with the least cost that can be arranged.

In this day, even local companies, such as the Wichita Eagle newspaper, have their primary customer service phone service through the Philippines! How can someone in the Philippines know what is happening with newspaper delivery in Wichita, Kansas?

Telephone companies likewise port their phone calls everywhere except where the customer is. Cell phone providers often are the worst. The bottom line is that they don’t care whether or not the customer receives the service that has been promised. All they care about is promoting the false perception that the company cares about the customers. And this is true even when the customer service is within the USA.

And so from the banking institution to the newspaper agency to the cell phone provider, the customer is attacked with idiotic and worthless surveys. The surveys are conducted by telephone, by e-mail, and via the postal service (snail mail). And what is the intent of these surveys? Is it to improve customer service? Do these companies actually change what is wrong with and lacking in their service? No! What they do is add to the idiotic and mindless mantras that they require their customer service representatives to use in their responses to the customers’ questions. These prepared responses do not answer the questions. Neither do they improve the quality of understanding and communication. They simply present a pretense of politeness and caring. They are designed to give a false display of politeness and genuine concern while leaving the customer without any real answers or help.

Why do these companies do this? Is it merely to save money? Apparently not. So what is the real reason?

Consider the cell phone providers as an example. Over the years I have used Verizon, Cingular (which was hijacked by AT&T), AT&T, and now Cricket. I have experienced the same problems with each company: dropped calls, poor reception, handset issues, software/program issues, delayed or non-delivered voice mail, etc. I have experienced the same sad excuse for customer service with each company.

And I believe that I know why this is. It actually produces more sales for the companies!

If the customer does not receive satisfactory service, eventually the customer switches providers. Each of the providers use systems that require specific phones and accessories. Thus, they sell more phones. Some offer “free” or “discounted” phones for the contract snare. “Insurance” is offered on the phones, insurance that has a deductible that is higher than the company’s cost of the phone. The phones are designed not to be water resistant so that even heavy perspiration can eventually render the phone inoperable (and often not covered by the insurance). So the company gets to sell another phone.

In the meantime, customers are tortured with phone calls to representatives who are not properly trained and who use the language differently and therefore are unable to communicate effectively regarding technical issues that require the highest level of communication. The customer service representative receives abuse from the frustrated customers, which only makes the issue more severe. In fact, since there is no accountability for the representative, many of them simply hang up on the customer. Thus both the customer and the representative develop prejudices concerning people they have never truly met, and these are extended to their countrymen.

Meanwhile, the companies reap huge profits and their CEO’s siphon off huge bonuses.

Do I sound frustrated? Imagine that!

What frustrates me more is knowing that people continue to elect the same frauds to public office so that these companies will never be held accountable for not honoring their promises.

What frustrates me even more is knowing that in the most important matters of life, the everlasting matters, people are willfully choosing such facades and abuse. False doctrine in the churches is not only tolerated, not only accepted, but promoted and sought. And so, even in the one place where people should receive the comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding, instead they receive more pretense and abuse, often without even realizing what they are choosing for themselves.

The Lord Jesus and His apostles warned that these times would come. They warned that people would become more and more blind and non hearing and that their hearts would grow cold and that government would become corrupt beyond imagination and that the faith would be so abused and corrupted that the final days would be like the days of Noah. In the days of Noah, how many true believers remained? What was God’s answer to this? What answer does He say that He gives concerning the Last Day? In Noah’s days the world had become so corrupt that without the Lord’s intervention the last man of faith would have been overcome. Moreover the line from which the Savior would be born would have been eradicated by the enemies of the faith. The Lord saved Noah (and all the world) through water. The sinful world was washed clean through the great flood. At the return of the Lord Jesus at the Last Day, the cleansing shall be by fire. Those who have sought the destruction of the true faith and those who have been regenerated by it will be sent away forever and all sin shall be obliterated. The corruption and deception that now rules the world shall be gone and those who through faith are in Christ Jesus shall be forevermore set free from the frustration and disappointment and anguish of the lies and the sin.

John records the final word on this matter at the end of Revelation 22:

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Smartbird: Airplane that Flies like a Bird

Feed Me! Feed ME!

Here are some photos of some baby grackles that were in a nest in a tree that I pruned and cleaned earlier this year.

These little baby birds stand as an example of all of creation since the fall of man into sin. Since Adam chose to invent the notion of free will, which is nothing more than rebellion against God’s declared will, this is the way of the world. Me! ME! ME!!

These little baby birdies exemplify the selfishness that rules over us and over all of creation since that day that Adam decided that he could rise up for himself rather than trusting the goodness of the Lord.

They care not for their siblings. “Feed me!” “Feed ME!” “Feed ME!!” They each care only for self, jumping at the slightest vibration, striving to rise up above one another to be the one to receive the food that the parents carry to the nest.

Until the Holy Spirit intervenes, coming to us in our baptism to regenerate us from above, we are just like these little birdies. “Me. Me! ME!!”

Entirely contrary to what so-called naturalists and environmentalists and scientists try to convince us, this way is not at all natural. This is not the way that the Lord ordained for His creation. This is what man caused through his imaginary free will. Tempted by the devil to imagine that choosing for himself was better than trusting the good that the Lord had established and declared, Adam brought death and all of the unnatural daily consequences of death to the world. All of creation moans and groans under this burden.

Yet the Lord reacted in a way that is very foreign to our ways. He overturned the destruction that Adam imposed upon us. While the Lord most assuredly is angry over the sin that Adam chose for us, the way of death and destruction that the devil tricked the first two humans to accept and choose for themselves and all future generations, wrath is not the Lord’s primary reaction. His wrath is actually His secondary response.

His first and primary response is to look upon us with love and mercy. His wrath is displayed so that we may be made aware of what our rebellion causes. Much like a loving parent will spank a young child so as to steer their beloved child away from things that are harmful, so God uses His displays of wrath to make us aware that we need to hear Him and be restored by Him to the way of everlasting safety. Love is the true attitude of God toward us, even in His displays of wrath.

At the Last Day, those who have refused to hear and be turned will be sent away from God’s presence. Their belligerent choice to be separated from the Lord will be enacted fully. Since all of God’s loving acts to call them into His repentance were ignored and defied, they shall finally receive the wrath that has been stored up for the devil and all who follow him. They shall be sent off to the place where they will be confined together forever. Then they will bring upon themselves the fullness of what the Lord lovingly and mercifully limited during the present age. All of the evil that they hold in their hearts will become fully manifest and the terror that God has prevented, they will unleash on one another forevermore.

Yet these little birdies also display something of value. While they do display selfishness, nevertheless they also remind us of our absolute dependence upon our heavenly Father for all good things. While we should not be like the birdies in striving to rise up above one another but should trust that the Lord knows our needs and will provide for us fully in the appropriate time, yet we can learn from the birdies that we should indeed look up and cry out to the Lord for our every need. Such trust will never leave us disappointed.

Here is another photo, a photo of a tiny little bunny that scooted in front of me where I park my work truck. (Click photo for larger view.)

This little bunny was almost 4 inches long. It had not yet learned to hop but simply scurried as quickly as its little bitty legs would carry it. This little one also reminds us of our dependence upon the Lord. We are just little babes who need His continual care. He treasures us and wants good things for us. When we look to Him in faith, we see this.

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