Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Yes, dear Fr. H. reader, I know.  Gaudete is not for two more weeks.  In this case, Gaudete does not refer to the Sunday of the Church year, but rather a medieval carol which I learned about just recently from a blog post from my dear friend and brother in Christ, the Rev. Deacon Latif Gaba.

Gaudete is a sixteenth century piece first published in Scandinavia.  The lyrics in Latin and English are at the Wikipedia article.

It seems that British folk-rock band Steeleye Span recorded Gaudete in 1973, and it made the pop charts, only one of three Latin language songs to make the British top-50.  You can see and hear their performance here.  The male singers have a pretty harsh Barbarian accent, but the lady singer is more euphonic.

More Good News out of Russia

Just as the Christian faith is transmitted, often tediously and arduously, from one person to another, so it is with churches.  They are established one parish at a time, growing out of missions and missionary work, out of education and training, and forged in the Word of God by the Holy Spirit.  So too, parish pastors are formed in a slow process, one at a time.  As the late Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart quipped, "You cannot mass produce pastors."

This article shares the joy of a recent ordination in Siberia, that of the Rev. Dmitry Dotsenko to the pastoral office after three years of faithful ministry as a deacon.  This past Reformation Day, Father Dmitry was ordained as a presbyter by Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin in Novokuznetsk at St. James Lutheran Church where he now serves as the parish pastor.  The bishop was assisted in the ordination not only by two priests of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (The Revs. Alexei Streltsov and Pavel Khramov), but also by two prominent pastors from the LCMS: the Rev. Dr. Tim Quill (director of the Fort Wayne Seminary's Russian Project for many years) and the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, special assistant to the Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the LCMS.

The article also shares the sublime joy and the holy terror of a newly ordained pastor officiating at his first Mass.

Blessings to Father Dmitry in his ministry to the saints of St. James Lutheran Church - Novokuznetsk.  It is an honor and a privilege to spiritually stand shoulder to shoulder with such great warriors of the Lord's Kingdom, though we are physically separated by half a world.  Our Siberian brethren are a great inspiration to us, laymen and pastors alike, who labor under the cross in a very different culture, and yet carrying the same burdens heaped upon us by the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh.

Blessings also to all of our clergy, laymen, and congregations in Russia and around the world.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sermon: Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) - 2010

28 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 21:1-9 (Jer 23:5-8, Rom 13:8-14)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when…”

This, dear friends, is a promise. The Lord, speaking prophetically through Jeremiah, has made a promise. It isn’t a “when I get around to it” sentiment, rather, it is an ironclad declaration that this will happen. The Lord doesn’t say “perhaps” or “if” – but rather “when.”

And the “when” is this: “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.”

This was not an easy prophecy for Jeremiah’s listeners to hear. For the “when” was not to be for some six hundred years. And, in fact, only decades after this promise was given, something else was to come to pass: the nation of Judah would be captured and sent mourning into “lonely exile here / Until the Son of God appear.”

How hard it must have been to cling to the promise of the righteous Messiah King, the Savior of Judah, when the people saw their nation overthrown, their Temple destroyed, and they and their countrymen were taken into captivity. But nonetheless, dear friends, Jeremiah clearly says concerning this hopeful promise: “declares the Lord.”

And in fact, Jeremiah speaks again, saying “declares the Lord,” yet another time, promising “then they shall dwell in their own land.” How ironic this must have sounded to the people of Judah as they were being led away in chains from their promised land into slavery, hundreds of miles away. How hopeless it must have seemed!

And while many may well have mocked the prophet’s words, others embraced this oracle of hope, clinging to the promise of God of a Deliverer, a Savior, the Christ who would come into the bondage of this world to set God’s holy people free from their enemies.

And indeed, those days were coming. The King drew nearer with each passing day – even as the people of Judah suffered and waited.

But the time of waiting was to come to an abrupt end.

And as He “drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives,” we see this promised King carrying out the plans of His own triumphal entry into David’s royal city, preparing the royal highway. Indeed, the daughter of Zion, the people held captive by their enemies of this world and of the world unseen, would to hear these prophetic words anew: “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

And though six centuries have passed, Jeremiah’s words of David’s Righteous Branch are vindicated. For this is God’s Word, ringing true even from the lips of children who made sweet hosannas ring to their Redeemer King.

For “the disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them.”

And while not knowing what awaited this King, and while not yet understanding the Kingdom, the people confess Jesus as the Son of David, even as they “spread their cloaks on the road,” and “cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road,” cheering the royal refrain, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

What a stupendous event to see, dear friends! How glorious it must have been to join this crowd, being in the presence of our Lord, and singing “Hosanna!” Can there be a greater privilege? Indeed, the only privilege greater is to be baptized into the name of, and given the gift of faith from, this Redeemer King! For we who likewise confess Him, we who acknowledge His kingdom and bow before Him as Lord, we who humbly confess our sins and receive His grace and mercy, have eternal life and salvation. For we are the people of God, ransomed from our captivity, our exile ended, singing “Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

And we have the delight to re-welcome the Lord’s coming, week in and week out in our Divine Service at the holy altar, singing anew: “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” For unlike the crowds, we know what awaited this King – His sacrificial passion and cross and His saving death and resurrection. Unlike the crowds, we understand His Kingdom – which is not of this world, and which is about the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, and communion with God. It is about redemption and eternal life. It is about the re-creation of the universe, perfect as it was meant to be, and we who confess Christ and are saved by His grace, are part of that new creation.

In one sense, dear brothers and sisters, our wait is over. We have been redeemed by the Lamb and baptismally washed by His blood. We confess Him and receive absolution. We enjoy the foretaste of the everlasting feast of the Royal Banquet of Holy Communion. And yet, like the people of Judah, we do continue to “mourn in lonely exile here.” For we are still surrounded by sin – that of the fallen world, and our own in our fallen flesh. We continue to yearn for the fulfillment of the Kingdom – which is here now, but not yet. We struggle with sin “until the Son of God appear.”

And so, dear brothers and sisters, this is the meaning of our Advent season. We look back to the fulfillment of ancient prophecies that foresaw the Savior’s coming, His Advent. We rejoice in our own salvation. And yet, we look forward to the consummation of the ages, of the Savior’s coming again, His second and final Advent. We sing Hosanna to the one who came in the past, who comes to us now, and who is yet to come at the end of time. And we, like the people of Judah, can become impatient in our wait.

But take heart, dear brothers and sisters, and hear anew St. Paul’s words of hope and encouragement: “You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Nearer than when we first believed!

No matter what continues to befall us in the struggle of this life, it is temporary. Each day that we cling to the promise is one day closer to the promise’s fulfillment! St. Paul urges us to hang in there, to endure, to persevere, for he also reminds us that we live out the Christian life not by our own strength, but rather by Him who strengthens us. And when we are weak, that is when we are strong. His victory is our victory.

For even as the Father did not forget his promise of old to Jeremiah and the people of Judah, and even as the Lord Jesus continued to govern the happenings of the world as He approached Jerusalem to be crucified, even so the Holy Spirit does not forget the promises he has made to us in His Word, even as we sojourn under the cross, dear friends.

For the Kingdom was brought into being at the cross. And the Kingdom is yours under the cross of our crucified Lord – even when you must bear your own cross of suffering in this world. The Kingdom became yours at Holy Baptism when you were marked by the cross. And by the blood of our Lord shed at the cross, you have assurance of forgiveness and life and salvation.

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.”

For “behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's that time of year again...

The calendar year is winding down, and the time of preparation for Christmas is at hand.  In fact, the new church year begins this coming Sunday.  And, if you do belong to a church body that keeps the Advent season, it is a penitential time, that is, a season of the year in which we have the opportunity to take heed of our spiritual life, to examine ourselves, and employ the means of grace that not only give us full and free salvation, but also the means to grow in our Christian life and faith.

It is also the time of year of New Year's resolutions.

I think most such resolutions are a waste of time.  But there is one commitment for the new year that you will not regret, that will provide you with being immersed in the Word of God, a commitment that can become a treasured part of your daily routine for the rest of your life: the One Year Bible.

The OYB is a systematic read through the Holy Scriptures in which the Bible is already divided into 365 readings, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, one from the Psalms, and one from the Proverbs.  In this plan, the Psalms are actually read twice over the course of the year.

While the readings technically begin on January 1, I would strongly urge anyone who wants to begin this journey for the first time not to wait until New Year's day.  In fact, I would recommend starting in early December if not before.  I don't remember where I read it (ironically, because it has to do with memory), but I have read somewhere that it takes doing something 21 times before it becomes a habit.  You can get a running start in December, reading the minor prophets and Revelation, and be ready for Genesis and Matthew on New Year's Day - after the habit and routine has been established.

And for Christians who believe the Scriptures are the very Word of God, that they are a means of grace, that they are the constant companion of the believer, and that it is our responsibility (and our privilege) to make Bible reading and reflecting a routine part of our family life - per God's own exhortation.  The OYB is an outstanding way to go.

I'm not suggesting that this replace devotional uses of Scripture, such as the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  To the contrary!  I find that a systematic read through the Bible makes praying the Bible all the more meaningful.  It allows the opportunity to look up difficult passages, to become familiar with chronologies and historical details and cultural matters, and to get the Big Picture of the sweep of God's Word from eternity to eternity, from Genesis to Revelation. 

The One Year Bible provides a way for couples and for families to spend 20 minutes or so together each day drinking in God's Word, providing an opportunity for reading aloud, for questions, for reflection, and for meditation.  There is also a small companion book with a short page of Q&A on each day's readings.  I would recommend this book in a qualified way - as the questions and answers reflect a Protestant bias that most of the time is okay, but for Lutherans, some of them are contrary to our confession (such as whenever sacraments are discussed).  So just be careful if you use that resource.

If you want to do the readings online (including many different translations and languages), you can do that here. There is also a helpful blog with resources and encouragement.

If you are interested in including the Apocrypha, you do have an option.  There is a so-called Catholic edition of the OYB that adds a supplemental reading from the Apocryphal books of the Old Testament.  The bad news is 1) it seems to be out of print, and 2) it is a paraphrase translation (NLT).  So, you could find a copy of this Catholic edition, record the readings for each day, and read the Apocrypha in the version of your choice - including the LCMS quasi-official version, the ESV.  (Note: the ESV's apocrypha translation is not without its own faults.)  This tends to make the whole process more cumbersome, which is one of the advantages of the OYB.  The point is this:  If you really want to read the Apocrypha, you can do it.  But at very least, the OYB provides you with daily readings from the 66 books considered canonical by all Christian churches.

The One Year Bible is also available in several different translations.

One way or the other, at the end of 2011 you will be another year older.  Time passes either way.  You could have read the entire Bible cover to cover, or not.  The commitment is (like I said) about 20 minutes or so each day.

It's worth it, and I guarantee it will be a blessing to you!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Big Government is Crumbling...

...around the world. The writing is on the wall. Nigel Farage speaks the truth.

HT: Lew Rockwell

Book Recommendation

When you hear the word "economics" maybe you get a mental picture of guys in tweed suits and round glasses speaking in mathematical equations and arguing in jargon you've never heard of. Economics is one of those subjects that we're kept in the dark about. In fact, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that this is by design. I had a pretty good education growing up - a very good public grade school and junior high followed by a private Jesuit high school - and we never talked about economics at all.

In college, I did take two classes in economics: macroeconomics and microeconomics. It was dreadfully boring, and filled with graphs and charts and mathematical formulas. I remember almost nothing about it - except the bawdy comments of the brilliant and likeable professor whose humor had really nothing to do with the topic. It seemed to have no connection to the real world.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Right now, the entire world is suffering because of "the economy." Unemployment is up, home foreclosures are going through the roof, nobody is making anything in their savings accounts, the stock market is jittery, and gold and silver are trading at record levels. The news accounts are filled with stories of currency wars, and China is at the center of a lot of the ruckus.

But, (at least speaking for myself), we have not been taught enough in school to understand what is going on. Furthermore, our university-level economics courses are nearly all taught according to the Keynsian model - which is what got us into the current mess in the first place.

The only economists who saw the current crisis coming were from the Austrian School of economics - an approach that differs in its basic premises from that of John Maynard Keynes. Keysianism advocates a centrally-planned economy - for the nation and for the world. The word "centrally-planned" ought to ring a bell - as this was the philosophy of the now defunct Soviet Union. Its very opposite is the free market. And the free market is the mechanism championed by Ludwig von Mises and other champions of Austrian economics.

So, how can we learn about economics - and the differences between these two opposite approaches - without boring charts, graphs, and terms that are so abstract as to sound like a cross between astrophysics and an artificial world created by Tolkien?  At least, how can we learn to grasp the basic concepts?

Here is your answer: How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes by Peter and Andrew Schiff.

Peter Schiff is the investment guru (guided by Austrian economic principles) who for many years stood as a lone voice predicting the current situation: the collapse of the housing bubble, the precarious position of the dollar, the stock market crash, the recession, the spike in the price of precious metals, the ascendancy of China, and the failure of economic "stimulus" from the Federal Reserve to do anything except make the problem worse. This is the guy who was routinely laughed at before October 2008.

 Nobody is laughing any more.

How an Economy Grows is a crash course in economics from the Austrian perspective. It can be easily read in a couple of sittings.  It is anything but boring. In fact, taking a page out of Jesus's book (figuratively, that is), the Schiff brothers teach by using a parable - in fact, a parable about men and fish. The story begins on a desert island with three men catching fish to survive. It is not abstract, there are no graphs or formulas, and before any terminology is introduced, you learn the concept based on a real world application - one that is whimsical and entertaining - even including storybook-style illustrations.

The book is fun, and yet profound. It is a primer that teaches concepts rather than lists of words to memorize.

It is only 233 pages of fairly large print. It is a book that can be enjoyed by highly-educated adults and by young people just learning about money.

It begins with a 12-page basic introduction to the whole Austrian vs. Keysian schools of thought controversy, a very brief overview of American economic history, and an introduction to some important names.

Next follow the chapters in the parable. There are call-out boxes throughout called "reality check" that tie in the concepts introduced in the story to real-world economics and terminology used by economists. They are brief and well-explained. At the end of each chapter is a section (one or two pages each) called "Takeaway" - which sum up the lessons in the chapter and apply them to the real world of history and economics.

The story begins at square one, and takes the reader step-by-step through levels of increasing complexity - and does so with clarity, humor, and in a way that makes you want to keep reading. The chapters are short and to the point. The reader learns about capital, investment, money, banking, borrowing, interest, the gold standard, fiat currency, inflation, the role of innovation and labor in economic growth, the effect of government and central banking, international trade, reserve currency, and the effect of stimulus on an economy.

The story follows the general history of the United States, and employs humorous "fishy" names that correspond, as least in a general manner, to real world players in the economic history of America - such as American presidents Barry Ocuda, George W. Bass, Lindy B., Slippery "Slippy" Dickson, and Franky Deep. Also in the mix are central bankers such as Ben Barnacle, Ally Greenfin, and a cameo appearance by one of the authors himself: Piker Skiff. Government agencies Finnie Mae, Fishy Mac, and Sushi Mae are not hard to decipher - especially within the context of the story and as they are explicitly explained in the "Takeaway" sections at the end of the chapters.

There is also an epilogue that addresses the current situation of the United States and the world.

If you're like me and your economics education was woefully inadequate, get this book. Even if you have a working knowledge of economics, this is a wonderful way to tie everything together, to present the Austrian point of view that has been, until recently, marginalized.

Kudos to Peter and Andrew Schiff - and to their father Irwin who fostered the idea decades ago and published the first version of the story under a similar title. Thanks to Peter Schiff, Irwin's fish tale designed to teach his sons about economics will resonate with millions of people in today's generation.  Hopefully, as more people wake up to what is happening in our economy, we will be able to take our lumps and come back stronger. At very least, some people will understand what is happening and will adopt a financial strategy to deal with the realities of what is happening right now to protect themselves and their families.

How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes is a must-read for anyone who works for a living, invests, saves, or spends U.S. dollars. And that would be just about everyone in the world.  It currently sells on Amazon for $13.57. A preview is available here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sermon: Thanksgiving Eve - 2010

24 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 17:11-19 (Deut 8:1-10, Phil 4:6-20)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, once again we have come to that time of year where we stop and give thanks. It is a busy time of year, with cooking, with travel, with decorating, with receiving guests, with shopping, and perhaps even scheduling and preparing for a whirlwind of parties – which in some cases are more mandatory business and stressful family obligations.

Perhaps when we are busy and distracted is the best time to take a little pause, to reflect, to meditate on our blessings, and give thanks to our generous and merciful Lord. For the easy thing is to just rush on to the next hurdle on the obstacle course of life, like nine of the ten lepers who received healing from our Lord in response to their desperate prayer: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Of the ten, only one returned – and he was one of the outcast Samaritans. And although it took barely any time at all, he paused from his own busy life and “[praised] God with a loud voice.” He “fell on His face at Jesus’ feet,” and he gave “thanks.” Our Lord Jesus not only blessed him and taught him about the mystery and the blessing of faith, He also used this grateful leper as an object lesson for our benefit. The Holy Spirit has yet again brought this revelation to us for our meditation.

For we are indeed busy like the nine. But there is a great blessing in giving thanks like the one.

And notice that the Samaritan leper didn’t pay for Jesus’s service like a doctor. He did not call in a favor like the powerful of this world do. Nor did he bring anything to the table other than his own helplessness. Remember that the ten were lepers, unclean beggars, rejected by the world and clinging to their rotting flesh, knowing that they were dying. They came to Jesus with nothing and left with everything. They came dying and left living. They asked for mercy, and they received grace and favor. They presented their dying flesh and were given healing, forgiveness, life, and a fresh start.

Dear friends, there could be no more clear picture of our Lord’s ministry among us, no better explanation of the Christian faith and life, no more Christ-centered confession of who God is and what He has in store for us, nor any greater articulation as to why we come here to this place to hear the healing words of our Master and to turn back to Him again and again to worship and give thanks.

For we too are unclean lepers with sinful flesh leading us to death. We are sinners burdened with the wages of sin. We are beggars, crying out in our liturgy “Lord, have mercy!” And we are receivers of gifts, of forgiveness, life, and salvation, of the Gospel, of the blood of the Lord, people whose sinful flesh has been cleansed by baptismal water. And though the world often treats us as leprous outcasts, we are the beloved of the Lord, we who come into His presence with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.

We fall at the feet of our Savior singing: “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the name of the Lord” even as we pray: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

For like the lepers, all the blood of goats and calves cannot take away our mortal sickness. Only the blood of Christ, shed for you, can do that. Like the lepers, our faith – faith in Christ alone as Savior and Redeemer – can cure our own uncleanness and mortality. And this is exactly what He does, dear friends! We do not offer the Lord a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, but rather we offer a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” in response to the Lord’s offering to us: His atoning and “all-availing sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross.”

Unlike the lepers, we do not need to heed the Lord’s instructions to “go and show yourselves to the priests.” There are no more Levitical priests to declare anything in God’s creation to be “clean” or “unclean.” For the Lord Himself, the Author of Life, our Great High Priest has declared us clean through His priestly administration of the forgiveness of sins, and as a result, all Christians exercise their own baptismal priesthood to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, together with all the saints, falling down at our Lord’s feet in grateful worship.

For we, like the lepers, are unworthy recipients of the Lord’s gifts. We have been given the privilege to live, to exist, to have heard the revelation of our own history from God, to have the joy of knowing our Creator – especially through the Word Made Flesh and the Word preached and proclaimed in Holy Scripture.

We give thanks to our Creator for creating us, and even though by our own rebellion, we deserve death and hell, we thank Him for His mercy that He instead gives us life and the invitation to stand before His throne as citizens of a Kingdom that will have no end. And even though our Lord disciplines us “as a man disciplines his son,” we know that He disciplines us out of love, bringing us into a “good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.”

The Lord has good things in store for us, dear brothers and sisters, things that will not wear out or fade away! And let us never forget, dear Christians, that we do not deserve this. We are unworthy. We are beggars. And we pray for mercy. But that is how our Lord is. He is merciful. He cares for you. He hears your prayer. He has plans for you. He will take care of you in this life and unto eternity.

This promise, sealed by the Lord’s blood on the cross, made ours through baptism, strengthened by the Lord’s Supper, given to us again and again in the Good News of forgiveness proclaimed and preached, revealed to us in the promises of Scripture, is why St. Paul can exhort us: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

With St. Paul we give thanks to our merciful Lord no matter what this fallen world throws at us, no matter what Satan does to try to discourage us. We can be content, trusting in the promise, knowing that our faith is rooted in Him who is faithful and who will what He promises to do. As the apostle confesses: “I know how to be brought low, and how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things who strengthens me.”

For our Lord has cleansed the leprosy of our sins and rolled back our mortality to reveal to us what we shall become, what we are destined to be, what we have been created to be, and what, by God’s mercy and promise, we will be.

This, dear friends, is why we give thanks. “This is the feast of victory for our God. For the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign. Alleluia. Allueluia.”

“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Stacy McDonald Twofer

If you aren't familiar with Mrs. McDonald's blog Your Sacred Calling, now is an excellent time to pop in.  Here are two recent posts to ponder...

  1. Jesus-full
  2. I am What I am: Growing in Thankfulness

Two excellent musings on the Christian faith and life from a conservative Presbyterian pastor's wife.  YSC is especially meaningful reading for Christian ladies, but there is great wisdom here that is (pardon the subliminal "golden arches" metaphor) "food for thought" for Christians of every sort.

Paging Mister Orwell...

... George Orwell, please use the nearest white courtesy telephone...

Some animals are more equal than others.  This is why certain animals on the farm hold other animals in contempt.  Life imitates art.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sermon: Last Sunday - 2010

21 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 25:1-13 (Isa 65:17-25, 1 Thess 5:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Our Lord has much to teach us in his Parable of the Ten Virgins.

The difference between the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins has nothing to do with intelligence. We know nothing about their IQs or the ability of the girls in our Lord’s story to calculate math formulas or to wax eloquently about philosophy.

The difference between the two groups has nothing to do with wealth, race, age, or being from the “right” families, schools, or social circles. We don’t even know whether or not the girls are morally upright if they have a bad reputation. We know nothing of their past. In fact, other than their state of wisdom and folly, we don’t know much about them at all.

All that our Lord says is that “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”

Using the foil of a tale of a wedding feast, our Lord teaches us about the necessity of wisdom in matters of “the kingdom of heaven” – especially when it concerns the end times and the Lord’s return. He teaches us the terrible consequences of spiritual foolishness. He implores us to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” of His glorious return and the end of the age.

For the Kingdom of God is open to all, but not all enter it. The Kingdom of God offers universal forgiveness, but not all receive it. The Kingdom of God is eternal, but not all find it in time.

Dear brothers and sisters, time is fleeting. It gets shorter every hour, every day, every year, and every century. We are in the last days. And “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” On that final day, it will not matter how much you know about the Bible – it will matter whether you believe it. It will not matter how many sins you have committed – it will matter if you have received forgiveness. It will not matter if you have everything you want in this life – it will matter whether you have all that you need for eternity.

All that has ever mattered, matters now, and will matter for eternity is whether or not we are prepared like the wise virgins in our Blessed Lord’s parable.

The wise virgins, the “children of light,” the ones who do not doze their way through this life spiritually snoring and dreaming of fantasies and worldly gain, the ones who are instead soberly vigilant and prepared, they will hear the cry: “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” They will experience the “marriage feast” and will see with their own eyes and no other, the “new heavens and a new earth,” they shall “be glad and rejoice forever,” without weeping, without death, without anxiety, pain, hunger, or fear. They shall see the wonder of the wolf and the lamb grazing together as God intended from the beginning of creation, a world without predator and prey, but rather peaceful perfection.

The foolish maidens, by contrast, those who prefer the cover of darkness, those with the self-delusion of “peace and security,” they who squander their opportunity to prepare for the Kingdom of Heaven, opting instead for idleness and procrastination and a preoccupation with the temporary kingdom of this fallen world, they will instead see a closed door and hear the tragic words: “I do not know you” echoing through their consciousness for eternity.

And we who continue to wait and struggle in this fallen, temporal, sin-soaked and corruption-laden existence do not know when the Lord will return to rescue us from this body of death.

And so we must wait.

But, dear friends, we need not wait with trepidation and fear, in anxiety and doubt, ill-prepared and wasting our time. For our Lord has not abandoned us. He is not leaving us to find our own way. He came into our world to save sinners, to shed His blood in place of ours, to win salvation for us, and save us, to prepare us for the new heaven and new earth, to escort us to the heavenly realms - not on the illusion of our works (which would be a delusion of the foolish virgins) but rather literally borne by the wings of angels, under the protection of the Lord’s grace and mercy (which is the very preparation of the wise virgins).

He has prepared us by His atoning cross, through His glorious resurrection, and by means of His creation-bearing Word – even giving us unworthy sinners a peek into the wedding feast itself in participation in the Holy Sacrament, preparing us with the forgiveness of sins and the bolstering of our faith.

For once again, your preparation to enter the Kingdom of Heaven does not lie in impressing others with your knowledge of the Bible, your sterling reputation, your ability to wow others with your personality, your piety, your fame, your fortune, nor the names you can drop. For many a foolish virgin will rely on such ultimately shallow things and will be shocked to find the door slammed shut. No, dear brothers and sisters, our preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom is elsewhere, and thanks be to God that it is!

Our preparation is found in the oil of forgiveness and the trimmed lamp of faith. Our wisdom is in being dependent not on what we can do and what we know, but rather on what Jesus has done and upon what we believe. Many times our Lord told people: “Your faith has made you well.”

The difference between the wise and foolish virgins is this, dear friends: faith. Intellect says that Jesus died on the cross (even the demons say the same and shudder), but faith adds this confession that makes all the difference: “Jesus died on the cross… for the forgiveness of my sins.” Logic says, “Good people go to heaven, and Satan is eager to say the same thing. But faith reminds us that Jesus is the source of all goodness and is the judge of who is good – and this righteousness is His and it is given to us as a gift.

And if you are afraid, take comfort. As the Psalmist says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It is the wise person, not the foolish one, who cares about eternity and considers the return of the Bridegroom. The wise think on these things and trust Jesus. The foolish do not give such matters any thought.

Those who are wise, who hear the Word of God, who take it to heart, who repent, who confess, who receive the gifts, who cling to the promise with all of Christ’s might – they are the wise virgins, and they can look forward to the return of the Bridegroom with anticipation and with joy, marking the passing of each minute, each day, each year – content that we are just that much closer to the great feast that will never end, confident that we are well-prepared and filled with thanksgiving for what has been given us in faith.

Go in peace, wisely putting your trust in Christ, being prepared to meet the Bridegroom upon His imminent return. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Government Works

Every once in a while, one of them tells the truth.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sermon: Trinity 24 - 2010

14 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 9:18-26

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“In the very midst of life / Snares of death surround us.”

This hymn was already a couple hundred years old when Luther translated it into German and set it to the same melody that we just sang. It has been used at Lutheran funerals for centuries. It is traditionally sung as a casket is being carried to its grave.

It is a somber reminder of the fallenness of our world and the wages of sin. For as much as we delude ourselves into thinking that everything is okay, we know that it isn’t. We live in a world where we bleed and we die.

“We mourn that we have greatly erred / That our sins Thy wrath have stirred.”

And no mourning is as bitter as for the death of a child. We know the girl whom Jesus raised from death - by taking her hand and speaking tenderly to her - was only twelve years old. I know from classroom experience that there are many things twelve year old girls often do that they are not supposed to do. They often pass notes and giggle in class. They are often not as focused as they ought to be. Sometimes their priorities are not what they should be. But the one thing above all things that twelve year old girls are not supposed to do is to die.

Nothing drives home the point that death is unnatural and alien to the good creation made by God than when a dear child passes away.

And there is no desperation that compares to that of a parent whose child is in danger of death. There is no mourning so deep and so devastating as the mourning of a parent who has had to bury a child. And in light of this, imagine the faith of the synagogue ruler who has come to Jesus before even burying his beloved daughter, kneeling before our Lord and saying: “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Not only is this a plea for mercy, but it is a prayer offered in faith, for he truly believes that Jesus has the power to resurrect his daughter, and he asks Jesus to do just that.

And cutting through the commotion of mourners and musicians, ignoring the scoffing of unbelievers and mockers, our blessed Lord puts the jeering crowd out, takes the lifeless child by the hand, and invites her to rise from death. And by the power of the Word Made Flesh and His healing touch, that is exactly what she does.

“Who shall help us in the strife / Lest the foe confound us? / Thou only, Lord, Thou only!”

The synagogue ruler knew that the antidote to death was Jesus. So too, the woman with the hemorrhage. For life is in the blood, and her blood had been spilled for twelve years. Unchecked, this condition would also lead to death, even as left unchecked, sin leads to eternal death. And like the synagogue ruler, this suffering and desperate woman knows to seek out Jesus: “If I only touch his garment,” she confesses, “I will be made well.” Once again, what a beautiful expression of faith, childlike faith, life-giving faith, a faith rooted in Jesus and His divine will. For He has come into the world to save sinners and to wrench life out of the snares of death.

“Thy precious blood was shed to win / Full atonement for our sin.”

She knew where to seek help. She knew who had the power to save her. She had faith not only in the holy and mighty God’s ability, but also in the healing offered by the holy and all-merciful Savior! She believed that He could, and would, save her from the snares of death, and she was right!

“Lord, preserve and keep us / In the peace that faith can give.”

“Take heart, daughter,” declares our merciful Lord, “your faith has made you well.”

For just as girls were not made to die, neither were grown women, men, boys, the old, the young, the rich, or the poor. No-one was created for the purpose of returning to dust. No-one was designed to bleed to death. No-one was crafted to lie on a deathbed surrounded by mourners.

That, dear friends, is all our doing. That is the wages of sin.

For “in the midst of utter woe / When our sins oppress us, / Where shall we for refuge go, / Where for grace to bless us? To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!”

We know where to find the solution to our own loss of blood and of life. We know where to find the cure to death itself. We know where to find the antidote to sin. To our Lord Jesus only! For we have another hymn that proclaims this truth, this gospel truth, this eternal truth, this truth that was also confessed by another who sought our Lord’s healing and mercy amid the snares of death, the great hymn and confession of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

For even as it is true that “in the very midst of life / Snares of death surround us,” it is equally true that by the redeeming and atoning work of our merciful Savior, we can just as easily sing: “in the very midst of death, we are surrounded by life,” thanks to our Redeemer, thanks to His atoning death, thanks to His miraculous resurrection, and thanks to His gift of faith, even a faith that has made us well and given us new life.

In that redemption and forgiveness, even among the snares of death, even in the suffering of this fallen world, we can sing boldly and joyfully with the saints, the redeemed sinners of every age:

Holy and righteous God!
Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all merciful Savior!
Eternal Lord God!
Lord, preserve and keep us
In the peace that faith can give.
Have mercy, O Lord.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I used to really love doing crossword puzzles.  I have not done one for many years, but I took one up this evening - the Newsday Crossword as it appears in today's (Nov. 11, 2010) New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The theme involved Swiss things.

The clue for 26 across was "Swiss ___ (precision craftspersons)" and was 11 letters: WATCHMAKERS.

Craftspersons?  What the heck is that?  Obviously, this is an agenda-driven euphemistic circumlocution to avoid the dirty word "man."  The creation of such an anguished neologism is due to the feminist movement and its attempt to control thought by manipulating language.  If we can brainwash people to use politically-correct words, so the logic goes, we can brainwash them into having politically-correct thoughts.  It's just simple, straightforward  Orwellianism.  Nothing extraordinary.  It is the linguistic equivalent of asking a man if he has stopped beating his wife, or to put it in Newspeak, asking a person if she or he has stopped beating his/her spouse or significant other.

The brainwashing is bad enough, but how about the verbal butchery?  I mean, is nothing sacred?  I understand people wanting me to abandon my Christianity for a diabolical fantasy of gender-neutralism.  I get it.  But can't brainwashing and political bullying at least be esthetically gracious and elegant?  Is that really too much to ask?  Am I being unreasonable here?  Instead of the economical "craftsman" with a simple pattern of stress on the first syllable, the "new and improved" brainwash-word stresses the antepenultimate syllable creating a hideously unnatural trisyllablic word that nearly must be grunted.  It forces the natural "PER-son" (with the stress on "per") to be said "per-son" with no stress on either syllable - thus rendering the word "person" into a syllablic no-man's land (no-person's land?).  It also includes the four consonants "FSTP" in a row - which somehow just seems more awkward than "FSTM."

And how many female watchmakers in Switzerland are there anyway?  And even so, it really doesn't matter. For a "craftsman" can (like a "first baseman" or a "freshman") be a man or a woman.  This is why Congressman Helen Chenoweth refused to be called "Congresswoman" or "Congressperson."  A congressman can be of either sex.  In fact, a craftsman can even sometimes be neither male nor female, and the word "craftsman" itself can actually be "gender-neutral" - in the case of a power tool from Sears.

There would just be something morally wrong about a circular saw having a tag that says "CRAFTSPERSON" on it.

For a talented man or woman displays what is known as "craftsmanship" - a noun of the neuter gender.  It's hard for me to imagine even the most dyed-in-the-wool ideological feminista ever passing the word "craftspersonship" across her or his angry, humorless lips.  But I could be wrong.  "Craftspersonship" sounds like the name of a boat made of macaroni and cheese.

I think part of the problem is that most English speakers don't seem to know about sex.  Or gender.  If you don't know about sex, I'm going to fill you in.  Are you ready?  Have you sent the children out of the room?  Here's the big secret about sex: it is a biological attribute.  Most living creatures come in two biological varieties: male and female.  There are exceptions, of course.  But most of the animal world - human beings included - displays one sex or the other.  "Gender" has nothing to do with biology.  Gender is a grammatical category: nouns may be masculine, feminine, or neuter.  There is often, but not always, an overlap between sex and gender.

For example, a boy is of the male sex, and the word "boy" is of the masculine gender.  A girl is of the female sex, and the word "girl" is of the feminine gender.  Bulls, stallions, and men are likewise sexually male, and those words are masculine in their gender.  Cows, mares, and women are likewise sexually female and those words are feminine in gender.  Tables, chairs, and crescent wrenches are sexless and the words are gender-neutral.  A craftsman can be a man, a woman, or a cordless drill (and thus be male, female, or of neither sex).

In the German language, a girl (Mädchen) is sexually female but neuter in gender.  In French, a bicycle has no sex at all (poor thing...), but it can have either gender, depending on whether one uses the masculine word vélo or the feminine bicyclette.

Men who want to use women's bathrooms and locker rooms (and vice versa) have come up with an ingenious legal strategy to do so: confuse sex and gender.  A man may claim that God made a mistake and that he is really a woman trapped in a man's body.  And though he may be sexually male, he can describe his gender as "feminine" - and thus claim legal rights to walk into otherwise forbidden areas.  And vice versa.  I have heard some men claim that they are actually lesbians trapped in a man's body.  In that case, I guess the solution would be to use whichever bathroom is unoccupied.

With this notion that gender can be applied to people as opposed to nouns has come the curse of "gender-neutral" terminology.  Thus the waiter and waitress have become "servers"; stewards and stewardesses are now "flight attendants"; and women who appear in the movies are now "actors" - except when they are nominated for Academy Awards.  Ironically, Hollywood is a last-bastion, of sorts, for allowing gender to correspond to sex.

It also results in forms where we are to check off what "gender" we are.

All in all, I think "craftsperson" is cut from the same cloth as George Carlin's observation:
"They want me to call that thing in the street a personhole cover. I think that's taking it a little bit too far. What would you call a lady's man, a person's person? That would make a He-man an It-person. Little kids would be afraid of the boogieperson. They'd look up in the sky and see the person in the moon. Guys would say come back here and fight like a person. And we'd all sing 'for it's a jolly good person.' That's the kind of thing you would hear on late-night with David Letterperson."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Virginia's Black Confederates by Walter E. Williams

Here's a recent piece by Walter E. Williams on the War for Southern Independence and a recent controversy involving a politically incorrect textbook in Virginia.

I got to meet Dr. Williams about 15 years ago in Philadelphia.  I presented him with a certificate of appreciation from our local camp (chapter) of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  He was honored to receive it, and I was more honored to present it.  He told me about his own Virginia grandmother who spoke highly of her own Confederate heritage.

Flower of Scotland and the world since '68

This is a very early performance (1968) of the Corries singing Flower of Scotland, which has since become the (unofficial) National Anthem of Scotland.

And the world has changed considerably since '68.

In the spirit of Flower's theme, there has been a decisive global move toward devolution, home-rule, and self-determination. In 1999, Scotland seated its own national parliament for the first time in centuries. The pro-independence Scottish National Party not only openly holds seats in the government, but at this time, holds the most seats of any party (though lacking a majority)..

The Soviet Union, so mighty in 1968, is but a memory, having been devolved through peaceful secession into smaller republics in 1991. The Iron Curtain (1945-1989) and the Berlin Wall (1961-1989) are no more. Even Czechoslovakia managed to have a peaceful split into two smaller nations in 1992.  It goes without saying that orderly devolution is far more peaceful and less disruptive of hearth and home than violent revolution.

And the momentum has carried the spirit of independence across the Atlantic.  In 1995, Canada did not prevent the people of Québec (whose own parliament was renamed the National Assembly in 1968) to hold a referendum on independence (it failed by less than a single percent). In our own day, secession is being openly discussed in American political discourse, and both Left and Right have rediscovered the great American virtue of nullification.

The spirit of Flower of Scotland transcends the hopes and dreams of the Scots highlanders and lowlanders.  It is the universal spirit of freedom, of the throwing off of the chains of tyranny, of reminding government that it is our servant, not our master, and sending them homeward "tae think again."

"Give Me the Gospel!"

A Reformation Day/All Saints Day blog post from a brilliant classmate of mine, the Rev. Charles St. Onge, Associate Pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Joyful News from Siberia

This report from the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, assistant to the Rev. President Matthew Harrison and director of the Synod's director of Church Relations is good news indeed!

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) have formally declared that they are in doctrinal agreement.  The Rev. Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin of Siberia has declared SELC fellowship with the LCMS from Siberia's end, and the LCMS's Committee on Theology and Church Relations will hold a formal vote at its December meeting to declare full communion (altar and pulpit fellowship) with the SELC - after which, according to the recently adopted procedures, will then be sent to the next convention for ratification!

We look forward to sharing ministers and sacraments with our Russian brethren (even as we have shared education and fervent prayers for many years now) in our mutual confession of the Gospel proclaimed in Holy Scripture and articulated in the Lutheran Confessions.

Super-cool Football Play

Texas middle schoolers...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sermon: All Saints - 2010

7 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 5:1-12 (Rev. 7:2-17, 1 John 3:1-3)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

November is a month to commemorate military victory. The eleventh of November is celebrated the world over – sometimes as Armistice Day and sometimes as Remembrance Day. In our own country, it is Veterans Day. It serves both as a time to honor brave warriors as well as to celebrate the peace they won.

But there is another Day of Victory, commemorated by our other country, the first of November. It too is celebrated the world over, known as All Saints Day. It is such an important festival in the Church that we usually transfer it to Sunday, as we have done today. It serves as a time to honor brave warriors as well as to celebrate the peace won for them and for us.

We Christians are a military people. For we are soldiers of the cross, warriors of the Word, and defenders of the faith entrusted to us by our “Captain in the well-fought fight.” We don’t fight men, but the forces of evil. Even as St. Paul teaches us, we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

We fight as citizen-soldiers of our other country, our heavenly Jerusalem, our kingdom that has conquered empires and our nation that transcends all nations.

Today, we honor the brave men and women who have served their country well, bravely, often unto death, even as we honor our King, to whom we praise in our anthem:

“Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!”

For we soldiers of the Kingdom of God do not rely on our own strength, courage, or valor. In fact, in this Kingdom, when we are weak, we are strong. We are bound not only to our Lord Jesus Christ, but to the myriads of divisions and brigades, “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel…. A great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Indeed, our General is a Lamb, a humble sacrifice who dies an atoning death for the sake of the sheep. And yet this Lamb is worshiped, for He is not only our General, but our God: “and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’”

And our armies are equally unusual – “clothed in white robes” that have been “washed… in the blood of the Lamb.” They surround the throne “day and night in his temple” – having died for their King and kingdom. And though they have suffered, they have triumphed. Though their lives were taken from them, they are the victors.

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Moreover, our armies fight with different weapons – weapons that cannot be defeated, made obsolete, seized, or turned against us. Our brave men and women defeated the Roman Empire, the Soviet Empire, and countless tyrants in between, not with awe-inspiring weapons and glittering technology, but rather with simple love. The love of the martyrs and the persecuted Christians was the one thing that could not be defeated with superior arms or by hatred. When Christians are sent to be torn by lions, tortured in prison cells, or burned at the stake, they show love to their captors. They sing hymns praising their crucified Lord. They show devotion to their Master that exceeds the death-defying loyalty of any elite member of the Praetorian Guard or of the secret police of the Communists.

“See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

The love Christians have for one another is one of the marks of the church. The love Christians have for their enemies is the single-greatest weapon Christians have in their armory. For we do not win over our enemies by dominating them, but by loving them. “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now” – even now when we remain temporarily in this fallen world, trapped by our sinful flesh, and held captive by sin and death.

For once more, we are victors because He is the Victor. We have defeated death because He has defeated death. We have crushed Satan under our feet, because He has bruised the head of the serpent. And so, “what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Think of this promise, dear friends, dear fellow soldiers, dear weary ones who continue to march to the sound of the Lord’s drumbeat. Think of this promise when you fall out of line, fall to the ground, and even fall away from your comrades. The promise of mercy and forgiveness pulls us back to our feet, back into formation, and back to the final parade of triumph that we shall see endlessly in heaven!

For we have it from the very mouth of our General and our King: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, and the reviled. For it has already been proclaimed by the Word of the living God that theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they shall be comforted, they shall inherit the earth, they shall be satisfied, they shall receive mercy, they shall see God, they shall be called sons of God, theirs indeed is the kingdom of heaven.

“Rejoice and be glad” exhorts our General, “for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Indeed, dear friends, the people of God have been serving, fighting, resisting, attacking, defending, and yes, dying for King and kingdom, for friend and foe, for millennia. Today is yet another holy day to honor the brave men and women of our Kingdom’s forces of faith and love. It is yet another day to thank and praise God for His mercy, for the cross, for the forgiveness of sins, for the Word, for His holy sacraments, and for the freedom we have to kneel before our King and share the eternal banquet table with Him, in forgiveness, in praise, in thanksgiving, and in victory.

For He has won the victory. He has secured the peace. He has given us the right to be children of God and the freedom to live as more than conquerors over sin, death, and the devil. With all of our brothers and sisters of every time and place, every tribe and tongue, we cry out in triumph: “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Superb Lyrebird

Whether or not you are a fan of nature, this is simply astounding. HT to my old friend Steve Mooney for passing this along.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Are stocks really up?

The Drudge Report has two headlines next to each other: 1) "Stocks Rock" and 2) Oil Hits Six Month Peak on Falling Dollar.

So, the stock market is up, and so is price inflation. The implication of the first is that the economy is coming back, the implication of the second is that the economy is getting worse. The problem is that stocks are not really up. The recession is not really over.  It's an illusion based on numerical manipulation.

The stock market is measured in dollars. Dollars do not remain steady as a unit of measure, like pounds or gallons. Dollars may be driven up or down in value as a unit of measure (and since 1913, they have only be driven down). The fact that prices are going up (such as oil) indicate that the dollar is indeed down. This is confirmed by looking at the dollar index, which measures the dollar against world currencies. The dollar index right now is as low as it has been in a year, and it is within two points of being as low as it has ever been since the dollar index has been tracked.

In fact, the dollar is being deliberately manipulated by the Federal Reserve to debase and devalue it - and the Fed has just ordered up a fresh round of "quantitative easing" (inflation).  The theory behind this risky and desperate action is, at least in part, that a cheap dollar will make people borrow, and when they borrow, they will spend - which "gets the economy going."  This is the theory behind the Bush-Obama stimulus plans - and it is an outgrowth of the economics of John Maynard Keynes.

Opposing Keynes and Keynsian Economics is another school of thought known as Austrian Economics - the economics of Nobel prize-winning F.A. Hayek and others including economist Ludwig von Mises.  Unlike the floating dollar, Austrian economics seeks a dollar that is stable: "sound" currency, like what we had when the dollar was pegged to the price of gold.  Austrian Economics advocates an honest view of the market by providing a stable measure - like the pound or gallon - which are not permitted to be manipulated by the government or by private bankers - who then can make economic decisions that benefit themselves and actually harm the economy of the nation.

Imagine how difficult it would be to compare prices in grocery stores if the scales were permitted to be changed every day.  A pound of salami this month might be a half pound next month, a gallon of milk at Winn Dixie today might be a half gallon at WalMart tomorrow.  And imagine if the rate of change could be very sudden and without warning.  Who could make economic decisions in such an environment?  But of course, some people would be able to benefit from inside information and cash in on the manipulation.

Moden Austrian economists are the only ones who predicted the current economic crisis caused by a Keynsian "bubble" of debt.  Unfortunately, Washington, DC is laden with Keysians - as that school of thought dominates both major parties.

For an unconventional (and yet clever and entertaining) comparison between these two schools of thought, click here.  And if you enjoyed that, you can see the sequel here.  And if you understand the term "Keysian" - you might find the following video amusing.

But back to today's stock market.  The Dow is indeed "up" (right now) by 187 points today.  That's a gain of 1.67%.  But then again, that's measured in variable dollars.  So, what is the real value of the Dow right now?  Well, gold is up more than $40 today - a gain of 3%.  So, measured in dollars, the Dow is "up" about a percent and a half.  But measured against a stable measure, the Dow is actually down about a percentage and a half.  So, you might have more dollars today, but you have actually lost wealth.

Granted, the trend could reverse tomorrow, but the long haul - especially since the latest crash of 2008 - is consistent.  The dollar is collapsing, and anything measured in dollars has to take this into consideration.

Moreover, how is the rest of the world doing today?  The European exchanges (FTSC 100, the DAX, and the CAC 40) are all outperforming the Dow (though they are also lagging behind gold).  So, the United States market is actually losing ground in the world market.  On the whole, Asia is doing about the same as the U.S., mainly because China's currency is artificially pegged to the U.S. dollar.  We all know what will happen if that peg gets pulled - the yuan will soar and the dollar will fall like a rock.  China must be careful, since China holds a lot of dollars in reserve.  No doubt, the Chinese are biding their time, just waiting for the best moment to pull the rug out from under the dollar.  The Chinese have given us a credit card (so that we can buy Chinese goods), and we have run it up past the limit.  Our Federal Reserve has determined the best solution to this extreme debt is to borrow even more money to pay off our debts - and if we lower the value of the dollar in the process, it meas we can pay off those debts with dollars worth less and less.

China and the United States are locked into an economic tango with each other, the dance of debt-buyer and debtor-seller.  They loan, we borrow.  They sell, we buy.  We want to borrow to pay our debts and further fuel our overextended lifestyle, and they want to make money off of us and yet avoid holding the bag when our money becomes worthless.  Both stand to lose, but China is the one paying the band.  They will say when the dance ends.

Of course, the current policy may be a good slight of hand to benefit the government and the banks in the short term, but it also means that those of us who must earn, save, and spend dollars over the course of our lives are being ripped off.  The money supply is being inflated and each dollar in your pocket is worth less.  Inflation is the ultimate taxation without representation.  And it discourages thrift, saving, and investment.

And inflation also inflates the stock market, and that makes us feel good - maybe even good enough to run up our credit cards.  Bubbles always pop.  I really believe we are headed for a big one.  If you'd like to learn more about Austrian Economics and what you can do to protect yourself, here are some resources:

Remember, for the most part, both major political parties are completely Keysian in their economic orientation.  It is up to us as Americans and as free people to educate ourselves and to demand that government adhere to the Constitution - which by the way, pegs the dollar to gold and/or silver - something we phased out during the period of 1913-1971, pushed by bankers who stand to gain by the manipulation and aided and abetted by politicians of both major parties seeking cheap capital for pet government projects.

The problem with debt is that it must be paid back - and with interest.  Whether you see debt as the poison or the cure depends on whether you hold to either Austrian or Keysian economics.

[Note: just a few minutes ago, Drudge added the following poignant headline with the other two: "Gold rallies to record high as Fed move feeds inflation fear."]

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tortured for Christ

There are some books that ought to be a regular read and re-read for Christians - especially for those in the holy ministry or in the lay leadership of the church.  I just finished reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, and I believe this 1967 classic is in this category.

The book is a short read, and introduces the reader to a phenomenon known as the Underground Church as it existed behind the Iron Curtain in Russia and in Eastern Europe from about the second world war to the 1960s.  The story is told eloquently and passionately by the Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Lutheran pastor who was arrested twice, spent a total of 14 years in Communist prisons, three of which were in solitary confinement, including a couple years in "the death room."  He was tortured and beaten, although he does not wallow in this fact nor provide gratuitous details of his agonies.  His heroic wife Sabina was also a leader of the Christian resistance and was also imprisoned and tortured.

Five years into a 25-year prison sentence (his second imprisonment for preaching the Gospel), Pastor Wurmbrand and his family were ransomed out of the Iron Curtain by Scandinavian Lutherans for a sum of $10,000.  He was called upon to put the word out in the west about the Communist oppression, especially of imprisoned Christians.  Tortured for Christ was the first installment of that vocation.

One might be tempted to see the book as dated or obsolete because of the fall of the Iron Curtain.  And that assumption would be wrong.  For Christianity always labors under the cross - whether in repressed Islamic regimes, in civil-war torn African villages, in still-Communist China, or even in materially comfortable North American suburbs or "enlightened" European democracies.  As long as the church militant endures and proclaims the Gospel, she will be oppressed and persecuted.

Wurmbrand teaches us how to live in such conditions, how to love as Christ loves, how to be resourceful and faithful, and how to remain steadfast even in the face of torture and death.

The book is not dour or depressing - far from it.  It offers hope and joy even in terrible conditions.  In these pages, the love and light of Christ shines forth in the darkness of Atheism, Communism, and materialism.  Again and again, Wurmbrand testifies to conversions even among the secret police and Communist officials - who were as victimized as the Christians in the slave labor camps.  It is one of those books that puts things into perspective - especially for us in the United States, where we spend far too much time complaining about trivialities and not enough time rejoicing in what we have and sharing with those who do not.

And although the Iron Curtain has fallen and Communism has failed in Eastern Europe and Russia, the people in those regions continue to struggle with the resulting social, economic, political, and even spiritual devastation of that evil system of government: poverty, alcoholism, biblical illiteracy, struggling churches, a dearth of Bibles and educational resources, a continued culture of hopelessness and death, and lingering attitudes of hatred toward the church.

And yet, even from the ruins, the Church rises just as green shoots appear from the frozen ground every spring.  The grandchildren of those condemned to Siberia are now condemning sin, death, and the devil by joining together as the Body of Christ in the most extraordinary conditions imaginable.  Like the Roman Empire before it, the Soviet Empire has not only been endured, but actually defeated, by the Christian Church.  And though the USSR can claim "victory" over the millions of people it wiped out, the USSR is today dead and buried in shame, while those who have been redeemed by Christ - those "saints who from their labors rest" - are the living ones singing the praise of the Lamb on His throne.

Wurmbrand's book provides a helpful backdrop to the trials and travails of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are even today picking up the broken pieces in the wake of Communism's fall, and who are advancing the Gospel selflessly and courageously in the open even as Wurmbrand and his Underground Church did in secret a generation ago.

For more information, please see Voice of the Martyrs, the organization founded by Pastor Wurmbrand (and where you can also receive a free copy of Tortured for Christ).  Please also check out the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, who is providing much-needed support to those who are advancing the Gospel in Siberia.  You can also find footage of Pastor Wurmbrand on YouTube, where you can also find this extraordinary short film chronicling the truly miraculous work of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

And please keep our brothers and sisters around the world in your prayers!