Wednesday, January 17, 2024

You Can Cancel Your Contract with the Devil


                                         You Can Cancel Your Contract with the Devil 

(Evening Prayer Service January 17, 2024)


A few days ago I began watching the television series "The Curious Case of Natalia Grace." Without giving away too much, this is about a little girl from Ukraine who has a form of dwarfism. The tragedy was that she was manipulated and mistreated. After being bounced from one adoptive family to the next, she finally landed in a Christian home. As I watched the story unfold, I couldn't help notice the problem that so many characters had, the problem of lying. Sexual abuse was also emerging from the background. Little by little I was sickened by the confusion, the manipulation, and the abuse. I thought, "This is why God made hell." But my heated condemnation eventually gave way to prayer and hope. I began to feel much better when I began to pray for all these people. 


Paul had a similar experience when he came to the decadent city of Corinth. You can check out its history on your own. Paul's own words tell us enough about it. First he speaks the needed words of condemnation: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NKJV) "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."


But the Lord had told Paul Acts 18:9-10 (NKJV) "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”


Paul preached the Gospel: "1 Corinthians 6:11 (NKJV) 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." 


These are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. These are the words we need to remember first for ourselves and when we see the lying, manipulating, and lusting activities of this world. What the world, sold to sin, does, is sickening. But God knows that, and He sees past it. He sees the amazing transformations that are possible when His grace is applied to any situation. 


Because Jesus came to suffer, as God's righteous one for our unrighteousness, we can cancel our contracts with the devil. In our baptism that congenital contract was cancelled. This is the hope that we hold all for all the world around us. Like Peter, we can clearly see that the world is "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Acts 8.23). But because of Jesus we can also say with Paul, Romans 6:14 (NKJV) "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." In Christ, you can cancel your contract with the devil. What a beautiful truth this is. What a beautiful thing it is for us to believe this, and to be able to tell this to the world around us. 

Saturday, December 9, 2023


The Word of God Endures Forever


The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:7-8




     I am so glad to see everyone this morning! You had other options. You could have slept it, used this time to catch up on chores, or gone out to some other activity. But you chose to come here this morning. You chose to give glory to God! You came here because you know that there are blessings here in God's word and here together with God's people. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18.20). We are gathered together in the name of Jesus as we come to hear His words. These are the most important words, the most life-changing words that we can ever hear, today, tomorrow and forever. 


     Why do we believe this? Why is this more than a family tradition, or a "sweet hour of prayer" that vaguely makes us feel better, or a cultural, aethsetic experience of good literature and music, or a good deed that needs to be done if we ever hope to go to heaven? Why do we believe that God is real, that His word is true, and that these words are the most important words for our lives? This is what I want to focus on today. 


Progress or Regress? 


     There are three kinds of people in this world: Those who believe in the true God who has always existed and has revealed Himself in nature and in Spirit; Those who know about this God but have rejected him in favor of another view of God; and Those who don't believe God exists or believe there is not enough evidence for His existence. What are we supposed to think of these three groups of people? How did they come to be? Why do almost all cultures have some belief in God? This is quite a serious question for atheists and really for all people. If you watch a show about the history of civilization on this History Channel or some other channel like that, you will always be told that religious beliefs and practices gradually evolved over time just as human beings supposedly gradually evolved from lower animals. There are two big problems with these ideas. First, why did human beings advance so far beyond all other animals with their intellectual, creative, and emotional natures? They are so far advanced that they are practically in another universe of life. And, there are no other creatures that fall in between. Second, why would purely materialistic beings, mere molecular clusters that happen to be alive... why would they ever begin to believe and especially worship non-material beings they call gods? This doesn't make any sense and just doesn't fit with what we observe in life. 

     A better explanation is this: God created this world and human beings. From the beginning these human beings have been intelligent and spiritual. Just because the human beings that lived six thousand years ago didn't have computers or micro-waves, doesn't mean they weren't intelligent. It just means that the accumulation of knowledge has grown. It doesn't mean that intelligence has grown. The fact that there are so many different religions and beliefs about God in different cultures does not necessarily show that religion has evolved. That can just as well be explained, and in fact is better explained, by showing that different cultures have regressed in their religious beliefs and splintered into many different systems of belief.  This also fits with a third very important difference between human beings and all other living things. Human beings struggle with sin, with evil, and with morality. Animals consistently do what they appear to be programed to do, and they have been doing it the same way for millenia. Humans appear to improve at times in their morality and decline at other times. Over all they definitely appear to be declining as the rate of death due to human initiated, not natural disasters, is sharpely rising over time. This was on full display this past week when three university presidents of Ivy League Schools, supposedly the pinnacles of intelligence and human progress, betrayed their utter moral regress... regress, not progress, when they could not say that the call for genocide of Jewish people was evil, despicable and wrong in every way. In some cases, depending on the "context," it could be okay?


The Advent of God


     Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah addressed the problem of the moral regression of the world. In particular, Israel had regressed in its relationship with God. Israel had joined with all the other nations in the downward spiral of religious depravity. Selfishness, pleasure-seeking, truth-denying attitudes had taken over the land. In chapter thirty Isaiah records this: The people say, "Speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel" (v.11 ESV). He warned them that they had lost their way by trusting in "oppression and perverseness" (v.12 ESV). "Woe to those," he said in chapter five, "who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (v.20 ESV). For this reason judgment would come upon Israel and eventually upon the whole world. 


     Yet, in the midst of all this, Isaiah delivered a powerful message of hope. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, thather warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins" (40.1-2 KJV). This is what Advent is all about. This is why we are here today because we know, as morally messed up this world is, and as morally messed up as we are ourselves, God has not given up on this world or on us. Isaiah could see far into the future on this issue. He announced a voice in the wilderness who would prepare the way of the LORD. That is, it wouldn't be just another prophet coming into the world, it would be the LORD Himself. Seven hundred years passed, and the man called John appeared in the wilderness of Judea. He called for the straightening of our moral paths through repentance and forgiveness. He sealed that repentance and forgiveness in his baptism in the Jordan river. His simple, survivalist life-style showed his intense, zeroed in message, "There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1.7-8). 


     The Advent of God in the voice of the prophets like Isaiah and John, and finally in the life of His own eternal Son, Jesus, is our ultimate hope against moral and spiritual regression. The world began good and beautiful. It began spiritual and intelligent. But because of sin, a uniquely human problem and certainly our problem, it has been and continues to be torn down. Jesus came to die that He might wash away our sins and restore that Spirit of Holiness to us. John came preaching in the desert, eating the desert food of grasshoppers and honey. But through Jesus he knew that all who received the Holy Spirit in the forgiveness of sins would live forever in a new heaven and earth, in a restored Garden of Eden. 


The Word of Our God Stands Forever


     Everyday we are told the lie that God is not real or irrelevant. Our society, just like Isaiah's wants to hear the "smooth words" that sanction our sinful desires rather than call us to repentance for them.  But God's word is hardly defeated. The flaming vitality of the Holy Spirit is far from extinguished. We need to remember that, rejoice in that, and be a part of that. This Advent light your Advent candles, read your Advent Bible verses, pray your Advent prayers, sing your Advent and Christmas songs. Tell and show the world that God is real. Grace is real. Forgiveness is real. Truth is real. Christ has come, is coming through His word, and will come again to bring justice and justification to this world. You do not need to be part of the spiritual regression of this world. True religion is not evolving. It is being restored. You are part of the spiritual restoration of this world. It was created good, spiritual, and intelligent through His word. It is being restored again in a good, spiritual and intelligent way through His word, Jesus, that endures forever. Amen. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Art Simon and the Ruth Simon Family

Art Simon, founder of Bread for the World, has died. Art was the son of our former church member Ruth Simon. Art worshiped here at Good Shepherd when visiting his mother. The whole family is full of interesting stories.

1. When Ruth was a newborn, she was left on the side of the road in Iowa. A Lutheran pastor found her and took her to an orphanage. Eventually they sent her to a Lutheran family in St. Louis. Her adoptive mother died, and Ruth was sent to another family. Ruth claimed the mother in this family tried to poison her. She firmly believed that Holy Cross Lutheran School, in St. Louis, saved her life by sustaining her faith in Jesus. To the end of her life, she was a strong advocate for Lutheran schools.

2. Ruth married Martin Simon, who went to China as a missionary for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. During a rebellion in China, they were forced to return to the US. Together they published a Lutheran family magazine and wrote one of the most well-known children's devotional books in the Lutheran church: Little Visits with God. I grew up on this devotional book and still remember some of the stories. One story was about a gorilla in the zoo who hoarded all the food, but it was too much for him to eat himself. Another story was about a poor family who prayed to God for food. A rainstorm came up suddenly and washed the labels off some food cans that were displayed outside a grocery story. They ended up giving the cans of food to the poor family.

3. Paul Simon, their other son, dropped out of college and bought the Troy, Illinois newspaper. He started investigating the well-known Collinsville gangster Buster Wortman. Ruth claimed his work helped bring down the gangster and led Paul into politics. Paul became a senator from Illinois. When he ran for president, Ruth called every LCMS pastor in the state of Iowa before the Iowa Caucuses. Ruth was very pro-life, especially considering her "foundling" experience. However, she firmly believed to the end of her life that her son Paul was also "pro-life." Paul told me that he took the "I'm personally against abortion" approach. He believed that laws against abortion were like laws that forced people to attend church. In the end, they just wouldn't work. After Ruth died I lost contact with Paul. But I think his mother would have been disappointed with some of his writings about abortion.

4. I read Bread for the World in college and would agree with Art that evil politics plays a major role in the problem of hunger throughout the world. But underlying the politics are evil worldviews and cultural traditions. Advocating for better politics is good, and it is an important part of our vocation as citizens. But believing, living, and preaching the Gospel to all the world is the most important thing we can do to push back on evil. Ruth would have absolutely agreed with this.

5. Ruth was an incredibly servant minded person, a virtue that she passed on to her sons. She was worship and Bible study every Sunday. She personally called every acolyte the week before they were scheduled to serve in order to remind them. She often ran errands and gave rides to all the "older ladies" of the church. In most cases these ladies were younger than Ruth. I remember when Paul and Art came to take her car away from her. That was devastating for Ruth. But I encouraged her to keep serving by devoting the rest of her life to prayer. She did that, and finished the race well. She left a good legacy for all to follow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Luther and the Jews, Evangelism and Antisemitism

I=IESVS (Jesus)
N=NAZARENVS (Nazarene)
R=REX (King)
I=IVDAEORVM (of the Jews)

Eleven years ago I taught a Bible study on Luther and the Jews.
I summarized that study in two Youtube videos:

Part One:

Part Two:

If you look at the comments on these videos, you will see that antisemitism is alive and well in this country! I haven't responded to these comments because they are obviously ignorant and show that most of them haven't really watched the videos. They attack me because I say that Luther was in no way a Nazi! 

Here are some key points:

1. Luther paved the way for free speech by bringing to light the Bible teaching of the two kingdoms. Yet, true freedom of speech was still a long way off for Europeans. All citizens were required to respect the religion of the king of that country, if not they could be banished. Many Lutherans suffered under these laws and had to move out of a land ruled by a Catholic king or prince. 

2. Luther apparently came across a Jewish tract that blasphemed Christ and Mary. He responded with his pamphlet, "On the Jews and Their Lies." Most of this pamphlet is a defense of the Messiahship of Christ. Unlike the Nazis, Luther was not a racist. He vigorously opposed the Jewish misinterpretation of the Bible just as much as the prophets, John the Baptist and Jesus! But he didn't hate them because of their race. Luther welcomed them into the church if they became believers in Jesus! Yet one of the first antisemitic laws of the Nazis was the removal of all believing Jews from the Lutheran Church.  Luther would have exploded over a law like this! The Nazis tried to take Luther's theological issues and make them racial issues. 

3. Toward the end of "On the Jews and Their Lies" Luther called for harsh measures against Jews that blasphemed against Christianity. Here Luther made an interpretational mistake. He applied passages from Deuteronomy against unbelieving Jews in ancient Israel to modern Jews living in Germany. These passages called for harsh measures against unbelieving Jews. They were valid at the time of Moses and the kings of Israel, but they couldn't be used as laws for Germany. There are three kinds of Laws in the Books of Moses: Moral, Ceremonial, and Civl. Only the moral law applies to all people in the world and is applied to all in the New Testament. The ceremonial and civil laws of Israel are fulfilled in Jesus. These laws are, as Paul said, "a shadow," but "the substance is Christ" (Colossians 2.17). 

4. What was Luther's true view of the Jews? It was a mixed bag. In some writings, such as "That Jesus Was Born a Jew," he spoke kindly of Jews and repudiated their mistreatment. But this earlier view began to sour mainly because he expected a large number of Jews to convert to Christianity once they were able to hear the true Gospel of forgiveness. When this didn't happen, Luther's dislike of the Jews grew. 

5. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has condemned the false teachings of Luther's harsh measures. Nevertheless, we do not withdraw our firm belief that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior for all, Jews and Gentiles, as the Bible teaches. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

My One Year Anniversary with F3

     Today is my one year anniversary with F3 (Fitness, Fellowship, Faith). One year ago I got up at 5:00 a.m., drove over to Drost Park in Maryville, IL, and walked up to four guys standing around a flag. I asked, "Is this what you call F3?" They introduced themselves as Ankles, Squid, Roscoe and Bambi and were glad to see me. Ankles had invited me with an email. Actually, he wrote: "Maybe some of the younger men of your congregation would like F3." I thought, "I'm not recommending anything until I check it out myself. You never know, this could be some kind of cult!" 

     These guys did all sorts of exercises for thirty-five minutes: burpees, pushups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, sit-ups, planks, crab walks... And they had funny names for everything like Bobby Hurleys, Abe Vigodas, and Merkins. Half the time they used concrete blocks for Face Scrapers, Curls for the Girls, and CPRs. And you can forget four sets of ten reps!!! No, this is more like 20 reps, or 30, or maybe a 100 for three or four sets. Or maybe we'll just walk the bike trail for a mile holding the concrete block over our heads (Rifle Carry). There have been ladies out walking and calling their husbands on their cell-phones about these F3 kooks! 

     I went to three workouts and thought my heart was going to blow up, so I told them I better quit. I didn't want to die out there in the park! (They always make sure someone has a cell phone just in case they have to call 911.) But then I started doing the workouts on my own at home and learned to listen to my heart so I didn't over do it. They ALWAYS STRESSED: Push yourself, but don't hurt yourself. Get one percent better. Modify the exercise but not the effort. After a week of working out on my own, I went back, and I've been going ever since. I started F3 weighing 201 lbs. Today I weigh 184 lbs. At first I could only do about 75% of the exercises. Now I'm up to 95%.

     After the first workout they asked me about myself, my family and work. I told them this "O-Dark-Thirty" stuff reminded me of my days as a paperboy. So I got my F3 name: Paperboy. Over the last year I have met so many great guys in F3. We always end each morning with COT (Circle of Trust). For about five minutes the leader (we all take turns) shares a quote or thought, and we take prayer requests. F3 is not associated with any religion. It's like Alcoholic Anonymous where they expect you to believe in something greater than yourself, but most of the guys I've met are Christians. Afterwards we often have Coffeeteria, where we talk a little before heading off to work. Every once in a while we might have a breakfast or cookout. We also have had clothing drives and fund raisers for good causes. 

    The best compliment I can give F3 is that I wish I would have thought of it. It's a great idea to help men be the men God wants them to be. If you would like to know more about F3 check out and

Here's a little intro video:

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

What the Choosing of Matthias Teaches Us About the Church

Joseph or Matthias? 

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts 1.21-26 


     Jesus told the disciples in the upper room: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you..." (John 15.16). It doesn't get any clearer than that. In this Christian church no one should be elbowing their way into any position of leadership. God is the head of the church, and He is the builder of it (Hebrews 3.4). In this way the church is unique among all other institutions along with the family, which He also establishes in marriage. 

What Twelve Witnesses Shows 

     The temptation and demise of Judas is a great sadness and a great loss. But it is a reminder to us that we have to be on guard ourselves against the temptation of greed or any other temptation. We can be tempted, for the sake of silver or any other earthly thing, to betray Jesus. Jesus and His kingdom has to be the most important person and thing in our life. After the loss of Judas, Peter spoke to the ten other apostles reminding them that this was prophesied, and that he needed to be replaced. Why was it so important that the kingdom move forward with twelve witnesses of the resurrection rather than just eleven? It must have had something to do with the twelve tribes of Israel which God originally chose. The number twelve is always the number of God's people and always a reminder that it is God who makes us His people. On the island of Patmos, John saw a vision of the people sealed as the servants of God. There were 144,000 of them, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes (Revelation 7.4ff). Twelve is always a reminder that the church belongs to God. 

 Two Great Blessings 

     A bishop in San Francisco forbade a congresswoman from receiving holy communion because of her support for the sin of abortion. When this was first reported, another California politician decried the decision claiming the bishop didn't care about the people of San Fransico. This man has the view that the church is a manmade organization that needs to be in agreement with whatever the people believe. We hear this kind of talk a lot. The church needs to get with the times; it needs to adjust to the popular beliefs and morality of the world. It is the belief that the culture creates the church rather than the other way around. The twelve witnesses to the resurrection is another reminder that God created the church, and that the church creates its own culture whether the world likes it or not. This is the first blessing that comes out of the choosing of Matthias. 

     The second blessing is seen in the way Judas' vacancy was filled. The aposltes put forward two candidates: Joseph and Matthias. Then they cast lots with prayer to see which one God would choose. This again emphasizes that ultimate truth that God is the head of His church, that He is leading it, and He is giving to it His strength. Sometimes church workers are tempted to manipulate this calling process and to get themselves into positions of church leadership. The problem with this is that church servants are fighting against principalities and powers in their ministries. They have to have God's strength not their own. To know that you have been called by God to serve in His church gives that worker great confidence and strength. There is no second guessing here. 


     So here are two blessings: The church belongs to God and not to the world, therefore it stands on a firm foundation. Second, church servants are called by God and therefore strengthened by Him. The same applies to everyone called to full-time service or not. The more you see your situation in life as a calling under the control of God, the more you will also see the strength of God to help you in your service to Him. Amen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022


Back in December I started working out with F3, which stands for F3 Nation - Fitness, Fellowship, Faith. F3 is a nationwide, free, peer-led fitness movement for men. Our group meets at Drost Park in Maryville rain or shine three times a week from 5:30-6:15 a.m. We have anywhere from four to eight guys show up. They have a lot of different workouts, and most of them are pretty intense. They are Marine Corps level for sure (but that was forty years and forty pounds ago!). Each man works out at his own pace, modifying the exercises as necessary. The goal is "to leave no man behind, but no man where he is." A typical workout would include a variety of burpees, push ups, sit ups, bear crawls, squats, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes we use a concrete block to drag along with our bear crawl, for kettle ball swings, or for military presses ("face scrapers," as they like to say). They have a whole "Exicon" describing all the different exercises. Right now I'm participating at a 50-75% level and building up. After the workout we come together for the "Circle of Trust." This is a brief time to share any concerns or prayer requests. F3 is not specifically Christian. Like AA, they ask that everyone believe in something other than themselves. "FNGs," or "Friendly New Guys," have to tell a little bit about themselves. Then they are given a F3 name. I told my group that getting up in the dark reminded me of my paperboy days - and that's how I got my name.
Come and join us anytime.