Church · Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care

Deliver Us From Evil…

There is one thing about God that all of us need to realize: He doesn’t sit on a throne in heaven eating popcorn while watching what’s going on down here on earth on the large TV in His room. God doesn’t have His holy computer opened up to His huge contact list where every now and then He comes across a name and hits a “PAIN” button so that person could be hurt or sick or have some evil come into their lives.

If this was the God I prayed to, then I wouldn’t want to pray or believe in Him.

The horrific events that have hit our nation in the past week – the terrorist attack last Tuesday in New York City that took the life of one our neighbors here in New Milford or the crazed gunman who hated his former mother-in-law and went in and shot up her church – have brought out the worst in us. From the left, we have attacks calling for the end of gun rights in America and anyone who disagrees with this idea hates little kids because children were slaughtered in that church in Texas. From the right, calls for greater control over immigration and anyone who disagrees with the motivation of curtailing immigration clearly supports letting terrorists into America. On Twitter, hate filled tweets assail anyone who disagrees with a tweeter’s opinion.

America is angry.

It has been for a long time.

The debate over how and why hatred and anger is what now fuels our debate is something that our nation will have to tackle.

An LCMS pastor is under fire for an article he wrote for The Federalist website where he wrote that the congregants who lost their lives in the Sutherland, Texas church had their prayers answered by God. The atheist left on Twitter went apoplectic and some websites have assailed him for being out of touch, and that is being kind.

Our words sometimes get us in trouble.

It is not that the pastor, a gentleman I went to seminary with, was incorrect in his understanding of God and Holy Scripture. But sometimes we say things that may make sense in our minds, but in reality they come across as cold. Pastor Fiene’s words, while theologically on par with our faith, they came across as cold and unfeeling. When people are mourning and are planning to bury their loved ones hear that God answered their dead relative’s prayers, one can’t but see those words as lacking heart.

That was not Pastor Fiene’s intention.

My words have gotten me in trouble in the past, especially when I either said or wrote something I thought was a clear as the summertime sky, but others read it differently.

The only thing us pastors can do is work harder to make our ideas clearer in our spoken and written word. Our confession of Jesus Christ must remain bold, but understandable to people.

The God I believe in and trust in and have hope in tells me that while I live in this fallen world, He’s still near. My faith keeps me on the path of loving those around me and keeping Him at the center of my life. I’m not perfect; I sin more that I like. But God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is mine.

All around us we see the heartache of our fallen world. The pain and suffering caused by diseases and the actions of people drive us to question whether there is a God. We want a God who stops evil and curtails sin in real time. But that is not realistic.

The seeds of evil and sin are planted all around us, even in each of us. We fail ourselves and others all the time. The crazed man in Texas should have never been able to purchase the guns He used in his attack. Apparently, the Air Force never forwarded to the FBI this man’s record of assault against his wife. If they did, then he would have never been able to buy the guns because he would have failed a background check.

We don’t live a perfect world.

In a perfect world, bad things wouldn’t happen. Evil wouldn’t exist.

But it does.

It is how we respond to sin and evil that shows Christ living in us. And yes, we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” May the will of God for those who are mourning be for comfort in this dark time. May His will be for His people to be a strong arm for those whose lives are shattered. And may His will be for us that we be better people.


Church · Culture · Morning Coffee

Luther, Trump.

I’m just saying, but never trust a Roman Catholic priest trying to explain the Lutheran Reformation while comparing the leader of said Reformation, Martin Luther, to President Donald Trump.

Plus, whenever the “Luther hated the Jews” or the not used a lot “Luther hated the Muslims” mantra comes up from a Roman Catholic priest, there is an easy response: The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church did nothing and said nothing to stop Hitler from trying to exterminate the Jews, and it was the Roman Catholic Church who led the Crusades to kill the Muslims.

Just saying.

Let’s be honest – show me an anti-Semitic Lutheran Church. You can’t. Lutherans believe and want all people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is and has always been our mission, one that was given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28. Luther’s anti-Jewish writings and his anti-Muslim writings are his own. They are not mine. Luther was not perfect. None of us are. We are not God-like or equal to God (like the Roman Catholic Church believed at one time the Pope was). All of us do and say dumb things, at times. Luther was not immune from it.

We Lutherans follow God’s Word as the core of our lives and faith. I can’t get to heaven because I may have read and believe one of Luther’s Table Talk writings.

I only get to heaven by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

Continue reading “Luther, Trump.”

Church · Culture · Gospel Life · Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care · Uncategorized

Life is Precious.

I received an email note last night from someone calling themselves “the millennial queen,” whatever that means. All I know is that the queen is a freshman in college in Milwaukee. At least that is what she wrote. Her note contained the following hypothetical:

“Pastor, imagine for a moment you’re in a fertility clinic and there is a raging fire all around you. Behind one door, you hear a screaming child. The door to the adjacent room has a container of 1,000 fertilized eggs. You can save only one. Do you save the child or the eggs?”

The motivation behind the hypothetical story is that if a pro-lifer chooses to save the child over the fertilized eggs, then the argument that “life begins at conception” is futile since you could have saved a thousand “children” over the one child behind the door.

And yes, the question was a little odd since she wrote that the door to the adjacent room had the eggs, not the eggs being in the room.

My response: “So, if I save the child, then I’m a hypocrite, and if I save the eggs, I am a … what?A cold-hearted killer? ”

“Let’s play hypothetical for a moment. You’re in a preschool and there is an out of control fire all around you. In one room, you have a crying little boy. The other room, a crying little girl. All things being equal, you only have time to save one child. Whom do you choose? If you choose the girl, does that make you a sexist?

Continue reading “Life is Precious.”

Morning Coffee · My Stuff

The Sermon is Not Getting Written This Morning.

My sermon is not getting written this morning.

It’s not that I don’t have a sermon theme or a structure of what I want to preach about this weekend. We are in the middle of a sermon series entitled, “The Reformation Life.” Weeks ago I finalized themes and prospective outlines. It shouldn’t be that difficult to sit down and write.

However, two texts came in that have knocked me off my focus.

Text 1: “Hey, you getting the new iPhone?”

Text 2: “Why are you hating on rainbow bagels?” 

The answer to the first text: No, I’m not getting the new iPhone or the soon-to-be-released-newer iPhone. I have the 7. It works great. No need to upgrade to the 8 since there really isn’t a major feature upgrade that is needed. Sorry, the whole “wireless charging” thing is not important. As long as my Apple Watch works with it, I’m happy. And the iPhone X? I’m not spending a thousand bucks for a phone I have to unlock with my face.

The answer to the second text: Rainbow bagels are weird. Plus, I’m not a fan of food dyes in my bagels. Poppy seed, sesame seed, and maybe a rye bagel. Those are my favorites.

Health · Morning Coffee · Uncategorized

No Rainbow Colors in Real Bagels.

And before writing this weekend’s sermon, I think I must mention the short story about ‘what makes a New York bagel’ on today’s New York Times website.

I agree wholeheartedly with Niki Russ Federman, co-owner of Russ & Daughters (their bagels are classic and amazing) on what is NOT supposed to be in a New York bagel:

“It should not be sweet and you should never find blueberries, jalapeños, or rainbow colors in your bagel.”


Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care

The Slotted Spoon

This morning at around 11, I left Englewood Hospital after visiting someone. As I walked back to my car parked in front of Brookside Cemetery on Engle Street, as I walked just beyond the ambulance bays for the emergency room, a man came up to me.

He was wearing a Batman tee-shirt and smoking a joint.

“What are you going to think when after you die, there is nothing but blackness?”

Mezmerized a bit by the tee-shirt and the ridiculous tattoo of a slotted spoon on his left arm and that he was smoking mariguana outside of a hospital (granted, it could be a “medically” approved joint), I asked him to repeat his question.

I answered: “I’ll probably be thinking that a guy wearing a Batman tee-shirt with a tattoo of a spoon on his arm was right. But since I’m going to be standing at the pearly gates looking at Jesus, wouldn’t you like to know how to get into heaven?”