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Our staff members were invited to pass along what they may have written on the subject of the Littleton, Colorado tragedy for their local bulletins or newsletters. We offer the following Christian perspectives.


Is there such a thing as demon possession?–I mean apart from the scriptural examples like Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven devils.

A thinking Christian can hardly escape the realization or avoid the obvious answer: Certainly! The evidence slaps us in the face every day. The Kosovo “ethnic cleansing” is but the modern chapter of an ancient legacy of evil-spirited tribal feuding. So are the inter-religious and inter-national stupidities in Ireland and tribal Africa and India that resemble wholesale mutual suicide pacts. How could two teenagers of the “trench-coast Mafia” in Littleton, Colo. do what they did in such a blood-curdling way? What possessed them?

The answer is a lot simpler than the news anchors are allowed to reveal: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)

We are regularly surprised that people are newly surprised at the fact that there is no bottom to the pit into which Satan will drag a willing victim. The key factor seems to be “with the victim’s permission,” for Satan cannot take possession of a heart and life that is already God’s sanctuary–not unless that soul is willing to desert Jesus by giving in to Satan.

People will do that, of course, by giving in to the temptations Satan dangles before them. Even God’s sons and daughters are assaulted by the deceiver. Just give in to anger against a stubborn child; relish the injuries done by an unloving spouse; nurture dissatisfaction about the clumsiness of a teacher/pastor/relative; get drunk to drown emotional stresses; give warmth and shelter to any ungodly, selfish attitude–and you are on your way to giving residence in your heart to an evil spirit. Start skipping your church services, learn to ignore Bible study, and don’t even try home devotions or personal Bible reading–and you will open the starting gate for all other spiritual demons to run on your track.

When the news lady expressed disbelief that the murderers at Littleton had “gone to the Senior Prom just three days earlier,” I wondered; what if they had gone to church three days earlier? Is Satan a stranger to church-goers? We have seen the shadows of evil in our own mirrors.

We harbor no illusions about ourselves being exempt from the attack of demons lurking in the shadows of our own sinful natures. We have our own dark side. And that’s why we approach life ‘ala pp. 5-6 of our hymnal: confession of sins–our very own sins–is so elementary, after all. What seems obvious is that two teenagers nursed a sinful, ungodly, devilish attitude in their hearts to the point that they got controlled by their demons. That was their personal tragedy, and it got multiplied at Columbine High School.

V. P. Al Gore, in response to an interviewer’s query about those teenagers being possessed by evil, was on the right track: “Everyone has a choice . . . to say NO to evil.” But when does the time come that the choice can no longer be made because the demons are already in possession of the heart? What Judas did on a dark Thursday evening was not a new departure in immorality for him; he had been playing games with evil spirits for years in his own backyard before he lost his soul.

With the apostle, we understand the cleansing pain of contrition and repentance: “Oh, wretched man that I am; who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)

With Luther, we have also experienced the pleasure of God’s own release from our demons: “With might of ours can naught be done; Soon were our loss effected. But for us fights the Valiant One Whom God Himself elected . . .”

And that’s why we give voice to our own spiritual conviction in Paul’s response: “I thank God– (that I can be victorious over the evil spirits both in this life and through death into the life to come) — through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Hallelujah!

(Prof. Em. Paul R. Koch)


The tragedy last Tuesday in Littleton, Colorado understandably has been the subject of much discussion in the days following. In the comments that have appeared in editorials and letters to the editor in the Houston Chronicle, many have expressed perplexity at the killings, asking how such a thing could happen. We, too, ought to be shocked at the wanton savagery that has claimed the lives of a teacher and eleven young students and the evil in the hearts of those responsible.

But as believers who look in the Holy Scriptures for answers to serious questions, we ought not be as perplexed as many of those who are commenting on this crime. For the Bible teaches how sin and evil entered the world with the fall of Adam and Eve, and how the world has been under the dominion of Satan from that time forward until today.

People do not like to admit or confront the evil that exists in people’s hearts and minds. There is practically no bottom to the depths of evil to which people can sink when they give themeslves over to it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jer. 17:9)

And are we not also shocked by the evil thoughts that can arise in our own minds, hateful or lustful thoughts that we would be ashamed to have revealed? Think what evil deeds would result if some of our thoughts were carried out or acted upon in our lives.

Evil–yes, even great evil–should not leave us perplexed, though we are rightly shocked and outraged by it.

The Bible also reveals the only cure for evil. It is Christ our Redeemer, who bore the world’s sin in His own body on the cross. It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith in Jesus, leads us to repentance, and gives us the power to resist temptation.

(Pastor John Klatt)


All kinds of people in and out of the media are trying their best to analyze reasons behind such tragedies as the one that occurred this week in Colorado. Some predictably point the finger at guns, or at violence in the media, or on the internet, or speak of a need for anger management and overcoming hatred in a culture of violence, and so on. Others touch on the real problem, as did the father of one of the latest victims when he said: “The only system that failed is that God is left out of everything.” It is truly sad. With a total of 15 dead, this latest is only the most deadly of a rash of “children killing children” episodes that have happened on American school grounds the last few years.

The Bible remains the best (psychology) book available on understanding human behavior. It is that because in His Book God Himself is telling man everything he needs to know to understand himself and the human condition in general. He also tells man how to manage or overcome such things as anger, hatred, and murder. When first created, Adam and Eve lived in a perfect, hateless, deathless world. All this changed when they disobeyed their Creator’s test command. Immediately Adam and Eve died spiritually, and would eventually suffer physical death and even eternal death unless God Himself saved them.

Adam and Eve received a shocking illustration of the ugliness of their new (sinful) condition in the horrible act committed by Cain, their very first son. The seed of sin-hatred in Cain’s heart erupted into murder as he “rose against Abel his brother and killed him” (Gen. 4:8).

God is good. Even as He had forewarned Adam and Eve what would happen to them if they disobeyed, so He had sought to forewarn Cain about where his anger and jealousy over his brother Abel’s God-respected sacrificial offering could lead: “So the LORD said to Cain, Why are you angry? and why has your counteance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4:6f). Cain didn’t take the cue–and Abel paid the price.

Most simply–and most profoundly–the root cause for all anger and jealousy, for each and every murder is the “sin-nature”! Jesus recognized the problem. He said: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Mt. 15:19). Unless sin is ruled, it is ever ready to do the ruling. Unchecked sin is ever ready to spring up into full-blown deeds and acts of the sinful nature (see listing in Galatians 5:19ff).

For those who are seeking to learn how to rule over sin, God’s Book provides all necessary answers. One thing God teaches is that the sinner cannot rule over sin in his own strength! “The carnal mind is enmity against God…” (Rom. 8:7). The sin-nature needs to be recognized for what it is–totally depraved–and then put to death, crucified. How is this “holy violence” accomplished? Paul says: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with (Christ), that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6; cf. Rom. 8:13, Col. 3:5).

What this says is that one who, by Spirit-wrought faith, knows Jesus Christ and why He was crucified, died, and rose again–to rescue and redeem sinners out of His pure grace and mercy–will be given strength to rule sin, rather than be ruled by it. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:12f).

Dear friends, all this is not just some stuffy, impractical “theology”! It is divine “psychology”! And it works. This gospel of the sanctified Christian life provides, in a nutshell, the solution to how sinners–both Christians (each of whom still has the sin-nature) as well as non-Christians–can learn to rule sin rather than be ruled by it!

Since the Fall “sin lies at the door” of every human heart. Sin can be ruled, but only in and through Jesus Christ and His Gospel. That Gospel of God’s love for sinners in Christ needs to be taught in the home. It needs to be taught by parents in word and example. It can be and is taught in Christian schools. It cannot be taught in public schools. In a secular, humanistic, truth-denying age, we cannot expect it to be taught by liberal media, by television or Hollywood movie moguls.

Therein lies the continuing dilemma for the public school system in America’s new “culture of violence.” Sin is lying at the door of the human heart and can’t be kept outside by any alarm system, metal detector, or other security system man can devise.

(Pastor Paul Fleischer)


Grace Ev. Lutheran Church was born out of doctrinal conflict. It was organized in 1959 when a group of 200 communicants and 284 souls severed their membership for doctrinal and conscience reasons from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye.

The new group had its first service on Thanksgiving Day, 1959 in what at the time was All Souls’ Episcopal Church on Walnut Street and Second Avenue SW. An organizational meeting was held on January 12, 1960. At the same time the congregation became a charter member of a newly organized conservative Lutheran synod, the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC).

The former Trinity Lutheran Church building (now the Senior Citizens’ Center) was purchased by Grace Lutheran Church in December 1959 and, after their incorporation, the first service was held in the new building in February 1960. The downstairs served adequately as a parsonage apartment for the church’s first minister, Pastor Paul F. Nolting and his family.

In 1961 the congregation purchased one city block (its current location) in the southwest part of the city. On this site a new parsonage was built in 1963 and dedicated on February 23, 1964. Construction of a new church was undertaken in September, 1969. Dedication of the new church took place on June 14, 1970.

Over the years Grace congregation has maintained a Student Aid Fund to give financial assistance to its young people who choose high school and college education at synod schools. A number of these young people have been moved to serve in the public preaching and teaching ministry. These include: {pastors} Theodore Barthels, Jerome Barthels, and Paul D. Nolting; {teachers} Karla (Kroeger) Olmanson, Susie (Carstensen) Rehm, Dean Carstensen, Daniel Barthels, Scott Theneman, and Lane Fischer.

Grace congregation–which in 1999 numbers 160 communicants and 180 souls–has been served by five pastors: Paul F. Nolting (1959-67), George Barthels (1967-83), Robert List (1983-92), William Hartmann (1992), and Paul Fleischer (1993-present).


(First written for the July 6, 1997 bulletin of Grace Lutheran in Sleepy Eye)

It is interesting, to say the least, how the history of Grace appeared in the 125th anniversary edition (July 3, 1997) of the Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch as part of the history of city churches {your pastor did not write the piece; where they got their information I don’t know}.

We refer to the words in the first paragraph which speak of how the first pastor of Grace, Paul F. Nolting, “began considering aligning with a new synod . . . ” and that “he asked the congregation of St. John’s to vote with him in separating from the Wisconsin Synod.” What is by-passed, of course, is the reason the pastor and a good many members subsequently voted for separation. It was no small matter. It was a matter of Bible doctrine.

Also, the article suggests it was a rather quick decision. Hardly! The historical record will show that the doctrinal issues involved were studied for a number of years before the vote to separate took place. The whole matter was being discussed synodwide starting already in 1953. In some quarters of the Wisconsin Synod, even before that. Also let it be said that up to 50 other pastors and congregations were moved to the same action taken by the pastor and founding members of Grace. These united to form the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC), with one of the organizational meetings of the new synod being held here in Sleepy Eye in January 1961. The doctrinal question had to do with whether or not, and when, the Wisconsin Synod should separate from its false-teaching sister synod, Missouri. When Wisconsin USED HUMAN JUDGMENT INSTEAD OF CLEAR BIBLE TEACHING* to determine how long it would remain together in fellowship with Missouri, the pastor and not a few members of St. John’s had no recourse. With consciences bound to the Word of God, the pertinent passages from Holy Scripture were applied (Rom. 16:17-18, 1 Cor. 1:10, 2 John 9-11 etc.). The Wisconsin Synod by its use and defense of a human judgment approach toward false teachers had itself become guilty of doctrinal error; had itself become a false-teaching church body.

That was a long time ago now. Has anything changed? To the contrary. It has become clear from doctrinal meetings between representatives of the CLC and of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) that WELS defends its previous actions (or inactions!) with respect to the application of the fellowship doctrine. In other words, the doctrinal difference still remains. The leaven of false doctrine at St. John’s (and in WELS in general) which brought about the beginning of Grace in 1959 continues to fester and do its deadly work, as Scripture says it will (cf. 1 Cor. 5:6, Gal. 5:9).

Our title says we want to keep the historical record straight. When it comes to doctrinal controversies, a frequent ploy is to “rewrite” the historical facts and thus subtly nullify the evidence of what actually happened. The WELS, for example, doesn’t like to face facts which reveal it bought into a “human judgment approach” in its interpretation of the Romans passage.

As its name suggests, Grace congregation was founded and continues to exist by the grace of God. Let us not forget the history which gave us birth. Neither let us self-righteously rest on our laurels by which we would invite God’s judgment in our direction. Treasuring our heritage of the Truth, let us be faithful users of the means of God’s grace in Word and Sacrament. At the same time, bound in conscience to the pure Word and doctrines of our God, let us in the power of the Holy Spirit pass along to our children and children’s children an uncompromising sensitivity for God’s inerrant Word of truth.

God’s Word and Luther’s doctrine pure, Shall now and evermore endure!

* In official writings Wisconsin interjected the following thought by way of interpretation of Romans 16:17: “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned and–when you have reached the conviction that admonition is of no further avail–avoid them.” You can see what this does. It’s what we choose to call the “human judgment approach,” since the time when separation from false teachers is to take place becomes a matter of subjective human opinion. Put another way, the application of the “avoid” is left to a time determined by the often prejudicial judgment of sinful human beings.