Saturday, February 27, 2021

Sunday Sermon; "Ashamed of Jesus?”

Second Sunday of Lent, February 28, 2021
Pastor Mark Wiesenborn
St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God, our almighty Father, and from our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our message for this morning is taken from the Gospel reading, where Jesus asks each of us a very direct question:
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?”
[Mark 8:36-37]
Dear friends in Christ, today we are a week-and-a-half into the season of Lent. Our preparations for Holy Week and Good Friday, and ultimately Easter Sunday – have begun. The paraments are purple; a royal color that symbolizes penitence and self-discipline. The Alleluias have been set aside for a while. And the Wednesday Lenten midweek services are available for all. Maybe you have “given up” something for Lent. Or maybe you are “taking on” some spiritual discipline, like setting aside time to pray, or reading the Bible or a daily devotional.

Lent is a sober time of reflection and repentance; a serious business. It coincides with the cold, damp, and sometimes gloomy days of late winter. But I have to admit, I like it anyway. Not that I don’t like Epiphany, which we just finished. In Epiphany, we saw the unfolding revelation of Jesus – who He is, and what He came to do. We heard, “This is my beloved Son” at His Baptism and again at His Transfiguration. We saw him as the true bridegroom of the Church, and the one who preaches and teaches with authority. He is the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. He’s the narrow door that leads to heaven. He’s the one who makes lepers, and sinful folks like us, clean and righteous before God!

But now it’s Lent. And as the mood has turned, yet again we come to the question in our text today: “Who is Jesus?” He asks it himself, of his own apostles. “Who do people say that I am?” And after all the speculation, he presses them: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter confesses, “You are the Christ!” But Jesus isn’t done yet.

For the first time in Mark’s Gospel it’s made entirely clear that yes, Jesus is the Christ. He’s the One. The Lord, The Savior, The Messiah. Not just another in a long line of prophets, but the one greater than Moses they have long been waiting for. The Prophet, and Great High Priest, and AnointedKing over Israel that was promised for so long. Now he’s here! Here he is! The Christ. But...

What does this mean? A good Lutheran question, which Jesus means to answer.

Immediately he begins to teach them, plainly, what it means that he is the Christ. He tells them, straight out, that this means suffering, and it means death. Oh, and after three days it means resurrection, too.

And Peter’s head almost explodes. He can’t stomach it. He has other things in mind. NOT suffering; NOT shame; NOT betrayal and rejection; certainly NOT death. He’s thinking of self, and status, and success, and glory and power! But in this Lenten Epiphany, in this great moment of revelation Jesus shows them not only that he IS the Christ, but just what kind of Christ he has come to be. A suffering, bleeding, dying Christ. He comes to us as the Christ of the cross.

What kind of Jesus are you looking for? A blessings-on-demand Jesus? One who takes all of life’s troubles away, and puts you on the path to comfort and status and success? A rock-star Jesus, loved and admired by all? A Jesus who affirms you and tells you you’re good enough just as you are, so just believe in yourself? A politically-correctJesus who is a bright shining example of what to say and do, so that you can imitate him and be all bright and shiny, too? Perfectly pious little people who always smile and seem cheerful? As if we could manage that...

Or do you want the real Jesus who gets down and dirty and bloody, and is hoisted up and humiliated and crucified – for all to see and mock. A man of sorrows. A man forsaken, even by God the Father. A worm of a man, surrounded by dogs, pierced hands and feet and bloody head and back. A Jesus condemnedby Jews and Romans alike. A Jesus rejected by the crowd who call for his blood. Only a few women and one disciple stick around. And even that brings more bitterness. That may not be the Jesus we want, but he’s the Jesus we get – and He is the Jesus we need. The Christ of the cross.

Because by all this, it is finished. By all this, your sins are put away. By his suffering and bleeding and dying, abundant life and eternal life are yours.

God’s ways are not our ways. Our immortal, invisible, only-wise God has a strange and mysterious and wonderful way of doing things. He reveals his power in weakness. He brings glory through shame. He wins life by death. He kills death by dying. And he forgives sins by becoming sin.

St. Matthew Lutheran is certainly not one of the biggest congregations in Houston. We don’t have all the facilities and programs and glitz that some others do. People aren’t busting down our doors in droves, but week after week new people certainly are coming here (or joining our virtual worship) and being blessed by God’s Word and loved by God’s people. Some would say we’re not that successful, or that we’re failing to change quickly enough to engage the community around us – but year after year we certainly hope and intend to be mission-minded. We may not be a mission-planting congregation at the present time, but we have been faithful partners in mission to many others. Perhaps those who are unable or unwilling to see this have in mind the things of men, not the things of God.

You are a faithful congregation. Sinners, yes, but forgiven sinners who proclaim the suffering servant Christ. People who know that it’s not about us anyway, but always, only, about Christ. You are a group of believers gathered around what is most important – his Word and his Sacrament – his true Body and Blood, given and shed for you, according to his promise. You are his baptized and believing children, and that is enough.

Just as Jesus of Nazareth himself had a different idea from the world of what it meant to be the Christ, we Lutherans have a different idea from the world of what it means be the church. It may not mean outward success or worldly glamor. Instead it means faithfulnessto His truth. Sometimes it means suffering, and sacrifice, and even dying. But that’s ok, because that’s what our Savior does for us. None of this makes you betterthan anyone, but in Christ, it does make you blessed.

The Lenten Epiphany – the great surprise – the big reveal – is not that Jesus is the Christ, but that the Christ came to suffer and die for us. And this is good news, no matter what Peter or the world thinks. This is the will of God the Father, to save you, the sinner. This is his plan from the foundation of the world. This, the cross, is what Jesus is all about. And so it’s what we’re all about. To drive home this message, Jesus goes on to say:

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8:38]

Brothers and sisters, are you ever ashamed of Jesus? Let me invite you to look carefully at the cover of today’s worship folder. Setting your mind on the “things of God” places our focus on the old rugged cross. Christ’s eyes are turned downward – toward the foot of the cross – gazing sadly upon the “things of man.” These include sad and hurtful things that we all sometimes think, say, and do… willfully and deliberately. The cross reminds us of good and gracious things that are often left undone – opportunities for worship and Bible study and Christian service and fellowship that are avoided, bypassed, and denied until it seems like just an everyday habit of life apart from Jesus Christ.

I have absolutely NO DOUBT that you could find other things to do with your time and abilities and resources, than reflecting the love of Jesus. Easier things to do, certainly, than asking someone to forgive you – or seeking reconciliation in a broken relationship. But think about the message in our Hymn of the Day, asking whether you are ashamed of Jesus. And if you have no shame for the areas of your life in which you may be denying Him as the centerof your life, and the source of your blessings, and the hopeof your salvation – well, then at least be thankful for His abundant mercy!

I have come to understand and accept that our spiritual enemy Satan knows our every weakness. He has studied each of us carefully, testing us relentlessly until he has discovered every vulnerable place in your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual defenses. And do not be deceived, he is constantly at work seeking to bring you down. His flaming arrows bring waves of worry and stress, doubts and discouragement, anger and divisiveness. He influences even the people whom we trust and depend on to deliver some of his most hurtful criticisms, accusations, and lies. On our own, we are powerless to withstand his attacks!

This is WHY WE EACH NEED A SAVIOR. As Paul writes: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” [1st Corinthians 10:12-13]

That way out comes by learning and remembering the teachings of Jesus Christ, who speaks this promise: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:20] If anyone would come after Jesus, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Him. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ and for the Gospel will save it. That confidence in the power of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection makes all the difference, as we fix our eyes on the cross and set our hopes on the promised blessings which await all who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ.

May we never be ashamed of this! In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

GOSPEL LESSON – Mark 8:27-38 [ESV]


27And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

34 And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Media/Gov't/DNC Propaganda IS the Biggest Evil for this Country

Trump was correct when he said that the unholy alliance between Big Media, the DNC and the Government is the biggest evil in our country. Here's proof.  From Kristen Soltis Anderson on Twitter:

The following is what sane and normal people, who are grounded in reality, are thinking with regards to our country's biggest problems (as always, click to enlarge): 

Now, the following graphic shows how insane, hysterical and irrational the political left has become.  Their illusions have been created by our evil, lying media corporations aided by the DNC and evil US Govt:

Are we even talking about the same country???

Are we even in the same universe?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Armstrong: The Collapse of California ...and Our Nation

From Martin Armstrong

"This is the REAL California. They are so far to the left, there is no more rule of law. Why should anyone pay for anything? If everyone went to the store and stole $950, they would bring California’s economy to a dead halt. Perhaps this is what needs to be done. Their vision for the future of America is absolutely insane! Take a look at this video of a CA resident:

Here's the facebook video link from Peter Santanello.

The real insanity is that the two states that are the absolute worst in the country; California and New York where more people are fleeing from than anywhere else, are the very ones imposing their ideas now upon the entire country. California became a state on September 9, 1850. Cyclically, California goes into an absolute economic crisis in 2022! So readers in California, the worst is yet to come! 

Don’t forget your thank you cards to Newsom and Pelosi."

Doug here: It gets much worse. Due to government incompetence in California, they can't even keep the power online anymore!  It's worse than a 3rd World country!!  One of my commenters on Wind Fails Texas often reads comments from California residents on WSJ articles concerning alternative energy. They are blood curdling. 

From Garland Remington: 

"You will read comment after comment of what these people suffer through now every summer in late summer and spring. How many times they lose power due to mandatory brown / black outs. Starting last year and going forward now each year, the state of California is making their citizens go on a rotating brown & black out. Regardless if your area likes it or not.

Here’s how it is going to work and several commenters out of the state of California has showed me the chart and where to find it on Pacific gas and electric website. You will be without juice from 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours to 24 hours. Out of a full 7 day week, you will have juice for a 24 hour period for? 72 hours. THAT. IS. IT."

Collapse is coming to California (as residents flee in droves).  If it's still true that "California leads the country," then collapse is coming to the entire country...

That's if we STILL HAVE A COUNTRY---which is seriously in doubt as the Capitol is walled-off and occupied by military force to keep out the evil, violent conservatives (white supremacists)!!  You do know that white Christian people are violent and destructive, right?

We supposedly elected a fungus as President. Kamala went back to California recently and exactly 2 people greeted her!! We're supposed to believe that these people got 80 million votes! Totally illegitament government! 

Collapse is enveloping our country right now.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Wind Failed the Stand-alone Texas Grid

See my post "Large-scale Renewable Energy" + Isolated Grid System = Energy Peril (for Texas) That post is still basically true but I had no data for the amount of wind power in Texas.  Turns out that it's HUGE.  But it's highly, highly variable-- just like solar.

Data from Casend at Zero Hedge:  

Wind provides up to ~50% of Texas power at times---probably in late afternoon windy conditions when demand is peak (in summer) -- but don't quote me on this.  But wind power is HIGHLY variable as you might guess. 
  
During the great freeze of 2021, iced-up turbine blades affected some 60% of the wind turbines and put them out of business when they were needed most. Natural gas took up the load but it too faltered somewhat with intense and frigid conditions. 



Wind failed when it was needed most. Natural gas substituted but then it failed somewhat. Not enough natural gas-fueled generation is the most obvious problem.  The texas grid ERCOT grid being isolated from the rest of the US was a killer too. Places outside of ERCOT (the Texas Grid), like El Paso, didn't have any problems for example.  See "Large-scale Renewable Energy" + Isolated Grid System = Energy Peril (for Texas) to see the ERCOT grid boundary and the following recommendations: 

The lesson for Texas (and the world) is that, if you adopt wind and solar at levels of 5, 10 or 15% of the total power generation (or more), or if you have potential problems with older, conventional power supplies, you had better have: 

  1. adequate backup power in terms of quick-starting gas turbine generators or other responsive fossil fuel generation available and/or,  
  2. Increase the number of new conventional or nuclear power plants that aren't affected by severe weather, or
  3. Increase the ability to import power should there be a supply shortage by better grid connections to neighboring states like Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana (in the case of Texas) and, 
  4. Similarly, you had better be able to sell power to other states should the supply of energy EXCEED demand due to the renewables. Although natural gas generation adjusts with the wide variation in wind output during normal times (99% of the time). 
  5. Pony-up big bucks for energy storage meaning batteries (impractical at this time).

Big Tech Adolescents in Infantile America

 

Friday, February 19, 2021

"Large-scale Renewable Energy" + Isolated Grid System = Energy Peril (for Texas)

Everyone has heard of the major electrical power shortages in the still-ongoing Arctic weather outbreak here in Texas. At the worst, some 5 million people were without power with outside temperatures ranging from 5 deg F to 14 deg F in the early mornings---across the state. I was one of those people shivering. See my post:  Add ANOTHER Problem and Cost to Solar and Wind Power

Here's the thing: Texas' power grid is nearly a stand-alone power grid with limited connection to the grid of surrounding states. So when demand exceeded supply, 5 million customers were shivering in the dark! Texas wasn't able to "borrow" (enough) capacity from neighboring states.
 
Permian oil AND gas production shut-in due to severe freezing, which is Texas's major supply of natural gas. That affected supplies to conventional power plants. The power stations had their issues with the cold too; freezing water, freezing control valves etc.  Solar panels were covered with snow. Wind power crapped-out due to icing with wet snow.  Wind turbines has become an extensive industry in NW Texas. So, you could say we were quite reliant on them. Wind turbines are high maintenance, and you often see many of them idle in wind "farms." But nobody thought they'd fail with ice and snow on the blades!!
 
Our last extremely severe arctic air incursion was in 1989 when Texas population was 18 million.  After 32 years, that cold wave was forgotten but Texas has 30 million people now (compared to 18 million in 1989)

The lesson for Texas (and the world) is that, if you adopt wind and solar at levels of 5, 10 or 15% of the total power generation (or more), or if you have potential problems with older, conventional power supplies, you had better have: 

  1. adequate backup power in terms of quick-starting gas turbine generators or other fossil fuel generation available and/or,  
  2. Increase the number of new conventional power plants that aren't affected by severe weather, or
  3. Increase the ability to import power should there be a supply shortage by better grid connections to neighboring states like Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana (in the case of Texas) and, 
  4. Similarly, you had better be able to sell power to other states should the supply of energy EXCEED demand due to the renewables.

Texas apparently has none of these things. Texas' power grid is nearly a stand-alone power grid with limited connection to the grid of surrounding states. So when demand exceeded supply, 5 million customers were shivering in the dark!  But if you adopt renewables, you'd better build-in flexibility and interconnect with other state's electric grids!  Our grid must be fortified, at significant cost, and connected to the national grid to handle these various power overflows or shortages! And that costs big money!! 

The Relatively Isolated (~90% isolated) Texas Power Grid Managed by ERCOT

 

Germany's Renewable "Free-Ride"

Germany, due the Green Party, shut down all it's nuclear plants and embarked on an enormous subsidy program to try to achieve nearly all renewable energy. They have a near-religious obsession with renewables. Toady, some 27% to 30% of it's power can be supplied from wind and solar. They've accomplished that with extensive government subsidies to everyone-including the conventional fossil-fueled utilities (more about that below). 

But Germany is integrated into all of their neighboring country's grids. They even built additional bi-directional subsea power cables to Sweden and Norway. So, if the sun don't shine and the wind doesn't blow, they are ready to import nuclear energy from France, and fossil fuel energy from Norway, Sweden, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, etc. See my post: Germany's Solar Projects are a Bust.

Conversely, if the sun shines across Germany in the summer, German power must be EXPORTED rapidly to dissipate this energy. Germany gets away with that because only because they have sane neighbors to buy or sell power -- who are not in the grip of the "climate change" hysteria and renewables "religion," or "climate fanaticism."

But they are finding out it's not a utopia, it's more of a nightmare. From my post Large Scale Solar & Wind Power Not The Solution: Too Many Problems and Costs:

For 4 months of the year during winter (when German power demand is highest), there is little sun since they are at 50 deg N Latitude with plenty of clouds, so they are reliant on conventional power generation (and/or purchased power from Sweden or France). In the summer, when the sun comes out, the surge of solar power generation requires that nearly all of traditional power generation to shut down and/or requires them to sell excess power to neighboring countries. Furthermore, wholesale spot power rates go NEGATIVE during sunny periods meaning producers aren't making money to add to the grid, they're LOSING money during these peaks..

If you don't have neighbors to sell to, then that creates a huge problem due to the time required to start and stop large conventional production. And the electric power grid must be modified to accommodate these variable power flows-- which costs taxpayers money. Then, idling conventional plants in summer cause the electric utilities to lose money and they aren't able to pay investors their dividends, so Germany has to provide assistance to the conventional utilities too!

So here's the real punchline: the cost of electric power is some $0.39 per Kw-Hr in Germany compared to $0.11 per Kw-Hr average in the US!!  That retail power cost almost certainly doesn't include additional cables and grid connections to Sweden and France. I feel confident that that cost is hidden from consumers. Remember, Germany's peak energy use is in the winter for heating when there's essentially ZERO sunshine in the 4 or 5 winter months. Nearly ZERO!  

Compare those costs with a home in Texas in winter. Say your electricity bill during a cold month is $250 because you have electric strip heating furnace or a heat pump. Your bill would be $950 at German prices!  And their manufacturing, retail and industrial sectors have a similar cost burden!!

Countries shown above in "red" are those experiencing severe debt problems. Solar and wind subsidies worsen these problems!

Why the Enormous Cost of 25 to 30% of Renewable Power (I'm asking you Germany)??  

All of the intermittent power sources such as wind and solar PV require basically a 100% backup by fossil or nuclear fueled generation plants, This is because there is no solar power at nights or during much of the winter (when power demand is highest). Wind power is very intermittent (unreliable) as well. So, going forward, widespread (>10% of total power generation) adoption of such intermittent power basically doubles the capital costs.

How can paying twice the capital cost ever make sense? Yes, existing power plants are already built, so people take comfort in ignoring the conventional utility power companies. But as subsidies rise for homeowner and commercial installations, the conventional power utilities (fossil-fueled) find their revenues and profits are down, so THEY begin to require subsidies as well.  This means that subsidies then are required for everyone!  All this to support these low quality, unreliable and expensive alternatives! How can this ever work?

That's a recipe for a cost disaster and real hardship for German people.  And for what??  They had perfectly fine nuclear power plants to provide basically free baseline power but they shut them down to assuage radical environmentalists (the Green Party).  Remember, once a nuke plant is built, the power is basically free. Amortizing the capital cost of the plant is the real ongoing (non-cash) cost.

Let it also be a warning for other pie-in-the-sky dreamers of unlimited renewables! Small-scale renewable adoption works, say up to 5 or 10% but the grid had better be modified to accomodate instability. Large-scale adoption of renewables (over 10 to 15%) doesnt' really make economic sense.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

What Are The Sources of Electricity and All Other Energy in the US?

I.  Renewables include hydroelectric, biomass, solar, wind, geothermal.  Solar is quite minor. 


Be careful when researching energy data. Sometimes data is for installed capacity. But there's a difference between capacity and actual production. You can have 100 GW of solar capacity installed, but there's night-time and cloudy days, actual electricity produced is less.

Here's raw ELECTRICAL generation data from EIA. Wind is 7.3% of the total and solar is 1.8% of the total US Electricity. That's for the entire nation, though. I don't know about Texas alone.


II.  Renewables (incl biomass, hydro, wind and solar) is only 11% of the total energy produced and consumed in the US --most of that is wind and hydro-power from the first figure. 


As a rough estimation, Wind is 4.7% and Hydro 4.3% of our total energy.  Solar is only 1% of our total energy.  (click for larger image)
 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Add ANOTHER Problem and Cost to Wind and Solar Power

In recent days, I was shivering as my electric power was cut-off and the temperature in my apartment dropped to about 45 F after 1 1/2 days of NO POWER as outside temperatures dropped to 14 F.   

It turns out some 4 million persons were affected by rolling power cuts due to inadequate generating capability here in Texas.  Some conventional plants had problems starting with the cold weather. Some natural gas production was shut-in due to extreme freezing conditions which affected power generation.  

In west Texas, wind turbine blades failed as wet snow coated the blades and stopped production. 

The tweet below covers the ironic situation: "A helicopter running on fossil fuel spraying a chemical made from fossil fuels onto a wind turbine made with fossil fuels during an ice storm.."

Add this as another real world problem to wind power generation. In my post More Analyses Confirm (Largescale) Solar and Wind is More Problem Than Solution, I say that there are higher maintenance costs for these (wind) generators. You will often see many idle windmills in wind farms. They aren't very durable and require frequent repair.  Now add blade de-icing operations from $500 per hour helicopter rentals to the already high maintenance costs.


The cost of solar panels has come down in cost in recent years, and I have no idea of the cost trends in wind turbines, but the cost of the panels/turbines alone are only THE START of the total installed and maintained cost of delivered energy. 

From my post Large Scale Solar & Wind Power Not The Solution: Too Many Problems and Costs: Wind and solar's inefficiency extends BEYOND the cost to manufacture and install wind and solar power generating equipment. So quit looking at the price of solar panels alone. That's just the start of the costs.  It takes a lot of land, steel, concrete, transmission lines, engineering and labor to build these facilities all requiring fossil fuels to design, produce, install and maintain. The cost of the panels or turbine might be 20 to 40% of the total installed cost.  THIS IS REAL WORLD STUFF, NOT BULLSHYTE THAT YOU GET FROM ACADEMICS.

If you add the cost of Lithium Ion batteries to any solar installation, say if you have large power needs at night, you're in uncharted territory in terms of cost! Oh, and forget electric ranges, central air conditioning, and electric clothes dryers powered on batteries!!  Fugetaboutit! It becomes a joke when you can buy power at $0.09 per Kw-hr at any hour of the day.

Wind and solar are so unreliable that they require nearly 100% backup by convention fossil fuel power plants which AGAIN doubles the capital investment (going forward). No "experts" will tell you about this. The cost of grid modifications are also never included in any solar or wind energy analyses either. 
 
The only way these facilities are built is through various subsidies from various governments. And once subsidies are provided to solar and wind producers, subsidies are also required by the conventional power producers.  Wind and Solar power isn't economic on a large scale (>10% of the total electric power) and they probably fail to reduce carbon emissions as well.
 
GET THIS:  Electricity is merely 20% of our total energy needs. (The other 80% is transportation, heavy industry, etc.)  So even we achieve 10% of our electricity from wind or solar, it's only 2% of our overall energy: an expensive pittance!  Biden, AOC or anyone else in Gov't doesn't understand ANYTHING about this because they are some of the dumbest, foolish people alive.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Economy is Nearing Collapse, Part 1: Exploding Government Desperation

This post is Part 1 of two parts meant to recap recent events that show just how fragile our rapidly inflating financial bubbles have become. Events are happening more rapidly as instability rises. We're getting closer and closer to a crippling, perhaps "terminal" financial crisis -the likes of which the world has never seen before since it's bigger and encompasses all markets---even the currency markets and money itself. It clear that the number of govt interventions are going parabolic in both frequency and magnitude. These latter points are the focus of Part 1--our exponential road to ruin.

In Part 2, I'll talk about a longer perspective of how we got here including our declining and inadequate returns of energy investment, our encounters with the finite limits of commodities, including energy products and the limits of growth itself.  I'll use a recent post by Gail Tverberg where she discusses how we have an affordable energy problem and she discusses various and ever more desperate and complex "work-arounds" to avoid collapse. But economic collapse is coming.

Part 1:  Recent Timeline of Exploding Government Desperation. The End Approaches

Debt and spending are going parabolic now with regards to government spending, the Federal Reserve QE and various bailouts-- all to preserve the appearance of prosperity and maintain the increasingly dangerous EVERYTHING BUBBLE caused by the hysteria/shutdowns related to the COVID virus. 

Let's  outline a timeline of the vast escalation of recent and desperate measures made to keep all of the various financial bubbles inflated (prevent collapse):

Sept 2019, The Repo Crisis:  a sudden financial crisis caused US short-term treasury and Fed Funds interest rate to spike from 0.25% to 10%. This was caused after a relatively paltry attempt to "normalize" (reduce) the Fed's balance sheet during the summer of 2019.  Another round of QE begins:

For perspective, note the extremely limited reduction (QT) of The Fed's Balance sheet toward the end of 2019 (upper right corner) triggered a major financial Repo Crisis in September of 2019.

 

The transition from a Quantitative Tightening to QE Again after the Sept '19 Repo Crackup

Dec 2019,  In addition to QE, the Fed ultimately had to extend $500 Billion dollars of short-term liquidity (repos) to rescue unknown entities from collapse. The stock market was soaring and treasury yields plummeted after these injections--worsening an already extended stock market bubble. 

Federal Reserve Actions (QE and Repos) from the Sept 2019 to early January 2020

January 2020, it became obvious that The Fed was once again trapped as lender of first resort in Repo, a market that they rarely enter (except prior to previous burst equity bubbles in years 2000 and 2008). Repo balances subsided in the January and February, but the Stock market blew upward into the end of Feb 2020.

March 2020, with the sudden lock-down of the economy due to Covid,, the U.S. stock market went from all-time highs to an emergency FOMC meeting in just ten sessions. The S&P500 lost more than a third of its value in just 21 trading days. Q2 GDP collapsed at a 31% annualized rate after a -4% annualized decline in Q1 2020. ALL markets around the world plummeted including: most bonds, foreign and emerging market currencies, corporate bonds, commodity markets  in a synchronized fashion. The "Everything Bubble" appeared to be collapsing. The dollar soared as a safe haven. The Fed announced $700 billion in QE on March 11, 2020 and then ~$2 Trillion more by early April '20.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 116th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020.

As seen in 2000 and 2008, it was impossible for "the government" to stop the bursting stock market bubbles once the selling commenced. However, in March 2020, with unprecedented "reserve creation" (QE) and outright direct buying of bond and stock ETFs by the Federal Reserve, the Fed WAS able to stop a 30% decline.  

Helicopter Money for Wall Street to Rescue the Stock Market


April 2020 to End of 2020, All markets soar with ongoing Federal Reserve QE of $120 Billion per month $3 TRILLION of US Govt Deficit Spending.   

The US Stock Market Soars in 2020 to the most extreme valuations in history as the Fed Reserve continues it's $120 Billion per month QE with ~$4 TRILLION of US Govt Deficit Spending

Dec 2020 The Trump Administration signed a $900 Billion Federal spending package at the end of 2020 that contained the paltry $600 stimulus checks.

Feb 2021  The Biden administration is on the verge of passing a spending package of $1.9 Trillion with $1400 stimulus checks.  

In that case, that will lift the cumulative amount of fiscal stimulus in the past 12 months to $5 trillion---three tranches $2.2 trillion, $900 billion, and $1.9 trillion. That's in addition to about $2 Trillion in Federal Reserve bond/etf purchases!  I believe that I've made my point regarding the desperation of the government to rescue the US economy after COVID.     

Ominously, the desperation of the US Federal Reserve and the US Government manipulations to maintain the "everything bubble" is truly exploding in scope, frequency and magnitude. It's became clear that they can't exit these various markets or the financial system blows up. Thanks to huge amounts of liquidity and intervention, the stock and bond markets vaulted to new highs at the end of 2019 and into early 2020.

The leveraged bubble continues to build to the most extreme in history: truly astronomic levels. Recently, retail enthusiasm for stock market trading, and especially call buying,  has become alarming in scope. Retail participation is usually the final straw of a bull market.  When the market blows-up, if it's "allowed to," the devastation will be enormous -- thus the desperate means employed by "government."  

Excess money tends to go "POOF" and to "money heaven." We could all be broke within days of market collapses.

When it stops, nobody knows.

Tverberg: The Economy is Nearing Collapse, Part 2

My post: The Economy is Nearing Collapse, Exploding Government Desperation: Part 1, was intended to recap recent events that show just how fragile our rapidly inflating financial bubbles have become. Financial Events are happening more rapidly as instability rises -- as if more and more spinning plates are whirling above the circus performer's head.  We're getting closer and closer to a crippling financial crisis -probably the likes of which the world has never seen before since it's bigger and encompasses all markets---even the currency markets. It clear that the number of govt interventions are going parabolic in both frequency and magnitude.

The post below is from Gail Tverberg's Our Finite World blog. Gail is an actuary who is a career consultant for insurance companies on risk issues and now specializes in systemic risk issues. She's long talked about how we're reaching peak-affordable energy, (especially oil) and how that actually started in the 1970s with the Arab oil embargo, after the US abandoned sound money in 1971. That event began a long and striking chain of events that has led to our disastrous economic and political situation right now in both our country but also in the world:

Note the Parabolic Rise of US Debt After 1971
It led to a 50 year period of rising debt, budget deficits, trade deficits, inflation, financial asset inflation, repeated bubbles and the resulting instability (collapsing bubbles) and deep recessions resulting in falling living standards, inequality, monetary disorder, instability, the rise of China and Japan before that, the Petro-dollar, endless wars, the massive military-industrial complex, a leviathan surveillance state, mega corporate monopolies, massive US government growth, government malfeasance and corruption, national de-industrialization, wealth inequality, the Eurodollar rise and fall, widespread US intervention and manipulation in nearly every global nation -- all continuing to the present day. All fueled by easy (unsound) money and unbridled spending).

Gail and myself have noted the increasing number of "work-arounds" to avoid economic decline and collapse. The increasing number of work-arounds have themselves created excess complexities that render the system even more fragile/unstable:

a) 40 years of falling interest rates,  

b) Falling tax rates and higher gov't deficits,

c)  Then zero interest rates ongoing for 12 years now,  

d)  Exponentially rising debt and government spending, 

e)  Manipulation of markets as a policy effort called "wealth effect"

fendless quantitative easing ("printing" of reserves by the Federal Reserve) to fund government deficits as citizens can not afford increased taxes  

g)  Rapidly rising income support payments and subsidies to the public,  

h)  Talk of universal basic income.. 

i)  Evidence that the world is reaching the end of affordable commodities, especially energy, signals imminent economic collapse.

All of these work-arounds, for 40+ years have been designed to compensate or "kick the can" to avoid the public notice of the obvious economic decline. However, financial and economic collapse draws closer.  In Part 1, I show that any attempt at normalization will lead to collapse, so ever increasing numbers of desperate measures are necessary in order to avoid that inevitability.

Part 1 also chronicles just a recent number of cracks in our economic and financial foundations that speak of an ominous future. But it's not just economic cracks that are showing. Social unrest, calls for socialism, cultural decay, corruption, concentration of wealth and wealth inequality show that our decline is very obvious. Wealth inequality is back at 1929 levels.

Everything, including our culture, is being destroyed in just one generation.]

Part 2:  Gail Tverberg's Post "Where Energy Modeling Goes Wrong" from her blog at Our Finite World:

There are a huge number of people doing energy modeling. In my opinion, nearly all of them are going astray in their modeling because they don’t understand how the economy really operates.

The modeling that comes closest to being correct is that which underlies the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows and others. This modeling was based on physical quantities of resources, with no financial system whatsoever. The base model, shown here, indicates that limits would be reached a few years later than we actually seem to be reaching them. The dotted black line in Figure 1 indicates where I saw the world economy to be in January 2019, based on the limits we already seemed to be reaching at that time.

Figure 1. Base scenario from 1972 Limits to Growth, printed using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in “Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil,” with dotted line added corresponding to where I saw the world economy to be in January 2019, based on how the economy was operating at that time.

The authors of The Limits to Growth have said that their model cannot be expected to be correct after limits hit (which is about now), so even this model is less than perfect. Thus, this model cannot be relied upon to show that population will continue to rise until after 2050.

Many readers are familiar with Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) calculations. These are favorites of many people following the Peak Oil problem. A high ratio of Energy Returned to Energy Invested is considered favorable, while a low ratio is considered unfavorable. Energy sources with similar EROEIs are supposedly equivalent. Even these similarities can be misleading. They make intermittent wind and solar appear far more helpful than they really are.

Other modeling, such as that by oil companies, is equally wrong. Their modeling tends to make future fossil fuel supplies look far more available than they really are.

This is all related to a talk I plan to give to energy researchers later in February. So far, all that is pinned down is the Summary, which I reproduce here as Section [1], below.

[1] Summary: The economy is approaching near-term collapse, not peak oil. The result is quite different.

The way a person views the world economy makes a huge difference in how one models it. A big issue is how connected the various parts of the economy are. Early researchers assumed that oil was the key energy product; if it were possible to find suitable substitutes for oil, the danger of exhaustion of oil resources could be delayed almost indefinitely.

In fact, the operation of the world economy is controlled by the laws of physics. All parts are tightly linked. The problem of diminishing returns affects far more than oil supply; it affects coal, natural gas, mineral extraction in general, fresh water production and food production. Based on the work of Joseph Tainter, we also know that added complexity is also subject to diminishing returns.

When a person models how the system works, it becomes apparent that as increasing complexity is added to the system, the portion of the economic output that can be returned to non-elite workers as goods and services drops dramatically. This leads to rising wage disparity as increasing complexity is added to the economy. As the economy approaches limits, rising wage disparity indirectly leads to a tendency toward low prices for oil and other commodities because a growing number of non-elite workers are unable to afford homes, cars and even proper nutrition. 

A second effect of added complexity is growing use of long-lasting goods available through technology. Many of these long-lasting goods are only affordable with financial time-shifting devices such as loans or the sale of shares of stock. As non-elite workers become increasingly unable to afford the output of the economy, these time-shifting devices provide a way to raise demand (and thus prices) for commodities of all types, including oil. These time-shifting devices are subject to manipulation by central banks, within limits.

Standard calculations of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) ignore the fact that added complexity tends to have a very detrimental impact on the economy because of the diminishing returns it produces. To correct for this, today’s EROEI calculations should only be used to compare energy systems with similar complexity. The least complex energy systems are based on burned biomass and power from animals. Fossil fuels represent a step upward in complexity, but they still can be stored until their use is required. Intermittent renewables are far ahead of fossil fuels in terms complexity: they require sophisticated systems of storage and distribution and therefore cannot be considered equivalent to oil or dispatchable electricity.

The lack of understanding of how the economy really works has led to the failure to understand several important points:

(i) Low oil prices rather than high are to be expected as the economy reaches limits,

(ii) Most fossil fuel reserves will be left in the ground because of low prices,

(iii) The economy is experiencing the historical phenomenon of collapse, rather than peak oil, and 

(iv) If the economy is not to collapse, we need energy sources providing a larger quantity of net energy per capita to offset diminishing returns.   

[2] The world’s energy problem, as commonly understood by researchers today

It is my observation that many researchers believe that we humans are in charge of what happens with future fossil fuel extraction, or with choosing to substitute intermittent renewables for fossil fuels. They generally do not see any problem with “running out” in the near future. If running out were imminent, the problem would likely be announced by spiking prices.

In the predominant view, the amount of future fossil fuels available depends upon the quantity of energy resources that can be extracted with available technology. Thus, a proper estimate of the resources that can be extracted is needed. Oil seems to be in shortest supply based on its reserve estimates and the vast benefits it provides to society. Thus, it is commonly believed that oil production will “peak” and begin to decline first, before coal and natural gas.

In this view, demand is something that we never need to worry about because energy, and especially oil, is a necessity. People will choose energy over other products because they will pay whatever is necessary to have adequate energy supplies. As a result, oil and other energy prices will rise almost endlessly, allowing much more to be extracted. These higher prices will also enable higher cost intermittent electricity to be substituted for today’s fossil fuels.

A huge amount of additional fossil fuels can be extracted, according to those who are primarily concerned about loss of biodiversity and climate change. Those who analyze EROEI tend to believe that falling EROEI will limit the quantity of future fossil fuels extracted to a smaller total extracted amount. Because of this, energy from additional sources, such as intermittent wind and solar, will be required to meet the total energy demand of society.

The focus of EROEI studies is on whether the EROEI of a given proposed substitution is, in some sense, high enough to add energy to the economy. The calculation of EROEI makes no distinction made between energy available only through highly complex systems and energy available from less complex systems.

EROEI researchers, or perhaps those who rely on the indications of EROEI researchers, seem to believe that the energy needs of economies are flexible within a very wide range. Thus, an economy can shrink its energy consumption without a particularly dire impact.

[3] The real story seems to be that the adverse outcome we are reaching is collapse, not peak oil. The economy is a self-organizing system powered by energy. This makes it behave in very unexpected ways.

[3a] The economy is tightly connected by the laws of physics.

Energy consumption (dissipation) is necessary for every aspect of the economy. People often understand that making goods and services requires energy dissipation. What they don’t realize is that almost all of today’s jobs require energy dissipation, as well. Without supplemental energy, humans could only gather wild fruits and vegetables and hunt using the simplest of tools. Or, they could attempt simple horticulture by using a stick to dig a place in the ground to plant a seed.

In physics terms, the economy is a dissipative structure, which is a self-organizing structure that grows over time. Other examples of dissipative structures include hurricanes, plants and animals of all types, ecosystems, and star systems. Without a supply of energy to dissipate (that is, food to eat, in the case of humans), these dissipative structures would collapse.

We know that the human body has many different systems, such as a cardiovascular system, digestive system and nervous system. The economy has many different systems, too, and is just as tightly connected. For example, the economy cannot get along without a transportation system any more than a human can get along without a cardiovascular system.

This self-organizing system acts without our direction, just as our brain or circulatory system acts without our direction. In fact, we have very little control over these systems.

The self-organizing economy allows common belief systems to arise that seem to be right but are really based on models with many incorrect assumptions. People desperately need and want a “happily ever after” solution. The strong need for a desirable outcome favors the selection of models that lead to the conclusion that if there is a problem, it is many years away. Conflicting political views seem to be based on different, equally wrong, models of how world leaders can solve the energy predicament that the world is facing.

The real story is that the world’s self-organizing economy will determine for us what is ahead, and there is virtually nothing we can do to change the result. Strangely enough, if we look at the long term pattern, there almost seems to be a guiding hand behind the result. According to Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee in Rare Earth, there have been a huge number of seeming coincidences that have allowed life on earth to take hold and flourish for four billion years. Perhaps this “luck” will continue.

[3b] As the economy reaches limits, commodities of many types reach diminishing returns simultaneously.

It is indeed true that the economy reaches diminishing returns in oil supply as it reaches limits. Oil is very valuable because it is energy dense and easily transported. The oil that can be extracted, refined, and delivered to needed markets using the least amount of resources (including human labor) tends to be extracted first. It is later that deeper wells are built that are farther from markets. Because of these issues, oil extraction does tend to reach diminishing returns, as more is extracted.

If this were the only aspect of the economy that was experiencing diminishing returns, then the models coming from a peak oil perspective would make sense. We could move away from oil, simply by transferring oil use to appropriately chosen substitutes.

It becomes clear when a person looks at the situation that commodities of all kinds reach diminishing returns. Fresh water reaches diminishing returns. We can add more by using desalination and pumping water to where it is required, but this approach is hugely expensive. As population and industrialization grows, the need for fresh water grows, making diminishing returns for fresh water a real issue.

Minerals of all kinds reach diminishing returns, including uranium, lithium, copper and phosphate rock (used for fertilizer). The reason this occurs is because we tend to extract these minerals faster than they are replaced by the weathering of rocks, including bedrock. In fact, useable topsoil tends to reach diminishing returns because of erosion. Also, with increasing population, the amount of food required keeps increasing, putting further pressure on farmland and making it harder to retain an acceptable level of topsoil.

[3c] Increased complexity leads to diminishing returns as well.

In his book, The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter points out that complexity reaches diminishing returns, just as commodities do.

As an example, it is easy to see that added spending on healthcare reaches diminishing returns. The discovery of antibiotics clearly had a huge impact on healthcare, at relatively little cost. Now, a recent article is entitled, The hunt for antibiotics grows harder as resistance builds. The dollar payback on other drugs tends to fall as well, as solutions to the most common diseases are found, and researchers must turn their attention to diseases affecting only, perhaps, 500 people globally.

Similarly, spending on advanced education reaches diminishing returns. Continuing the medical example above, educating an increasing number of researchers, all looking for new antibiotics, may eventually lead to success in discovering more antibiotics. But the payback with respect to the education of these researchers will not be nearly as great as the payback for educating the early researchers who found the first antibiotics.

[3d] Wages do not rise sufficiently so that all of the higher costs associated with the many types of diminishing returns can be recouped simultaneously.

The health care system (at least in the United States) tends to let its higher costs flow through to consumers. We can see this by looking at how much higher the Medical Care Consumer Price Index (CPI) rises compared to the All Items CPI in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Consumer price index for Medical Care versus for All Items, in chart made by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis.
The high (and rapidly rising) cost of advanced education is another cost that is being passed on to consumers–the students and their parents. In this case, loans are used to make the high cost look less problematic.

Of course, if consumers are burdened with higher medical and educational costs, it makes it difficult to afford the higher cost of energy products, as well. With these higher costs, young people tend to live with their parents longer, saving on the energy products needed to have their own homes and vehicles. Needless to say, the lower net income for many people, after health care costs and student loan repayments are deducted, acts to reduce the demand for oil and energy products, and thus contributes to the problem of continued low oil prices.

[3e] Added complexity tends to increase wage disparities. The reduced spending by lower income workers tends to hold down fossil fuel prices, similar to the impact identified in Section [3d].

As the economy becomes more complex, companies tend to become larger and more hierarchical. Elite workers (ones with more training or with more supervisory responsibility) earn more than non-elite workers. Globalization adds to this effect, as workers in high wage countries increasingly compete with workers in lower wage countries. Even computer programmers can encounter this difficulty, as programming is increasingly moved to China and India.

Figure 3. Figure by Pew Research Center in Trends in Income and Wealth Inequality, published January 9, 2020. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/01/09/trends-in-income-and-wealth-inequality/   
 


 

Individuals with low incomes spend a disproportionately large share of their incomes on commodities because everyone needs to eat approximately 2,000 calories of food per day. In addition, everyone needs some kind of shelter, clothing and basic transportation. All of these types of consumption are commodity intensive. People with very high incomes tend to buy disproportionately more goods and services that are not very resource intensive, such as education for their children at elite universities. They may also use part of their income to buy shares of stock, hoping their value will rise.

With a shift in the distribution of incomes toward those with high earnings, the demand for commodities of all types tends to stagnate or even fall. Fewer people are able to buy new cars, and fewer people can afford vacations involving travel. Thus, as more complexity is added, there tends to be downward pressure on the price of oil and other energy products.

[4] Oil prices have been falling behind those needed by oil producers since 2012.

Figure 4. Figure created by Gail Tverberg using EIA average monthly Brent oil price data, adjusted for inflation using the CPI Index for All Items for Urban Consumers.

Back in February 2014, Steven Kopits gave a presentation at Columbia University explaining the state of the oil industry. I wrote a post describing this presentation called, Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending. Oil companies were reporting that prices had been too low for them to make an adequate profit for reinvestment, back as early as 2012. In inflation-adjusted terms, this was when oil prices were about $120 per barrel.

Even Middle Eastern oil exporting countries need surprisingly high oil prices because their economies depend on the profits of oil companies to provide the vast majority of their tax revenue. If oil prices are too low, adequate taxes cannot be collected. Without funds for jobs programs and food subsidies, there are likely to be uprisings by unhappy citizens who cannot maintain an adequate standard of living.

Looking at Figure 4, we see that there has been very little time that Brent oil prices have been above $120 per barrel. Even with all of the recent central bank stimulus and deficit spending by economies around the world, Brent oil prices remain below $60 per barrel.

[5] Interest rates and the amount of debt make a huge difference in oil prices, too.

Based on Figure 4, oil prices are highly irregular. Much of this irregularity seems to be associated with interest rate and debt level changes. In fact, in July 2008, what I would call the debt bubble associated with the subprime housing and credit cards collapsed, bringing oil prices down from their peak abruptly. In late 2008, Quantitative Easing (QE), (aimed at bringing interest rates down) was added just prior to an upturn on prices in 2009 and 2010. Prices fell again, when the United States discontinued QE in late 2014.

If we think about it, increased debt makes purchases such as cars, homes and new factories more affordable. In fact, the lower the interest rate, the more affordable these items become. The number of purchases of any of these items can be expected to rise with more debt and lower interest rates. Thus, we would expect oil prices to rise as debt is added and fall as it is taken away. Now, there are many questions: Why haven’t oil prices risen more, with all of the stimulus that has been added? Are we reaching the limits of stimulus? Are interest rates as low as they can go, and the amount of debt outstanding as high as it can go?

[6] The growing complexity of the economy is contributing to the huge amount of debt outstanding.

In a very complex economy, a huge number of durable goods and services are produced. Examples of durable goods would include machines used in factories and pipelines of all kinds. Durable goods would also include vehicles of all types, including both vehicles used for businesses and vehicles used by consumers for their own benefit. As broadly defined here, durable goods would include buildings of all types, including factories, schools, offices and homes. It would also include wind turbines and solar panels.

There would also be durable services produced. For example, a college degree would have lasting benefit, it is hoped. A computer program would have value after it is completed. Thus, a consulting service is able to sell its programs to prospective buyers.

Somehow, there is a need to pay for all of these durable goods. We can see this most easily for the consumer. A loan that allows durable goods to be paid for over their expected life will make these goods more affordable.

Similarly, a manufacturer needs to pay the many workers making all of the durable goods. Their labor is adding value to the finished products, but this value will not be realized until the finished products are put into operation.

Other financing approaches can also be used, including the sale of bonds or shares of stock. The underlying intent is to provide financial time-shifting services. Interest rates associated with these financial time-shifting services are now being manipulated downward by central banks to make these services more affordable. This is part of what keeps stock prices high and commodity prices from falling lower than their current levels.

These loans, bonds and shares of stock are providing a promise of future value. This value will exist only if there are enough fossil fuels and other resources to create physical goods and services to fulfill these promises. Central banks can print money, but they cannot print actual goods and services. If I am right about collapse being ahead, the whole debt system seems certain to collapse. Shares of stock seem certain to lose their value. This is concerning. The end point of all of the added complexity seems to be financial collapse, unless the system can truly add the promised goods and services.

[7] Intermittent electricity fits very poorly into just-in-time supply lines.

A complex economy requires long supply lines. Usually, these supply lines are operated on a just-in-time basis. If one part of a supply line encounters problems, then manufacturing needs to stop. For example, automobile manufacturers in many parts of the world are finding that they need to suspend production because it is impossible to source the necessary semiconductor chips. If electricity is temporarily unavailable, this is another way of disrupting the supply chain.

The standard way to work around temporary breaks in supply chains is to build greater inventory, but this is expensive. Additional inventory needs to be stored and watched over. It likely needs financing, as well.

[8] The world economy today seems to be near collapse.

The self-organizing economy is now pushing the economy in many strange ways that indirectly lead to less energy consumption and eventually collapse. Even prior to COVID-19, the world economy appeared to be reaching growth limits, as indicated in Figure 1, which was published in January 2019. For example, recycling of many renewables was no longer profitable at lower oil prices after 2014. This led China to discontinue most of its recycling efforts, effective January 1, 2018, even though this change resulted in the loss of jobs. China’s car sales fell in 2018, 2019, and 2020, a strange pattern for a supposedly rapidly growing country.

The response of world leaders to COVID-19 has pushed the world economy further in the direction of contraction. Businesses that were already weak are the ones having the most difficulty in being able to operate profitably.

Furthermore, debt problems are growing around the world. For example, it is unclear whether the world will require as many shopping malls or office buildings in the future. A person would logically expect the value of the unneeded buildings to drop, reducing the value of many of these properties below their outstanding debt level.

When these issues are combined, it looks likely that the world economy may not be far from collapse, which is one of my contentions from Section [1]. It also looks like my other contentions from Section [1] are true:

(i) Low oil prices rather than high are to be expected as the economy reaches limits,

(ii) Most fossil fuel reserves will be left in the ground because of low prices, and

(iv) If the economy is not to collapse, we need energy sources providing a larger quantity of net energy per capita to offset diminishing returns. 

Regarding (iv), the available energy supply from wind and solar (net or otherwise) is tiny relative to the total energy required to operate the world economy. This issue, alone, would disqualify a Great Reset using wind and solar from truly being a solution for today’s problems. Instead, plans for a Great Reset tend to act as a temporary cover-up for collapse.

Sunday Sermon: What Does Love Mean?

Pastor Mark Wiesenborn
St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas
Feb 7, 2021

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon message is taken from the Gospel lesson, where we are invited to witness God’s love through a miracle of mercy: “A leper comes to Jesus, imploring him, and kneeling says to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretches out his hand and touches him.”

GOSPEL LESSON – Mark 1:40-45 [ESV]
40 A leper came to Jesus, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Dear friends in Christ, since we are just one week away from Valentine’s Day I wanted to share a thought-provoking question. A team of researchers asked a group of 4- to 8-year-old children: “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:
  • Elaine (age 5) “Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”
  • Karl (age 5) “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”
  • Chrissy (age 6) “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”
  • Karen (age 7) “When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” (what an image!)
  •  Danny (age 7) “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.”
  • Noelle (age 7) “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.”

Love is a many splendored thing! Poems and songs are written for the sake of sharing someone’s deep love; kingdoms have been divided, and wars have been fought at least in part for the sake of love. Surveys have identified many reasons that people “fall in love”: physical attractiveness; bonding through compatible personalities and shared goals; sense of humor; the hope of emotional and financial security; friendship and affection and a romantic nature; and also respect and trust.

The Bible teaches: “We love others because God first loved us.” [1st John 4:19]

Christian wedding vows express this with mutual promises to love, honor, and cherish one another…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…in sickness and in health…until death parts us, according to God’s holy will. Since Jesus is described in all four Gospels as well as in Revelation as the “bridegroom” of the Church, let’s take some time today to consider three qualities of God’s love for us. It is UNCONDITIONAL. It is SACRIFICIAL. And it is STEADFAST.

Today’s Gospel reading is all about Jesus, who shows the astonishing mercy and love of God to someone whom many of us might cross a street to avoid. A man with leprosy comes to Jesus saying, “If you WILL, you CAN make me clean.” Now, where did he get an idea like that? That’s an easy one. Just before this, Mark has told us that after Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever: “the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons…” [Mark 1:32-34]

Lepers were the ultimate ‘untouchables.’ If a leper touched you, you became unclean whether you caught the disease or not. If you touched a leper, the same thing. If you touched something a leper had touched, same thing. In any case, you would almost certainly get kicked out of the congregation too.

But this man comes to Jesus. Interestingly, the Gospels record several accounts of lepers coming to Jesus. There are those ten with leprosy who come to Jesus, which Luke tells us about. [Luke 17:12-19] They must have believed He wouldn’t turn them away. They must have turned to Him as their only hope. Jesus has mercy and TEN are healed; yet only ONE returns to give thanks.

Today another man comes alone. “If you WILL, you CAN make me clean,” he implores Jesus. He has no doubt that Jesus has the ability to help him – more specifically, the Greek word dunamis (which later was applied to describe the instantaneous power unleashed with the invention of dynamite). It’s an acknowledgement that Jesus has the awesome power to perform miracles. The only question is whether He is willing. “Will he heal me?” “Does He desire to heal me?” We share his fear and sorrow: “I know that He cared about the crowds lined up at the door. I believe that Jesus cares about the whole world. But does He care about ME? Does He care enough to help ME?” Luther always said that the hardest part of the Gospel to believe was that little word, ‘you,’ as in ‘I forgive YOU all your sins’. Not too hard to believe that Jesus has taken away the sins of the world. Sometimes it’s very hard to believe that He has taken away ‘MY’ sins. 

 Do you remember the acronym “W.W.J.D.” What would Jesus do? All eyes are on Jesus, which is just the way it should be. This is not about this man making a decision for Jesus. It’s all about what decision Jesus will make for this man. Mark writes, “Moved with pity, he stretches out his hand and touches him and says to him, ‘I will, be clean.’

There’s that word that keeps popping up whenever we fix our eyes on Jesus: “And he touches him.” Some of the spectators might want to scream out: ‘No, Jesus, don’t touch HIM. He’s a leper! You healed so many others just by the word from your mouth. You healed the official’s son and the Centurion’s servant from clear across town. For goodness sake, don’t touch this man. You will become unclean! You will be kicked out of the congregation! (You might even end up being taken outside the city walls and your flesh will get torn up by whips and thorns… nails, and spears.) Please, Jesus, don’t touch this man.” 

What a blessing for us to see and realize then, that God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL.

We don’t need any surveys to discover reasons why people “fall out of love.” Physical attraction fades, or shifts to another person with inappropriate thoughts, flirting words, and unfaithful actions. SIN sneaks into our livesthrough stress over worldly resources like money and time; constant demands on our priorities and energy; loss of self-esteem, boredom and loneliness; and fear of growing older or weaker with unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Respect diminishes, and trust is lost. 

What a blessing it is to gaze upon the empty cross and the open tomb and know that God’s love is SACRIFICIAL.

I think that most sermons you may have ever heard on this text all make about the same move at this point and begin to talk about this man’s leprosy in spiritual terms. Supposedly, the man’s leprosy signifies the man’s sin – and Jesus deals with this man’s sin, and He deals with your sin and my sin too. And I suppose that there’s nothing too terribly wrong with that because after all, it is absolutely true. 

But Jesus doesn’t make that move here and so maybe we shouldn’t either. He doesn’t say to this man with leprosy, “Don’t you know that I’m not here because of your physical problems? I’m here to deal with your spiritual problems. I’m here to take away your sins, to renew your spirit, and to cleanse your heart. Don’t you know that flesh and blood do not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t bother me with fleshly, physical things.” 

What we do read is this, “He touches him and says, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy leaves him, and he is made clean.” His leprous, unclean flesh is made clean – who knows, maybe soft and wrinkle free, smooth as a baby’s bottom. In that sense it is almost as though his SIN has been nullified, reversed, taken away, no trace of any decay or damage accumulated throughout his lifetime. 

The point here is that Jesus restores this man’s flesh, his physical body. Sometimes I am afraid that we over-spiritualize the work of God in Jesus Christ. Somehow we’ve picked up this notion that the body really doesn’t matter to God. Everything is spiritual and the only thing that matters to God are spiritual matters.  

Maybe this at least partly explains why we use our bodies as carelessly and adulterously as we do. We think that God cares nothing for the flesh, only for the spirit, so we can do “whatever we will” with our body and still actually believe this has nothing to do with our spiritual relationship with Jesus.

But Jesus is the Word made flesh, dwelling among us. He is not only the spiritual and eternal Word dwelling among us – but also the Word wrapped in a vulnerable and perishable body, and He is very much interested in this man’s skin and muscle tissue, tendons and ligaments.

What Jesus does for this man is a miracle, a genuine miracle, no doubt about it. But there were many lepers in Israel, yet on that day Jesus just touched this man and just made this man clean. Jesus said, “There were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” [Luke 4:27] Why just one? Why not all? The answer: what Jesus did for this man, is an example. It’s a sign. Signs are things that point to something beyond themselves. It’s an example of what Jesus wills to do for ALL men, women and children – for every nation and tribe and language and people. [Revelation 14:6-7]

Our problem is that we tend see no further than the sign. We think that the sign is the destination. We fail to see what all these signs and miracles are pointing to. If all your witnessing does is to point people to signs and wonders, it’s probably better to say nothing to anyone, because you’ve missed the whole point. Jesus tells this man to say nothing to anyone because He knows they will chase Him down for another sign… which, of course, is exactly what they do. What Jesus does for this man is not a call to come and have Him do a miracle for you. It is a call to put all your hope and trust in Jesus, who will make all things new again!

What a blessing it is to hear stories about the life and teaching of Jesus, and by faith to realize that God’s love is STEADFAST. He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you! That is why I hope to encourage you next week on Valentine’s Day and continuing throughout all seasons, to remember the UNCONDITIONAL love of God; to make every effort to demonstrate it with others in SACRIFICIAL ways; and together as the family of the Christian Church to remain STEADFAST in our faith! Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

What does love mean?

  • Rebecca (age 8) “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
  •  Billy (age 4) “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
  • Terri (age 4) “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”
  • Bobby (age 7) “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” (Wow!)
  • Nikka (age 6) “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.” (we need a few million more kids like her in this world)
  • Mary Ann (age 4) “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”
  • Jessica (age 8) “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”

And the final one: A four-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said: ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry.’

When there is nothing left but God, that’s when you find out that God’s love is all you truly need!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.