The new normal – October 25, 2020

The new normal – October 25, 2020


He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:5




Military Devotion – October 25, 2020

Devotion based on Revelation 21:5

See series: Military Devotions

The phrase “the new normal” carries scary overtones. It tells the wounded warrior, “From now on, you will live with only one arm.” It tells the new widow, “The rest of your life will be without him.” Presently, we wonder if one day it will tell us, “You will always need a mask.”

We don’t like that new normal. We want the old normal back.

We aren’t the first ones to feel that way.

Imagine what it was like for Adam and Eve to wake up in a sin-cursed universe. Weeds were part of the new normal. So were arguments. So was death.

Even, so was murder. Their first-born killed his own brother.

Their joy of living was forever marred by sin and shame. In this new normal, so is ours.

Well actually, “forever” is not the right word. It may seem forever. It may last for the rest of our life on earth. But, in the end, the changed life will itself be changed. This time it will be forever.

A scary thought?

It can be. Those who see no light at the end of the tunnel of life have reason to be frightened. A voice inside of them will say, “This is not going to end well.”

No matter how much money, no matter how much power and glory, old age finally, if not tragedy beforehand, will wipe all that away.

Nothing will be left except a frail body that can no longer cling to life. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

The new normal that our first parents brought about is streaked with sin and destined for judgment. Moses had it right: “All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan” (Psalm 90:9).

But there is more to the story.

Those who fear, love, and trust in God actually have something exciting to look forward to. The one sitting on the throne has announced: “I am making everything new!”

A new normal that is wonderful awaits us. This one will last forever and ever—and beyond.

No more changes. No more need to improvise, adapt, and overcome. We will find that we have already overcome because our Savior has overcome sin, death, and the devil.

The old order of death and loss is being replaced by a new order. The Savior God declares: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

We cannot imagine what that new life will be like. We can only take the best that this life offers—the best moments of peace, the best expressions of love, and the best times of joy—and multiply them by infinity.

The Bible describes it this way: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

That’s something to look forward to, not something to fear.

We want that new normal.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are with us as we walk through an earthly life that is marked with danger, death, and dread. We have heard your description of the new way of life waiting for us. It’s hard for us to even imagine it. But it doesn’t require our imagination—only our faith in you. Keep us in that faith. Prepare us for the wonderful new normal. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Sunlight and shadows – October 18, 2020

Sunlight and shadows – October 18, 2020


You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
1 Thessalonians 5:5




Military Devotion – October 18, 2020

Devotion based on 1 Thessalonians 5:5

See series: Military Devotions

The Christian dwells in the sunlight of God’s grace—and sometimes in its shadows. But not in the night nor in the darkness.

There is a difference between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. One is ruled by the holy God. The other is the abode of demons. That one gushes forth evil. There is nothing good in it.

Why should those who call the Holy One their Father have anything to do with that? Why should those who serve the Light of the world further the cause of darkness?

They should not.

But there are other questions: “Why can’t the Christian always walk in that sunshine? If he is the beloved of the Father, why do any dark days dawn in his life? Should he not be a child of privilege? If his Father is all-powerful, why is not every problem solved for him in advance with power from on high?

Why should he ever see failure? Why dangers? Why not only joy and peace?”

His Father tells him why. The child of God may not be of this world, but he certainly is in it. Since sin has infected his life, its malignancy shows itself.

It appears as a shadow.

We know how it works when doctors find the shadow of a cancer. Machines may peer through our skin, and even into our bone, but never do we want their test to come back positive.

We dread the news that there is something deadly within us. We are tempted to skip the test or ignore the result. We might decide, “Ignorance is bliss!”

But of course, it isn’t. It’s dangerous. Denial does not remove the danger.

Detection is the first step toward cure.

It’s the same with sin. The Great Physician has examined us and detected, not just a speck, but a growing mass of evil inside of us. He tells us, “Unless removed, there is no hope.”

We learn, only the Lord of life can do this. He smothers it with his blood. It dies. We live.

We live in sunshine and shadows. Some days are bright with hope and joy. On other days, the shadows lengthen.

King David knew this. He wrote about walking through “the valley of the shadow of death.” We know what he meant. Death casts a big shadow.

But for the child of God, it is only a shadow. We can walk right through it.

Death cannot hold us.

The shadows we see are blessings. They lead us to call out with David, “Our help is in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 124:8).

Scripture bids us to be, “Joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14).

Let the shadows come! They will make us enjoy the sunshine even more.



Prayer:
Holy Spirit, Light divine,
Shine upon this heart of mine;
Chase the gloom of night away;
Turn the darkness into day. Amen.
(Christian Worship 183:1)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Not so smart – October 11, 2020

Not so smart – October 11, 2020


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8,9




Military Devotion – October 11, 2020

Devotion based on Isaiah 55:8,9

See series: Military Devotions

By nature, the human race has a problem with its creator and master. The one who carries the name, LORD, declares that he is better than us. He is more powerful (actually all-powerful), and he is more decent (actually all-holy).

The human race may be willing to grant him that. But we are quick to challenge the claim that the Lord God is omniscient, all-wise—and we are not.

He has the nerve to tell haughty humans: “You’re not so smart!”

That hurts.

We pride ourselves on what we know. We have invented complex machines. We have sent people to the moon. We are people of science. We know things.

But compared to God, we don’t know much.

We make the mistake of thinking that he thinks like we do. If the ant thinks we think like he does, he is making that same mistake. Ants are not in the same league with us.

We are not in the same league with God.

God does not think like us, nor does he act like us. We excuse sin. Sometimes, even defend it.

He does not.

He says there is only one God, yet three Persons. And we say, “One plus one plus one does not make one. We know better than that.”

Yet it is true. He is the triune God—even if we are not smart enough to understand that.

We try to measure him by our mental yardsticks. When our ruler is not long enough to reach a certain point, we say there cannot be anything beyond that.

“So, God must be wrong.” Or we take the safer approach and say, “He never really said that.”

But he says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”

He does mean this. Our inability to comprehend should not surprise us. He is God. We are not.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Our level of modern scientific knowledge allows us to understand that the distances referenced here are much greater than was realized even a century ago.

The heavens are higher than what we can see with our eyes—even higher than what our telescopes can measure. We have sent probes into space that have now traveled for decades at fantastic speeds—and they still have not reached the limit of what the Bible calls the heavens.

If we ask, “How much higher are God’s thoughts and ways than ours?” The answer is: “Compare it to how far the celestial bodies are beyond earth.”

That comparison is not merely to put us in our place. It is there to reassure us of our salvation. It verifies that the Word of God is able to deliver to our souls the gift of life eternal.

As the rain and snow come down from the clouds to bring forth seed for the sower and bread for the eater, God says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (v.11).

And what is his purpose? That we might hear about and believe in the Son of God who died so that we might live with him beyond the stars.

We recall the words: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:19).

Now, that’s smart.



Prayer: Holy, Triune God, we must bow before you in reverence as we remember that you are the God of amazing grace. Continue to bless us in ways and means that transcend our understanding. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Reverence – October 4, 2020

Reverence – October 4, 2020


If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
Psalm 130:3,4




Military Devotion – October 4, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 130:3,4

See series: Military Devotions

Fear has many causes and takes different forms. Most times, fear’s message is a stern warning: “Danger! Beware!”

A coiled snake, a nearby explosion, or the cry, “Enemy inside the wire!”—these activate the alarms to fight, flee, or freeze.

These fears cause dread.

There is another fear, one that speaks in a gentle tone. It says, “Be quiet. Show respect.”

We call this fear reverence.

Reverence is no longer common among us. “I could care less!” “I will make my voice heard!” Those are the more common reactions from within a challenged crowd. Defiance is the more common attitude.

There are welcome exceptions. We might see it among the crowd at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It surely is expressed by the guard standing watch.

Showing reverence is a way to show honor. Instead of defiance, it shows deference. It says, “I am in the presence of something more important than me.”

Humans may request that reverence be shown at times. God demands it always.

The First Commandment requires that we fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The type of fear that lives alongside of love and trust is reverence.

Scripture calls out, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). The holy God demands respect and honor: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

He expects obedience: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19).

He demands submission: “‘As surely as I live, says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God’” (Romans 14:11).

He is almighty. He is holy. He holds us accountable. But we know we cannot measure up to his expectations. We know we have no excuse for our failures.

It’s enough to put the fear of God into us.

It should. Unless we fear God there is no hope for us. But the fear need not take the form of dread. Dread can change to reverence.

The Lord of life and death wants that change. He invites it. He enables it.

He paid for that change.

He paid with the lifeblood of his Son.

We bow our heads before the vision of Jesus crucified. We are lost in the wonder of the One who loved us so much that he would take our place on the guilty seat. We would join in the chorus, “Glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King.”

We call out to him, “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”

We are not ashamed of him. We confess: “No; when I blush, be this my shame; that I no more revere his name.”

The law teaches us dread. The gospel teaches us reverence.

We are the people of reverence.



Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Lord God almighty, we bow before you in reverence. We wish to glorify your name on earth. We plan to declare your praises in heaven. We are privileged to carry your name. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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He nailed it – September 27, 2020

He nailed it – September 27, 2020


He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13,14




Military Devotion – September 27, 2020

Devotion based on Colossians 2:13,14

See series: Military Devotions

Even a Sunday School child can tell us what was nailed to the cross on Golgotha. The hand would shoot up and the voice would call out: “Jesus!” And, of course, the child would be right.

The mental picture of Jesus being nailed to the cross has been reinforced by countless illustrations. We could give the details from memory.

But there is more.

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul paints another picture of Golgotha on Good Friday. In this scene, Jesus is no longer hanging on the cross. Something else is nailed to the wood. It looks like writing. What could it be?

It is the written code of the Law that God had delivered to Israel so many years ago on Mount Sinai.

That Law is finished.

But wasn’t that God’s Law? Was it not holy? Was it not to be obeyed? Was something wrong with it?

No, it was perfect. But now it is canceled.

It was canceled because it has been fulfilled. It pointed ahead to a Savior.

Old Testament people could not keep that Law. None ever did. Nor could we. It only condemned. It only damned. It became a curse.

God did not change his mind about the level of holiness he demanded. He did not lower the passing grade for sanctification.

Instead, he satisfied every last piece of all the details of the deadly Law. He did it in the life of one Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus could do that because he was born holy. He was the Son of God.

Lying, stealing, envy, lust? Never happened. Idolatry, rebellion, murder? Never happened. Not in thought. Not in word. Not in deed.

That was the life of Jesus. But it was not an easy life. He groaned. He wept. He bled. He died.

And he won.

We have seen football players spike the ball after a touchdown. It serves as a testimony to their success. The goal has been scored.

Through the eyes of God, we can see Jesus slam the nails into the decree of our death and damnation. It may have looked like his bruised and bloody body was defeated as it was lowered from the cross. But his Father knew better. The Holy Spirit was not dismayed.

Satanic hordes may have jeered in celebration. But that was short-lived. By the dawn of Easter, the report spread through the dungeons of hell.

Jesus lives! Those who follow him will live also. Will live with him forever.

The news must have been numbing to the spirits in prison. More so, when Jesus made his victory lap down there before he showed himself alive on earth. We still confess, “He descended into hell.” Not to suffer. On Easter, he entered into the stronghold of Satan to demonstrate that he had won. The battle was over.

He won. We win.

Does that mean we can now ignore God’s commands? Of course not! We strive to do his will out of love for him. But failure does not condemn those who hold to Jesus as their Savior.

About that attempt of Jesus to win my salvation?

He nailed it!



Prayer: Lord Jesus, too often we live like losers. We act as though your victory over sin, death, and the devil was not won and the trophy of life eternal not handed over to us. Remind us again—and then again—that we serve in the army of the heavenly victors. Refresh our memories to the fact that we are now on the march home, where saints and angels will welcome us. Point us back to that cross that we might see again that you have nailed our salvation. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Not timid – September 20, 2020

Not timid – September 20, 2020


For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7




Military Devotion – September 20, 2020

Devotion based on 2 Timothy 1:7

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes, even the most brave and most bold become the most timid. It can happen quickly. It might happen when asked to speak in front of a crowd. It may happen before a high-ranking officer.

For many Christians, it could be when we suddenly have a chance to share the gospel with an unchurched friend.

That’s the spirit of timidity.

It lives inside of us. It’s a cousin to fear. It’s the child of doubt. In matters spiritual, it is the enemy of faith.

Sometimes, it takes special power to do the right thing and special courage to say the right thing. At such times, it requires a special gift from God.

For young man Timothy, this was one of those times.

If we find ourselves being timid about showing our faith in a land with freedom of religion, if we shy away from saying the right thing because we fear we may be laughed at, imagine how Timothy felt when he knew he could be imprisoned for being a Christian.

Yet, fear of jail wasn’t the biggest threat. Instead, Saint Paul warns him against another. Its name was “Shame.”

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner” (v.8).

Wasn’t it shameful to be arrested and imprisoned? Not in this case.

The apostle explains that he was appointed by God to share the gospel—and that had consequences. “That is why I am suffering as I am.”

If he had kept quiet about Jesus, he would not be in prison.

“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (v.12).

What did he entrust to Jesus? His life? His faith? His soul?

Yes.

In return, he received a gift. He described the spirit that God gives to his people: “…a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

Power instead of timidity—that we might expect. Love listed as a replacement for timidity may also not surprise us. But self-discipline? How does self-discipline push aside timidity?

Then we remember. When we lose control of our faith-life, even the bold and brave can become timid.

Discipline gives us that kick in the pants to remind us of who we are, how we should act—and how we should feel.

How about, “God’s own child, I gladly say it! I was baptized into Christ!” (from CWS 737:1)? What about, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Not embarrassed to reveal faith in the Son of God, my Savior. Not ashamed that he was executed as a criminal.

Never ashamed of Jesus! Not afraid to live for him.

Not timid.



Prayer:
Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend On whom my hopes of heaven depend?
No, when I blush, be this my shame, That I no more revere his name.

Ashamed of Jesus? Yes, I may When I’ve no guilt to wash away,
No tear to wipe, no good to crave, No fear to quell, no soul to save.

Till then—nor is my boasting vain—Till then I boast a Savior slain;
And oh, may this my glory be: That Christ is not ashamed of me. Amen.
(Christian Worship 347: 3-5)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Desertion – September 13, 2020

Desertion – September 13, 2020


Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.
2 Timothy 4:9,10




Military Devotion – September 13, 2020

Devotion based on 2 Timothy 4:9,10

See series: Military Devotions

Desertion is dangerous. It puts others at risk. If it happens during a battle, the deserter may be shot.

Yet, desertions occur not only during military battles. A father may desert his family. A Christian might desert his faith.

The main causes of desertion appear to be fear and love. We quickly think of the soldier who is afraid of losing his life—so he decides to desert his post.

A fellow by the name of Demas is mentioned in the Bible because he deserted out of love—love for this world.

Demas the deserter is not as well-known as Judas the traitor. But the lesson we learn from him is just as important.

He was in the company of Saint Luke the two other times the Bible mentions him. More importantly, he was with Saint Paul when the apostle was imprisoned in Rome.

Paul was about to be sentenced to death for preaching about Jesus. In this second letter to his former student, he begs Timothy to hurry to his side. As far as we know, Timothy did so and remained with the apostle until his execution.

By that time, Demas was long gone.

We might assume he was afraid he would also be arrested since he was associated with Paul. But we are told it wasn’t fear that drove him away. It was love that drew him away.

“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…”

We remember the warning Jesus gave as he explained the parable of the sower and the seed: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

There is much in this sinful world that attracts us. It offers acceptance, applause, excitement, fun, and wealth.

It is difficult to not love such things.

Demas gave in to that. What the world offered meant more to him than what faithfulness to God offered.

After all, who would want to hang out with someone on death row? What could that get him? What fun was that? What would he lose if he left?

His place in the brotherhood of believers? His peace with God? His place in heaven?

Maybe.

We don’t know what happened to Demas. We hope that, like a Peter, he returned to faithful service in his Savior’s kingdom.

We hope that he remembered Jesus was once deserted by his heavenly Father so that a Demas might not be left to a fate worse than death.

Demas should have stayed in Rome. He should have followed the motto: “No one left behind.”

He should have stayed in the band of believers.

As should we.



Along with generations of Christians before us, we say to Jesus:
Thou hast not left me oft as I left thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.” Amen.
(From Christian Worship 588:4)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Lover of my soul – September 6, 2020

Lover of my soul – September 6, 2020


A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
Matthew 15:22-25




Military Devotion – September 6, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 15:22-25

See series: Military Devotions

I have a sister I have never met. The only sign that she ever was alive is an 8 x 8 metal plate on the ground near my parents’ headstone. It carries the name “Carol.”

My sister was born with a hole in her spine. Back in the ‘30s, nothing could be done to save her. She lay in her crib for a month in my parents’ bedroom. She spent much of that time, my mother said, whimpering.

My mother spent the time watching her, feeding her, praying for her—and crying.

A mother’s love is unlike any other. Just ask Jesus. He knows.

He ran into such love when he wandered near the edge of Israel’s border. The mother was a Canaanite. The land Israel now occupied had belonged to her people.

The Canaanites forfeited their land by their ungodly living. But not all were driven out. This woman was descended from them. She was not one of God’s chosen people. She was labeled a Gentile. That was the same as being called a heathen in those days.

It must have been shocking for the disciples to see this Gentile woman approaching Jesus directly. It must have surprised them to hear her cry out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Amazing! This Canaanite knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah. This foreigner believed that Jesus had power over demons.

Wasn’t this a sign of faith? Should she not have been welcomed as a believer? The disciples thought not: “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” How could they be so cold-hearted?

How could Jesus seemingly be so uncaring? He had heard her cry for help. Yet, we are told: “Jesus did not answer a word.”

Seemingly worse: when she dropped to her knees begging, “Lord, help me!” we are told he said: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Matthew 15:26).

Wasn’t he, in effect, telling her to, “Be quiet, and go away!”?

Not at all. He knew what was in her heart. He gave her a chance to reveal that even Gentiles could have strong saving faith. She showed it with these words: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27).

To this, Jesus said: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Then Matthew reports, “And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

The Gentile mother’s cry for help was heard and answered. The plea came from a heart of faith. The daughter was healed.

My mother was also a Gentile. I expect her prayer was just as passionate. It also came from a heart of faith.

It seems Jesus answered her not a word.

But my mother was heard. Her prayers were answered. My sister was not healed. She was delivered.

Her soul was lifted up from that little crib to be carried gently to her new home. No more hole in the spine. No more whimpering.

And now, my mother no longer weeps for her. The two of them share the joys of heaven.

For her beloved daughter’s funeral, my mom chose the hymn, “Jesus, Lover of my Soul.” It was her cry for help to endure the grief. It is a song of faith. It is based upon a rock-solid truth.

Jesus is the Lover of souls.

Yours. And mine. And my sister’s.

The sister I wait to meet.



We pray the words of that old hymn when anguish pierces our heart:
Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly
While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide. Oh, receive my soul at last. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Not an order – August 30, 2020

Not an order – August 30, 2020


The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Acts 16:29-31




Military Devotion – August 30, 2020

Devotion based on Acts 16:29-31

See series: Military Devotions

Roman jailers were soldiers with a special MOS. It was a safe assignment—unless your prisoner escaped. A jailer who lost a prisoner lost his life.

Knowing this adds clarity and urgency to the situation at Philippi.

When Paul and Silas drove a demon out of a slave girl who had been telling the future, her owners lost a source of money. Angered, they dragged the apostles before the court with the charge, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:20,21).

A mob gathered to demand action. The court ordered the apostles to be stripped, beaten, then thrown into jail with feet chained in stocks. The jailer made certain they could not escape.

Imagine his fright when a midnight earthquake threw the cell doors open and unlocked the chains. Fright turned to despair. He drew his sword to kill himself.

A shout stopped him: “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” That came from Paul, his prisoner.

The jailer recognized all this was the work of God. He begged for life: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” He received a simple answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus…”

It wasn’t a command. It was an invitation.

Some folks think the Bible is only all about commands. “Thou shalt! Thou shalt not!”

Some believe the message is: “If you want to get on God’s good side, do what he says!” Such people feel they will then be rewarded—not with a ribbon or a medal, but with blessings during earthly life and a placed reserved for them in heaven.

It’s an empty hope. They don’t realize that none of us can pass divine inspection. Our best attempts fall far short of the perfection that Command demands.

The best that we can do? We hear what that’s worth: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags. We all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible seems to spell out our death sentence. So why would someone sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so”?

We sing it because it is true.

The Bible carries the lightning strikes of God’s Law. But it also brings the soft breeze of his gospel. He does not want to punish us. Listen: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)

But how can shriveled leaves do anything? How can they turn to God?

God makes that possible. He promised, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17).

He did.

The Holy Spirit infuses life into shriveled lives. He points to Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. He announces that Jesus obeyed the Law of God perfectly. Perfect obedience was then credited to our account. He was punished in our place. We are declared innocent.

The Holy Spirit creates the power for us to believe it. We call it saving faith.

Like that Roman soldier, we face death without it. Like that soldier, we are offered life.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus!”

It’s not an order.

It is a life-saving invitation.



Prayer: Holy Spirit source of faith and life, we thank you for allowing us to know that our salvation has been won and is offered to us full and free. Stay with us as we walk through our earthly life. Preserve us in the saving faith. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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The Church Militant – August 23, 2020

The Church Militant – August 23, 2020


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:11,12




Military Devotion – August 23, 2020

Devotion based on Ephesians 6:11,12

See series: Military Devotions

The follower of Jesus is always at war. He remains in the Church Militant until he enters the Church Triumphant. There is no Church Pacifist. Those who do not fight are dead.

Some folks question that by pointing to the words of Jesus: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).

And yet, Jesus overturned tables and drove the money changers out of the temple—twice. One time, with a whip!

A slap on the cheek is an insult, not a threat to life. Turning the other cheek can defuse a situation. If an actual threat arises, the government does not hold the sword in vain, nor should an individual hesitate to keep the Fifth Commandment by defending himself or others.

But the Christian’s biggest threat does not come from a terrorist or robber, as dangerous as those might be. The most they can take is our earthly life. We will eventually give that up anyway.

The deadliest threat comes from enemies who would rob us of the peace with God. To such, we dare never turn the other cheek. Never declare a truce. Their goal is to kill our faith and one day join with them in the forever-dark pits of hell.

Of such, we need to be afraid. Against such, we must fight. Yet, before such, we are helpless.

But the Lord our God is not! Using his power, we can be strong. Using his protection, we can resist them. We can defeat them!

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” is the command. “Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.” is the song.

The enemy uses deception. That makes them more deadly. In the Battle of the Bulge, some English-speaking German SS troops put on American uniforms and began directing traffic—in the wrong direction. At times, they suddenly opened fire on unsuspecting troops.

The G.I.s had to start testing others by asking questions to which only Americans would know the answers: “Who won the last World Series?” Another was, “What is the capital of Illinois?” When U.S. General Bradley answered, “Springfield” a young soldier detained him. The soldier thought the answer should be “Chicago.” He was quickly straightened out.

Even so must we know well the facts of the kingdom of Light lest we be misled by the forces of darkness. Lest we mislead ourselves. The Bible provides the details of how our salvation was won and how it must be kept. It gives the names of our leaders and lists the heroes of old.

It identifies our Commander. It relays his commands. It carries his encouragement.

We are not alone in this fight. But we must be in this fight. The battle for our salvation has been won. The battle for our soul rages on.

Why would we throw away the victory and join the defeated?

We won’t.



Prayer:
My soul, be on thy guard,
Ten thousand foes arise,
And hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.

Oh, watch, and fight, and pray,
The battle ne’er give o’er,
Renew it boldly every day,
And help divine implore.

Ne’er think the victory won,
Nor lay thine armor down;
Thine arduous work will not be done
Till thou obtain the crown.

Fight on, my soul, till death
Shall bring thee to thy God;
He’ll take thee at thy parting breath
To His divine abode. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Dumbfounded – August 16, 2020

Dumbfounded – August 16, 2020


Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
Mark 5:17




Military Devotion – August 16, 2020

Devotion based on Mark 5:17

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes the angels must be dumbfounded at what humans say and do. Sometimes they must shake their heads at our dangerous foolishness.

The plea, “Oh come, oh come, Immanuel” rose from the voices of God’s people, the Israelites, for millennia of Old Testament time. He finally came. He was standing before them. He had come to rescue them. And what was their response?

They pleaded with him to leave.

In our mind’s eye, we can picture the attending angels saying, “What?” Why in heaven would these people want Jesus to be nowhere in their life?

The answer is not found in heaven. It comes from the pit of darkness. But to those people, it must have seemed like a good answer. We want to know why.

Jesus had spent the night crossing the Sea of Galilee, where he rebuked wind and waves to still a storm. Upon reaching the shore, a frightening scene unfolded. A man came running to him from out of the tombs. He was a wild man. Not even chains could hold him. Day and night, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

We might have thought he was crazy. He wasn’t. He was possessed by a herd of demons.

Confronted by Jesus, the demons begged him to not send them away. “Send us among the pigs!” they pleaded. A herd of them was nearby.

He did. And the 2,000 pigs rushed down a steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

The pig keepers told the townspeople and those people rushed out to see what had happened. They found Jesus sitting down with the scary man, who was now dressed and in his right mind.

This frightened them. Thus, “Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.”

We wonder what they were afraid of. Did they fear Jesus would use his supernatural power against them? But couldn’t they see how he had used it to deliver this suffering person from hellish power?

Were they afraid Jesus would cause them to lose money? After all, the loss of thousands of pigs must have hurt someone’s pocketbook. Were other herds of pigs at risk if Jesus stayed?

We must ask why those pigs were there in the first place. Weren’t swine declared off-limits to God’s Old Testament people? From Mount Sinai didn’t God command them, “The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses” (Deuteronomy 14:8).

So why were these people pig farmers? Did they like the taste of the meat? Did they like the taste of the money?

We don’t know. What we can be certain of is that they did not like Jesus being with them.

It makes us think of times when we might not want Jesus present in our lives. Might that be the times when we know we are planning to do something he would not approve of? Could it be the times when we are angry with him because he did not allow us to have something we desperately wanted—or the times when he did not prevent something we hated?

The victim of the devilish torment had a different reaction. He pleaded for permission to go with Jesus. He knew the wonder of divine deliverance.

We are like him, are we not? Don’t we know the wonder of being rescued from the powers of darkness? Do we not know the blessings that Jesus has brought us? Do we not plead with him to stay with us always?

To ever tell Jesus to get out of our lives would not just dumbfound angels. It would just be plain dumb for us to do.

Wouldn’t it?



Prayer: Abide with us, Lord Jesus! Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Trusting not testing – August 9, 2020

Trusting not testing – August 9, 2020


Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’’
Matthew 4:7




Military Devotion – August 9, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 4:7

See series: Military Devotions

Perhaps it’s surprising to hear Satan quoting the Bible from memory. Maybe it would not surprise us to learn that he does so with evil intent.

To Jesus, he quoted from Psalm 91. He did not add to the verse. He did not subtract from it. He did, however, misapply it.

These are the divine words of assurance to which he pointed Jesus: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’’ (vs. 11,12).

The promise is dramatic. It might even surprise us to learn it could apply to us. Do angels really keep God’s loved ones from tripping over stones? Difficult to believe? Not for Jesus. He knew how carefully God watches over his own.

Jesus trusted this promise. Satan hoped to use that trust as a trap. When standing with Jesus on the highest point of the temple, he challenged: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”

He wanted to turn the trust into a test. He tried to twist words of God into a meaning never intended.

He tries the same with us.

He suggests that it is silly to take God’s words at face value. He aims to create a level of doubt that leads to further confusion. If the Christian decides it is foolish to believe in guardian angels, Satan wins—and trust in God is damaged, if not broken.

If the Christian decides, “This means I can throw caution away and walk upright into this firefight because angels must protect me.” Satan wins again. God is now being tested.

That leads to further questions: “Is the fact that I am afraid, a sign that I do not trust God?”

We must ask, “Is caution a sign of cowardice?” Aren’t we to protect the life our Lord gave us?

“But Isn’t it true that angels will lift me up to keep me from even tripping over a stone?”

It is. It most certainly is.

But not every time. Sometimes they let me fall flat on my face. Sometimes I pay for my carelessness.

My faith will not stop a bullet. Disease will not bounce off of me. Prayer will not prevent disaster.

Unless! Unless that is the will of my heavenly Father.

“Then, what good is my faith if it will not accomplish what I want?”

The problem isn’t with my faith. The problem lies with what I want.

If I always would want only what is best for me, what my Savior God wants, my success rate in life will be 100%. For instance, if I want his blood to cover my sin, it has already happened.

If I go into the Bible to pick out only those phrases that match my wishes, I will turn his Word into my words. I will change the meaning. I will misapply the message.

Jesus was indeed watched over by angels. He was always protected. He trusted his Father about this. His trust did not falter when he was led into a barren wilderness to go without food for 40 days. His trust did not falter when his home congregation threatened to throw him over a cliff. Or when he was arrested. Or when he was tortured. Or when he was killed.

He trusted his Father to carry him through every danger, even death.

Jesus promptly corrected Satan’s misapplication by showing Scripture must be interpreted with Scripture.

Guarded by angels? Yes! But, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’

We won’t do that. We will trust him—not test him.

Won’t we?



Prayer: Heavenly Father, too often we doubt. Too often our wants get in the way of your will. Keep pointing us to your Son as an example. Keep sending the Holy Spirit to build up our faith. Remind us that it is an honor and privilege to say, “In God We Trust!” Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Willpower – August 2, 2020

Willpower – August 2, 2020


Thy will be done.
Matthew 6:10




Military Devotion – August 2, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 6:10

See series: Military Devotions

France entered WWI relying upon something they called élan. We would call it the fighting spirit. It boils down to willpower.

France wasn’t much concerned about defensive strategy before that war. It ignored the advancements in weaponry. The leaders felt what was inside the soldier counted most. With bands playing to arouse a fighting spirit, it sent out troops marching in straight lines across open fields with fixed bayonets. Willpower would win the day!

As it turned out, however; élan did not stand up well in front of a new weapon called the machine gun.

We surely will not deny that willpower is important. It sometimes makes the difference between success and failure. We rightly pay attention to morale and motivation. But desire and determination can carry a person only so far.

A small boy’s muscles will not lift his dad’s heavy weights. Fierce determination does not guarantee selection to an elite military unit. Sometimes, where there is a will does not mean there will be a way. A fighting spirit will not stop a bullet.

Willpower is effective only to the extent that there is actual power behind the will.

The will to live is basic and powerful. We see it in nature. Most babies are born with it. We spent our lifetime fighting to stay alive. We see death as our enemy.

It can be frightening to realize that no matter how enthusiastically we march forward in life, the enemy is waiting to mow us down. Our fighting spirit, our willpower, is not enough to save our lives. We do not have the power to defeat death.

But our God does.

He is the source of all life. He intervened into our miserable existence in order to wipe out death for us and neutralize its allies.

The One who taught his disciples to pray “Your will be done” is the same One who is called the Mighty God.”

God’s will packs a punch.

He wanted to make an entire universe out of nothing. So, he did. He wanted some lifeforms that would serve him of their own free will. So, he created angels and humans. He wanted to throw rebellious angels out of heaven and consign them to the pit of pain. So, he did.

He wanted to rescue rebellious humans from being banished and punished with the demons.

So, he sent his Son to take the punishment for the human rebels.

With the holy, omnipotent God, where there is his will, he makes a way—his way. That way is always good; always brings blessings; and often exceeds what humans can do.

How strange, then, that we would be afraid of what he might want for us.

Do we think we know better? Do we suspect he lies when he says he loves us? Do we believe that heartache, tragedy, and disease can operate outside the boundaries of his reign of power? Will they not accomplish the good that he wants for us?

Will we not trust him?

It takes faith to mean the words when we pray, “Thy will be done!”

But we should do so without doubt or fear. Jesus did.

The will of God is good and gracious. We could receive nothing better. We could ask for nothing more.

We need his powerful will to be carried out in our lives.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you taught us that special prayer. You accepted your Father’s will even though it brought you pain and death. You knew that your Father willed our redemption. You knew its price. But you wanted it, too. Accept now our words of thanks, and send the Holy Spirit to renew our faith so that we will always want what our Savior God wants. Thy will be done! Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Improvise not – July 26, 2020

Improvise not – July 26, 2020


He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Exodus 32:4




Military Devotion – July 26, 2020

Devotion based on Exodus 32:4

See series: Military Devotions

“I’ll wipe them out—all but Moses!” That was the conclusion the Lord God came to as he looked in at the sickening sight of Israel bowing down to gods of gold. He burned with anger. While they danced in frenzied idol worship, those people had no idea of how close they were to being wiped off of the face of the earth and plunged into the pits of hell.

Scripture warns, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Sodom and Gomorrah found this to be horribly true. So did the people of Noah’s day. But none of them had received the same degree of loving care as did these people. The Israelites had been slaves. Their boy babies had been sentenced to death. Their backs had been laid open by the whips of the Egyptian slave drivers. But they were rescued.

Did they not remember? Had they already forgotten the passing of the angel of death over non-Jewish Egypt? What about the miracle at the Red Sea? Didn’t they see the smoke and fire on Mount Sinai? Didn’t they hear the voice of God roaring from the mountaintop? Did they not know who God was, and what he was like?

How then, could they think gods of gold could be a substitute for him?

Satan made it easy for them. He convinced them they had no choice. Moses had gone up into the mountain covered with clouds, smoke, and fire—and he did not come back. They panicked. They thought they were caught without protection. They told Aaron, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1).

What should he do? Aaron improvised: “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me” (Exodus 32:2).

Now, he had the makings of a golden calf. He had seen such things in Egypt. He would give the people something they could see—something concrete they could worship. “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

He improvised. He adapted. But he surely did not overcome.

He and the rest of Israel would learn that when it comes to God, the rule is: “Improvise not!”

God’s response was swift. To Moses, he said, “I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Exodus 32:9,10).

There was no excuse for these people. No way to escape. Their only hope was mercy.

Moses begged for that mercy. Mercy was granted, but it came with a lesson. The golden calf was ground into a powder which the people were forced to drink with water. Then we hear, “And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made” (Exodus 32:35).

We have become familiar with the lesson of plagues. We, too, have begun to learn that God is not to be trifled with.

Of course, God is not made of gold! Yet, we can say he has a heart of gold. He remembered the promise to make the descendants of Abraham into a great nation. He remembered his promise to send a Savior through these people.

He spared that nation. He did not abandon those people. The Savior came.

Our Savior came. He has not abandoned us. He keeps his promises. We are safe for all eternity.

God’s Word is as good as gold!



Prayer: Lord God, too quickly we look for other answers and other things to count on in life. Too easily we improvise instead of faithfully following your directions. Forgive our sin. Strengthen our resolve. Point our hearts back to your sure, firm, powerful words. You are the only true God. We serve you as Lord Most High. We are privileged to say “In God We Trust!” Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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I need him – July 19, 2020

I need him – July 19, 2020


He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
Psalm 23:2,3




Military Devotion – July 19, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 23:2,3

See series: Military Devotions

I prefer to think that I am in control of my life. If I am smart enough, work hard enough, and get some breaks, I should be able to take care of myself.

How foolish of me!

If I am going to be compared to an animal, I would prefer it be a lion. Lions are strong. We call them the “King of Beasts.” No one makes a lion do anything. No one is going to lead him around at will.

So, what was David thinking when he compared himself to a mere sheep? David was a warrior. David was powerful. David took charge of his life. He was the giant killer. He was a king.

Yet, he wrote that someone made him do things: “He makes me lie down . . .” He admitted that someone else controlled his life: “He leads me . . .” Who in the world would be so powerful?

Not someone in the world. This one dwells in heaven: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”

That makes a difference. That one is greater than a King David—greater than any king. This is the Lord God.

David knew he needed food and drink. What was he given? “Green pastures”, not dry stubble. “Quiet waters”, not a dangerous, raging torrent.

“He restores my soul,” David exclaimed. Faith and hope have been renewed.

No wonder he began the psalm by declaring, “I shall not be in want.”

Could that be right? Could he honestly say that he would lack nothing that he needs? Can we say that?

Yes.

I only doubt that because I often think I need things that I do not need. God, of course, knows better.

I might easily admit that I don’t need a yacht, but what about other things? Don’t I need protection? Don’t I need healing? Don’t I always need food and drink?

Maybe. At times. At times, not.

The all-wise, Good Shepherd knows that sometimes I need to be sick. Sometimes, I need to go hungry. Sometimes, I need to lose friends.

And, at some time, I may need to lose my life.

I don’t like those possibilities. At those times, I am tempted to ask, “Where are the green pastures and the still waters?”

The Good Shepherd would answer, “They are still there. You just don’t recognize them. You still don’t know what you need.”

Well, I know I need to stay alive!

So, does he. So, he makes it possible. He will provide what my body and soul really need. He will make his goodness and love follow me through life. He will walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death. I don’t need to fear its darkness. I don’t need to tremble before the threat of hell.

I don’t need to fear the Forever. I will spend it with him.

May I always remember that I need him—and I need nothing more!



Prayer: Lord Jesus, Shepherd of your sheep, guard and keep us so we do not stray. Open our eyes to see your protecting hand when danger confronts us. Sharpen our vision so that we may see more clearly what we truly do need. Build up our faith when we cannot see the good you are giving. Bless us. Lead us. Open for us the gate to glory. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Sun and moon waited – July 12, 2020

Sun and moon waited – July 12, 2020


“Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
And the sun stood still and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.
Joshua 10:12,13




Military Devotion – July 12, 2020

Devotion based on Joshua 10:12,13

See series: Military Devotions

Those who expect the Word of God to contain only pious phrases and stories are shocked to discover that it opens doors to reveal what is beyond human comprehension. It challenges the reader to admit there is much that he needs to learn.

Foolish is the person not willing to learn from his Creator and Lord. Our Bible passage gives us a chance to consider something that transcends the boundaries of human science. Here we learn that at one time in history, the sun stood still—and so did the moon.

Five Amorite kings had banded together to stop the Israelites from their conquest of the Promised Land. Following an all-night march, the Israelite army surprised the Amorites and began to push them back. The Lord stepped in with large hailstones that pounded the enemy.

When Joshua saw that survivors could escape when night fell, he called for God to take unprecedented action: “Stop the sun in its path so that we can finish the battle!” The Bible reports: “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man” (Joshua 10:13,14). The sun and moon waited for God’s people to gain the victory.

How could this happen? Did the earth stop its rotation? Were the sun and moon moved into outer space to keep up with the rotation of the earth? As citizens of the 21st century, how do we explain this?

The same way that the believers of the Old Testament did. The prophet Habakkuk declares: “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations” (Habakkuk 3:2,11,12).

This was the work of God. It shows his power over all things and protection for his people. With God, nothing is impossible!

We hear the citizens of heaven declare the same truth: “Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty” (Revelation 15:3).

“Almighty” is a big word. We cannot yet comprehend its full meaning. That should not surprise us. We do not even grasp the power of the hydrogen bomb. How can we wrap our minds around a power that is absolutely unlimited? The more we think about it, the more questions we have.

We can only stand in awe of the almighty God. We do so with respect and appreciation. It astounds us that he would use his power on behalf of those who love and trust him.

The Bible contains the many accounts of divine intervention to rescue his people. The greatest example is when he overcame the powers of hell and destroyed the powers of sin and death. The death and resurrection of Jesus are awesome!

We have an awesome God. Wind and waves obey him. So do the stars. So must everything. We can have confidence in him. He can handle every one of our problems.

We think of the saying, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

If ever we begin to doubt it, we merely need to remember Joshua—and the day that the sun and moon waited.



Prayer: Eternal Lord God, Ruler of heaven and earth, your works are truly awesome. Forgive us for doubting your power and your love. Remind us that this side of heaven there is much for us to learn, and that human wisdom cannot fathom the works and ways of the divine. Keep us under the shadow of your powerful hand. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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A lament – July 5, 2020

A lament – July 5, 2020


Hear this word, O house of Israel, this lament I take up concerning you.
Amos 5:1




Military Devotion – July 5, 2020

Devotion based on Amos 5:1

See series: Military Devotions

He was a farmer. He lived a couple of hours away from Bethlehem when the northern tribes broke from Judah. He was called, Amos. The breakoff group called itself, Israel.

The nation was strong in those days. The economy was robust. About Israel, it could have been sung, “God shed his grace on thee!”

But the God of Israel called Amos to deliver a message that spoke not of grace, but of judgment: “Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up” (Amos 5:2).

It was a lament.

The people of the land flowing with milk and honey had forgotten the one who gave them this land, who had blessed them in it, and without whom they had nothing.

The people had looked elsewhere for strength and hope. Many ran after false gods. Some counted on allied nations. Others felt they had no need of help from anyone. They boasted they were an independent, self-made nation.

They were wrong.

The Lord God had given them reminder warnings. There had been earthquakes. There had been plagues. There had been wars. But there was no repentance.

Without repentance, there would be no hope because there was no help.

The blow that would knock Israel off her feet would come from the north. No one suspected that Assyria would become so strong. No one expected Israel would be overrun so easily—its army decimated; so many of its citizens slaughtered, and the survivors led away as prisoners.

“Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again . . .” She never did. Her people are now called the lost tribes of Israel. They are gone without a trace.

At the time of Amos, that disaster was far off. Yet, the warning was delivered as if it had already happened. In God’s eyes, it had. The judgment was certain. History proved it.

Amos had reason to lament.

So, do we.

The anniversary of the founding of our nation so many years ago invites us to sing again: “God shed his grace on thee.”

There is no other source of America’s greatness. Blessing upon undeserved blessing has been heaped upon this nation.

And what does God see when he looks down upon us? What words come to his ears?

What do we see when we look at our nation? What words do we hear?

Do not the sights and sounds cause sorrow? Do they not make us wonder if we, like ancient Israel, have forgotten the Lord our God? Are we seeing the descending fist of divine judgment?

Is God not calling for repentance? Is there still some hope for our nation?

To Israel, the Lord said: “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba . . .” (Amos 5:4).

Is it not the same for us? Our hope lies not in global economies, renewed dialogs, or new vaccinations. Don’t we make it clear in our worship? Don’t we call out, “Our help is in the name of the Lord!”?

So it is. So, it will always be.



Prayer: Lord of the nations and God of grace and glory. Forgive our iniquity. Cover our guilt with holy blood. Call our nation back to its source of life and blessing. Let it thank God from whom all blessings flow. We pray in the name of the Savior who died so that rebels may live, Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Keeping count – June 28, 2020

Keeping count – June 28, 2020


The total number of persons belonging to Jacob—his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons—who came to Egypt: 66. And Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt: two persons. All those of Jacob’s household who had come to Egypt: 70 persons.
Genesis 46:26,27




Military Devotion – June 28, 2020

Devotion based on Genesis 46:26,27

See series: Military Devotions

A WWII veteran once remarked: “In war, life is cheap!” He had survived for weeks on the beaches of Anzio without a scratch. All of a sudden, pain erupted in his stomach. It was not an enemy shell. It was a ruptured appendix. Medics hauled him off for treatment. As he watched the mangled wounded come in, he came to realize that he was being overlooked. “I didn’t count!” he said. “I was sick, not wounded. But I knew that unless someone noticed my condition, I was going to die.”

One does not need to be neglected on a battlefield to feel that he doesn’t count for much. Bad enough if superiors act toward him in this way. Worse, if friends and family begin treating a person like this. Absolutely the worst if a person concludes that not even God notices.

A major famine was heading for Canaan in Jacob’s day. Money would do no good if there was no food to buy. So, God provided for Jacob and his family by allowing Joseph to be sold into slavery in Egypt. Years later, he could welcome his father and brothers by offering abundant food and rich pastureland.

News reports of the day would not have taken note of this one refugee family while countless others in Canaan were on the brink of starvation and death. But God noticed. He was counting these people—because they counted to him. Their number was 70!

Four hundred thirty years later, he counted them again. The time had come for his people to return to Canaan. By now, they could field an army of 603,550 (Numbers 1:46). Adding women, children, and others not able to wage war, the number was easily 2.5 million. He had not forgotten his people or the promises he had made to them. He had watched over them.

Their lives mattered.

If the Lord knows the number of the stars and calls them by name, if he notices when a bird falls from the sky, and if he has counted the hairs on our head, then we should not be surprised to learn that he kept count of the people from whom the Savior was going to come. Or, that he is keeping careful watch over us—counting our sorrows, counting our fears, counting our blessings—counting everything but our sins. For those he has removed from us as far as the east is from the west. His Son took them all away.

It matters little if we are far from home or if we are able to go home to our family every night. It makes no difference if we are sick or well, in safety or danger, awake or asleep. The Lord God keeps track of us. He watches over us. He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3).

Our lives matter.

Thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Anzio in 1943. The Lord knew each one of them. The young sergeant from Rock Springs, Wisconsin, needed not to fear. The eyes of his Lord were upon him. His life was not cheap. It had been bought with the blood of Christ. In the eyes of his Creator and Savior God, he counted dearly.

As do we.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we know that you neither slumber nor sleep. At times we feel that we have been forgotten; that our needs have been overlooked. Banish our doubts and fears. Wipe out our lack of faith. We lift up our eyes to you, O Lord, for your eyes are always upon us. And since you have already counted out the days and minutes of our earthly life, keep us safe with you until we have finished our mission in life. Then lead us home. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Mercy has a price – June 21, 2020

Mercy has a price – June 21, 2020


I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy. Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.
Zechariah 12:10




Military Devotion – June 21, 2020

Devotion based on Zechariah 12:10

See series: Military Devotions

“Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.”

If these words from the Athanasian Creed seem confusing to us, it is because the nature of God seems confusing to us. Three persons, but only one God? How can that be true?

Because it is true—limited human comprehension notwithstanding.

Rather than trying to unravel the mystery with our minds, Scripture bids us marvel at the wonder of the eternal God, and grab hold of his blessings with our faith.

We can easily form a mental picture of God the Father. After all, we have seen fathers. We can visualize God the Son. He took on human form.

But what would God the Holy Spirit look like? Scripture compares him to the wind. What does wind look like? We cannot see it. We only see what it does. We see trees bend. We feel it move against our skin. We don’t need to see the wind in order to know it is there.

The same is true of the Triune God. Regarding him, we live by faith, not sight. It is a certain faith built upon amazing realities. God seldom shows us the how of his existence. Instead, he points us to the what.

We sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus” because we have been shown that he was willing to step into the place of the guilty—where we should have stood. The rescue plan was formulated long before Jesus was crucified. Long before he was born as our brother, he could say, “Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.”

This is God the Son speaking. This is God the Son dying.

But there is more to it. Through the prophet Zechariah we see all persons of the Trinity are in the picture. The Triune God tells us, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy.”

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of grace. He pours out God’s undeserved love. He pleads for mercy. Mercy was indeed given. But mercy has a price.

The suffering and death of the Son of God was the answer to the Holy Spirit’s prayer.

The holy God could not overlook sin. His very nature ruled that out. Justice needed to be served. Sin needed to be punished. The death sentence needed to be issued.

Just like the rebellious angels, rebellious humans forfeited all the blessings of the loving Creator. They could expect only to be abandoned from his presence to endless misery and darkness.

But the Holy Spirit pleaded for mercy for humans.

We look in at the picture with amazement. Why would the Holy Spirit plead for unholy humans to be spared? Why would the Son of God be willing to make this possible? Why would God the Father agree to this?

The Bible gives the answer, then repeats it and repeats it. The Holy God wants us to know that we did nothing to deserve mercy. He wants us to realize how despicable sin is—and how deadly.

He wants us to know how much he loves us.

Our salvation is the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It was an act of mercy.

And the Triune God knew very well; mercy has a price.



Prayer: Holy God of grace and wonder, our feeble minds cannot comprehend the concept of the Trinity. We simply rejoice to know your name and your greatness. We wait for heaven to understand fully. But already now, we offer thanks and praise for being willing to pay the price of mercy for us. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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The kill zone – June 14, 2020

The kill zone – June 14, 2020


I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 EHV




Military Devotion – June 14, 2020

Devotion based on John 10:10 EHV

See series: Military Devotions

A kill zone is the primary target area for a military ambush. It can also refer to the blast radius for an explosive weapon such as a grenade or bomb, or anything else that kills. It’s a dangerous place. We should avoid it. But we cannot.

We live our entire life on earth in a kill zone.

Maybe earlier we could forget this. While we knew everyone will someday die, it was easier, back then, to pretend it only happened to others.

We can pretend no more.

Those who have spent time in combat have already learned this. No matter how young they were, or how good their weapons, they knew getting killed was always a distinct possibility.

It changed the way they thought about living and about dying. They knew they lived in a kill zone.

People who live far from battlefields tend to think they live in a safe zone. They hear no weapons of war. They seldom see stretcher bearers at work. Surely, they are safe.

They are not.

The whole world should realize by now that there is no place completely safe. The very air we breathe can kill us. The old hymn had it right: “I walk in danger all the way.”

Everyone on this planet lives in the kill zone.

It has been this way since our first parents were driven from Eden and angels were sent to bar access to the tree of life.

Earth had become infected with the virus of sin. It brought death to everyone it touched.

Human eyes alone are not able to detect the coronavirus. A victim may not even know he has been infected. He may ignore the symptoms. But untreated, it can be deadly.

It’s much the same with the sin virus. The lab report is in from heaven. Rebellion against the holy God has been detected in the entire human race. Sometimes it reaches a fever pitch.

We don’t need to take a test. We already know what God sees. Our conscience tells us. His Word confirms it: We are dead men walking.

It’s only a matter of time before our hearts stop. Each day inches us closer. The warning words rush back into our minds: “Dust thou art…”

If the coronavirus doesn’t get us, something else will. The future? Looks hopeless, doesn’t it?

The prognosis for our soul is no better. Sin already infected us in our mother’s womb.

Hopeless.

No.

It is not! The hope is real. Our hope is certain. It’s based on this: That which is dead can come to life again. That’s the official declaration from the Giver of life.

The Son of God explained why he came to live and die on this planet: “I came that they may have life…”

Who are the “they”? We are.

How long of life? How complete of a life? What kind of life?

“And have it abundantly.”

Those who put their faith in him receive new life for their soul. Those who put their faith in him receive new life for their bodies.

“I will come back and take you to be with me” he said, “that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

We don’t just live until we die. We live until we live again—till we live anew.

A squad of angels will extract us from the valley of death. We will receive a hero’s flight.

We will leave the kill zone. We will leave as victors.



Prayer: Creator and Savior God, the signs of death surround us. We watch the rising numbers of those who have succumbed to a new infection, but we know that’s not the full count of the dying. We know there will finally be no survivors left on this planet. We wait for you to come back for us. We stand our watch until then. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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God is light – June 7, 2020

God is light – June 7, 2020


This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5




Military Devotion – June 7, 2020

Devotion based on 1 John 1:5

See series: Military Devotions

“Let there be light!” was one of the first creation commands. Obedience followed instantly.

“Do not come any closer!” was the command to Moses from a burning bush. Why not? “The place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Who said that? “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).

And Moses quickly hid his face—much like a child might bury his face in a pillow after seeing a lightning strike.

Then there was the nightly pillar of fire that led Israel to the Promised Land. In daylight, it became a dazzling bright cloud.

How could we forget that the face of Jesus shone like the sun at his transfiguration? Or that his clothes became as white as the light? (Matthew 17:2)

“God is light,” the Bible explains. “In him there is no darkness at all.”

This is more than just a description of the holy God. It is to be a description of us.

The apostle John went on to say, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie…”

There is a kingdom of light, and there is a kingdom of darkness. There is a Lord of glory, and there is a prince of darkness.

We belong to one or the other. We follow one or the other. Jesus warns against thinking we can belong to both at the same time. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).

To some people of his day, Jesus spoke the frightening words, “You belong to your father, the devil…” (John 8:44). Might he say this to us?

At my Baptism, I was asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?” My godparents answered for me: “Yes!”

But does that answer still stand? How often did I not visit the kingdom of darkness? How often followed its prince into temptation? Like a fallen Peter, how often did I act as if I didn’t even know the Holy One of God? Am I kidding myself when I say I am a Christian? Might I be lost to the darkness?

The evil one would smile and shout, “Yes! The evidence is damning.”

But Satan is not the judge. Jesus says of him, “For he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He lies now.

The restored Peter tells us: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

The apostle Paul writes: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).

Then he lays it out for us: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

The verses pile up. The truth sinks in: “We are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Why not? We belong to the heavenly Father, “And the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Wonderful news! Best possible news! Life-changing news.

Now, amidst a crooked and depraved generation, our Father calls upon us to shine like stars.

“Shine like stars” (Philippians 2:15). We belong to God—who is light.

We should show it.



Prayer: Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows, continue to change us—that more and more we shine forth your light in our life. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Remembering loss – May 24, 2020

Remembering loss – May 24, 2020


Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.
Deuteronomy 32:7




Military Devotion – May 24, 2020

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 32:7

See series: Military Devotions

My mother always called it Decoration Day. The high school band always led the way to the cemetery where a speech was made. The speech always ended with the words: “They have not died in vain!”

I always wondered why some people cried.

As a child, it was an exciting day. School was over. Summer was starting. Why would someone be sad?

Later, I learned. Some of my friends who watched the parade marching to the cemetery later marched to war. Some returned with broken bodies and some with broken minds.

Some now lie silently in that same cemetery. If they could hear, they would note the words, “They have not died in vain.”

I have learned it is not a day for looking ahead to happy times. It’s a time to look back and remember. It is rightly called Memorial Day.

It’s all about remembering loss.

In 1868 General John Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30th for the 650,000 Americans who died during the Civil War.

WWI cost America 116,708 deaths, including 43,000 who fell in the attacks by Spanish Flu.

There was a brigade surgeon who looked out over the field where chlorine gas was released for the first time in war. 87,000 Allied soldiers died there and another 37,000 who fought for the Kaiser. The doctor’s best friend was among them.

Remembering a cluster of red poppies growing among the dead, he later penned the famous poem beginning with: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow beneath the crosses, row on row.”

The wearing of a poppy became the mark of those remembering those lost to war.

Much has changed since those days. More names have been added to the list of the lost. Yet, it seems the day for remembering has become more of a holiday than a solemn observance.

Some are eager to move on to the future. “The past,” they say, “is past.” What good does it do to go back over what we cannot change? Why remember?

Those who have only a memory left of their loved ones might answer: “We cannot forget. We don’t want others to forget.”

At the 1945 dedication of the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, Chaplain Gittelsohn said this: “We memorialize those who, having ceased living with us, now live within us.”

We think of words from God: “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” Then he tells us how to do this: “Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”

The younger do not understand. They must learn from the older. They need to be taught the true cause of war and the only source of peace.

True understanding comes only when they learn that God the Father lost his Son in the battle for our eternal life! That war is now over. It is time to remember the victory.

A cross became his memorial marker. But no body lies beneath it. That marker points to an empty grave. These are reminders of the life never-ending and the peace never-broken that he has won.

If remembering loss can lead us to remembering Christ, Memorial Day will have served us well.

For truly, it can be said of him, “He did not die in vain.”



Prayer: Almighty Father, strong to save, hear us when we call to you for mercy upon our fatherland. Remind us of our shortcomings, tell us of our sins. Call forth an army of those who are older to explain to the younger the blessings you have showered upon our nation. Let them see that the cost of freedom is counted in the number of lives that were lost. Comfort those who are remembering loss during these days and bless those who have left friends behind to march to war. In the name of Jesus, Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Poor Solomon – May 17, 2020

Poor Solomon – May 17, 2020


“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2




Military Devotion – May 17, 2020

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 1:2

See series: Military Devotions

He was rich in wealth and wisdom. He had no equal. And yet, when we take a closer look at his life, we may end up saying: “Poor Solomon.”

“Solomon” means peace. But for much of his life, no peace could he find. We would not want to be like him.

Oh, we would like some of that wealth, and it would be nice to be honored like him. But we would hate to be as miserable as he came to be.

If we ask, “How could he be so unhappy with all that he had?” he answers in the book of the Bible called “Ecclesiastes.”

The opening words are striking: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” How did he come to that sad conclusion?

He was bored: “What has been will be again, what has been done,” he wrote, “will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (1:9)

He discovered wisdom did not bring happiness. He reports: “With much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” (1:18)

So, he undertook great projects. He built houses, planted trees, bought livestock, and piled up gold and silver. “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” (2:10)

The result? “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.” (2:18)

He came to the conclusion: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.” (2:24)

So, the king who has it all is no better off than a common laborer.

Then, he shared some words of wisdom: “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness….”

Happiness, he learned, is a gift from God. It is not something we can make for ourselves.

And then a warning: “…but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” (2:26)

This, he would tell us, is truly a meaningless life.

His words may surprise us. We don’t expect this from the son of the great King David and the builder of the great temple in Jerusalem. Had he not impressed even the Queen of Sheba?

Yet, much of his life was empty. There may have been peace throughout his kingdom during those years, but no peace was found in his heart and soul. Poor Solomon!

But there is more to his story. It turns out, one of his descendants was the very Prince of peace.

Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and son of Mary, from the line of David and Solomon, was the answer to Solomon’s emptiness—and ours.

What is the greatest thing the great King Solomon accomplished in life? Wrong question!

Rather, “What is the greatest thing God accomplished through Solomon?”

The answer must be: “God used Solomon, with all of his strengths and weaknesses, with all of his wealth and wisdom—God used the man with the name, “Peace” to bring the Prince of peace to the earth.

Rest in peace, Solomon! You now share in the endless wealth, power, and glory of your Savior.

One day, because of your distant Son, we will too.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your death and resurrection give us peace of heart, mind, and soul. Accept our words of thanksgiving and our labors of love. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Angels unaware – May 10, 2020

Angels unaware – May 10, 2020


For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Psalm 91:11,12




Military Devotion – May 10, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 91:11,12

See series: Military Devotions

The problem is, we don’t normally see them! Those celestial beings called angels. We know they are here because God says so. They’re all around. However, since we don’t detect them, we don’t often think of them.

They are angels unaware.

Some humans have seen them. Jacob did when he was returning to meet Esau (Genesis 32:1). David saw an angel striking people with a plague (2 Samuel 24:17). Nebuchadnezzar saw one walking around in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:24-25). There have been other sightings.

It appears there are different types of angels that carry out different assignments. Some serve their Creator as messengers. We think of those who once made an announcement over the fields of Bethlehem. Who could forget the ones announcing that the Easter grave was empty?

Some serve their King as warriors. The first battle in history took place far above our heads. It was a case of angels against angels: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).

The rebellious angels, now called demons, were thrown out of heaven but not barred from earth. Here, among us, the battle rages on. Angels still fight angels. Angels from the realms of glory are being deployed to protect God’s people from superior and deadly spiritual enemies.

These defenders from heaven have been described as God’s Special Forces. It’s an apt title.

We might remember the Bible naming the Holy One as the “Lord of hosts.” Some translations use the better term, “Lord of armies.” He commands an army of countless angels.

We have no idea how often an angel has stepped in to protect us from disaster. We might wonder about a time when we should have been in a car accident—but somehow, were not. Some may wonder about the times they surprisingly escaped injury or death in battle.

They might have said it was a miracle they survived. It may have been just that. It might have been the work of angels unaware.

One morning, the servant of Elisha looked up to see that an enemy army had surrounded the city. When he asked, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” Elisha told him, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

The servant couldn’t see it. He knew how few defended the city. But then, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” We learn: “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Angels unaware.

When we think of divine intervention, our minds tend to go toward big, life-threatening events. But the Bible tells us that God also pays attention to the little things. Jesus talks about noticing a single bird dropping from the sky. He reports the heavenly Father knows the number of hairs on our head.

So, maybe it should not surprise us to learn that he sends angels to keep us from tripping over stones.

Angels are here to protect us from dangers we may have never noticed. This includes threats invisible to the human eye. Among them are the unseen forces of darkness gathering to attack our souls. It surely includes virus particles that would attack our bodies.

We are told angels are commanded, “to protect you in all your ways.”

Nothing slips unnoticed through the defensive perimeter surrounding God’s people. Angels stand watch. Only that which has been cleared by Command is allowed in. Pain can sometimes enter—but only so much. Sometimes, misery is given a pass—but only so much. God sets the limits and provides the deliverance.

Our orders are: “Stay inside the wire!” So, we mark the boundary he tells us not to cross.

We live our lives watched over by angels unaware.

Many a Christian has ended the day with the words of Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer. Those words fit our lives quite well. So, when night falls, we might pray:



Prayer:
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day. I pray, forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Be still – May 3, 2020

Be still – May 3, 2020


He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Mark 4:39




Military Devotion – May 3, 2020

Devotion based on Mark 4:39

See series: Military Devotions

Words spoken once to wind and waves come now to storm-tossed souls: “Be still!”

It wasn’t a suggestion to those forces of nature. It was a command.

Wind and waves recognized that voice. It was their master. Instantly, they obeyed.

So, should we. Not out of fear. Out of trust. Those words bring blessed assurance.

Nature on a rampage can shatter one’s peace of mind. It certainly did for those disciples caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. We are told it was a “furious squall.” Waves began breaking over the boat. They were in danger of being swamped. And Jesus was sleeping!

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Maybe we would have asked the same. Maybe we have already done so in the past, when troubles washed over our lives.

Wrong question! Bad question. It springs from doubt, not faith.

We don’t know exactly what the disciples expected Jesus to do, but they did want him to do something. They knew he could work miracles. They had seen his words had power.

To a leper, Jesus had said: “Be clean!” and he was (Mark 1:41). To a paralytic, Jesus had said: “Get up, take your mat and go home” and he did (Mark 2:11). To the man with a shriveled hand, Jesus had said: “Stretch out your hand.” And it was completely restored (Mark 3:5).

Maybe more astonishingly, when an evil spirit asked, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”

And he did! We hear: “The demon shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek” (Mark 1:24-26).

The disciples had seen the evidence; had heard the cry of the demon; and had witnessed the power behind the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

They knew the Holy One of God was with them. He was sleeping in their boat!

So, why the panic?

They knew what he could do. They were not sure what he would do.

And we are in the same boat.

We have seen the evidence identifying Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. We have read the testimonies of people who have seen the risen Jesus with their own eyes. We have heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

That’s the kind of disciple we are. The Holy Spirit has worked the miracle of faith in our hearts. With the apostle Peter, we say to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (Matthew 16:16).

And yet—and yet—we sometimes find ourselves wondering, “Don’t you care about us?”

Like those disciples in the boat, we sometimes expect that if Jesus did care about us, he would act quickly to help us. When he does not, we are tempted to wonder, “Is he sleeping? Doesn’t he care?”

Shame on those disciples! Shame on us. How dare we doubt him! Holy words ring in our ears: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

He never promised to keep us untouched by a storm. He has not promised to keep a virus from attacking our body. He surely has never said we would never die.

He has promised to make certain that we are safe in his hands no matter what. Finally, he will bring us back from death. He will land us safely on heaven’s shore.

The nail prints in his hands testify to the certainty of that.

When he bids us “Be quiet! Don’t be afraid!” our soul recognizes the voice of the all-powerful, loving Lord.

And we can know: “All is well!”



Prayer:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. Amen.
(Christian Worship 415:1)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Easter expectations – April 19, 2020

Easter expectations – April 19, 2020


“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
Luke 24:19-21




Military Devotion – April 19, 2020

Devotion based on Luke 24:19-21

See series: Military Devotions

“Well, what did you expect?” The question was aimed at a disappointed youngster on an Easter morning.

The blank look and the shrugged shoulders said, “I don’t know.” But what he really wanted to say was: “I expected more!”

I know what the boy was thinking because I’m the one who was asked that question a while ago—well, maybe more than a while ago.

Christmas had made quite an impression: the decorations, the cookies, and the presents—lots of presents.

Easter had a similar buildup: a special meal was planned, extra church services held, holiday cards exchanged—and my sister had said there would be a surprise on Easter morning.

Some surprise. Some hardboiled eggs, a chocolate bunny, and a handful of jellybeans!

I expected more from Easter.

I wasn’t the only one.

On Easter evening, two followers of Jesus were walking the road to Emmaus, talking about the unexpected events of the day. When Jesus joined them, unrecognized, they revealed their disappointment.

Actually, they were disappointed in him.

“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people,” they explained to this “stranger.” Then, referring to the authorities, they reported: “they crucified him….”

What a letdown!

This they did not expect. Instead, they said, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).

But he did! He did pay the ransom for the fallen human race! What more could they want?

They wanted him to redeem Israel in the way they were expecting him to do it. Their expectations for Easter were far different than God’s expectations.

How sad.

But how common.

And how current!

The disappointed youngster who grew up still needs to guard against being disappointed in God’s plans. His expectations still often run down a different path from those of his heavenly Father.

On some days, he expects life to be easier than it often is: less stress, more money—and no deadly virus.

On other days, he is surprised that problems have been solved; threats averted; and fears deflated—through none of his doing.

He is learning not to second-guess how his God is going to work all things out for his good.

He is learning to take a very hard look at what the first Easter means for him and those he loves.

He is learning to expect much more from the Lord God than he could ever dream of.

He is waiting to talk with those two fellows from Emmaus.

He is expecting to do that on a perfect Easter-like day.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your resurrection from the dead has proven that we will live forever. Keep the vision of Easter before our spiritual eyes that we may always cling to the certainty of life eternal when the day of our death comes. Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, dearest Jesus, unto thee. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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God must live—again – April 12, 2020

God must live—again – April 12, 2020


The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
Matthew 28:5,6




Military Devotion – April 12, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 28:5,6

See series: Military Devotions

“God must die if humans are going to live!” That was the divine decision.

But there was a critical second part to the plan of salvation: “God must live again!”

That’s the story of Easter.

Our minds balk at the idea of God dying. How can that happen to an eternal one?

The Bible explains that by the Son of God becoming human, he received a human body. When his spirit left his body, life left him.

God the Father did not die. God the Holy Spirit did not die. God the Son did die.

But he must live again.

His dying paid for our sin. His coming to life again claimed his victory over sin and death. The importance of the empty grave cannot be overstated. We are warned: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (1 Corinthians 15:17,18).

Then comes the assurance: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The victory over sin, death, and the devil was won on the cross. But humans needed to know it. It had to be proven to them.

They knew the Son of God had died. They had seen the thrust of the spear and the gush of blood and water. They had handled the lifeless body.

Now they needed to see him alive. They needed to touch him. And they did.

That’s the story of Easter.

But as we read the accounts of that day, we may find ourselves asking, “Couldn’t things have gone more smoothly?”

Why the confusion? Why did Jesus appear and then disappear? Why did he keep some of his followers from immediately recognizing him? Why didn’t he show up in the temple in front of crowds?

Why wasn’t Jesus sitting on that rolled-away stone in radiant glory instead of an angel?

Couldn’t the events of Easter have rolled out better than they did?

Of course not.

Each appearance was planned. The timing was perfect. They also wipe out the assertion that the disciples removed the body to a hidden place. They demonstrate that the story of Easter was not a fabrication by his followers.

No human could envision the way the events of Easter took place.

Good thing the planning of Easter was not left to us. We would have ruined that perfect day.

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it. Everything happened the way that it did for our benefit.

We look in from afar. But the line of vision is clear and direct. The Holy Spirit has seen to that.

As Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We were not there on Easter Day. We have not seen him with our eyes or touched him with our hands. But we are, indeed, blessed.

The Holy Spirit has entered into our hearts to show us that Jesus lives.

He lives again.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your resurrection from the dead has proven that we will live forever. Keep the vision of Easter before our spiritual eyes that we may always cling to the certainty of life eternal when the day of our death comes. Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, dearest Jesus, unto thee. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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God must die – April 10, 2020

God must die – April 10, 2020


When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Matthew 27:54




Military Devotion – April 10, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 27:54

See series: Military Devotions

The evidence was in. The verdict was obvious. “God must die!”

Not in the chambers of the Sanhedrin was the decision made. Not in the courtroom of the Roman governor. And surely, not on the streets of Jerusalem.

The verdict was delivered in the vault of heaven before time began. The Holy One, himself, decreed: “God must die!”

Our puny minds cannot penetrate the mystery of the Godhead. We cannot wrap our heads around the concept of eternity. All we can do is look in with wonder as events unfold.

We are permitted to look in at Christmas Eve through the eyes of shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. On Good Friday, we look through the eyes of a squad of soldiers who were keeping watch over an execution. The shepherds saw a vision of glory. The soldiers saw only gore.

Rome was the superpower of the time. On the day when darkness came at noon, some of her troops were stationed in the pitiful province of Judea.

At least four of them, with a centurion in charge, were ordered to carry out three executions.

They had no idea how far up the chain-of-command the order had originated.

Humans wanted the man, Jesus of Nazareth, killed. They did not recognize that Jesus was also God, even though this was his claim.

Actually, that is the one charge that stuck. Before Pilate, the Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).

In fact, he was the Son of God.

He had said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:9,10)

Jesus is God! Scripture reveals that. We confess that: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father” (Nicene Creed).

In fact, he was also human.

This we confess with the words: “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and became fully human” ( Nicene Creed).

Otherwise, there was no hope for us. “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’” (Romans 3:10). We sin. The penalty is clear: “For the wages of sin is death…”

So, it was decided: “God must die!”

The Second Person of the Trinity would become human. He would die to meet the demands of justice. We hear: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering” (Romans 8:3).

Thus, the follow-up announcement: “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

His death for our life. It’s the Great Exchange.

Roman soldiers saw it happen. The centurion knew what he saw: “Surely he was the Son of God!” The sentence was carried out.

“God must die!”

And he did.



Prayer:
Christ, the Life of all the living, Christ, the Death of death, our foe.
Who thyself for me once giving to the darkest depths of woe—
Through thy sufferings, death, and merit I eternal life inherit.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus unto thee. Amen.
(Christian Worship 114:1)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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I remember – April 9, 2020

I remember – April 9, 2020


And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19




Military Devotion – April 9, 2020

Devotion based on Luke 22:19

See series: Military Devotions

I remember the summer of 1949.

I remember the headache, the fever—and the legs that would not work.

I remember the look on my mother’s face.

I remember the polio virus.

I remember the doctor asking my mother, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

She shook her head. “No. His father is coming. We will take him to the hospital.”

But my father was far away, helping to build a canning factory. How long would it take him to get to me?

Not long.

A neighbor flew a war surplus two-seater Piper Cub to pick him up and land him in a nearby hayfield. I can still picture him showing up in the doorway to my bedroom.

That changed everything. I was a five-year-old who believed my father could fix anything.

He wrapped me in a blanket, lifted me onto his shoulder, and headed for the car.

What a relief! I was at peace.

That same shoulder carried me home three days later. My parents didn’t have the money to pay for a longer stay. My mom became my nurse. My red wagon, pulled by my sister, became my legs.

It reminds me of a scene Jesus once pictured: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:4-6).

When I think of the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, I again have peace. One day, they will joyfully carry me home.

I will remember the coronavirus.

Corona is the Latin word for crown. Under a microscope, that’s what this infective agent resembles.

It makes me think of another crown—one made of twisted thorns.

It makes me think of another Father—one who can truly fix everything, including the virus called sin.

It makes me think of the pain in his heart as he watched his Son writhe in agony, then breathe his last.

I remember why that happened. I remember my sin. I remember his love.

I remember the last meal before his Son died.

I remember that on the night he was betrayed he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Then he took the wine and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27,28).

Christians have received that body and blood in remembrance of him ever since.

They treasure it because they treasure him.

He is the same one who promised: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

I remember Jesus and look forward to that crown.

I remember: “He has not forgotten me.”



Prayer: Too often have I forgotten you, Lord.
Too often have I acted as if I did not need you.
Too often have I failed you.
Let me taste again the joy of your salvation.
Let me receive again forgiveness through
your body and blood, hidden beneath bread and wine.
Let me remember my sin and my Savior. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Only after – April 5, 2020

Only after – April 5, 2020


Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first, his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
John 12:14-16




Military Devotion – April 5, 2020

Devotion based on John 12:14-16

See series: Military Devotions

They did not understand. The crowds, the rulers, his enemies, and his friends—they didn’t comprehend all that was happening on the day of the palm-branch parade.

They probably did expect this ride of Jesus into Jerusalem was something special. Maybe now he would make his move to claim the throne of Israel. His followers hoped that. The Jewish leaders feared that. The Romans were not sure what to think.

As that Sunday came to a close, people were still not certain what it all meant. It reminds us of the words about his birth, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Many from Galilee considered him a hero. Crowds of people all across Israel had seen his miracles and heard his teachings. Word had spread that he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Expectations were running high. His mere appearance sparked a joyous uproar. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem seemed to be a spontaneous event.

It was not.

It had been planned in heaven long ago. It had been foretold with clear words. The apostle John could quote the words: “See, your king comes to you…” (Zechariah 9:9).

The disciples did not think of those words on Palm Sunday. On that glorious day, they never suspected that Good Friday was down the road.

Only after, only after Jesus had risen from the dead, did they realize they had played a part in fulfilling an ancient prophecy with a history-changing event.

Only after Easter did they see how the pieces of God’s plan of salvation fit together.

They came to understand that Jesus would not be an earthly king; they would not sit next to him as he ruled from Jerusalem. But on Palm Sunday, Golgotha and an empty grave had never entered their minds.

It makes us wonder what all we don’t understand about the happenings in our lives.

We, too, live in days of confusion and change. Hopes and fears now mix together. As the disciples did back then, we believe that the hand of God is in what we now see. But our picture is still blurred, and the ending uncertain.

Has Scripture told us that days like these were coming?

Probably in greater detail than we realize. We do know Jesus warned about terrible times. The word, pandemic, fits into that picture.

But not the word worry. We are specifically told not to worry.

The Bible’s words, “Fear not!” to God’s people were not given as an invitation, but as a reassuring directive. Think of a drill instructor saying: “You will stand at attention!” Then think of these words: “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:5,6).

We have heard the words. We resolve not to fear.

The disciples eventually came to understand the confusing days of Holy Week. Holy Writ had told of this. They just hadn’t recognized it while it was happening.

Clarity came after—only after all this had taken place. Only then were they able to see the loving hand of God behind such distressing events.

One day we, too, will clearly understand how events in our lives also fit into a perfect plan. After our God shows us, we will be amazed to see how blessed we have been all along.

But only after.

We can wait without fear until then, can’t we?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your ride into Jerusalem to the cries of “Hosanna!” fills us with joy. We smile to see you hailed as a king. It pains us to think of what will happen to you by the end of the week. But it thrills us to know that the next Sunday is coming. Keep us safe in the hollow of your nail-pierced hands as we pass through the days of our lives. Remind us that after all this is over, we will understand, thank, and praise you in Easter joy. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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