Tidings of joy – April 11, 2021

Tidings of joy – April 11, 2021


While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!
Luke 24:4,5




Military Devotion – April 11, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 24:4,5

See series: Military Devotions

In the excitement of Easter, we must not forget about Mary, the one who was engaged to Joseph and became the mother of Jesus.

Words from an angel startled her with the message that she would have a son, “…and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). She pondered those words.

She again heard of words from angels when she gave birth to that Son. Shepherds reported what they had heard from an angel over the fields of Bethlehem: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).

We sing of Bethlehem on that night, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Hopes and fears marked the life of the young woman who told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

She surely hoped that her son would be great. But fear invaded her life when Herod gave orders to hunt her son down and kill him. Fear again arose when she heard that it was not safe to return to Bethlehem even after Herod died.

Hope must have blossomed as she saw her son grow “…in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Hope must have filled her heart as she saw him ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Then, fear struck with the news that he had been arrested. Confusion and dread flooded in with the word that he would be executed.

She must have wondered, “How can this be?” “How can he die now?”

But it happened. She saw him being crucified with her own eyes. She stood at the foot of the cross with the other women who had come from Galilee until Jesus told John to take care of her as if she was his own mother.

She walked away from the cross to face a dark night of sorrow. Women from Galilee stayed to the end. Then, from a distance, they watched as strangers took down the body and carried it into a tomb.

The dawn of the Sabbath brought no relief.

At the dawn of the next day, the third day, some of those women from Galilee returned to the tomb to finish anointing the body for burial.

They were startled to have an angel tell them, “He is not here; he has risen!”

The words came to Mary as if the floodgates of joy had opened up. Fear was replaced by hope—by hope fulfilled.

“Tidings of joy” are what the Christmas angels announced.

“Tidings of joy” are what the Easter angels announced.

Along with Mary of old, those tidings fill us with joy yet today.

We can call to one another, “The Lord has risen. He is risen indeed!!”



Prayer: God of the living, who brought life to mankind by the resurrection of your Son from the dead, remind us that your promises are always true, and your love never fails. Let our hearts not be overcome by fear. Plant into us an everlasting hope. Let us taste again the 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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But I shall live – April 4, 2021

But I shall live – April 4, 2021


I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
Psalm 118:17




Military Devotion – April 4, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 118:17

See series: Military Devotions

For me, Easter is very personal. For me, it is a matter of life or death.

I realize that millions of people celebrate that day, and over time, there have been billions of them that did so. I admit that I do not personally know any of the people who have a role in the Easter story. Surely, none of the angels.

But I do know the one who rose from the dead on that day.

Frankly, I’m glad I was not there on Easter morning. For the followers of Jesus, the day dawned dreadful. They had spent the last two days in shock and confusion. A week ago, they were filled with excitement and hope. But then, the unthinkable, the seemingly impossible, happened.

Jesus was arrested. Jesus was sentenced. Jesus was dead.

What now? Where did that leave them?

They had placed their hopes upon him as the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. They trusted him. They believed in him. What now?

They had been moved by his words. “No man has spoken like this!” they said. But history has recorded powerful words of others who now lie in their graves.

He did work miracles, did he not? Or were they fake? Or were the Pharisees right? Did he work miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils?

Was this all a fraud? Were his promises empty? He had said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” But he did not stay alive. He died in weakness, just as billions of people before him.

The famous apostle put it plainly: “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).

For me, Easter is a matter of life or death.

I’m glad I was not in Jerusalem on that day. I fear I would have been distraught. I might have been tempted to think maybe Judas had the right idea. Why live if hope has been dashed? If faith has been lost?

But I have an advantage over the disciples and the others. I have the whole story before me. It begins with earth formless and empty, with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters.

It ends with the Spirit of God quoting Jesus, the risen Son of God, telling us, “Behold! I am coming soon!”

He rose from the dead, and he will return to take his people home with him.

The Easter sun evaporated doubt and confusion as the day progressed. More reports came from the empty tomb. Angels have been seen. Witnesses repeated their words to others: “He is not here! He is risen!”

He began to appear to some people: a weeping Mary Magdalene and a confused Peter. Towards evening, two disciples returned from Emmaus excitedly reporting that Jesus had walked with them on the road.

Then suddenly, there he was in the room with them, though the doors were locked.

So, it is true! He does live. He has conquered death. Job was right when he had declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

So was the psalmist right who looked forward in time to see the meaning of Easter: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

So am I when I tell you, “I may die, but I shall live!”

But I shall live.

And you can, too.



Prayer: Risen Savior, you offered your life to pay for our crimes against everything holy. With your resurrection, your Father marked our debt, “Paid in full!” Because you live, we shall live. We shall live with you forever. Don’t let us forget that. 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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If I should die – April 2, 2021

If I should die – April 2, 2021


Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46




Military Devotion – April 2, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 23:46

See series: Military Devotions

My mother taught me that prayer when I was small. I learned it by listening as she stood by my bed to tuck me in at night. At first, she asked me to repeat each line after her. Then, we began saying it together. It wasn’t long before I could say it all by myself.

I wonder what she thought when she heard me say, “If I should die before I wake.”

I don’t think she expected that would happen. But she had already buried two of her children. She surely gave the phrase more thought than I did. To me, those words touched my reality no more than the saying, “Once upon a time…”

I did not know anyone who had died. My greatest loss was a puppy that was run over by a car. Death was not in my field of vision when I was a young child.

Now, it is.

Death has now invaded my life. I find I cannot keep it out. I cannot drive it out. The words, “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” have sealed my fate.

I cannot keep myself alive forever. I cannot keep my loved ones alive.
I no longer think in terms of, “If I die.” Now, it is “When I die.”

The question has become, “How will I die?”

My answer is: “Just like Jesus.”

Not by crucifixion! I hope not by crucifixion. But whenever and however it happens, I want to return my soul to the One who gave it to me—just like Jesus did.

“If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Maybe Jesus will return on clouds of glory before I leave this earth. Yet, I am not counting on that. I expect my soul will one day leave this body—just like the soul of Jesus left his.

I want to place my soul into the hands of my heavenly Father—just like Jesus did.

I want to rise from the dead—just like Jesus did.

I want to die safe and happy—just like Jesus did.

That’s more than a wish. It’s more certain than a hope. It stands on a promise bought and paid for on a cross.

John, the fisherman, was the only one of the 12 disciples not to be killed for following Jesus. He finished out his years isolated on an island. He had grieved as the other disciples left this earth one by one. The first one to go was his brother, James. What pain that must have caused him!

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote five books of the Bible. This one, The Revelation of Saint John, was unlike any other. Jesus appeared to him from heaven. He commanded John to write down what he was about to reveal. John did.

About halfway through the revelation, John reports: “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on'” (Revelation 14:13 EHV).

Another word for “blessed” is “happy.”

The death of Jesus bought happiness for those who believe in him.

With my soul in the loving hands of my Savior God, I can die happy.

So, can you.

I can still pray, “If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

So, can you.



With an eye toward Golgotha, we ask Jesus:

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well. Amen.
(The Lutheran Hymnal 172:10)



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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Behold Your King – March 28, 2021

Behold Your King – March 28, 2021


Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9




Military Devotion – March 28, 2021

Devotion based on Zechariah 9:9

See series: Military Devotions

The Roman troops deployed to Jerusalem in the province of Judea did not know that this day would be called Palm Sunday.

They were, however, very aware that the festival of the Passover was approaching. They could expect big crowds to jam city streets. Jews from near and far would come to celebrate the time when Israel broke free from Egypt. Overnight, they went from slavery to freedom.

The story was told that the firstborn in every Egyptian household was found dead in the middle of that night. Soon afterward, its mighty army perished in the Red Sea. It was whispered that the people of Israel were protected by a mysterious force. Their history was filled with amazing stories of divine intervention.

But that was all in the past. The Assyrians had decimated these same people, and those in Judea had been taken as captives of war to Babylon. Since they returned, they had no standing army and no king.

Yet, the soldiers knew that violence could break out at any time—especially at a time like this. There was a group called the Zealots that vowed to kill as many Roman soldiers as possible. They were a standing threat.

Now, a new threat put them on high alert. Among the crowd expected to pour into Jerusalem was a rabbi known as Jesus of Nazareth. He had drawn crowds numbering into the thousands at times. Reports of his miracles had spread. It was said that he even raised the dead. Some even claimed he called himself the Son of God.

More disturbing was the rumor that he was the Jewish Messiah. Some expected the coming Messiah to set himself up as a king. He would drive the hated Romans out of the Promised Land.

To the deployed soldiers, that seemed an empty threat. But any insurrection could turn ugly and dangerous—and arouse the displeasure of those in power back in Rome. Careers could be ruined. Blame could easily be thrown around. The consequences could be painful.

Rebellion was not tolerated by Rome. Those who failed to quickly suppress it were not tolerated either. The troops were on edge.

Word spread quickly when Jesus began to make his entrance into Jerusalem ahead of the Passover. Reports came in that huge crowds were cheering him. Worse, he was arriving the way the old Jewish kings had traveled. He was on a young donkey—just as the ancient writing had predicted the king would come.

The crowds called out “Hosanna!” which was high praise. They were laying down cloaks and branches in his path. They were calling him the “Son of David.”

David had been a famous Jewish king. Were they saying that this Jesus had now come to rule as an heir to his throne?

A prophet had written long ago that the day would come when Jerusalem would break out in celebration. That would be the day on which her powerful king rode into the city.

Roman soldiers were inclined to write the prophecy off as foolish. “Behold your king?” What a joke! If the one riding the donkey claimed to be the king of the Jews, they would easily overpower him. They would make him a laughingstock before his own people.

They did do that. But it wasn’t so easy. In fact, it became a bit frightening. The sun stopped shining at noon on the day of his execution. The words he spoke while dying were strange. He was heard calling out to his Father. He asked his Father to forgive those who were killing him. He wasn’t as much killed as he died by giving up his life into his Father’s hands. Hard to forget!

The centurion in charge of the execution detail was heard to cry out, “Surely, this was the Son of God!”

And then, this Jesus came back from the dead! Soldiers had been there when it happened. They were bribed to keep quiet and tell a lie. But the word spread.

“Behold your king!” The ancient message wasn’t just meant for the Jews.

It also meant, “Roman soldier, behold your King!” For he was.

It also means, “American soldier, behold your King!” For he is.

It’s the voice of God calling out, calling out still: “World, behold you King!” For he surely is.



Prayer: Surely he is the Son of God—my King 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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No! – March 21, 2021

No! – March 22, 2021


O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37




Military Devotion – March 21, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 23:37

See series: Military Devotions

Some parents say the first word their sweet child offered to them was “No!”

It might even have been a determined “No!” made with a vigorous shaking of the head. It mattered little if mom used soothing words to encourage the baby to take just one bite of smashed carrots. It made no difference at all if she first tasted it and said, “Yummy!”

The little one did not care if she said it was good for him. The tyke didn’t even understand what she meant by “good.” He did not know if he did not eat, he would not live.

He just knew that he did not want it. He didn’t like the taste. He was not willing to accept it.

His answer was: “No!”

It reminds us of what Jesus had to say about the people to whom he had come to offer life.

Elsewhere, the Bible’s picture of soaring above our troubles “as on eagles’ wings” offers encouragement. Here, Jesus points to a chicken.

“As a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” Jesus said. It’s a striking picture.

A hen is not as strong as an eagle. There is a reason why a person not willing to take a risk is called “chicken.” But if the hen senses that her chicks are in danger, she calls out the alarm. Her chicks come running. She lifts her wings. The chicks tuck in underneath. She lowers her wings like shields. She becomes brave.

The attacker must go through her to get at her chicks.

In humans, we call that “self-sacrifice.” We consider it a demonstration of great love.

The best example of that is Jesus. Saint John wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus, himself, said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

And what is the typical, the natural, response to his offer?

“No!”

The holy Lord God’s will is that every descendant of Adam and Eve spend eternity safely with him in the new paradise.

Why would anyone not be willing to accept this?

The answer lies deep in the human soul. Ever since becoming infected with sin in Eden, humans see God as the enemy. They are instinctively opposed to him and his ways because they belong to God’s enemy, Satan.

Jesus spelled it out to those rejecting him: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Satan told Eve that knowing evil would be something good.

He lied.

Satan tells the world that God is not needed, that happiness can be found without him.

He lies.

Satan announces to the disheartened, “This is all there is. There is no hereafter. There is no judgment. There is no God. There is no hope.”

He lies.

Jesus says to those that will listen to him: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

The truth is, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Haven’t we heard that before?

Don’t we know that to be true?

Isn’t God our Father? Isn’t Jesus our Savior?

Isn’t that why we should run to him in every time of need?

The answer is “Yes!”

Never “No!”



Prayer: Jesus, open your arms to embrace us. Open our hearts to trust you. Draw us to your side. Deliver us from evil. May your 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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And look at this – March 14, 2021

And look at this – March 14, 2021


The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
Numbers 21:8,9




Military Devotion – March 14, 2021

Devotion based on Numbers 21:8,9

See series: Military Devotions

If you want to get people’s attention, throw a batch of poisonous snakes among them.

It surely caught the attention of the Israelites. They were marching from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. They had seen the Lord work miracle after miracle to protect them. But they were growing tired. They were growing impatient. They were fed up with God and his ways.

We hear: “…they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

The “miserable food” they spoke of could more rightly be called “miraculous food.” Maybe 1.5 million of them were passing through wilderness areas. How could they feed themselves? They couldn’t. They didn’t. Instead, God provided bread (they called it manna) that appeared on the ground in the morning, and he sent in quail in the evening.

It’s a sad story of not appreciating what God has done. It’s a familiar story. And sometimes, it is our story.

It seems it is only human nature to want something different from what God provides. It is sinful human nature to gripe and complain, to feel we deserve more. Even if God is waiting on us, literally hand and foot, we complain about the service. We surely are not ready to leave him a tip or even a thank you.

Do humans think that God is deaf? Do they expect he will just shrug his shoulders, grin and bear it? If so, they do not know God. People living today need to learn from the past. The history of the nation of Israel presents us with vivid lessons.

We hear: “Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”

The wages of sin is death.

The lesson was learned: “The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.”

The prayer was answered, but not in a manner expected.

Moses was told: “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

That didn’t make sense to human minds. What was needed was antivenom. What good would a look do? What good would the figure of a snake lifted up on a pole do?

The answer? “Only believe, and thou shalt see…”

Over a thousand years later, the Son of God would say, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14,15).

That’s as foolish as thinking that the metal snake on a pole would keep people from dying from snakebite. Isn’t it?

Or is it? What about, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)?

Those who believed while in the wilderness, they lived, did they not?

Those who believe in the Son of Man, they will live, will they not?

Indeed! They will live forever.



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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Look at this – March 7, 2021

Look at this – March 7, 2021


And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:8




Military Devotion – March 7, 2021

Devotion based on Philippians 2:8

See series: Military Devotions

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But words can paint pictures, too.

Maybe that’s why the Bible uses so many word pictures. Jesus used parables to explain mysteries of the kingdom of God. The gospel writers painted vivid scenes of the life and death of him as the Savior of the nations. Both Old and New Testament writers were led by the Holy Spirit to pen words that show details of the plan of salvation.

The apostle Paul was not at the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. At that time, he was still called Saul. He became a fierce enemy of those who followed the prophet from Nazareth—until he became a follower and a fierce defender of the faith.

In his letter to the Christians at Philippi, he paints a humble Jesus walking the path to Golgotha where the empty cross waits.

“Look at this!” he tells them, even as he tells us. It’s a picture not to be forgotten.

We have repeatedly looked at the pictures the Bible paints of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. This picture shows details that lie in the background.

We see the significance of Christmas. Jesus looked like a man, talked like a man, and acted like a man because he was a man. When he looked at himself in a mirror, he could see his human form.

But all the while, he was the eternal, omnipotent Son of God. His holy power and glory would naturally show through as it did at the burning bush of Moses—as it did on the Mount of Transfiguration.

He took steps to prevent that. He forbad demons to announce who he was. He was careful with his miracles. He allowed them to give only a glimpse of his glory.

He usually walked through doors, not walls. He grew hungry. He grew tired. He slept.

He was the Lord of glory. But he humbled himself.

Otherwise, the ropes would not have held him, and the nails would not have pierced him. He was God.

So, he humbled himself.

He needed to be able to die.

The apostle writes, “he became obedient to death.”

It was not an easy death. He bled. He suffered.

He obeyed the rules of death. He surrendered his life.

“Look at this!” the apostle shouts to us. “Don’t you see what he did for your sake? Don’t you see he did this willingly?”

“Don’t you see that he loves you?”

“Don’t you see what this means? Don’t you see that your sin is paid for? Don’t you see that the greatest honor in life is to be called someone who follows him? Belongs to him? Will spend eternity with him?”

“Look at this!”

“Don’t you see?”

We do.

Don’t we?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep the picture of your willing sacrifice always before us, lest we forget. Lest Satan repaint the picture. Lest we become distracted by the cares and pleasures of this world. Lest we join those who live in darkness. Lest we lose sight of you. 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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Wages of sin – February 28, 2021

Wages of sin – February 28, 2021


Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them, and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Leviticus 10:1,2




Military Devotion – February 28, 2021

Devotion based on Leviticus 10:1,2

See series: Military Devotions

The day would never be forgotten by any of them. It began with high excitement and ended with shocking sorrow.

It could have been the best day of Aaron’s life. Instead, it was the day that he saw two of his sons killed.

Killed by God.

We know that the Bible says the wages of sin is death. But death does not usually come so quickly after sin—and not so dramatically.

Aaron had been chosen to be the high priest by the Lord himself. Four of his sons were selected to share the honor of officiating at the worship services of Israel.

On this first day of ministry, Aaron had just slaughtered an ox and ram. He sprinkled their blood against the sides of the altar. He placed pieces of the animals onto the altar. The fat was then burned off. He offered the sacrifice for sins exactly as the Lord God had commanded.

Then, the Almighty himself appeared there in the form of the glory of the Lord. They had seen this pillar of fire leading them across the wilderness. It had been a reassuring sight.

Now, fire shot out from it and burned up the offering still on the altar. We hear, “And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Leviticus 9:24).

They had reason to rejoice. The fire, which might have appeared as lightning, showed that the holy Lord God was with them. He had accepted their sin offering. They could sing, “The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.” They need fear nothing in life or death.

They needed to fear nothing else—except God, himself.

This lesson was taught in a most fearful way.

On that grand and glorious day, fire from the Lord killed Nadab and Abihu.

Their bodies were dragged out while still in their priestly clothes and buried outside of the camp.

Moses then explained to his brother, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'”

And the shocked father? “Aaron remained silent” (Leviticus 10:3).

It wasn’t just the shock of seeing his sons killed that silenced him. He was under orders. The rest of the nation could mourn the death of his boys. But not Aaron, nor his two remaining sons.

“Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community” (Leviticus 10:6).

No form of grieving was allowed him. No hint of disagreement with God’s actions was to be shown.

The Lord God is a just God. On this day, justice was served.

But what was the crime? “They offered unauthorized fire before the LORD.” We don’t even know what that was—except it was “contrary to his command.”

They sinned.

It’s enough to frighten us—and frightened we should be. But frightened away from sin, not from God!

It reminds us of another time when a Father kept silent as his Son was being killed. It also was a time when justice was served. On that dark Friday, the greatest sacrifice of all was made—for us.

We were sentenced to live, not die. We can live because he died.

The way we live is to demonstrate that we fear, love, and trust in him above all things.

It’s true: “The wages of sin is death.” But this is also true: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The hymn reminds us:

If you think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great,
Here you see its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate,
Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load—
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
(Christian Worship 127:3)

We do remember.





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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Just do it – February 21, 2021

Just do it – February 21, 2021


Then the LORD’S anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.
Exodus 4:14,15




Military Devotion – February 21, 2021

Devotion based on Exodus 4:14,15

See series: Military Devotions

We know the slogan. We have seen it on shirts and banners. It’s meant to inspire us. It is intended to make us throw away our excuses. It tells us: “Just do it!”

It’s not a new command. The Lord God could have used that phrase when he called up Moses to active duty.

He had just explained to Moses that he was about to activate his plan to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. His command was clear: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

The command was answered with excuses: “Who am I?” “What if they do not believe me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?’” “I am slow of speech and tongue.”

Finally, Moses simply said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 3:11-4:13).

That’s when the omnipotent God could have shouted at him: “Just do it!” and threatened to strike him down with fire from heaven if he did not.

God was angry. But his anger is always under control. He recognized that Moses was tempted to be a “draft dodger.” He had an answer for that temptation. It is written: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God provided Moses a way out. He provided him with his brother, Aaron—and divine help for both of them.

No more excuses.

But what an amazing solution! The brothers had not seen one another for at least 40 years. They had grown up in different worlds. Moses was raised as royalty. Aaron grew up as a slave. Now, an 80-year-old Moses, stripped of his royalty and scratching out a living as a herder of sheep in a desolate place, is called to do the seemingly impossible. “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Quite a promotion! But it seems like a futile, perhaps suicide, mission.

And his second-in-command is a senior-citizen slave?

And we thought God asked us to carry out tough assignments at times!

Maybe we are still facing some of those tough ones.

An old hymn carries the words, “With the Lord begin thy task.” That’s good advice. It was good for Moses. It’s good for us.

We don’t always get to choose the tasks assigned to us. Sometimes, they come down through a chain-of-command. Sometimes they are doctor’s orders. Sometimes they are responsibilities for loved ones.

It isn’t always easy to be an officer or a parent, or a nation’s protector. Most likely, we come across tasks we do not want to do, and at times, tasks that we feel we cannot do. Sometimes, there are expectations we doubt we can measure up to.

One of the most difficult is living our lives the way God wants us to. Just ask Moses.

Then remember the rest of his story as he led Israel for 40 years until they were ready to march into the Promised Land.

Jesus had once said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to be saved. It prompted the disciples to ask, “Who, then, can be saved?”

His answer stands for all time: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

“All things are possible with God.”

Begin the God-given task with God by your side. Then, “Just do it.”



We remember the words of the hymn:
With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise, And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes; Be to him commended. Amen.
(Christian Worship 478:1)



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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The meaning – February 14, 2021

The meaning – February 14, 2021


Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Mark 9:7-10




Military Devotion – February 14, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 9:7-10

See series: Military Devotions

It’s not enough to see something happen. It’s not enough to be part of an event. We also need to know the meaning of what’s happening.

A person transported from the times of the horse and buggy days to today may watch as green and red lights blink at an intersection. But if he is going to drive on our roads, we surely would hope that he knows what those lights mean—especially the red ones.

Three disciples of Jesus were allowed to be present at an event that would have fit well into the old TV series called The Twilight Zone. For a brief time, the gulf separating the eternal heavenly and the temporal earthly was bridged. Moses and Elijah, who had left this earth millennia before, stood before Peter, James, and John to chat with Jesus. Then, someone else joined them, speaking from a bright cloud. He called Jesus his Son. This was God the Father, maker of heaven and earth.

The disciples knew what they saw on the Mount of Transfiguration. But what did it mean? It doesn’t surprise us to learn that they were flabbergasted. It was a “shock and awe” experience. But they were further confused by what Jesus said as they were walking away. He commanded them not to say anything to anyone about what they had seen, “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

“Risen from the dead?” What did that mean? They were familiar with instances of a dead person coming back to life on earth. They knew it had happened in the Old Testament. With their own eyes, they had seen Jesus bring dead ones back to life. Yet, this was different! This referred to Jesus rising from the dead. But it had just been powerfully proven to them that Jesus was the Son of God. To think that he would die was incomprehensible to them—until Good Friday.

Saint Peter says it wasn’t until the work of Jesus was completely over, and he had gone back to heaven, that things became clear.

Jesus was true God! That was the meaning of the transfiguration to the dazzling bright clothes and face of Jesus, and the voice from the cloud.

They learned something else. Jesus was going to die!

That was something they just could not wrap their heads around. He was only in his 30s. He wasn’t sick. They depended upon him. They expected him to rule all things just as he ruled the winds and waves. He ruled over death.

How could he die?

Why would he die?

They would learn. They would learn what his death and resurrection meant.

They would learn to put the lack of understanding aside. They would learn to simply believe what he said.

The transfiguration of Jesus means that the Son of Mary was the Messiah—Immanuel, God with us—who brings us into the fellowship with the holy God and all the armies of heaven. It means we will live forever—just like Moses and Elijah.

The transfiguration of Jesus: it means a lot to us.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are glad that you allowed three of your disciples to see that Moses and Elijah yet live, even though they have left this life. We are glad that the disciples could catch a glimpse of your brilliant glory and hear the voice of your Father. We thank you for enabling the record of this to come down through the ages to us. Now we ask that you use the experience of the disciples to reassure and strengthen our faith. Enable us to see the wonder of our God and to look forward to sharing in his glory. Allow us to understand this means that—no matter what might threaten or disrupt our life—we are safe and secure with our 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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Recognized – February 7, 2021

Recognized – February 7, 2021


Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “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!”
Mark 1:23,24




Military Devotion – February 7, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 1:23,24

See series: Military Devotions

When he was a young boy, people knew him as the son of Joseph and Mary. As a young man, they called him the carpenter from Nazareth. When he turned 30 and began teaching, preaching, and working miracles, they didn’t know what to call him.

They knew him as a rabbi. His disciples called him Master. But as his works increased and his popularity grew, more people began asking, “Who is he?”

To some, he appeared to be the great miracle worker. Some saw him as a prophet. Some asked if he might be Elijah, who had come back from the dead. And some considered him a fake.

Worse yet, some said he was an agent of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. (Luke 11:15)

Even his family didn’t know what to make of him. Surely, his mother knew he was not a typical human. She knew the miracle of his birth. The angel, Gabriel, had told her, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). But she did not know exactly what that would mean.

When he started gathering his disciples and collecting large crowds, his brothers and sisters became very concerned. We are told, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).

“Who is he?”

How could they explain the effect he was having on people? The prophet had explained, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

So why was he drawing the crowds? How was he working those miracles?

“Who is he?”

The wrong answer to that question leads to disaster. The right answer delivers life immortal.

The Jewish leaders chose the wrong answer. They told Pilate, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you” (John 18:30). They explained, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).

That’s at the heart of the rejection of Jesus back then, and it continues to this day. “He is a liar. We do not believe him. He is not the Son of God.”

So say those who reject him. “Who is he?” He is not the Son of God.

Those who accept him answer differently: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). So says Simon Peter.

So say the heavenly angels to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

So say the rebellious angels driven out of heaven: “Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God’” (Mark 3:11).

The first one reported in the Bible to recognize Jesus for who he is called out: “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!”

“I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

So say saints and angels and even demons.

“Who is he?”

What do we say?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we know you as the Christ, the son of the living God, and our Savior. Help us to say that. Help us to live it. 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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Brothers – January 31, 2021

Brothers – January 31, 2021


A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17




Military Devotion – January 31, 2021

Devotion based on Proverbs 17:17

See series: Military Devotions

They are brothers though they come from different families. By ties weaved together under conditions of stress and difficulty, a group of people can become so tightly connected that they regard each other as true brothers, even if they are not related by blood—unless one counts spilled blood.

Civilians have heard about the Band of Brothers and have been entertained by Hollywood’s depiction of it. But those who have had their lives tied to a group like this know that there is more to it than can be seen on the screen or that they can explain to their families.

This type of brotherhood (which can include women) is often formed by former strangers undergoing such trying and dangerous times that they have become dependent upon one another to succeed, or maybe even to survive. “I’ve got your six!” has become, not merely a nice phrase but a promise that will be backed up with action.

The Bible shows that there is much more to the picture.

A brother like this was born for just such a time as this. In infinite wisdom, the Lord God knew what his servants were going to run into down the path of life. He knew that the time would come when those who placed their trust in him would need a friend who would be willing to risk his own life for the sake of his endangered brother.

The Lord of life controlled when these people would be born. He enabled them to have the necessary training and skills. He saw to it that these very people would be gathered together at a specific time in history. He is the one who forms the Band of Brothers.

We think in terms of coincidence and luck. He works by design.

It‘s humbling to think that, with no input from us, we were born to a certain set of parents, and a certain family, at a certain time, in a certain place on this globe. He did the same to place others into our Band of Brothers.

The God who promised: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) was preparing to keep that promise even before we were born. He was planning to establish the group that would be there for us when adversity arose.

It fits in with a larger plan and a greater brotherhood. The Lord sent us a Brother from heaven. He brought us into the family of God. He did it by spilled blood—our Brother’s blood.

We have not seen him with our eyes, but we do have records of what our Brother has done. We have to be impressed. The Epiphany Season shows our Brother doing astounding things. Most would say, “Impossible things.” But we know better. We know his power is without end.

Not only did he walk on water and heal the sick, but he also actually raised people from the dead.

Wouldn’t that have been something to see? We might wish that we had been there when he revealed his glory.

That wish will be granted. He is coming back to pick us up for his return trip to heaven. Until then, he provides us with people who look out for us. He gives us brothers.

Our brothers, including the Son of God, are reasons for us to thank our heavenly Father. They are his gift to us.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we walk our path in life you have brought in other people to walk part of the way with us. We thank you for those who are part of our natural family. You chose each one for this role for a special reason. But we also must thank you for those people who have become our brothers even though we are not related to them. You have used these brothers to uplift and support us. We pray that you will continue to provide such people when we need them in the future. We ask that we be enabled to be a brother to others. We request this in the name of Jesus, our best Brother of all. 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 Rachel – January 24, 2021

Poor Rachel – January 24, 2021


Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Genesis 29:18




Military Devotion – January 24, 2021

Devotion based on Genesis 29:18

See series: Military Devotions

Poor Rachel! Our heart must go out to her. The story of her life is filled with disappointment and sorrow. Looking back with today’s eyes, it seems like a soap opera.

That’s not to say she wasn’t blessed. After all, she was married to a famous man. She was part of a rich family. Some call it a royal family. Some say that the Savior of the world was one of her direct descendants. But that description could be misleading. It is true only in a general sense. Jesus descended directly from her family, but not directly from her bloodline.

And that is one of the reasons why we feel sorry for her.

There is no doubt that her husband loved her to her dying day. He brought joy into her life. But the joy was mixed with sorrow and disappointment. Some would say her life was a mess. It would be hard to argue with that.

Her husband, Jacob, was the father of at least thirteen children, twelve of them were boys. Famous boys. From them came the 12 tribes of Israel. Israel was another name for their father.

At the same time, Jacob was also the husband of Rachel’s sister, Leah. Six of the boys were born to her. While married to these sisters, Jacob became the father of four other boys by the two servants of the sisters. Both sisters encouraged this.

What a mess!

How could any wife be happy in a situation like that? What’s worse, for a long time while these babies were being born, Rachel was barren. It was years before she became a mother. She named the baby, Joseph.

She gave birth to just one more child, but lost her life in childbirth. Moments before she died, she named this son Ben-Oni, which means “son of my sorrow.”

Her husband renamed the boy, Benjamin—”son of my strength.” Then he buried his beloved wife in a tomb next to a town called Ephrathah. We know it better as Bethlehem.

Poor Rachel! Disappointment in life. Sorrow in death. Centuries later, she became a symbol of great weeping when the boy babies of Bethlehem were slaughtered in the search for the Christ-child.

Not just a sad story! It is a picture of life in a sin-soaked world. It is a picture of God’s grace.

Even the people of God can have messy lives.

There is no excuse for what Jacob did. Nor what Rachel did. Nor what Leah and the servant-girls did. Unlike the people of Sodom or the sons of Korah who received swift judgment, these people lived on. Yet, that does not mean that payment for the sins was never demanded.

The thunderclap of divine judgment was heard centuries later when soldiers drove nails into the flesh of Jacob’s divine descendant. The one called Jesus.

The psalmist had cried out, “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).

Jacob and his family knew of this forgiveness. He died as a forgiven one. Of him, it is written, “…he breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33).

We expect that Rachel was one of those forgiven people already in heaven.

Her husband’s love had been far from perfect. Her Savior’s love was absolutely perfect.

She is poor Rachel no longer.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Word shows us the horrors of sin and the wonders of your grace. When we look in at the accounts of the heroes of faith, you show us their failures, too. Bring home the warning to our hearts lest we think that we are too strong to fall. Drive home to heart and soul the assurance of forgiveness in Jesus, lest we fumble our 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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Healing – January 17, 2021

Healing – January 17, 2021


But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
Malachi 4:2




Military Devotion – January 17, 2021

Devotion based on Malachi 4:2

See series: Military Devotions

He touched a leper, and the man was healed. He touched the eyes of one born blind, and the man was healed. A woman just touched his cloak, and she was healed. He just said the word, and the soldier’s servant was healed.

He was known as the Healer.

That’s why the crowds flocked to him early in his ministry. That’s why many of the voices called out, “Rabbi, have mercy on us!”

That’s why he had come to earth. He was the promised “sun of righteousness with healing in its wings.”

That promise would resonate with the world today. Around the globe, people are looking for healing. If they are not already sick, they fear one day they will be.

They fear one day they will die.

And of course, they will. But unless a person is seriously sick, the thought of death can be pushed off into a far corner of the mind. It does not need to be faced.

Until—until there is no escaping the fact that it will happen. Until the day comes that God needs to be faced. And that day will come: “’Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 4:1).

That sounds like a death sentence. Who could say they have never been arrogant or never did evil?

Who is free from sin? What can we do with a soul that is infected with sin? Is it not rightly called the leprosy of sin?

The picture is of a person who is caught in the darkness of a sin-infected world. In the blackness of hopelessness, a bright light breaks through. It is as brilliant as the rising sun with its dazzling rays. It brings healing.

But not to everyone. Only to certain ones. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”

Today we call those who revere his name “Christians.”

For them, fear is replaced by joy. Hope floods over dread. The feeling can be wonderful: “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

Those who have seen calves run and jump when the gate is opened—they understand the bursting of unrestricted joy.

We never fully realize just how sick we are. A burst of pain can warn us of a heart condition. An episode of confusion may be a sign of a mental condition. A pang of conscience might be the call of guilt.

Only our Creator can see what is happening deep down inside of us. Only the eyes of the Divine can peer into souls. Only God knows how desperately we need healing.

Only the Lord can heal us.

And he does.

We sing:
“Jesus, your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress:
Mid flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.” (Christian Worship 376:1)



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came as the sun of righteousness to bring us healing. We know we need it. We thank you for it. Now help us share it. 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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Rachel weeping – January 10, 2021

Rachel weeping – January 10, 2021


A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.
Matthew 2:18




Military Devotion – January 10, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 2:18

See series: Military Devotions

Some 1,900 years before the first Christmas Day, a man walked down a road in the land of Canaan, in the general area called Ramah. It was a sad sight. He had just buried his beloved wife near a small town called Bethlehem. His name was Jacob. She had been called Rachel.

We turn the pages of history ahead to shortly after the birth of Jesus. We look in again to the area called Ramah. Once again it is a sad sight.

Had we walked down that road near Rachel’s grave, we would have heard the sound of crying coming out from many houses. The news reaching our ears would have torn at our hearts. We would have heard about soldiers who came looking for babies. When they found one, they ran it through with a sword. Bedrooms, kitchens, and doorsteps were smeared with blood.

King Herod had given the command to kill every baby under two. When screaming mothers asked why, the soldiers probably replied that they were only carrying out orders. But we know the reason for the orders. Herod was afraid. Herod was jealous. He had learned that the King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. Herod wanted Jesus dead.

King Herod was not the first one to have innocent children killed, nor would he be the last. The wail of mothers weeping over murdered children has drifted down the centuries to our own times, and our own nation. The question easily arises: “Why doesn’t God prevent such atrocities?”

He did prevent harm coming to the wise men. An angel warned them to return home without reporting back to Herod. An angel warned Joseph to quickly take his family to Egypt because, “Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Did God not know that other Bethlehem babies would be killed? Of course, he did.

God knew this would happen. God foretold this would happen. But God did not prevent this from happening.

We are not told why it had to happen. This question, and the thousands of other ones we might ask of God are answered with silence. We are told the ways of the all-knowing, all-powerful God are always just, always perfect. He acts only in love for his people. Only those in heaven will understand. Those yet on earth must trust.

The birth of the Son of God into the world is proof that God knows and cares about what is happening on earth. Six hundred years before the Slaughter of the Innocents took place, he had his prophet, Jeremiah, describe the scene. Since this would happen near Rachel’s grave, in poetic language, he presents it as if Rachel were the one crying.

God is in control. Why he planned for those babies to have such short lives, we do not know. But baby Jesus would escape. The guilty would face divine justice. The mission of the Christ-child would not be stopped. The human race would be rescued from its guilt, and shame, and never-ending punishment.

On a dark Friday some 30 years later, the world would again see a sad sight. Women would again weep over the death of an innocent one. This Innocent One would be a direct descendent of Rachel. But unlike her grave, his tomb quickly became empty. He soon went back to his home in heaven. When he comes again it will be to take every last one of his children safely home with him. This is the promise: “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).

Today, Rachel weeps no more. Nor do those who have joined her in heaven.

Nor will we.



Prayer: Lord of life and death, we cannot comprehend your ways. We know that you are just, and that you punish evil. We also know that you blot out our crimes from your book because of your Son, who paid for them with his life. Help us keep our eyes fixed upon your faithfulness when we cannot understand why you allow sad things to take place. Point us to Jesus, who was willing to enter this jungle of hatred, and jealousy, and death. Remind us that you were willing to allow him to be murdered—at the time and place of your choosing—so that we might live forever. Dry, now, the tears of those who weep over loved ones departed. It is in the name of the Babe of Bethlehem that 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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So easy – January 3, 2021

So easy – January 3, 2021


Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
Mark 2:9-12a




Military Devotion – January 3, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 2:9-12a

See series: Military Devotions

One visit to a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) is enough to show that rehabilitation for the wounded is not easy. Sweating brows, quivering muscles, and strained faces reveal the degree of effort being made. It pains us to see this. But there are worse sights.

Some cases never make it to the WTU. The label over their names would be: “Permanently Paralyzed.” When a loved one asks the doctor, “Will my brother ever walk again?” the sad answer comes back: “Impossible.”

It was this sad realization that caused four friends to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. When they couldn’t get into the house because of the crowd, they opened a hole in the roof and lowered him in with ropes tied to his mat.

What impressed Jesus was the faith that these friends had in him. What grieved Jesus was the burden of sin the paralyzed man carried. He promptly lifted that burden by announcing to him, “Your sins are forgiven!”

Some people in the house challenged these words. “Impossible!”, they thought. “Only God can forgive sins.” If Jesus could forgive sins, he would have to be God. In their minds, this was impossible.

Human eyes cannot detect the burden of sin being lifted from a heart. But they can see paralyzed muscles become strong. No therapy, no conditioning: those muscles simply grew strong as soon as the words of Jesus were out of his mouth. The man got up. He picked up his mat. And he walked home!

Unbelievable? No one in that house could deny it. We hear: “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12b)

The greatest miracle remained unseen. Humans had to take Jesus’ word for it: the man walked home without his sin! Strong legs are a great blessing, but only in this life.

A soul absolved of sin is a blessing for all eternity—no matter how physically weak a person might be here on earth. Good health is a blessing God grants to some of us. A clean soul is what God demands from all of us. Jesus showed the people in Capernaum that he could grant what God demands. He was, and is, the Son of God.

We tend to determine need by what we see and feel. We tend to think, “seeing is believing.” Sometimes we feel hopeless and think our situation impossible.

If that was true before, a pandemic has caused many more to feel this way now. Maybe, at times we even felt this way.

Jesus shows that he can provide what we really need—and that for him, the impossible is so easy.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, at your command, sin and frailty depart from us. We don’t realize how many times you have kept disease and harm from our bodies. We don’t know how close we have come to being permanently paralyzed. We thank you for sparing us from what we have not had to face, and we ask you to help us face the burdens and pains that you have allowed to come into our lives. But, like the man lowered to you from the roof, continue to forgive our sins, and enable our lives to show reason for others to praise God. 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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Calms our fears – December 27, 2020

Calms our fears – December 27, 2020


She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21




Military Devotion – December 27, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 1:21

See series: Military Devotions

Humans know fear. We have felt fear for as far back as we can remember. The causes of fear may change, but the dread does not.

Fear always locks onto a threat. The greater the threat, the greater the fear. We can learn to overcome some fears. Yet, some threats remain untouched. Others grow. These are our greatest fears.

We may fear losing a friend, losing a job, or losing our life. It’s possible to fear losing all of these at the same time. A conjunction of fears can overwhelm us.

Confidence that we can overcome the threat can overcome the fear. So, we look for ways to gain an advantage. We reach out to friends and family, doctors and lawyers. We look for solutions and support. We want answers to our fears.

We look for help—strong help. It makes us feel better when we believe we have found it.

“Fear not!” is a phrase repeatedly spoken from the mouths of heavenly messengers. Abraham heard those words. So did Moses, Joshua, Joseph, Mary—and the Bethlehem shepherds.

Since the messages brought hope, we might wonder, “Why the fear?”

Fear is the natural reaction of the sinful creature to the Holy One. It can be denied by many. It can be disguised in many ways. But only the gospel can remove it.

At the root of the fear is the realization that God can hurt us. Not everyone knows the Bible verse “the wages of sin is death,” but everyone has a conscience. Conscience can be a terrifying voice. It warns of judgment.

No wonder sinners feel fear: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Where is the help for that threat?

We know. We sing, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.” And it is.

Joseph of Nazareth had feared that his plan for a joyful wedding with Mary was crumbling into a heap of shame. She was pregnant. He feared he would need to divorce her. An angel appeared to dismiss that fear.

The angel pointed him back to God. The Lord of heaven and earth was sending his own Son to earth as the great Helper. The angel directed him to Mary’s son. He would be the God-man.

David had said he could walk without fear even in the shadow of death because, “Thou art with me.” If God is with us, we need fear nothing.

In one of our hymns, we sing the words, “Jesus, the name that calms our fears.” Christmas shows us why that can be.

The one that would be born in Bethlehem would carry the title, Immanuel: “God with us.”

He is the answer to every fear. The solution to every problem. He is the Destroyer of death.

“He will save his people from their sins.”

The ones saved from sins have nothing to fear.

This is the wonder of Christmas: “Jesus calms our fears.”



Prayer:
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay.
Close by me forever and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with you there. Amen.
(Christian Worship 68:3)



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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Weary watchers – December 20, 2020

Weary watchers – December 20, 2020


Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?”
Mark 14:37




Military Devotion – December 20, 2020

Devotion based on Mark 14:37

See series: Military Devotions

Those who have pulled guard duty know the body can get weary, and the night can get long. Mothers who have sat in the darkness by the bedside of their sick child know this, too. So did the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane on that dark night.

When watchers get weary, their eyesight blurs, their hearing fades, and vigilance slips away. Of what help is a sleeping watcher? In times of war, some who fell asleep at their post were shot.

We are God’s replacements for the watchmen of old. The Old Testament prophets have been released from duty and transferred to heaven. The same for those who served in the ranks of the early New Testament church. Generations of those who were called to duty in service to the King of kings have come and gone.

We are the ones left. We stand on the front line of the battle for souls. We don’t know if replacements will ever fill our slots. We might have to hold the field until the final trumpet sounds.

The disciples in Gethsemane were told, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” They were going to experience things on that night that could shake their faith. We note that not only did Peter deny knowing Jesus, but all the rest except for John deserted him.

They should have stayed alert. They should have kept their eyes on their Savior. They stood at a dangerous time.

So, do we.

The Christmas story tells us of the Son of God’s arrival as a fellow human. It marked the beginning of a mission that rescued us. There is little chance that we will not notice the approach of the anniversary of that event. Too many people want us to buy things in celebration of it.

Nor do we need wait for the arrival of Jesus into our lives of faith. It’s happening now through the inspired Word and sacraments.

Advent reminds us that Jesus said he would physically return. That’s what we are to watch for. He commands, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

We might learn from the sight that shocked Pearl Harbor on a sunny Sunday morning years ago. They had been warned that an attack might come. They just didn’t think it would happen then. December 6, 1941 was a normal day. December 7 was not.

The Day of Infamy dawned. Death rained from the sky.

They should have kept watch.

So should we as we wait for the dawn of the day of judgment.

But not in fear do we watch. We know Jesus will bring us life eternal, not death and misery. Until then, he supports us with power from on high.

The prophet reminds us: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).

We will keep watching until the Jesus tells us, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3).

We will not grow weary with waiting and watching.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have told us that you will one day return to end life in this world. You have explained that you will bring with you all those who died in faith. We will watch for that day. But we will not fear it. You will come as our friend, not our foe. 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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Better not pout – December 13, 2020

Better not pout – December 13, 2020


Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:11




Military Devotion – December 13, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 42:11

See series: Military Devotions

She grabbed the gift with a quick “Thank you!” Tore off the wrapping paper. Stopped. Stared.

Then, she began to pout.

She didn’t know exactly what to expect as a grade school exchange gift. But surely, it would be something more exciting than the book “The Birds of America.”

That’s why she began to pout.

Except for the song about Santa Claus coming to town, we don’t hear the word pout used much today. When it is, it probably refers to a child that is pouting. That’s understandable.

After all, pouting is childish.

People pout when they are disappointed and annoyed. Their faces show it. Those around them know it. Pouting people are not pleasant company.

Yet, there seems to be many of them around today.

America endured a Thanksgiving under the stress of a pandemic. Family gatherings were curtailed. Long-held traditions went by the wayside. People wondered, “Why can’t it be like years ago?”

It appears this Christmas will be no different—maybe even worse. Jobs are being lost. More businesses closing. We fear it’s the future that will be frightful, not just the weather. Jolly does not seem to be in the picture. Good tidings of great joy appear to be missing.

Are not those legitimate reasons for people to be downcast and disturbed? Are Advent and Christmas 2020 not a time for pouting?

No.

It’s an opportunity for praising.

The answers to the problems in life cannot be found inside of us or in a box tied with ribbons. Instead of a cure for what ails us, the world offers only the equivalent of band-aids and candy. Its help is limited. The situation seems hopeless.

But it isn’t. The psalmist bids us to, “Put your hope in God!”

More than 2,000 years ago, God gave the world his Christmas gift. It was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Excited shepherds hurried to see the gift for themselves. They were not disappointed. They were filled with joy and spread the good news.

Through the inspired Word of God, the whole world has been invited to look into that manger.

Some ask: “Is that all there is? Is this God’s answer to grief and pain, to injustice and shame, to death and hell?”

The answer is: “It is.”

Then, many reply: “It’s not good enough. This is only a feeble baby who grew up to be a failure. He was abandoned by his followers and executed as a criminal. There must be something better.”

There is not. There isn’t anything better in all of creation in all the epochs of time. This one, born as a baby, is the answer to every need and the source of every joy.

How sad that so many turn away from that manger in disappointment.

But not the psalmist. Not us. This is the Christ—the Life of all the living. This is my Savior and my God.

I will yet praise him.

I will not pout.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask that you open the eyes of those who will look upon the scene of Christmas that you have preserved for us. Enable them to see the wonder and glory. Lift up their hearts. Fill them with joy and praise. You were the world’s only help in ages past. You are the only hope for years to come. You are our Savior and our God. 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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We are grass – December 6, 2020

We are grass – December 6, 2020


The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.
Isaiah 40:7




Military Devotion – December 6, 2020

Devotion based on Isaiah 40:7

See series: Military Devotions

There was a popular book a number of years ago that carried the title, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” In a summary of the book, the first point made was: “Begin with praise and honest appreciation.”

With due deference to the Almighty, God must not have read that book.

When humans check to see what their Creator has written about them, they find no praise and little appreciation. The rules of etiquette and salesmanship seem to have been thrown out the window before the first words of Genesis were uttered. By the end of Revelation, they had not returned.

It seems to some that the Bible was written to insult the human race. Even its accounts of the heroes of faith carry the stains of shame and failings.

The poet captures the message that humans want to broadcast when he writes of a stone statute bearing these words on its pedestal: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!”

But the statue of mighty Ozymandias is broken, half-buried in the lone and level sands. The boast of human might rings hollow.

“Surely the people are grass.”

Honest observation will show us how fleeting and frail is our power and glory. But only the Bible explains why that happens.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord blows on them.”

We would compare ourselves to stone and steel. The strongest and brightest among us can do things most of us cannot. We, naturally, look to them for hope and help. The statement has recently been made by one of our leaders, “I believe in science.”

Science is a good thing. But it is no more than the accumulation of human thought. Even at its best, it is as fleeting and frail as the people who come up with the thought.

“Surely the people are grass.”

“The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord blows on them.”

The Lord God does not fear the displeasure of humans. They live for such a short time. The most impressive of them shrivel up and fade. They have no choice. They have no chance.

The One who breathed into Adam the breath of life blows out the flame of life just as easily.

We need to face who we are and what we are: “Surely the people are grass.”

The truth needs to be pounded into us. But we need to not only hear the truth, but the whole truth. So, we are told again, “The grass withers and the flowers fall …” We have heard that before. Now we need to hear the rest: “but the word of our God stands forever.”

Like it or not, the Bible will stand forever. That’s good news because the Bible brings good news. In it, we are told, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”

And why should we be comforted? “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her … that her sin has been paid for” (Isaiah 40:1,2).

What does that mean for me? The psalmist shouts out my answer: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done” (Psalm 118:17).

This blade of grass will live forever. I have God’s forever word on it.

So, do you.



Prayer: God of our fathers, our ready help in time of need, our only source of strength and hope. Accept our humble thanks. To you be all the glory, now and forevermore. 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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Humble pie – November 29, 2020

Humble pie – November 29, 2020


Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6




Military Devotion – November 29, 2020

Devotion based on 1 Peter 5:6

See series: Military Devotions

It is said that years ago a farmer sat down with his family for the Thanksgiving meal and offered the following prayer: “Lord, last fall my boys and I plowed the fields. In winter we bucked the cold and snow drifts to take care of our livestock. In spring, we sowed the seed and watched for drought and hail in the summer. Now we have bent our backs and tired our muscles to bring in the fall harvest. But it is Thanksgiving Day, so we must thank you for what we have done.”

Had we been there, we may have offered that man a large slice of humble pie.

He already had enough conceit and arrogance. He was stuffed full of self-importance and vanity. What he lacked was humility.

The story might seem humorous until we begin wondering if we ever have felt the same way.

We find ourselves now walking on the bridge between Thanksgiving and Advent. Without humility, neither have meaning.

Without humility, it is hard to offer thanks because we feel we do not owe it—neither to our fellowman nor to our Creator. Indeed, we might even feel cheated out of the credit we deserve. Like that farmer, we might mouth the words because they are expected of us. But the giving of thanks does not flow from our hearts.

We might even be thinking, “Thanks for nothing!”

The apostle Peter once had a problem with too much self-confidence. We recall how he boasted of his courage. He said he was ready to die for Jesus. We remember how he was humbled. A simple slave girl knocked him off of his smug throne.

Peter had taken a big bite of humble pie. He had left the trial of Jesus with bitter tears running down his face. But he learned his lesson. Now he will teach others: “Humble yourself…”

He had learned that not only was his Lord to be thanked for blessings given in the past, but also for the privilege of serving in the future.

When he tells us: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” He is speaking from personal experience.

At Thanksgiving we look at what God has done for us. In Advent, we look at what he will do for us.

Advent has us recall the promises and blessings given to us by the Messiah who was to come. It shows us that our God is trustworthy and true. It offers help in his name.

Without humility, we see little need for help. We are convinced that we can take care of ourselves. Without humility, we think can face the future without failing. We agree with the words of the poet who said, “My head is bloody but unbowed,” then continued, “I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.”

Forgiveness? “No thank you. I don’t need it.”

Let those words never cross our lips. Let that thought never enter our head.

Our Lord comes to us with open hands of blessing. He points us toward open gates of glory.

We need him. We must thank him. We must serve him.

After all, he humbled himself that we might be lifted up on high.

We gladly eat the humble pie.



Prayer: God of our fathers, our ready help in time of need, our only source of strength and hope. Accept our humble thanks. To you be all the glory, now and forever more. 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 beginning of the end – November 22, 2020

The beginning of the end – November 22, 2020


Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Genesis 1:2




Military Devotion – November 22, 2020

Devotion based on Genesis 1:2

See series: Military Devotions

To better understand the end of time, it may help to consider its beginning. After all, the One who started it will end it.

We have lived our lives with mountains, oceans, and stars in place. It’s hard to imagine them not being there. They impact our lives. They brush off our feeble attempts to control them. We have learned we are at their mercy if they threaten us.

Their size and power may impress us, but we do not seem to impress them. They threaten us with earthquakes, hurricanes, and radiation as if we do not exist.

But the One who made them and controls them, he knows about us.

He has taken the time to tell us what he thinks about us. What he says is worrisome before it becomes wonderful.

We began as nothing at a time when this universe was nothing. When he started what now is, we were not in it. We could not be. We would not have wanted to be.

Out of nothing came something: a creation. It started without form, without light, but with God upon the waters.

Before time was, before creation was, before mankind was, God was. If all that exists now would cease to exist, he would still be.

So, would we!

The reality is that we will exist forever—either with the Lord God or without him.

To exist apart from him is the punishment assigned to fallen angels. The same punishment awaits all those who leave earthly life joined in spirit with them.

That is the worrisome part.

We understand those who rebel against the Maker of heaven and earth. We were born among them. We were born one of them. What’s worse, we still find ourselves carrying out acts of rebellion at times. The common name for that rebellion is sin.

We are sinners.

When time ends, we could find ourselves locked forever in what Jesus called, “outer darkness” where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).

We then might wish we had never been born, or that the world had never been created.

But we have been born—and reborn—while in this creation.

The wonder is, the miracle is, that if all this creation were now destroyed, the children of God will be forever with him. They became his children when the Holy Spirit created faith in their hearts. For many, that happened when they were baptized as a baby. For some, like the thief on the cross, it took place a half-step before death.

At some time, it happened to us. Our faith in him testifies that we are his children.

That is the wonderful part.

The purpose of creation is to allow the Creator to be glorified and his people to share in his bliss and glory.

When we look back to the beginning of time, we see God. When we look forward to the end of time, we see God.

The banner that is strung across the band of time from start to finish carries the words, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

He makes sense of it all. He is in control of it all. He is Jesus. He tells us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End “(Revelation 22:13).

With him, we need fear neither the beginning nor the end of anything. Nor need we ever fear the beginning of the end of everything.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, without you, life would only end in death. With you is the beginning of life that never ends. Accept now our heartfelt thanks and our life of service in your kingdom. 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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Happy – November 15, 2020

Happy – November 15, 2020


I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
Ecclesiastes 3:12




Military Devotion – November 15, 2020

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 3:12

See series: Military Devotions

Health is important. Wealth is desirable. So is love. People want these things. But most of all, people want to be happy.

A healthy, wealthy, loved person who is not also happy will not appreciate or much enjoy the otherwise good things in life. To say he should will not change how he feels.

His disappointment with life will increase if he had been counting on these external things to bring happiness. How many have thought, “If only I was rich, I would have no problems”?

But, of course, wealth does not mean a person will not get sick or be unloved or have other problems. To have what others desire but cannot have—and still find no happiness—is depressing. Statistics show that, including the suicide statistics.

The writer of the book Ecclesiastes is an example. He had it all, surely more than most. But there was a time in his life when he was not at all happy. In those days, he labeled everything in his life as worthless: “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”

His response to that healthy, wealthy, unhappy life? “So I hated life…”

So sad.

We would ask King Solomon, “Why were you not happy?”

He may have answered: “I was miserable because I was trying to live without God instead of living for God.”

He learned that without God in his life, life is meaningless.

In time, he came to realize that God wants to bring meaning into lives. He went on to write of God: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…”

Though the Mighty God has been rejected, or replaced, or ignored, he has not turned away from mankind in disgust.

He has kept on showering his blessings upon people to give them a taste of happiness.

The apostle Paul once told a crowd to turn from their worthless ways to the living God. He explained: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17).

So, to an extent, it is true: wealth and good times can bring happiness. But not for long. Not forever.

They are undeserved gifts from God. They are evidence of his existence and proof of his love.

Yet, so often, they are sought out as if they were of our own making or deserving. They are grabbed without a thank-you and used without a conscience. They are treated as if this is what life is all about.

So sad.

We humans are so short-sighted. We are dazzled by what glitters and impressed by what excites our senses. We are willing to settle for feeling good for a little while—all the while we are dying.

We don’t see, or don’t care, that our Creator sacrificed his Son for us. We avert our eyes from the warning scene of awaiting dungeons of darkness. We block his calls.

Until.

Until, in his mercy, he opens our eyes to see our desperate need and opens our hearts to accept his love. Until we realize that our sin is forgiven, and all is well. Until we know that our future is bought and paid for by the one called Jesus.

Then, we can be happy.



Prayer: Lord of the nations and Savior of souls, keep our eyes fixed upon you so that we do not trade in our eternal salvation for a few moments of fun that fades. We sometimes sing, “Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Keep us ever among those happy people. 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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Waxing cold – November 8, 2020

Waxing cold – November 8, 2020


And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
Matthew 24:12,13 KJV




Military Devotion – November 8, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 24:12,13 KJV

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes the Bible brings a message that is chilling. This is one of those times.

We might dismiss the warning, if it had not come from the lips of the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We might think the words are not meant for us, if we were living in less troubling times. Instead, we find ourselves staring at what Jesus was describing.

To wax is the old word for to grow. To wane is the old word for to diminish. So, we understand that wickedness will greatly increase. We might, then, expect to hear that love will wane, will decrease.

Instead, Jesus said that love will grow cold. That paints a more chilling picture. It reminds us of a body that once was warm with life and now is growing cold with death.

It shows the cause and effect of the troubling times in which we live.

We have seen iniquity abounding, have we not? Sin has been woven into human lives for generations before us. History shows us the pictures of troubled times past. Evil has waxed and waned over time. But isn’t it true that few doubt that today it is growing?

Few would deny that love is lessening—not when we see the crime reports, the child abuse statistics, and listen to the political talk.

We live at a time when love is waxing cold.

The disciples had asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

He told them. He blended a picture of the end of the nation of Israel, brought about by the Romans, into a description of the end of the world, brought about by Jesus. If we see the end of Israel was horrendous, we should know the end of the world will be worse: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (v. 29).

Could it be that we are living in the troubling times just before this happens? Are the hands of the clock for the world’s existence about to reach midnight?

They might be.

But the message was not given to prompt us to speculate exactly when the world will end. It was relayed so that we might better understand the times we are living in. The warning is to prepare us for what will happen.

The end will come. Our earthly life will end either when our eyes close in death or when they see Jesus returning on the clouds of glory.

That is not all bad. It is no reason to be sad. Jesus prepares us for a happy ending. He added the words: “But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.”

The words, “The end is coming!” are welcome words. Comforting words. Even, exciting words—for the followers of Jesus.

Saint Luke quotes the Savior as saying about the end times, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25).

This is not a time for fear or despair. These are the types of days Jesus spoke of. We can be confident that our redemption is drawing close. We have seen the signs.

We have seen love waxing cold.

Then, isn’t it time for us to stand up for Jesus, just as the famous hymn bids us? After all, we are soldiers of the cross.

Are we not?



Prayer: We pray: Lord Jesus, Savior of the nations, open our eyes to read the signs of the times. Open our hearts to accept your words of warning and comfort. Send the Holy Spirit into our lives that our love for you and others may wax warm. Grant this for your holy name’s sake. 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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For All the Saints – November 1, 2020

For All the Saints – November 1, 2020


But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.
Daniel 7:18




Military Devotion – November 1, 2020

Devotion based on Daniel 7:18

See series: Military Devotions

Except in reference to a football team that bears the name, most of us don’t talk much about saints anymore. There was a time when most Christians did.

During those years, people thought that a saint was a person who had lived such a holy life they could go to heaven immediately upon death. This was supposed to be a rare event because it was also thought that a person earned heaven by holy living—and most people failed at that.

Sadly, it was thought that after death, even believing Christians would need to spend time in a hellish place called purgatory in order to pay for sins their good works did not cover.

It was taught that the time in purgatory could be shortened by using the leftover good works that a saint had piled up. It was even said that one could buy those good works by giving money to the church.

But the most common way was to offer prayer and worship to the departed saint. Each day of the year was named for one of them. Prayers to the saint on its special day earned extra credit.

However, on November 1, the credit was multiplied since it was a day on which it was claimed that all saints offered spiritual credits. Thus, on that day, All Saints Day, the churches were filled. It was better than a modern Black Friday sale.

Through the Lutheran Reformation, the true meaning of sainthood was restored. Salvation is gained not by doing good (we never could do enough of it), but by the holiness of Christ that is offered through faith in him.

According to the Bible, every person who believes that Jesus died for his sins is a saint. In the eyes of God, that person’s sin has been replaced by the holiness of the Son of God. Jesus carried sin to the cross, where he paid for it with his suffering and death.

That’s why we call the holy Christian Church “the communion of saints.”

This is the good news of the gospel. Salvation is free to us because it has been already paid for with holy blood.

We are still to strive for holy living. Not to make up for sin, but as a reflection of the holy God who now calls us his own. Children of the heavenly Father should be able to be recognized as belonging to him.

Their lives should reflect their standing as saints.

While on earth, that reflection may be cloudy. But not when they cross over to heaven.

Death has separated those who died in the faith from the sin that had plagued them on earth. Released from earthly ties, their souls have hurried to a place reserved for them in their Father’s house–the place Jesus said he was going to prepare for them.

There is no purgatory. Every departed believer is in heaven. They are no longer tempted to sin. No longer do they face failure or fear.

Never will they lose their place in glory.

We are told: “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.”

Yes! Forever and ever.

Good to remember that! Their victory celebration inspires us. In song, it has been written: “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song.”

The song of triumph is for us—for all the saints.



We join those who have sung the hymn before:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
All who their faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Oh, blessed communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine,
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest,
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
(Christian Worship 551:1,4,6)



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 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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