When strong men stoop – August 18, 2019

When strong men stoop – August 18, 2019


When the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop….
Ecclesiastes 12:3




Military Devotion – August 18, 2019

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 12:3

See series: Military Devotions

It wasn’t just their haircuts that marked them as military when they came into Walmart. Backs straight, stomachs flat, muscles taut—they were standing tall and strong.

He wasn’t. Shoulders slumped a little. Hands shook a little. And his feet shuffled.

He smiled to see them. Once, he had been like them. He still felt a kinship. Once, he too had worn the uniform. At one time he had rappelled with ease. Once upon a time, he had jumped out of airplanes.

Now, he sits on a stool and says, “Hello!” as people enter the store.

Now he is only an elderly greeter.

Thirty years ago, he was in control of his life—so he thought. Thirty-five years ago, his strength and skill could overcome any trouble—so he thought. Forty years ago, he knew he needed no one’s help. He knew he needed no God.

That was not smart.

By divine inspiration, the smartest man ever was prompted to write the words, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Such wise words demand our attention.

We might not be able to predict future world events, but we surely can foresee a certainty in our life. Unless we die young, we will grow old. We will grow feeble. And then we will die.

The 12th chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes is worth reading at any age, but especially when we are young and healthy. It forces us to put our life into perspective.

With dramatic wording, Solomon describes how it is to grow old: when life is no longer bright; when chewing is difficult; when eyesight fades and sounds grow faint; and when one drags himself through the day.

His words, “when the strong man stoops” make us think of that former paratrooper now sitting on a stool in Walmart.
And then what? “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

A depressing picture. No wonder Solomon laments, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” “Everything is meaningless!”

Our skills and strength, our health and vitality, our whole life is, indeed, meaningless—but only if it is lived without God.
It’s true, we are only dust. But that is not the whole story.

“Remember your Creator!” We are not just some organism brought to life by a fluke. We are the handiwork of the eternal God. He gave us the gift of life for a purpose. From him come our strengths and skills. To him should be given our lives filled with thanks and faithfulness.

Old age is not our master. Frailty is not our endgame. The One who said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19) also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” (John 11:25).

But he does not condemn his servants to a miserable existence until they finally deploy to heaven. The body may weaken and fail, but the soul, the “real us,” can grow stronger. Our spirits can soar, even if our shoulders sag.

This is his promise: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Let the young remember their Creator. He alone is their strength and their life. Let the old remember their Creator. He alone is their strength and their life.

The time will surely come when strong men stoop.

But we will overcome.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, show us the picture of our lives. Point out the bleakness of our inherent frailty. But show us, as well, the brightness of your glory that lifts us above and beyond the strains of life to soar on high. 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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Prairie fire – August 11, 2019

Prairie fire – August 11, 2019


I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you.
Psalm 141:1




Military Devotion – August 11, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 141:1

See series: Military Devotions

First of all, and most of all, David was a warrior. His sword and shield did not go into storage when he became king. He claimed many victories and killed many enemies. He also found himself in extreme danger more than once.

His desperate cries for help are recorded on the pages of Holy Writ. More than once, we hear him call out, “Lord, come quickly!”

Had he been caught in danger in Southeast Asia during what is called The Vietnam War, his call to “Come quickly!” might have been expressed with the words, “Prairie fire!”

This was the code-phrase Green Beret reconnaissance teams used when they found themselves about to be overrun by the enemy. The call, “Prairie fire!” brought in all available assets to suppress enemy fire while the team was extracted by helicopter.

In January of 1971, Recon Team Colorado’s eight men were attacked by about forty North Vietnamese. We can still listen to the frantic call, “Prairie fire! Prairie fire!” from a tape of the radio transmissions that a crew in a Huey recorded on that day.

A calm voice replied, “This is Delta Papa-Three.” The coordinator announced that help was on the way.

But almost immediately, another cry of “Prairie fire! Prairie fire!” came over the radio. This was from a team ten miles away. The rescuers were needed at two places at once.

An impossible situation. Lives were lost.

Maybe we have desperately called for help when our life was at risk. Perhaps we will need to do so in the future. But it doesn’t need to be a life or death situation to make us desperate.

Desperation comes when we see no way out of a place in life where we do not want to be. Desperation does not want to be put on hold. It isn’t satisfied with, “You’ll need to wait your turn.”

When we come into a busy ER with pain and bleeding, we don’t want the doctor in charge to say, “Put him over there until we can work him in.” We want to hear the word: “STAT!”

We never want to hear the word “Impossible!”

Yet, sometimes that is precisely the case. We cannot expect miracles. Or can we?

David did.

His enemies may have counted him as already dead. He wrote, “They will say…our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

They may say that, he thought: “But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death” (Psalm 141: 7,8).

The LORD did not.

We think of those surrounded soldiers calling out for help to come quickly. We picture them staring into the sky and fixing their eyes on the approaching helo. They knew it would need to come in hot. We expect they were praying it would not be shot down. They probably had no idea that another team needed to be rescued at the same time.

They just knew the trouble they were in.

We think of the LORD, our God who hears cries for immediate help from countless voices all over the world at the same time. We think of the angels he sends out to guard and keep his people in need. We remember, sometimes their mission is to carry a soul to glory.

We need not worry about how busy the prayer traffic might be. The LORD can be at two places at one time. He is at every place at all times.

He has told us, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

We will remember that the next time we need to call out, “Prairie fire!”



Prayer: Sovereign LORD, we cannot comprehend what it means that you are God. We only know that you can do all things. You have assured us that you watch over us. You promise to help us in our time of need. Help us to understand that this will happen—even if we do not see the angels hovering. 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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When God says no – August 4, 2019

When God says no – August 4, 2019


Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia….
Acts 16:6,7




Military Devotion – August 4, 2019

Devotion based on Acts 16:6,7

See series: Military Devotions

God says, “No!” more often than we probably realize.

We quickly think of his commands that say no to lying, stealing, cursing, and the rest of his laws. We accept that these are given for our good, as well as to glorify him.

Seldom, however, do we give thought to the way the Lord controls the flow of our lives by other means. Yet, sometimes it can be downright disturbing to realize how little control we actually have over what happens in our lives.

So what if we decide never to have cancer, and never to be in an auto accident, and always to be successful? What power do we have over such things? Very little.

The best plans and efforts are often overridden by forces we cannot control.

This doesn’t mean we have no say in how our life unfolds. We can make all sorts of decisions—and we should. We can even decide to defy God’s laws—and we should not.

Still, despite all the freedom in our decision-making, it remains clear that someone much greater can step in at any time to change our plans and override our decisions.

That someone is the Savior who loves us. As children of the heavenly Father, we even invite this interference when we pray: “Deliver us from evil” and “Thy will be done.”

These petitions are granted even when we are planning to do good. Even then, the answer may be, “No!” We learn this from the life of the apostle Paul.

The command of Jesus to his followers was: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….” Thus, it may strike us as strange that he prevented his faithful apostle from trying to do just that on some occasions, in some places.

The apostle Paul was in modern Turkey, where he had established congregations at places like Galatia and the city of Ephesus. It was only natural for him to expand the work in the nearby places of Asia and Bithynia near the Black Sea. He planned to do that.

But God said, “No!”

Why would that be? We can only guess.

But soon afterward, he used a vision to instead call this missionary across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, where he founded the famous congregations at Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea Athens, and Corinth.

Jesus wasn’t forbidding mission work. He just had a different plan for the spread of the gospel.

That’s the way it is in our lives. Often God has a different plan. Our plans may not be bad ones, but his are always better.

Always.

By looking back over our lives, we probably are able to see how an unexpected turn of events accomplished something good. At the time, we might have felt frustrated or frightened. Only from a distance can we better see how good it was to be guided by heavenly hands.

After all, we must admit that his plan of salvation was perfect, and exactly what we needed. So are all of his plans for us.

Even when he says, “No!”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes we pray, “Lead thou on.” It is good for us to do that. It is good for you to lead us. When the things of our lives seem out of our hands, remind us that they are still in yours. Amen.



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

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


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Not by chance – July 28, 2019

Not by chance – July 28, 2019


But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died.
1 Kings 22:34,35




Military Devotion – July 28, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Kings 22:34,35

See series: Military Devotions

The old song laments, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” While the words may cause us to smile, we can relate to them. At times, it seems that luck rules our lives. Survivors from battlefields have observed that there seldom was reasoning behind why one person was wounded, another killed, and still another untouched.

The phrase was, “If the bullet has your name on it ….” Living or dying happens by chance.

It might seem that much of life goes that way. The car accident that didn’t happen because we came five seconds late; the tornado that demolished one house and left the nearby one untouched; the lotteries, won or lost.

If we do not have absolute control over what is going to happen, must we not agree that much of life is left up to chance?

If Ahab, once king of Israel, was still alive, he would be violently shaking his head, “No!”

One of the most wicked kings in Israel’s history, he planned with the king of Judah to attack the king of Aram—a land now called Syria. Judah’s king said they should first check to see if this would have the Lord’s blessing. A group of prophets quickly told the kings what they wanted to hear: “Go, for the Lord will give it into your hand!”

Uncertain, the king of Judah asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”

There was one. His name was Micaiah. Ahab’s reaction was, “But I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”

So Ahab was dismayed, but not surprised, when the faithful prophet of the Lord announced the attack would end in disaster. Then the order was given: “This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.”

Micaiah replied, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.”

This gave Ahab pause, but not enough to stop him. He improvised in an attempt to overcome. He told the king of Judah to ride into the battle wearing his royal robes. He, instead, would enter the battle disguised, figuring he could not be targeted if he was not recognized.

Those on the ground might have been fooled, but not those in heaven. An arrow targeted him as well as any modern guided missile ever could. We are told, “But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor.”

It was a random shot, but not a lucky one. The king was killed not by chance, but by the direct, all-knowing will of his Creator and Judge.

So the will of God rules also over our lives. He will not force us to obey him or to be blessed by him. He gives us the freedom to ignore and despise him. We can turn our back on his offer of love and guidance. We can scoff at his invitation to accept the payment that his Son made for our sin.

But in the end, his will will be done.

He taught us to pray for that. In faith, we entrust our lives into his good and gracious hands.

We do not live by chance.



Prayer: How many times, good and gracious Lord, have you heard us think that life happens by chance? How many times will you need to correct us? How often will we need to be reassured that your rule is over all, and your will for us is that we receive the good that we need? Give us the certainty that the Holy Spirit alone can work. 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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Saying nothing – July 21, 2019

Saying nothing – July 21, 2019


So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
1 Kings 18:20




Military Devotion – July 21, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Kings 18:20

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes our great mistake is not in saying the wrong thing. It’s in saying nothing.

This was the case when Israelites were asked to say if they would follow the LORD or Baal.

To their shame, they said nothing.

It was a sad state of affairs when Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of Israel, officially sanctioned the heathen god, Baal. Worship of that idol involved ritualistic prostitution and the sacrifice of babies. Strangely, it was appealing to Israel. Defiance of the Lord always is.

It wasn’t a subtle temptation. It was a clear-cut, in-your-face challenge to the worship of the Holy One of Israel. As the prophet Elijah made clear, it presented an either-or decision. Peaceful coexistence of the two was not an option.

Yet, on this day, the people were not willing to immediately make that choice. They weren’t sure which one they should acknowledge as master.

They knew that the priests of Baal were many and powerful. To speak against Baal was to place one’s life at risk. Besides, Baal worship had become commonplace in Israel.

And yet, they knew about the Lord God. The writings of Moses had told them about his power in creation; his judgments against sin; his forbidding the worship of false gods; and his promised blessing for those who loved and served him.

But face-to-face with the forces of Baal, they wilted.

They said nothing.

It pains us to hear of this because we understand them. We know what it is like to be put on the spot by those who flaunt the power of the Lord God. We may not join in their defiance of the Lord of glory, but sometimes we aren’t brave enough to admit we follow him.

It is easier, it is safer, then, to say nothing.

In his mercy, the Lord may allow us to get away with it. He may not strike us dead on the spot. He may give us another chance to show our faith, as he did to these people.

Elijah demanded a showdown. Two bulls were to be killed and placed upon a pile of wood on an altar. To the priests of Baal, he said, “You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

This time the people did say something. They told Elijah, “What you say is good.”

It was good, but not for the Baal worshipers. All day those priests prayed, then cut themselves to demand the idol’s attention. Nothing.

Elijah taunted, “Shout louder! Maybe he is sleeping.” Still nothing.

When evening came, Elijah built an altar for a sacrifice to the Lord, put slaughtered bulls upon it, and poured water over everything—again and again. Then he called upon the Lord to answer his prayer.

The result? “Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”

Now the people were willing to say something more: “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39)

Finally!

We have seen an even greater demonstration of his power, have we not? The Holy Spirit has shown us the Son of God dying for us, rising from the dead, then rising into heaven.

So, what will we do when asked to say if we stand with him or against him?

Surely, we will not say nothing.

Surely we will not say nothing.



Prayer: Great and gracious God, we blush to think of the times when we failed to speak up for you. We know that you do not need us to defend you. Rather, we have the need to admit that we follow you. We need to confess, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” Because it is true. 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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Hate – July 14, 2019

Hate – July 14, 2019


But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:6




Military Devotion – July 14, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 2:6

See series: Military Devotions

Admiral William F. Halsey told his troops: “Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs.”

Two thousand years earlier, someone else said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43,44).

It may appear that the two commands contrast hate with love. If so, we know that if we must choose, we better side with the One at the highest level in the chain-of-command.

However, a closer look shows that any contradiction is of our own making.

There is a place for hate in the life of a Christian. Jesus hates. He commends some who hate. But he alone “paints the target” for hatred. The crosshairs are to be on the sin. Not the sinner.

We might say it is only natural to hate someone who hates us. Such hatred is energized when that someone is trying to kill us. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” is easier to say than to do. Actually, it is impossible without the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord God both gives the command and provides the example.

We cherish the words, “God so loved the world….” We easily overlook that those who made up the world were his enemies who embraced sin.

We grimace at the thought of sinless Jesus being tortured and executed. Yet his response was, “Father, forgive them!”

So we gladly quote the famous saying, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”

We know that love and forgiveness are characteristic marks of the holy God. But we admit these traits are not natural to us.

Thus, we need forgiveness for the forgiveness we do not offer to others. This we understand. But how does hate fit into all of this?

We note that Jesus commended the Christians at Ephesus for hating—not the Nicolaitans—but what they were doing. That’s a critical difference.

We don’t know much about those Nicolaitans. We assume they were teaching and living contrary to the Word of God. Thus, they were a threat to God’s people.

We understand threats. We know sometimes the threat is to one’s very life, physical or spiritual. We realize such threats must either be avoided or neutralized.

Sometimes, threats must be eliminated by force. Sometimes, the force must be deadly.

Warriors know that. They must train for that. They must plan for that. Emotions become involved. But the emotions must be controlled. That’s part of the training.

Non-combatants may be surprised to learn some veterans of battles-past have returned to meet with former enemies—whom they now respect. Whom they even treat now as friends.

They ask, “You once tried to kill each other, and now you’re shaking hands? How can that be?”

The answer is, the threat is gone. Only the person is left.

Love what God loves, and hate what God hates!

The psalmist said it best: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

It’s as simple as that.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, Jesus said you would guide us into all truth. We surely need that guidance. You are the power from on high. We surely need that power. Enable us to recognize evil of every kind, and fight against it fiercely. Help us to reflect your love even to those who are against us. We pray that our enemies may become our allies in the fight against evil. We pray for peace. 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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Hidden in my heart – July 7, 2019

Hidden in my heart – July 7, 2019


I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11




Military Devotion – July 7, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 119:11

See series: Military Devotions

Wake up an old Veteran in the middle of the night and ask for his military service number—and don’t be surprised if he rattles it off without hesitation.

If we ask how he can do this, he might reply, “I once learned it by heart.”

He would be right, but he would not be alone. Most people have learned important information by heart. This means that they have stored the information so deeply into their memory bank that it is not flushed out by the flood of all newer information.

We might say it is hidden in their heart.

That’s what this psalmist says about words from the Lord his God. This is something we should be able to say.

The human body is an astounding creation. The best medical minds have still not unraveled all of its mysteries. Each new discovery opens the door to greater wonders. We agree with the psalmist who wrote: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

One of the wonderful features provided for humans is our ability to absorb and store things. We absorb oxygen into our bloodstream from the air we breathe into our lungs. We absorb Vitamin D into our bones from the rays of the sun. And we absorb thoughts from the sights and sounds presented to us.

Some of what we absorb stays with us. If it is something bad, it will hurt us. If good, it will help.

We want to stay away from toxic sources. Some of them will damage our bodies; some, our minds; and still others, our souls.

The psalmist is most concerned about his soul. He knows how easily he can be led astray by the sinful world around him. He knows how attractive sin is; how misleading temptations can be.

He counters these threats by building up his spiritual defenses. He stores up supplies of the words of God for the day when his soul comes under heavy attack.

To the surprise of the Allies, days of constant artillery fire did not destroy the enemy on islands like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The fact that our troops waded ashore unopposed led to false expectations. In vast networks of interconnecting caves, the enemy waited with vast stores of weapons and ammunition.

We deplore the bloody consequences for our troops, but we must admire the tactics. A safely-stored reserve of weapons makes for a strong defense.

In spiritual warfare, as in physical warfare, preparation is vital. Many are the warriors who explained, “My training kicked in!” as reason for survival.

When threatened, we reach deep down inside for strength and direction. Without hesitation, we pull up what has been placed there earlier.

Satan does not fear our feeble attempts to defend ourselves. He scoffs at our determination to remain faithful to our Lord. He knows he can outsmart and outlast us. “On earth is not his equal…”

He trembles, however, before the words of his maker and judge. He flees when the sword of the Spirit is pulled out.

Now is the time for the words of God to be hidden away in our hearts!

Now is the time.



Prayer: God of greatness and glory, our strength is feeble, and our danger is great. We often do not even see the enemy attacking before we are being overrun. Give us strength from within. Place into our hearts your powerful Word of Life. Keep us safe. 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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Shed grace – June 30, 2019

Shed grace – June 30, 2019


Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
John 1:16




Military Devotion – June 30, 2019

Devotion based on John 1:16

See series: Military Devotions

In the song about “America the Beautiful,” the words declare: “God shed his grace on thee….”

Truer words have not been spoken.

But they are sometimes misunderstood. Sometimes overlooked. And sometimes forgotten.

Grace means undeserved love. If we skip over “undeserved,” we fall into the dark hole of presumption and arrogance. We find ourselves thinking that America is great because Americans made it that way.

We forget that America is nothing without God and will return to nothing if it forgets God.

There is a current tendency by some to point to America’s past with accusing eyes. Charges are made about the abuse of slavery, mistreatment of Indians, and other white-dominance issues.

We dare not cover up sin. But we also must guard against slander. When we point accusing fingers at others without knowing either the times in which they lived or the motivations of their hearts, we join in with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

We dare not ignore the magnitude of blessing that the Lord God has granted to this nation. We should not dismiss the efforts of our forefathers who worked and sacrificed to make our life better. We are a richly blessed nation.

The rich blessing is the result of shed grace.

The phrase “God shed his grace on thee …” brings to mind an apple tree shedding its fruit. Those who stand under its branches can see the apples drop and eat from its bounty. If it were a pine tree, if the tree were dead, there would be no apple pies.

If the questions are raised, “Where do apple trees come from, and what causes them to bear fruit?” the answer finally leads back to the benevolent Creator who caused plants to come forth from the ground and bear seeds according to their kind.

A tree shedding fruit today testifies to the love of God towards those who live on this planet.

It is a gift of grace.

But it pales in comparison to God’s great gift of grace. “He shed his grace on thee …” takes us back to the event of holy bloodshed.

There could be no grace for America if the undeserved love of the eternal God had not been purchased with the blood of the Son of God.

During the celebration of Holy Communion, we may have heard the older words, “Given for you …” as the body of Christ was given in, with, and under the consecrated bread. As the blood of Christ was offered in, with, and under the consecrated wine, the words were: “Shed for you for the remission of sins….”

This is the picture of divine grace: blood dropping from hands, from feet and from side, onto Judean soil.

Holy bloodshed.

Sin paid for.

Undeserved love.

The Lord of the nations shed his blood in a far-off land in the Middle East. The blessing it bought flowed out to all nations—even to the undeserving land of America.

Even to us.

Out of the fullness of God’s mercy we have received grace upon grace.

Those who sing the words of “America the Beautiful” today need to join in with those before us who have sung:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.
(Christian Worship: 334)





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 tie that binds – June 23, 2019

The tie that binds – June 23, 2019


Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3




Military Devotion – June 23, 2019

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:3

See series: Military Devotions

Basic training, field exercises, and actual combat build unity. Bands of brothers grow from such things. The bond of war is strong.

This is true not only for humans who wage war against each other. It applies, as well, to those who war against God. And of such, there are many.

They may be divided by nationalities and politics, by economic levels and languages. But they quickly unite when they have a chance to challenge the holy One and defy his laws.

How foolish! How tragic.

To those who would fight against him, the warning is given: “Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!” (Isaiah 2:10). The holy God can easily destroy any who oppose him. He has done this to kings, to armies, to nations—and to legions of rebellious angels.

There is no chance of hiding from him. The only hope lies in his mercy.

That’s why the most important news of all time is God’s Christmas declaration to the human race: Your warfare is over!

We are not talking about a negotiated peace; a truce between antagonists; an armistice. This is the unilateral declaration of peace by the only one who can make it happen. This bond of peace has been established by heaven’s Prince of Peace.

The bond of war is strong. The bond of peace is stronger.

God’s bond of peace is woven with strands of red and white—of blood and purity. The holy blood of Jesus bought us this peace. It’s the peace that transcends all understanding.

Through his prophet he invites: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to accept that offer. By Word and sacrament, he creates and sustains the faith that grabs hold of the lifeline thrown to us from heaven.

The Holy Spirit ties us to our Savior God with the blood-bought bond of peace. With the same bond, he ties together those who share that life-giving faith.

The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians of the unity that was theirs. They had, “…one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

That’s some unity! It’s the same unity that we possess.

Satan wants us to forget this. He points at the differences among us. We don’t always think the same. We don’t have the same personalities and backgrounds. We don’t always agree on issues.

The Holy Spirit would remind us that differences are not bad if they are not displeasing to the Lord. He made each one of us different so that we can complement each other. One person is strong in an area where another one is not. This makes a team stronger. It makes a family stronger.

And we are the family of God.

About us, we are told, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

The bond of war is strong. The bond of peace is stronger.

We agree with those who have sung the words before us:

“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.”
(Christian Worship 494:1-3)

We make those words our own.





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 strong weakness – June 16, 2019

The strong weakness – June 16, 2019


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10




Military Devotion – June 16, 2019

Devotion based on 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

See series: Military Devotions

Our God has a way of turning our assumptions on their heads. If we assume there are three Gods because we are told of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he corrects us: Only one God.

If we assume the only way to get to heaven is by leading a good life, he corrects us: Not by works, but by faith.

If we assume that weakness and strength are opposites, he educates us: Weakness can be strength.

The apostle Paul learned this to be true in his life. God now uses him to explain it to us with the words, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He wasn’t talking about muscle-building! It’s about faith-building. Much more important!

The account of the ministry of Saint Paul is sprinkled heavily with failures, dangers, and disasters. Already when he was first called into service, the Lord had said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Wouldn’t make for a good recruiting poster, but it was accurate.

In this second letter to the Corinthian congregation, he answered those who considered him second-rate compared to some so-called super pastors. He told about the time when he, somehow, was given a view of heaven. So he would not become conceited over this, he explained, he was then given what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”

Perhaps this thorn was weak eyesight. Maybe it was some disease or a condition like epilepsy. Whatever, it humbled him. It reminded him of how dependent he was upon his Creator and Redeemer. It drove him to his knees.

It led him to his Strength.

The pattern was set by Jesus. Crowds were impressed by the power of his miracles. Who wouldn’t be? But the show of his power was not going to defeat the powers of darkness. Raising some dead bodies to live again for a while on this earth would not bring about the resurrection to life eternal in glory for us.

To accomplish his mission, Jesus would need to submit to weakness.

He had to undergo disrespect and shame. He would have to submit to torture. He would become so weak that someone else would need to finally carry his cross.

He didn’t enjoy that. In feverish prayer he begged his Father for another way to rescue mankind. There was none. Instead, angels were sent to strengthen him to endure the weakness. He didn’t argue. Instead, he said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The apostle Paul responded with the same attitude when his request was denied for that thorn in the flesh to be removed.

So it should be with us.

Life is not going to be without frustration and failure. Pain is going to be part of it. We will not be able to overcome every obstacle. At times we will feel weak—because we are weak.

But our God is not.

He uses our weakness to give us his strength. We will gain every needed victory.

We will overcome death.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is hard for us to admit our weaknesses. We would rather build ourselves up to make ourselves strong. We would rather fix our problems ourselves instead of being dependent upon anyone else—including you. Keep us from such foolishness. Use our weakness to make us strong. 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 angels ask – June 9, 2019

If angels ask – June 9, 2019


And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Revelation 12:7-9




Military Devotion – June 9, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 12:7-9

See series: Military Devotions

If angels ask, “What’s wrong with humans? Why all the fighting? Why did some have to wade through bloody waters at a place called Omaha Beach? Why did some raised as Lutherans try to kill them there? Why the ovens at places like Dachau, with human ashes rising into the sky?”

“Why do angels have to look down on such things?”

Would we just shrug our shoulders? Would we dare admit the killing still goes on? What would we say about screaming matches in American households? How could we explain parents killing their own children? What excuse could we give for suicides?

Sometimes we refer to man’s inhumanity to man. Is that the answer? Is it inhuman when humans act this way? Or, is it just human? Is it only natural for us to fight and kill?

What should we say if angels ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

Maybe we should tell them the truth. Maybe we should answer, “You already know! After all, war started up there among you—and it landed here on earth.”

We know little about life in heaven, and less about angels who dwell there. We know only a few of their names. We know of a Gabriel. We learn about Michael. We are told about one called Satan.

We are told about a war in heaven.

We might ask, “If heaven is absolutely perfect, why did some angels rebel?”

They might ask, “If earth was absolutely perfect, why did the first humans rebel?” And then, they might ask the embarrassing question, “If the Creator God loves the world so much, why did you rebel?”

What would we say? Must we admit that rebellion is in our nature? But if our sinful nature has been washed clean in the waters of Baptism, if we are now God’s own child, why do we so often continue to rebel?

To the point, why do we so often switch sides? Why do we find ourselves so often fighting alongside of the forces of darkness against Michael and his angels?

What if angels ask, “Why do you go to war against the merciful and holy God?”

Again, our answer can be: “You should know!”

The holy angels know how powerful demonic forces can be. After all, devils are still angels. They can read thoughts. They can suggest evil. They can tempt. The Bible warns that their leader is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). In the hymn “A Mighty Fortress,” we warn about the old evil foe. We confess, on earth is not his equal.

Good thing we have holy angels fighting for us! Better yet, the Lord of heaven and earth is on our side. We sing, “for us fights the Valiant One whom God himself elected.” No one can pluck us from his father’s hand. That’s his promise.

The Christian would need to turn traitor to lose this protection.

We have the answer. When angels ask “What’s wrong with humans?” we tell them, “The problem is sin. The solution is our Savior—the One who sends you to guard and keep us.”

And then we can add, “Keep standing guard over us until you can escort us to our father’s house.”



Prayer: Redeemer of the world and Savior of sinners, you have taught us how sin entered the world and how it has infected us. The fall of angels into sin warns us. The payment for our sin comforts us. Deploy your holy angels to guard and keep us as we walk the dangerous paths on earth. 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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Troubling transitions – June 2, 2019

Troubling transitions – June 2, 2019


Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.
John 21:18,19




Military Devotion – June 2, 2019

Devotion based on John 21:18,19

See series: Military Devotions

For many, the transition from civilian to military life took some getting used to, but not unwelcome. After all, America now has all-volunteer Armed Forces. Recruits sign up for this.

Leaving the military for civilian life is also welcomed by many—but not by everyone. Some who have made a career out of serving their country in uniform find the transition to civilian life quite troubling. While not without problems, military life had offered meaning and stability that civilian life seemed to lack. More than one has faced the mandatory age for retirement with reluctance.

In fact, more than one combat veteran has admitted that he wished he had died on the battlefield instead of being ushered out with ribbons into a life he did not want.

Spiritual warriors have had the same experience. The apostle Peter was one of them.

If one were to describe Peter, the words courageous and quick to act would be used. Sometimes that got him in to trouble. We think of him pulling out his sword to attack those who came to make an arrest in Gethsemane. Jesus had to tell him to stand down.

Peter became a leader of Christians. The book of Acts reports his bravery when standing up to enemies of the Christian Church. He announced the good news of salvation with boldness.

He was a champion of the faith. His example inspired many, and his ministry served many. But the time would come that his life of service would end.

He always knew that. But Jesus warned him he would not like it. He would not want it. He would get old. Someone else would dress him. Someone else would lead him around. Others would control his life. Jesus was describing Peter’s final arrest and martyrdom.

That could be a most-troubling transition.

Change is hard if the change brings new problems. Change is harder if it signals the end of a way of life we treasured.

The hymnist lamented, “Change and decay in all around I see…” Sometimes, we might sing those words with conviction.

The Bible warns that world conditions will deteriorate. Common sense tells us that we will deteriorate, too. No one can expect to escape the frailty of old age.

Except.

Except those who get an early discharge. Those who die young.

For the Christian, that would not be a tragedy. Loved ones would grieve, but the assertion of the apostle Paul stands: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

He wrote those words from a prison cell in danger of being executed. Death would indeed be a transition for him—but not a troubling one.

Jesus sought to take the trouble out of Peter’s transition by telling him in advance what would happen. This transition was part of God’s good and gracious plan.

So it is with us. So it will always be when the Lord allows changes to take place in our life. Every change.

We will never be dismissed to fend for ourselves. He will stay with us. He will be our guide, our POC, to lead us to where we should be—to where we want to be.

Always with him.



We join in the prayer of the hymnist:
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, Abide with me. Amen.
(Christian Worship 588:2)



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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Honor – May 26, 2019

Honor – May 26, 2019


Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13:7




Military Devotion – May 26, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 13:7

See series: Military Devotions

He didn’t want to go to war.

But on his 18th birthday he registered with the county draft board. They assigned him a number. When that number came up, he left behind the places and people he loved. He learned how to march in formation; how to obey orders; how to fire his weapon—how to kill.

He didn’t want to go to war. But he was honor-bound.

He had been raised that way. He had been taught to honor his father and mother, and all others in authority. He knew to honor the Lord his God above all.

He didn’t want to go to war. But he was honor-bound.

Now he is home again. You can find him washing dishes at a local restaurant. He came back with a limp and a cane. He left his bright future behind with the Viet Cong. It’s the tormenting memories that followed him home. Firefights invade his mind most every night. Brothers-in-arms die before his eyes again and again. In Vietnam he lost the control of his mind.

But he kept his honor.

He did what was asked of him. He did his duty. Today, many regard the concepts of duty and honor as outdated and naïve. He does not. His parents did not. His God never will.

Honor has two sides. It is gained, and it is given. The person doing the right thing, no matter the cost, gains honor. Those who see that happen, give honor to such a one.

On Memorial Day we give honor to those who deserve it.

On the opening day of deer season you can find him sitting next to his favorite runway. In 50 years he has never fired a shot. He is not there to kill. He is there for the sights, the sounds, the smells—and the memories. Among those pine trees, his mind goes back to better times. For a little while, he forgets war.

On Memorial Day he will watch the parade from his safe spot already picked out at the cemetery. He will look at the markers where loved ones and friends are already buried. Where a small flag flutters, he will read again the notation of battalion or squadron or airwing. He will listen to the words spoken and the three-volley salute.

He has come to honor the memory of those who are to be honored.

There are those who question the phrase, For God and Country. But for the one in service to the Lord, serving one’s country is a way to serve one’s God.

We know wars all too well. We know their cause. We know they will keep occurring until Jesus stops all clocks and calendars.

But we also know that the powers that be are established by God. He sets up these authorities for the benefit of his people. He uses them to deliver us from evil.

People who step forward to answer the call to defend our nation deserve the honor we give them. We owe it.

We do not whitewash the picture of their lives. They, too, have sinned. We do say, “These people did their duty. That was honorable.”

When we honor the fallen on Memorial Day, we also honor those who served with them, who paid a price, but lived.

He didn’t want to go to war. But he did. He was honor-bound.



Prayer: Lord of the nations, we watch the waving flags, and we listen to taps. But we cannot see the pain that you see in the hearts of those who mourn. We deplore war. But we thank you for those who have gone to war so that we might live in peace. By honoring them, we wish to honor 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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And Peter – May 19, 2019

And Peter – May 18, 2019


“But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”
Mark 16:7




Military Devotion – May 19, 2019

Devotion based on Mark 16:7

See series: Military Devotions

To be rejected by society is disappointing. By friends, disheartening. By God, disastrous.

Worse if the rejection is our fault. Heart-rending if there is no forgiveness.

The aftermath of Easter held a jumble of conflicting emotions. At first, grief gave way to confusion. Then joy and relief grew as evidence of the resurrection grew. Yet for many there was an uneasy undercurrent. Many of the chosen 12 looked back on recent days with shame. Shame led to guilt.

Except for John, all had abandoned their master in his hour of need. Their reputation was in shambles. One of their number had killed himself after selling Jesus out. The most outspoken of them, the one who had bragged the most about his faithfulness, had wilted before a servant girl, backing up his denial of knowing Jesus with curses.

That was Peter.

Peter knew that Jesus knew. Jesus had warned him in advance. The crowing of the rooster was the alarm. With one look, Jesus had convicted him on the spot. No wonder he broke into bitter tears. No wonder that in the joy and wonder of Easter he wondered if he was now rejected.

Was he still loved by Jesus? Was he still a disciple? Was he forgiven?

An angel at the empty grave provided the answer. Jesus was alive and would meet his disciples in Galilee. Then came the words of special comfort and assurance for the grieving sinner.

“And Peter.”

The wonder of the holy Lord God lies in his power, his knowledge, and his love. Of the billions of people on this planet at any given time, he knows each one—numbers the hairs on their heads and reads the thoughts of their most inner hearts.

He knows our shame. He sees our guilt. But he does not abandon those who count him as their Savior.

The account of the life of the apostle Peter is important for us. By looking closely at him, we learn something important about ourselves. By looking at him, we learn something important about our Lord.

We learn of our weakness and guilt. We learn of his mercy and love.

Judas despaired. He concluded there could be no forgiveness for him. Peter repented. He came to the grave of his crucified Lord. In spite of the danger, he stayed among those known to be followers of the prophet from Galilee. Faith overcame fear.

Later on, Jesus would take formal steps to recognize Peter’s position as special among his followers. He would grant Peter the privilege of serving in his kingdom: “Feed my sheep!”

It was Satan who had caused the doubt in Peter’s heart. It was a guilty conscience that had declared, “You cannot be forgiven.” It was the word of Jesus that threw that judgment out.

Usually, we are more like Peter in his weakness than in his strength. Sometimes, nagging guilt can also make us wonder if we have forfeited our place in the kingdom of God. At times, we worry that Jesus might have forgotten us. Worse yet, rejected us.

As with Peter, Jesus knew in advance that days of doubt would come to us too. That is why, just before he was arrested, he instituted Holy Communion. Our doubts are answered with the offering of his body and blood, “Given for you. Shed for you.” “For you.”

He died to cover all sins, even the worst ones. Forgiveness is offered to everyone.

“And Peter.”

And Paul.



Prayer: Risen and glorified Lord Jesus, let the dawn of Easter morning shine yet into our hearts to remove all doubt and fear. You have not forgotten us. You have not forsaken us. Your death signed our life certificate. Your resurrection sealed our place alongside of you in glory. Amen.



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

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


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Dear Mom – May 12, 2019

Dear Mom – May 12, 2019


Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
John 19:25




Military Devotion – May 12, 2019

Devotion based on John 19:25

See series: Military Devotions

It began in Eden. She would have been the perfect woman; the perfect wife; and the perfect mother. Instead, she became a criminal and was sentenced to die after a life with pain. The death sentence was promptly transferred to another. The pain was not.

Her husband also came under judgment. He, too, would know pain, but not like hers. He would never know the pain of childbirth. He would never know the suffering of a mother’s heart. No man ever would.

She first felt childbirth pain when Cain was born. But holding the dear child replaced the pain. It returned with vengeance when she stood at the grave of her second son—knowing that her first son was a murderer.

We are told, “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).

That means she is our mother—and our mother’s mother. That means Eve’s life reflects a shadow for all human lives, especially the lives of mothers. It is a painful picture.

We think of all the painful times when mothers had to send their children off into the care of others. Hannah gave up small Samuel so he could minister to the Lord under Eli. We hear, “Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice” (1 Samuel 2:19). We wonder if she cried on the trip home.

How many mothers have waited in vain for their son to return from battle? We hear,

“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’” (Judges 5:28)

By this time, Sisera, the commander of a massive Canaanite army, was counted among the fallen. If he had been a modern American Soldier, his mother might have received a folded flag and the words, “On behalf of a grateful nation.”

Many such flags have been handed out.

Our hearts must go out to such mothers. It even pains us to think of the mothers of our enemies that have watched in vain for their dear child’s return.

But none can compare to the pain of the mother from Nazareth who, along with her sister and some friends, watched the execution of her son during darkness at midday.

The crowd that gathered at Golgotha on that day saw only the painful sight of torture and dying. They had no idea that they were on the sidelines of the greatest battle ever fought—the showdown between Good and Evil, between Death and Life.

They did not realize that the destiny of the human race lay in the outcome. Rebellious angels had been condemned to forever-abandonment from the only source of peace and joy. Would rebellious humans (and all were rebellious) have any hope to escape forever-pain?

They would. They did. But the warning to Mary would also come true: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35).

God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus. God chose our mother for us. We brought her pain. Some was unavoidable. Some was piled onto her by our words and actions.

The Bible says we owe her honor. Shame on us if we do not give it.

Maybe on a Mother’s Day we can send a card or a letter addressed to: “Dear Mom”—if she is still living. If she is not, if she has already gone on ahead of us, then we will need to wait.

Either way, the best Mother’s Day will be celebrated in her new heavenly home. There, we will not need to say, “Happy Mother’s Day.” It will always be happy.

She will forever be our dear Mom.



Prayer: Eternal Lord of life, we thank you for giving us life. We thank you for our mothers. But most of all, we thank you for offering eternal life to our mothers. Help us to love, honor, and appreciate them until we stand with them to see you in glory. Amen.



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

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


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Weather watching – May 5, 2019

Weather watching – May 5, 2019


He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”
Matthew 16:2




Military Devotion – May 5, 2019

Devotion based on Matthew 16:2

See series: Military Devotions

One doesn’t need to be in the Navy to know the saying, “Red at night—Sailor’s delight. Red in the morning—Sailor take warning!” Yet, it’s true that bad weather is of special concern for those aboard boats and ships. That’s why we sing the prayer, “for those in peril on the sea.”

It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus assumed the people of his day knew the meaning of signs in the skies. Living without wristwatches and smartphones, many generations of people looked to the sky for information. Generations back, many were able to tell time just by looking at the sun. A stage of the moon told people when it was time to plant peas in their garden and oats in their fields. They reminded one another, “A ring around the moon means a change in weather soon.”

We watch the Weather Channel. We see cold fronts and weather systems moving across high definition screens. We receive weather alerts through televisions and text messages. We view live videos of tornados and hurricanes. Never before have people watched the signs of weather as we do.

Yet, the rebuke of Jesus still stands: “…but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

It was dangerous for countries to ignore what Winston Churchill called “The Gathering Storm” as Nazi Germany ramped up its war machines. It’s always dangerous to miss the signs of any approaching disaster. Many a life has been lost because the danger was seen too late.

“Keep watch!” Scripture exhorts. But we need to know what to watch for. We need to know the signs of approaching disaster.

The signs of deadly danger for people of Jesus’ day were the same as the signs in Churchill’s day—and the same as in our day.

Signs of wars and rumors of wars? Yes, we have seen them, too. Famines and earthquakes? Indeed! But Jesus said these were just the beginning of the perilous end times.

He warned the days would come when his followers would be persecuted, killed, and hated by all nations. Many would turn away from the faith; even betray and hate each other. And false prophets? There will be many. They will deceive many.

As these storm clouds grow darker, a chill will fall upon human life. Jesus put it this way, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Of course, these signs have been there before! Some were seen in Jesus’ day. Dark days have come and gone in the history of the world since then. But we cannot escape noticing that when they receded a little, they often returned with greater intensity.

A look around at the world of today can be enough to scare a person. The storm clouds seem to be gathering from all directions. Wars have been fought before, but now weapons of mass destruction could wipe out entire nations. False prophets have often raised their voices, but now they shout from all corners. Once-faithful voices have joined them.

Wickedness? Greed, corruption, and lies are setting records. Just 25 years ago, how many expected that sexual perversion would not only be tolerated in America, but it could demand respect and protection under penalty of law?

The gathering storm…

A final sign? Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations…” He concludes, “And then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Who would have thought 25 years ago that the tiny Wisconsin Synod would be reaching great numbers of people in places like Pakistan, China, and opening a seminary in Vietnam? What part of the world has not yet heard the gospel?

Makes us wonder how close to the end we are now, doesn’t it? But scary? Not for children of the heavenly Father! “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved”, Jesus said.

In the closing words of the book of Revelation Jesus told us, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

So, we watch the signs—and join the apostle John in praying: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.





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

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


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Scapegoat – April 28, 2019

Scapegoat – April 28, 2019


But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.
Leviticus 16:10




Military Devotion – April 28, 2019

Devotion based on Leviticus 16:10

See series: Military Devotions

We like to use scapegoats. Since we are reluctant to face up to our own failures, we are happy to find someone or something else to blame. Who can blame us?

It might surprise us to learn that even God made use of a scapegoat. Not for his own shortcomings. Ours! He foreshadowed this in the Old Testament and made it real in the New.

His Son became the greatest one.

With the celebration of Easter over, it’s a good time to take one more look at the center cross on Golgotha, and review the question of, “Why?”

The answer? Jesus is our scapegoat.

The Law of God given on Mount Sinai details how sin will be atoned for. Vivid illustrations paint a bloody picture of innocent animals being killed. They hammer in the lesson that for the human race to escape the punishment it deserves, there must be a sacrifice of innocent life.

Lambs were common victims. Unlike bulls, which were also to be sacrificed, lambs never threaten humans. When killed, they do not squeal in pain. They are the picture of innocence.

When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God!” the message was clear in the minds of everyone who knew the Old Testament.

Goats were also sacrificed as sin offerings. They, too, were substitutes.

On the great Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and sacrifice a young bull to make atonement for himself and his household. Then, two goats were presented. One was to be slaughtered. The other was spared. But some say that was a fate worse than death.

That one became the scapegoat.

The killing of an animal as a sacrifice was gruesome. Most modern Americans would be disturbed by it. But the fate of the scapegoat was no less unsettling.

That one was to be abandoned in the desert wilderness.

A person coming upon it was to show no mercy. It had become something detestable. It was to be left to die alone.

Glancing back to dark Golgotha even through the sunlight of Easter, our ears can still pick up an echo of the desperate scream, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And a wave of survivor’s guilt may wash over us.

The warrior who survives a firefight that took the lives of friends may wonder why he was spared—may feel guilty about still being alive. So, we may begin to wonder why we were spared the wrath of the Holy One when we know we are guilty. Here is our answer.

Jesus was the scapegoat.

We walk away from Easter knowing that God will not abandon us. We will not die—but live.

We walk on in life with the sober realization: “I don’t deserve it.”



Prayer: Savior God and Life-Giver, the bright dawn of Easter still sheds light into our life. We can walk on knowing that all is well. It must be. It will be. You transferred our guilt onto Jesus. Let us live the rest of our lives in the warm glow of Easter morning. Remind us again and again, that death cannot hold us. Thank you, Jesus, for being the scapegoat. 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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Go to sleep now – April 21, 2019

Go to sleep now – April 21, 2019


Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13




Military Devotion – April 21, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13

See series: Military Devotions

Most every night, after tucking her children into bed, she would leave them with the words, “Go to sleep now.”

Maybe it was just a habit. She knew often they would talk and giggle after she left. More than once she had to return to say, “Go to sleep” and emphasize the word, “now!”

She wasn’t angry when she said it. She just knew that they would need that encouragement.

They needed to sleep. It was good for them to sleep.

But this night was different. Her child was restless. A fever was raging. Little could be done to help. The doctor had warned that nothing more could be done to save that small life.

Enough nights had been spent in hospital rooms with noise in the halls and equipment beeping. The doctors finally agreed that the best place for the little one to die was at home in his own bed.

So, now he lay there. His stuffed bunny rabbit was under the sheet with him. It was hard to look at him without crying, but they couldn’t do that. That would frighten him.

Mother and father decided they would not lie to him. They would not tell him that soon he would be better. Instead, they spoke the truth in love. They told him he would be away from them for a little while—only a little while. He was going to heaven. They would meet him there.

They told him why.

They reminded him of Jesus. They told again about the first Christmas. They described his miracles and his love. They explained to him that one time Jesus had left his mother and friends for a little while, also.

“Jesus died,” they explained, “and those who loved him were sad.” “But on Easter morning Jesus woke up and later went to heaven. And so will all those who have Jesus as a friend.”

“Heaven is a beautiful place,” they said, “a happy place.” “Grandpa is already there. He will be so happy to see you. You will be so happy to see him.”

“No one is sick in heaven. There are no hospitals. No one needs painful treatments.

Heaven is a happy place for all of God’s children, and they will live happily ever after.”

They could tell the pain was growing worse. The medicine was no longer as effective. So they began to sing him a song. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” He began to join them with the words, “Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong…”

He made it as far as, “Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!” before his voice faltered, and his breathing grew faint.

It was a painful time for the parents. Grief flowed out from them along with their tears.

But it was not terrible. They knew this was not the end, just an interlude. For a little while they would not see their son. And, again in a little while, they would see him—whole, healthy, and happy.

Easter is proof of that.

So, one last time the mother could tell her child, “Go to sleep now” and then added the words, “See you in heaven.”

Because of Easter, she could say that. Because of Easter, we can say that.

And we do.

“See you in heaven!”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you will wipe away the tears from the eyes of all who gather around you. We marvel at the meaning of Easter. Because you rose, we, too shall rise from our graves. Allow your people who still dwell this side of glory to face death without fear. We pick up the words of the trusting mother. We say, “See you in heaven, Jesus! See you in heaven.” 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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Parades – April 14, 2019

Parades – April 14, 2019


A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
Matthew 21:8,9

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.
Luke 23:26,27




Military Devotion – April 14, 2019

Devotion based on Matthew 21:8,9; Luke 23:26,27

See series: Military Devotions

It seems that everyone likes a parade. People stand to see flags waving and troops marching. People cheer.

But people will also stand to see a line of cars with lights on being led by a hearse. No one cheers then. Some might weep.

The account of the last week before the crucifixion of Jesus highlights two parades. Some bystanders saw both of them. Cheers arose at the first one. Pitiful wailing marked the next one. It was the difference between a Sunday and a Friday.

It was a matter of expectations.

On Palm Sunday, the crowds were expecting the fulfillment of hopes for a life free of Roman rule—a life of riches, power and glory. They thought Jesus would bring them heaven on earth.

On Good Friday, those hopes crumbled. They wept not just for the condemned Jesus, but also for the death of their fond hopes.

When we think of Good Friday, our thoughts may quickly run to the crowds shouting “Crucify him!” But there was another group of people there. These people had pinned their hopes upon Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah. In the words of downcast Cleopas walking to Emmaus on the evening of Easter, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

We remember the crowd that came down with Jesus from Galilee. We consider the shell-shocked disciples. We give thought to all the people in Jerusalem who expected Jesus to be their Savior.

For them, the parade to Golgotha was worse than a funeral procession. Death had not yet struck. More torture, and then dying, was yet to happen.

Where do we fit into this? We watch from a great distance in time as well as in miles. We can look in at both parades at once. We know where each of them ends.

On a Sunday, we join in the songs of “Hosanna!” The next Friday, we sing, “Lord Jesus, you are going forth for me your life to offer.”

It seems we can’t watch one of the parades without thinking of the other. And we shouldn’t.

We need to see people cheering Jesus on his way to win our salvation. We need to see people weeping for Jesus as he battles for our salvation. One parade flows into the other.

But what about a third one? Surely, the empty tomb must have caused a commotion. Would not a crowd greater than on Palm Sunday have rushed to cheer the victorious, resurrected Jesus marching through the streets of Jerusalem? Would that not be the best parade of all?

It did not happen. There was no Easter parade. There was no public victory march. After he conquered death as the King of kings and Lord of lords, he showed himself only to his believers.

One day, however, that third parade will take place. Again, some will cheer, and some will wail. But it will be a most glorious procession. We know the name of the day when this will happen. We just don’t know when that day will come. We call it the Last Day. It’s the day when the saints come marching in.

That’s a parade we don’t want to miss.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, it pains us to consider the sight of you dragging your cross to your execution. We join those who sorrow over that. It thrills us to hear that the crowds shouted your praises as you entered Jerusalem riding over palm branches. We look forward to joining with you in the final parade to glory. Amen.



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

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


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Season of sorrows – April 7, 2019

Season of sorrows – April 7, 2019


Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:4




Military Devotion – April 7, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 53:4

See series: Military Devotions

The season of Lent is known for its sadness. Much of its traditional music was written in the minor key. It creates a melancholy sound. It is fitting for a season of sorrows.

Some wonder why we subject ourselves to such a sentiment. Why has the liturgical Christian Church chosen to spend 40 days pondering that which causes grief? Think of the days before Christmas, when we already begin to celebrate the coming of the good tidings of great joy.

Should not the days before Easter be filled with the anticipated happiness over the words, “He is risen!”?

The Bible does not dictate how we should approach any holiday. But Christians from of old have chosen to spend the days before Easter looking through the lens of Good Friday.

Our Christian forefathers designated this time as a season of sorrows. We may follow them, knowing the sorrow of Lent does not dilute the joy of the empty grave. It enhances it.

To understand the victory over sin, death, and the devil, we must consider the battle that was fought to achieve it. The young teenager may give little thought, with less appreciation, for what American Forces did at Iwo Jima or Fallujah. However, those who were there, and those who look in closely at what happened there, come away with amazed and grateful hearts.

Those who look in at what happened in a garden called Gethsemane and a hill called Golgotha do the same. But they must bow their heads in sorrow before they can lift them in joy.

As a gift from the Holy Spirit, Isaiah was able to look in at those scenes some 700 years before Jesus sweat blood in prayer and dripped blood in pain. He set forth the reason for the sorrows of this season: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

This is personal. This talks about us. These were our griefs. They were our sorrows. What happened to Jesus was because of us.

How can we not feel sorry about that?

He was struck with a whip, stuck with thorns, pierced with nails—and then a spear. He was, indeed, stricken.

He was hit with rods, with spit, and then, with a death sentence. He was, indeed, smitten.

He endured torture of body and anguish of heart. He suffered the hellish pangs of abandonment by his Father. He was, indeed, afflicted.

That has to affect us. The prophet tells more of what he saw: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief….”

But worse than what we see through these words, is what we did: “And we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

There we have it. Though he suffered all this for us, there have been times—many times—when we ignored him. When others laughed at him, despised him, we—too often—stayed silent.

Sometimes we actually became ashamed of him.

For that, we are now ashamed. We feel sorry for what Jesus had to go through. We feel sorry for what we have done.

It is the season of sorrows.

But Easter is coming!



Prayer: We pray for forgiveness, Lord! We pray for mercy. But most of all, we pray that we may never forget what you did for us. You are the one who changes all our sorrows into 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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Confidence – March 31, 2019

Confidence – March 31, 2019


I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13




Military Devotion – March 31, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 4:13

See series: Military Devotions

American overconfidence was mowed down by machine guns in France’s Belleau Wood.

The year was 1918. It was the first time American troops fired in anger in a war that had engulfed Europe for four years. It was America’s first taste of mechanized warfare. It was a shock to our system.

In August of 1914, troops on both sides were sent off to war with flags waving, crowds cheering—with the assurance, “ You will be home before the leaves fall.”

They weren’t. Except for those who came back in ambulances and caskets.

Americans watched the overseas carnage with apprehension that turned to determination. We grew confident that we could break that stalemate in the bloody and putrid trenches. With a popular song we announced to our allies over there, “The Yanks are coming! The Yanks are coming! And we won’t come back till it’s over over there.”

Many Yanks are still over there. Some lie in Flanders’ fields under crosses row on row. Some graves are marked with only, “Known but to God.”

In the first day of the first battle at Belleau Wood there were 1,000 American casualties. By the end of the battle, some 10,000.

American Marines and soldiers may have gained a victory there. But they also lost something: their overconfidence.

Confidence is a good thing. Training in the U.S. Armed Forces builds confidence. Experience in the field sharpens it. Pity the warrior who has no confidence in his leaders, or weapons, or his fighting ability. Pity more the one who is overconfident. For him, ruin awaits.

The apostle Paul was a bloodied warrior in battles physical and spiritual. He points to his combat ribbons:

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked”(2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

After all that, who would blame him for being cautious—maybe a bit hesitant to engage the enemy? Waging war against enemies physical or spiritual comes at a cost. Wouldn’t Saint Paul be excused if he said he had paid enough? Since he had received so many setbacks, wouldn’t he have lost confidence?

How can he still say, “I can do everything?” Is this not foolish overconfidence?

It is not.

The weary warrior did not base his confidence upon himself, but on his God.

It was God Almighty who worked through him. He was merely a tool in the Master’s hands.

Makes us think, doesn’t it?

Are we not the same?



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, without you we can do nothing. Even our next breath would be impossible without your power. But with you, nothing is impossible. We thank you for the victories in life that you have given us. Give us more of them. Remind us that anything we do that is good is worked through us by the same power that gave us life instead of death. Build up our confidence in 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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Short – March 24, 2019

Short – March 24, 2019


If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
Matthew 24:22




Military Devotion – March 24, 2019

Devotion based on Matthew 24:22

See series: Military Devotions

Being short causes mixed emotions. Not being short of stature, but having only a short time before being rotated from a dangerous place back to the States.

Often, such people feel pulled in two directions: excited to think about going home, but worried that something bad might happen before then. Many become superstitious, not willing to even talk about it lest they jinx themselves. They tend to spend those last days worried about what might happen—because they know bad things can happen.

They wish their time in the distant and dangerous place would be cut short.

When we stop to think about it, the Bible tells us that the life of a Christian on this planet is similar. We are away from our heavenly home. We are in enemy territory. This is a dangerous place. We can spot some of the threats, but the deadliest of our enemies are invisible.

The danger is not just that we might lose our earthly life with its disappointments and dangers, but our eternal life with its joys and glory.

The fellow had just retired. He was looking forward to those golden years. Then, one day he walked out of a doctor’s office with the news he had only months to live. His expected time on earth had been cut short.

While he was a Christian, and knew that he would be transitioning to the ideal PCS (permanent change of station), he was not filled with excitement. In fact, there was a fair amount of dread in his heart. He had difficulty wrapping his head around the fact that he was now short.

If we ask, “Who decided this?”, all the evidence points back to the Lord. This child of God would not live one second beyond the time his Creator has chosen, nor die one spilt-second before the time his Redeemer had planned for him.

We can either blame God for determining our lifespan, or we can thank him.

Better to thank him.

The Bible informs us that not only does the Lord God know how long our deployment on planet earth will last, he also knows how long earth will last—because he controls it.

Jesus told his disciples that the date for the destruction of this universe (we might call it, D-Day) has been moved up. Everything and everyone this side of heaven, is now short.

This is not punishment. This was done, not in anger, but in love. When God cuts short the lifetime of one who loves him, or the existence of the entire universe, he acts out of mercy.

He has told us what those last days will be like: “wars and rumors of wars; famines and earthquakes; people of God hated by all nations; false prophets deceiving many; love of most growing cold; and the gospel preached in the whole world” (cf. Mark 13).

Someone might argue that life on this planet has been this way for a long, long time. That’s true. Christians were warned many centuries ago that the signs of the end could be seen—and it did not happen then.

But the condition of the world has only grown worse. It will become so bad that God will need to step in to stop it.

It’s a wonderful thing that the Maker and Redeemer of the world has the power to shorten time!

It takes the worry out of being short.



Prayer: Lord of our life and God of our salvation, it is good to be reminded that time is in your hands. Guide and guard us as we walk the pathways of our lifetime. Uphold and uplift us as our short time on this planet grows shorter still. 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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Tremble – March 17, 2019

Tremble – March 17, 2019


These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
Isaiah 66:2




Military Devotion – March 17, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 66:2

See series: Military Devotions

“Sometimes it causes me to tremble…” thus the Old Plantation hymn declares in answer to the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Pondering the crucifixion of Jesus can have that effect. It stands written, “The wages of sin is death.” Here, we see this is true.

There was something dreadful about the execution of Jesus apart from the horror of a body hanging from nails driven into the wood. The Romans had carried out many such executions, but none quite like this.

Darkness over the land for three hours in midday? An earthquake splitting rocks when the prisoner died? Tombs breaking open and bodies of the dead coming to life? No wonder the centurion on guard duty cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Surely he was…

It was enough to cause hardened soldiers to tremble.

The hymnist wrote, “You who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the evil great—here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”

We have looked in at the events of Good Friday. We watch them again throughout the season of Lent. We cannot forget the images of pain, and blood, and death.

But that’s not the whole picture. We have reason to tremble before the cross, not in fear, but amazement. We are prompted to sing, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!”

We wonder at the Father’s love for us, willing to make such a sacrifice. We stand in awe at the Son’s love for us, willing to be sacrificed. We marvel at the love the Holy Spirit shows as he gently leads us to stand in spirit before the cross and hear the words to the condemned criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

He tells us one day Jesus will speak those words to us, too.

There are those who call the Christmas story a myth and the crucifixion only a legend. We know better. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of Spirit and life” (John 6:63).

We believe him.

After all, he is God. We know that. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We know that. He died so that we might live with him in glory. That we know, too.

We admit that we tend to question him when his plans contradict ours. It’s true that sometimes we strike off on our own path rather than following in his footsteps.

But in kindness, he draws us back to his Word where he shows us once again the anguish of evil and the wonder of his love.

Far be it from us to think we know better than God! Foolish it would be to believe that the path we might choose is better than the one he leads us on.

Humble? We must declare about him, “How great Thou art!”

Contrite? “Father, I have sinned.”

Blessed? “These are the ones I look on with favor…”

In Lent, in life, we are honored to be among those who tremble at his Word.



Prayer: Lord of glory you have bought us with your lifeblood as its price. Send now the Holy Spirit to keep us from throwing our inheritance away. Keep us humble. Keep us contrite. Look upon us always with your favor. And give us peace. 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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Those firstborns – March 10, 2019

Those firstborns – March 10, 2019


You must give me the firstborn of your sons.
Exodus 22:29




Military Devotion – March 10, 2019

Devotion based on Exodus 22:29

See series: Military Devotions

The child born first to parents is always special. Others who follow may be just as much loved, but none can take the place of the firstborn. Historically, this was the designated heir. In some families, it meant the child would inherit a throne.

The firstborn was prized. Its death was a special loss. Thus, it catches our attention when God points his finger at those firstborns and makes a demand that may startle us: “You must give me the firstborn of your sons.”

The Old Testament Law abounds with God’s demands of offerings—not from leftovers, but of the best. It’s not that he needed them. He reminds us, “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 5:10).

The need is ours. Humans need ways to show that they fear, love, and trust in the Lord above all things. Freely giving up something valuable is a way to show faithfulness and appreciation. It’s an act of worship.

Demands for wheat or a goat or lamb are one thing. God could provide more of these. But what about this? “You must give me the firstborn of your sons.”

Some foreign idols were said to demand human sacrifices. Was the God of Israel like them? Did he thirst for human blood? He did not. He does not.

Yet, there are life and death consequences to how we react to his demands. Through Moses, he once told a defiant Pharaoh: “This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so he may worship me. But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son’ ” (Exodus 4:22-23).

“I will kill your firstborn son…” That should have made Pharaoh tremble. He did not. He brushed it off until the night of the Passover. Then, “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead (Exodus 12:30).

God spared the firstborns of Israel that night—not because they were better, but because they were redeemed.

Consider the command: “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons” (Exodus 34:19,20).

Even a firstborn donkey needed to be redeemed—otherwise its neck was to be broken. Redemption is serious business.

To redeem means to gain something in exchange for payment.

Israel was not to forget this. Throughout Old Testament times, a substitute sacrifice could be made. But in the end, a payment in human blood would be required to redeem humans. Not just firstborn sons were on that death list, but everyone who had descended from the first guilty parents back at Eden. Our own names showed up there. We needed to be redeemed.

Golgotha shows the payment being made.

Mary’s firstborn son was killed on that center cross. Yet, that would not be payment enough were he not also God’s Son. He was. Speaking of Jesus, God the Father had announced, “This is my Son, whom I love…”

“This is my Son…,” and he sacrificed him.

When we are told, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15), we begin to better understand the significance of the firstborn.

God the Father sacrificed his only Son, the firstborn over all creation.

Thus he redeemed us.



Prayer: Lord God of mercy and might, your ways are beyond our understanding and your love beyond even imagination. We know that every one of us, and everyone that we love, would stand condemned to death in the court of your divine justice. But you allow us to live. You spare us because we have been redeemed. You paid for our lives with the life of your Son. For this, we thank you always and forever. 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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Broken arms – March 3, 2019

Broken arms – March 3, 2019


The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken.
Job 38:15




Military Devotion – March 3, 2019

Devotion based on Job 38:15

See series: Military Devotions

We can see the picture in our mind’s eye: a clenched fist above a raised arm. It’s a show of defiance.

Admirable, if in protesting injustice. Despicable, when raised in defiance of the Sovereign Lord.

At one time, Job of Old Testament times felt that God had exposed him to some of that injustice. Was it right that all of his children died in one storm? Was it fair that he lost his crops and flocks? Did he really deserve to be afflicted with painful sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head?

Wasn’t God acting like a child who pulls the wings off of a fly just to watch it suffer?

Job isn’t alone in asking such questions. Many have wondered “Why do bad things happen to me when I am not at fault?” We might add, why do babies get murdered? Why do gifted athletes grow feeble? Why must everyone die?

Though we cannot change these things, we want to raise our protest. Many agree with words the poet wrote about dying: “Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Bitter anger, fierce rage, this is the natural human reaction to unwanted events that are outside of our control.

Even if we acknowledge that no person apart from Jesus is actually good, in that all have sinned, it still bothers us to see that people who love their Savior God sometimes end up with the greatest disappointment and suffering in life.

At one point, Job said that he would like to drag God into court to have him give answer for his actions. To his surprise, God did answer. “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” he asked out of a storm cloud.

This was the beginning of a long series of questions aimed at Job. It starts, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)

Question after question pounded in the message that Almighty God operates on a level far above human knowledge or ability. He is the creator of the stars and controller of the seas. At his command lightning strikes. Under his watch, lions are fed, and mountain goats give birth. He gives the war horse its strength and orders the eagle to fly—and much more.

Eventually, the challenge came: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2)

Not surprisingly, Job backed down: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4).

Maybe Job had nothing more to say, but God did. The Lord continued, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). The interrogation continued.

Finally, Job admitted, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). He added: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

There is only one recourse for those who raise their clenched fist toward heaven: Repentance.

When tempted to challenge the God of grace and glory, it is best to repeat the words of Job: “I put my hand over my mouth.”

We close our mouth and listen to God. From God’s mouth comes truth and forgiveness.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, too quickly we find fault with you. Too easily we seek to justify ourselves. Too often we raise our puny fist in protest. Forgive our rebellious thoughts. Delete our empty threats. Deflate our bulging egos. Override the foolishness of our arrogance with the mercy of your holy love. Amen.



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

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


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Sowing the wind – February 24, 2019

Sowing the wind – February 24, 2019


They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
Hosea 8:7




Military Devotion – February 24, 2019

Devotion based on Hosea 8:7

See series: Military Devotions

A law of physics states: “For every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction.” Today, we might call that “blowback.”

Instead, the prophet Hosea used an illustration that people of all centuries could relate to. If you sow some seeds, you should expect a harvest. One seed of wheat into the ground—maybe fifty will grow out of it. However, one seed of a weed will give the same rate of return.

One must be careful about what one is sowing.

The prophet talks about sowing wind. If we use the picture of a dust up, we are on the right track. When one sows the wind, he is creating a disturbance. He is making trouble. We might say, he is asking for it. The words, reap the whirlwind, means he will get it.

A wind may be gentle or strong. A whirlwind is a tornado. Who wants that in return?

To illustrate the point with history, we might look at the land of the Lutheran Reformation, Germany. Two times during the last century it sowed militant winds. It invaded neighboring countries.

Two times within that century it reaped a whirlwind. It came out of WWI defeated and in debt. WWII blasted it with utter destruction.

Sow the wind. Reap the whirlwind.

There’s always a risk for a nation to go to war against another. The blowback might be brutal. To go to war against God guarantees return fire. It’s worse than getting hit with a tornado.

Just ask the angels who picked a fight with him.

Yet, this is what humans consistently try to do. It’s like taking on a nuclear power with a slingshot. Why do we even try?

Because that is human nature. We were born into this world as vowed enemies of the holy Creator and Judge. We instinctively reject his claim to rule over us. We want independence. And though we have seen how person after person, generation after generation, has gone down to the grave in defeat, we still scorn his offer of peace and vow to continue our fight.

The human race that sows the wind of rejecting God reaps the whirlwind of his rejection landing on their heads.

The talk of a whirlwind reminds us of another mighty wind. Saint Luke tells us about it with these words: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1).

This wind was not to destroy, but to bring life to many people—including us. This “wind from heaven” was the Holy Spirit who came to turn hatred and rebellion into love and faithfulness in the hearts of humans.

Many tried to stop him. Armies marched against the spread of his gospel. They were left in the dust of history.

You and I no longer wage war against the Lord God. The Holy Spirit has changed our hearts. We now answer the call to duty in service to the Lord of lords.

We no longer sow the wind. There will be no blowback with a whirlwind.

In the words of sailors, we instead have, fair winds and following seas.



Prayer: Eternal God and Commander of all, we hear your warning against waging war against you. We see from history the futility of this. We pour out our hearts in appreciation for giving us a new heart of faith that we might live in the gentle breezes of heaven. 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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Nearer my God – February 17, 2019

Nearer my God – February 17, 2019


The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish.”
Exodus 19:20,21




Military Devotion – February 17, 2019

Devotion based on Exodus 19:20,21

See series: Military Devotions

We call it rubbernecking. It irritates us to be in a backup caused, not by an accident, but by people slowing up to look at a wreck on the other side of the median. Yet, when we get there, we find ourselves staring at the same sight.

It’s as if a voice inside of us is begging, “Lemme see!” We can’t seem to help ourselves.

It was the same for the mass of people immigrating from Egypt to the Land of Canaan. But no car wreck could match what they encountered. God, himself, was going to descend from heaven to present himself on a mountain they were passing by. They knew this because he called out for Moses to come up to him.

Talk about an attraction! Here was a chance to actually take a look at the Lord of glory—the creator and ruler of the universe. What would he look like? They wanted to see.

But they dared not. The penalty for even catching a glimpse of him was death.

We are not accustomed to considering the Lord our God in that light. He is this abstract person we read about in the Bible. Some view him as a grandfather smiling at the humans who gather around him.

Moses knew better. So did the Israelites when they heard the command: “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.”

The warning was clear: “Do not come near to God!”

That sounds strange to New Testament ears. Are we not invited to come near to him with the words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)?

Is this the same God who met Israel in the wilderness? Has he changed since then?

He is, and he has not.

From eternity to eternity, he remains the same. His fierce anger still burns against sin and death still awaits the sinner. We dare never become complacent about this.

From eternity to eternity, he remains the same. His free and faithful love still offers forgiveness and life. It should never stop amazing us.

He may be the Savior God, but he remains the holy God.

The only reason we can approach him without perishing is that the blood of his Son has covered our sin. Jesus was not allowed to draw near to his Father on Golgotha when he won for us a free pass into his presence. He took our place on the death list.

So, the Holy One of Israel invites us to draw near in love, faith, and worship.

The best spot in all of earth and heaven is found nearer to God.



We pray with the words of the old hymn:
Nearer my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee.
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, Nearer my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee. Amen.



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

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


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My Brother – February 10, 2019

My Brother – February 10, 2019


Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Genesis 45:3




Military Devotion – February 10, 2019

Devotion based on Genesis 45:3

See series: Military Devotions

They were afraid of him when they thought him to be a stranger, terrified when they learned he was their brother. They knew that at his word, thousands bowed and obeyed. Now they were foreigners in his land and helpless before his power. He had kept their older brother as hostage when they faced him before. He demanded they bring him their youngest brother if they ever came back.

And, they had to come back. There was a famine, and their families would starve without his help. They had no choice but to do what he said and hope he would treat them with kindness.

But they were already afraid of him—this strange ruler in a strange land.

The words, “I am Joseph!” scared them speechless.

They expected he was dead. They had sold him into slavery when he was hardly more than a boy. They watched him being led away in bonds. That sight was burned into their memory. They had told their father a wild animal had killed him. They would never forget their dad’s cry of anguish. They would never outlive their guilt and regret.

Now they were face to face with him again. The tables had turned. They were at his mercy—no wonder they were terrified.

But it was good news that he was Joseph. He loved them in spite of their crime. He forgave them. And he would use his power to protect them.

In that foreign land, they would be able to point to the one with such great power and say: “That’s my brother!”

Would that we had a brother like that! Think of how good that would be! Think of what a blessing it would be to have someone like that watching out for us.

Good thing we already have someone like that! Jesus is greater than any pharaoh, any king—greater than anyone. And, he is indeed our brother.

We learn it had been planned this way already from eternity. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

We have a brother who is the all-powerful Son of God. That can be a scary thought.

Like those Judean brothers, we have treated our blood-relative rather shabbily. At times, we have turned our back on him; put our envy and greed above his desires; and with words and actions showed we cared little for him. We were willing to leave him behind if it was to our advantage. When challenged to acknowledge our relationship to him, at times we joined a Peter in saying, “I know not the man!”

We should be ashamed. He should be ashamed of us. But like Joseph of old, he forgives. He offers the hand of fellowship and brotherhood. Listen to the words: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Hebrews 2:11).

Like Isaac and Rueben and the rest, we sometimes are afraid of our brother. We fear he will treat us the way we deserve. We worry about that. We worry in the end he will turn on us.

Think of the times when the disciples were filled with terror at the glimpse of the power of Jesus. When he calmed the raging storm, or drove out demons, or raised the dead, or shone forth in his glory, they asked themselves, “Who is this?”
But they need not have feared when they were struck by their failure and his power. Nor should we.

With them, we can say, “This is Jesus.”

This is my brother.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, King of glory and righteous Judge of all the living, like Joseph’s brothers, we too carry guilty consciences and memories of betrayal. We, too, deserve only rejection and punishment. But you who are greater than a Joseph, you have not only forgiven us, you have given your holiness to cover our crimes against you. You were rejected, you were despised, you were killed that we might live with you as children of the heavenly Father. For this, we thank you always and forever. 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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Burned into memory – February 3, 2019

Burned into memory – February 3, 2019


There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.
Jeremiah 39:6,7




Military Devotion – February 3, 2019

Devotion based on Jeremiah 39:6,7

See series: Military Devotions

Some scenes cannot be unseen. Those who have seen the horrible often cannot get that sight out of their minds. It is burned into their memory.

For some, the unforgettable happened with a car crash, or a fire, or maybe, war. For King Zedekiah, it occurred as he was stripped of his power by the Babylonians. The last thing his eyes saw was the slaughter of his sons. His enemy could have killed him, too. But worse than death was making him live on with that memory.

We shudder at the thought. But much of the record of the descendants of Abraham causes us to shudder. Reading through that history is like watching a horror film. As one scene after another unfolds, we know that something awful is coming. The Assyrians are going to decimate the ten northern tribes. The Babylonians will invade the remaining two. Jerusalem will fall. The temple will be demolished. Then, untold thousands will be carried off to modern-day Iraq as captives—including the traumatized and now-blind King Zedekiah.

Horrible to look at, yet those are the very scenes that should be burned into memory. They teach a lesson: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

We dare never forget it.

Another picture teaches another lesson: It is a fearful thing for the living God to fall into the hands of sinners.

The Scripture screen shows a picture of ultimate horror. A bloodied man is being executed by torture. The weight of his body pulls at the nails driven through the hands. Blood trickles down from thorns pressed into the scalp. Witnesses mock. Hours pass. A mouth screams: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This scene must be burned into memory.

If the slaughter of Zedekiah’s sons was horrible, the slaughter of God’s Son is beyond horror.

This is the cold killing that we cannot explain without admitting that we are in the picture. We are the cause. We are to blame. It teaches a lesson we dare never forget:

“You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”

Then, we learn that this is actually a picture of mercy! After all, we are not the ones withering under the fierce anger of justice. The bloodied One is our substitute. He was found guilty of our crimes. He was punished. We are set free.

It teaches a lesson:

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!”

We dare never forget it.

On its center screen Holy Writ then projects the breath-taking picture of an empty tomb with an angel saying, “He is not here, he is risen.” He is:

“Christ, the Life of all the living, Christ the Death of death, our foe.”

It teaches a lesson: We will survive death. How could we forget it?

Let that picture of Easter morning be forever burned into our memory!

The Bible paints many such pictures of our salvation’s story. Some even show the future: “Look!” we are told, “ God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘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 21:3,4).

There, the eyes of Zedekiah can see again. There, his sons can stand alive and well. There, the captive is free, and the dead live. So do we.

Burn that vision into memory!



We pray to the Lord of life:
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” Amen.
(Christian Worship 588:7)



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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Authority – January 27, 2019

Authority – January 27, 2019


“For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Luke 7:8




Military Devotion – January 27, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:8

See series: Military Devotions

First, it is drilled into them. Then, it becomes part of everyday life. Within the ranks of the military, authority counts!

It makes no difference if the command is issued by someone two feet away or two thousand miles. Legitimate authority produces results. That’s true in the U.S. Armed Forces of today, and it was true in the Roman legions two millennia ago.

Jesus was a witness to it.

The soldier was a centurion. He commanded about 100 troops. That he was a Roman centurion, tells us he was part of an effective and polished military power. That he was in the land of Jesus, means he was deployed to one of the troubled backwaters of the Roman Empire.

Here he would pay a warrior’s tribute to his Superior Officer. Here, he showed the world what it means that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord.

His servant was on the verge of death. He sent local religious leaders to beg help from the well-known Jewish miracle worker in his AO, area of operations. Yet, when Jesus set off to provide that help, the centurion stopped him with the surprising words, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself….”

It’s not that he changed his mind. It’s not that he doubted Jesus could help. Actually, this soldier was so convinced that Jesus did have authority over life and death, that he knew Jesus would not have to be physically present to save the servant’s life.

His message was: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself…for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” He explained how authority worked when he told a soldier, “Go” or “Come” or “Do this.”

Astonishing!

There must be more to the story, and there is. The people the centurion had sent to Jesus told him: “This man deserves to have you do this….” They explained why: “…because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

Amazing! He was a Gentile, not a Jew. At this time in history, Romans worshiped heathen gods—if they recognized any god at all. Moreover, Roman troops generally had little regard for the people who lived under their military fist.

This soldier was different!

This soldier loved these people and built a synagogue for them.

He knew about Jesus! He addressed him with the respectful title, “Lord.”

Since Jesus was using Capernaum as his home base after the citizens of Nazareth tried to kill him, it does not surprise us that this Roman officer knew about the one who stirred the crowds with his teaching and miracles. What does surprise us is what Jesus said about him: “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

This soldier had placed his faith in Jesus. It was proven valid. We hear, “Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well” (Luke 7:9,10).

The prophets had said that even Gentiles would come to bow down before the Messiah. What was often scoffed at was fulfilled, not only by the Wise Men, but by this soldier.

Not only by this soldier, but by us.

We believe him when he tells us our salvation is completed with the words from the cross, “It is finished.” We do not need to see him do it to believe it.

His words have the authority to make it so.



Prayer: Savior Jesus, too often we doubt your power and your love. Too often we want to see you act with our own eyes. We easily forget the words you spoke to doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Holy Spirit, give us the faith of that Roman soldier. 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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