A stranger here – January 21, 2022

A stranger here – January 21, 2022


Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35




Military Devotion – January 21, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 1:35

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes we might sing the hymn that declares, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.”

Had it been written much earlier; Jesus might have sung it.

We easily make the mental transition of Jesus being the eternal God to Jesus in the family of Mary and Joseph. Surely, that change was not as easy for Jesus to make in real life.

We cannot pretend to understand exactly what Jesus thought and felt at any point in his existence. But Scripture reveals some details of what it meant that he was just like us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

He became hungry. He became angry. He became tired. He groaned when he saw the people weeping over the death of his friend, Lazarus. When he reached the gravesite, he, too, wept.

Before he came to earth as a human, he never faced hunger; never knew fatigue. He had never been tempted to sin. His life was never in danger.

Certainly, at times while on this earth he must have thought, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.”

No one on earth understood him. No one knew how hard his mission was to carry out. He came as the Friend of sinners, but he was a stranger to all of them.

A news reporter of his day could have written about the amazing success of a religious leader who had come from the backcountry of Galilee to attract crowds numbering in the thousands.

He might have written: “And no wonder! Eyewitnesses have seen him work miracles! He has cured lepers; stopped fevers; made paralyzed people walk; fed crowds from a handful of fish and bread—and he has raised the dead!”

No wonder crowds flocked to him. Not surprising that he would head out before dawn to find a desolate place to be away from people.

But he did not actually seek solitude. He sought family. He reached out to his Father. He communed with the Holy Spirit.

In a familiar hymn, we are bidden to, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

That’s exactly what Jesus did. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

He was a stranger here. Heaven was his home—even as it is ours!

“Alone, Alone, All Alone” is the title of a booklet written for those who find themselves living a new phase of life because their loving spouse of many years is no longer with them.

Others have also felt that way. Some were left as orphans while very young. The college student living away from home for the first time has felt that way. Warriors landing in a distant and dangerous land have learned what loneliness is like.

It’s also true that one can be among loved ones and still feel isolated and forlorn.

Years ago, a hymnist wrote: “When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer.”

That’s good advice because it is true.

Jesus was a stranger here so that his Father could be our Father. It cost him his earthly life. It won for us eternal life.

He taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…”

Today, we will sing, “I’m but a stranger here…” just as Jesus was.

But we can add, “Heaven is my home…” just as it was for Jesus.

Because Jesus’ Father is also our Father, we will not be a stranger in the heavenly realms.

We will be home.



Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Dreading demons – January 14, 2022

Dreading demons – January 14, 2022


Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
Mark 1:23-26




Military Devotion – January 14, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 1:23-26

See series: Military Devotions

Demons are to be dreaded because they are dreadful.

The Bible tells us that they are a deadly threat. It warns that those who place their faith and hope in the Lord God are the primary targets.

Demons, also called devils, have supernatural powers because they are angels. Their rebellion cost them the blessing of their Creator, but it did not yet strip them of their capacity to wage war against the crown of God’s creation, those we call humans.

Tragically, we come into this world as loyal subjects of the kingdom of darkness. The deadly virus of sin infected us at conception. We were born with a sneer in our hearts towards anything holy, and a raised fist of defiance toward any rule laid down by the Holy One. Our look of innocence is soon lost as we grow old enough to express in words and actions our enmity toward God.

It took a miracle to change us from enemies of God into children of God. The Holy Spirit did this using Holy Baptism with the Word of God.

Demons strive day and night to reverse this. They aim to reclaim those who have escaped their domain. The apostle Peter, who briefly lost a battle with the old evil foe, compares Satan to a lion on the hunt.

No doubt, the memory of his fellow disciple, Judas, now listed among the fallen, was often on his mind.

It’s easy to forget that because we do not see them. Their weapons of deceit and rebellion are camouflaged as fun and success. They promise a good life. They deliver sin, shame, and death.

We watch as Satan tempted Jesus at the beginning of his ministry on earth. We see how cunning evil can be. We cannot outsmart demons.

We will live our lives dreading them. They are the great enemy.

But they are not all-powerful. Jesus showed us that the one effective weapon against demonic force is the Word of God.

We rightly sing of Satan, “one little word can fell him!”

That word is, “Jesus!”

We might dread demons, but demons dread the Son of God and the result of his victory over them.

They are terrified by the knowledge that they are doomed forever. They know that one day, together with those they have deceived, they will be “thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10).

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth” the demon screamed. “Have you come to destroy us?”

Those were words of abject fear. This demon dreaded what is to come—and still does.

We need to remember why. Humans may forget that one day this existence will end, and the Son of God will return on his throne of glory and say to those who rejected him: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

Demons do not forget that. They cannot ignore that. The dread is inescapable.

Jesus died. Jesus rose. Jesus conquered sin, death, and the devil.

The Holy Spirit created a new spirit within us. We recognize a heavenly Father who loved us enough to rescue us. We look forward to being with him in glory.

That day will bring rejoicing to his people. Jesus tells us: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34).

One day, we will need fear demons nevermore.



Until then, we sing:
My soul, be on thy guard; ten thousand foes arise,
And hosts of sin are pressing hard to draw thee from the skies.
Fight on, my soul, till death shall bring thee to thy God;
He’ll take thee at thy parting breath to his divine abode. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Pain on the path – January 7, 2022

Pain on the path – January 7, 2022


And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Luke 2:35




Military Devotion – January 7, 2022

Devotion based on Luke 2:35

See series: Military Devotions

The greetings of “Happy New Year!” may still echo in our memory. We were glad to receive them. But we know very well, they were not promises made to us. They were wishes.

They express hope that the new year will lead us to happiness.

However, from experience, we have learned that the path our life takes may lead us to some sad days. After all, “Happy Days” was just a TV show.

If we ask “What could go wrong in this new year?” a long list of misfortunes comes to mind.

The next question is, “Why? Why do bad things happen even to the people of God?”

Then, there are times when we might be tempted to say, “especially to the people of God?”

Human nature assumes we deserve credit for doing good and extra credit for believing the Lord is our Savior God. It tells us that our life should be happier than the life of one who rejects God.

The Holy Spirit teaches us that we don’t deserve anything but condemnation from the Holy One. Even one moment of happiness is an undeserved gift from him. It is the result of grace—his undeserved love.

More than that, it shows that the loving God may plan for misery to come into our lives. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an example. We learn that pain was waiting on her life’s path.

The angel Gabriel startled her with the words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).

She surely was favored. Of all the women born on earth, she was chosen to become the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, who was the Son of God from eternity. What higher honor could any woman receive?

Her response to the seemingly impossible news came from her steadfast faith: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:48).

She confessed that she was a sinner who needed saving. She rejoiced to know that the Lord God would rescue her.

She delighted in that blessed assurance.

Because we know that, we might be surprised to hear the prophetic words of Simeon to her, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35).

The prophecy was fulfilled. We hear: “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” (John 19:33).

She saw her son crucified. It was as if a sword had cut through her soul.

Simeon had warned that the Lord planned for pain on her path as she walked through life.

He would not forsake her. She would remain precious in his sight.

But the pain would come. It was part of his plan to bring great joy to her and all people.

Her Son needed to die. Her Son needed to suffer agony so that she, and all humanity, might live forever in the peace that surpasses all understanding.

The pain was God’s gift to her—and us.

His people need to know this.

If we have found pain lying on the path we have already walked in life, if there is pain lying ahead on our path, we have the same assurance that Mary had. We are still in our Savior’s hands. His will is always wise. His way is always best.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary had told Gabriel. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Will our New Year be a happy one? We surely must expect some pain ahead. But that’s all right.

The loving Lord is in control. And do we not say, “I am the Lord’s servant”?

Yes, we do.

We know a perfectly happy, never-ending New Year awaits beyond the edge of time.



We sing the song of blessed assurance:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change, he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.” Amen.
(Christian Worship 847:1)



Written by Rev. 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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In your hands – December 31, 2021

In your hands – December 31, 2021


My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15




Military Devotion – December 31, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 31:15

See series: Military Devotions

It was New Year’s Eve Day 1967. The Wisconsin family was watching on TV as the Dallas Cowboys invaded Lambeau Field to do battle with the Green Bay Packers. Sub-zero weather stressed the combatants. There might have been some frostbite, but no one died.

A last-minute quarterback sneak gave the victory to the Green and Gold. The family cheered. The exhilaration carried through into New Years’ Day. Even today, the eyes of Packer fans will light up when someone mentions the “Ice Bowl.”

The next day, but seven time zones ahead, a member of that family was watching as massive human waves of NVA and VC were attacking his position at Fire Support Base Burt near the Cambodian border.

They battled desperately throughout the night. Some of the fighting was hand-to-hand. Sunrise showed a landscape of dead bodies as the enemy withdrew. Some wore American uniforms and were close-to-the-heart battle buddies of that soldier from Wisconsin.

No one cheered. Even today, the eyes of the American soldiers in the 2-22 (the Triple Deuce) and its brother units will tear up when someone mentions the Battle of Suoi Cut. To this day, nightmares and flashbacks continue to plague the victorious Americans, now grown old.

For the family in Wisconsin, it was one of the best of times. For the one in Vietnam, one of the worst. Was this just a matter of luck?

The Old Testament warrior, King David, knew that his life was not governed by chance. Success or failure was not solely the result of skill and training. A state of war or peace did not rest with the skills of the diplomat. He was not a self-made man, nor was he a citizen of a nation that could control its future.

“My times are in your hands,” the warrior-king called out. The psalm begins with the declaration: “In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge…”

That was a good way for him to start this psalm. It’s a good way for us to start a New Year.

That soldier in the 2-22 could have found himself in far different circumstances on that New Year’s Day. He had spent eight years in preparation to become a WELS pastor. His grades were excellent. Had he stayed the course, he could have been with loved ones watching the Ice Bowl.

Within a few years, he could have been a pastor preaching a New Year’s Eve sermon and, perhaps, distributing Holy Communion to his congregation.

How different his life would have been! What wonderful times he might have had!

But that was not the path the Lord had planned for him. As he approached the end of his college training, he was led to enter the U.S. Army instead of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

Whether as layman or clergy, his times would be in his Lord’s hands.

This does not mean that if he had chosen the parish ministry, his life would have been danger-free. A student several years younger had chosen to attend the seminary—and was killed in a traffic accident the night before he would have graduated.

Who knows what the future holds? Good thing we know who holds the future!

This is the time of year when we look ahead and wonder what the year will bring. Some folks make New Year’s resolutions to plan their future path in life.

That’s not bad. But that is no guarantee that our life will follow that path.

Instead of becoming discouraged over this lack of personal control, we can look ahead with confident courage.

We just celebrated the entrance into our world by the almighty Son of God who waged war against the powers of darkness and sacrificed himself to give us victory over death.

What’s ahead for us in 2022? We don’t need to know. Our Savior God knows.

And we will remain in his hands.



Prayer: For the blessings given over years past, for the protection provided by angels, and for the forgiveness you earned for us, we thank you, Lord God. Lead us by your hand in the coming year. Keep us in your hands every step of the way. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Hopes and fears – December 24, 2021

Hopes and fears – December 24, 2021


“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”
Luke 2:10




Military Devotion – December 24, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 2:10

See series: Military Devotions

We don’t talk that way nowadays. We might say “very frightened” or “extremely afraid” or even “terrified.” We don’t say “sore afraid.”

So, maybe that’s reason enough to still use those old words to describe the reaction of the Bethlehem shepherds to what they saw in the sky that first Christmas night. This was a special level of fright. This was a shake-in-your-boots fear. When the barrier between heaven and earth was suddenly breached to allow the bright glory of the Lord to spill through, those who saw it were traumatized.

They were sore afraid.

This isn’t the first time the glory of the Lord appeared to humans on earth. Not the first time it had a dumbfounding effect. But it was the most wonderful of all the occurrences.

It signaled that the glory of the Lord God would be shared by mortals. No message given by God was more important than that.

On Christmas Eve, of Bethlehem we sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

It may seem strange to hear that the one event evoked such opposite reactions. Yet, it still happens today, doesn’t it?

Those who recognize that baby in Bethlehem is the Son of God who came to rescue them rejoice to celebrate his birth. This is what the people of God in the Old Testament had been hoping for, desperately waiting for. This is what we thank God for.

On the other hand, those who dismiss the mercy of the Lord God and stand with the powers of darkness react differently. They may wish others “Happy Holidays!” but not “Happy Holy Days!” They dismiss as fake news the report that the Son of God was born a human. They scoff at the name “Emmanuel.”

The thought of God being here with us is frightening to them. It should be. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).

The reality of Christmas can make those who oppose him sore afraid.

The WWII Battle of the Bulge can serve as a comparison event.

When the German army smashed through the thin American lines on December 16, 1944, American forces were surrounded. They shivered in cold and fear before the enemy onslaught. Many were wounded. Many died.

Dense fog prevented the resupplying of ammunition and food from the air. Aircraft that could have provided suppressing firepower stayed grounded day after day after day. They prayed for relief.

It came on Christmas Day. The skies cleared. American planes swooped down. Patton’s Third Army and the 2nd Armored Division plowed through the snowdrifts to join the attack.

That Christmas was a day hoped for by Americans even as it was a day feared by the Germans.

For the Wehrmacht, the road ahead would bring only hardship, surrender, and defeat.

Yet, the breakthrough of the rescuers in the Ardennes Forest in 1944 was nothing compared to the breakthrough of the angels over the fields of Bethlehem.

The heavenly host was not a threat to those shepherds. The bright light in the dark sky meant help had arrived.

For the people on God’s side, not the enemy’s side, there must be joy. God is with us! He is on our side. He is not against us. The Babe in Bethlehem is Emmanuel. He came to rescue us.

Makes no difference now whether some things go against us. At times, setbacks, heartaches, and disappointments may cloud the skies over our heads. But they will not last.

The breakthrough of grace and goodness will surely come. Our Christmas Day will dawn.

We will not fear what the Lord brings into our life.

We will not be sore afraid.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God and our human Brother. You broke through the clouds of fear and dread to shine into our lives with your glorious light. Keep us in your care. Fill us with your joy. Deploy your angels to keep watch. Send the Holy Spirit to banish fear. Now and evermore. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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 casket under the Christmas tree – December 23, 2021

The casket under the Christmas tree – December 23, 2021


I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10




Military Devotion – December 23, 2021

Devotion based on John 10:10

See series: Military Devotions

Funerals don’t mix well with the Christmas season. Yet, people die, and mourners do weep during the season that proclaims, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

Death doesn’t take a holiday.

While the loss of a loved one is always painful, the calls of “Merry Christmas!” may feel like they are twisting the knife that has stabbed the souls of those left behind. “It just shouldn’t be!” is the thought that flashes through the mind.

“Surely this is the work of the devil!” we might think. Who else would be so mean as to inflict such pain at such a time? The next thought might be, “Why didn’t God prevent this?” “Surely, he could have chosen a better time for the person to die!”

But yesterday I conducted a funeral. I stood among the fragrant poinsettias and looked at the congregation over a casket holding a body without a soul.

Close to the casket was a beautifully trimmed Christmas tree, brimming with lights. At its top shone an angel ornament.

It was a jarring sight. Beneath the Christmas tree is where we expect to receive wonderful presents. We do not expect to find death there.

To place a casket under a Christmas tree seems to be sacrilege!

It is not.

The casket under the Christmas tree is a picture of the true condition of the human race.

The casket shows the words, “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” still ring true. People die. People die every day. All people will die until Jesus returns to end this creation.

The tree proclaims that death will not triumph. The evergreen tree may stand in a forest surrounded by others that have lost all signs of life. Their branches hang empty. Their leaves have fallen to decay.

The evergreen, the one chosen to be a Christmas tree, brims with life. It portrays the declaration of faith.

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD” (Psalm 118:17).

Is this not the meaning of Christmas? Is this not the gift of Christmas?

Trees have played a major role in the plan of salvation. The forbidden tree containing the knowledge of good and evil was a threat to mankind. Tasting its fruit opened the door to disaster. Life would now end. It would not end well.

The tree of life was the opposite. It offered life without end. But because of the curse brought about by sin, never-ending life would have resulted in never-ending misery. It would mean perpetual separation from God and everything good.

The Creator protected our first parents from that disaster: “He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

Earthly death is God’s gift to enable us to break free from the sentence of eternal death.

Another tree was used to rescue us. We sing of that tree with the words: “In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.”

The death of the Son of God who became human broke the curse and offered life—not just for a little while, but forever.

Jesus declares: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).

The casket of a child of God holds the body of one who will live forever.

It proclaims again the words of Jesus: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

It fits well under the Christmas tree.



We sing the words of the old Christmas song:
“And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas Day.” Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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An empty Christmas – December 17, 2021

An empty Christmas – December 17, 2021


“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:11




Military Devotion – December 17, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 2:11

See series: Military Devotions

He proposed during the Great Depression. He apologized that he could not afford an engagement ring. She said she did not need one.

He promised her that one day he would give her a ring—a beautiful one. It would be a sign of his faithful love.

Twenty years slipped away. No ring yet. She didn’t give much thought to his promise.

He did. He decided to give it to her at Christmas.

With her children gathered around, she watched as the presents were opened. She heard the oohs and aahs. She opened a box with her name on it: A set of potholders. She opened another box. Only crunched paper inside! She decided it was empty. Was it a prank gift? Probably!

Her husband watched as she tossed the box onto the pile of the used wrapping papers ready to be thrown out. He had placed the ring into a large box filled with tissue paper to keep her from guessing what it was.

She looked at the potholders and decided this wasn’t much of a Christmas. It seemed rather empty.

Her experience is shared by many. The sights and sounds of Christmas can be beautiful. Good food shared with loved ones can be delightful. And the gifts!

But all this is like a beautifully wrapped box stuffed with tissue paper.

Overlooking Christ in Christmas is to have an empty Christmas.

The evidence is there. Angels watch as humans try to fill the holidays with things that cause joy. But no matter how much money is spent, no matter how much alcohol is consumed, or how many attempts are made to find some peace and joy, the best we will walk away with is as of little value as a set of potholders and a box of tissue papers.

It’s not surprising that the season of good tidings and great joy often turns out to be a season of disappointment and sorrow. While the strains of “Silent Night” may fill the air, few there are who “Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Ask those who pulled the Christmas Eve shift at the ER. Ask the cops. Ask the first responders. They will tell of the bloody domestic disputes and the overdose cases. They will report about the spike in suicides.

An empty Christmas is nothing less than a tragedy. Where Christ is absent, Satan fills in. He aims to leave little space for peace and joy.

Probably those shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields were looking for some comfort and joy during that historic night. They hoped no wolves would attack their sheep. They ate their evening meal. Some tried to get some sleep while others watched. They expected nothing more.

Instead, they saw an angel telling them: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

They heard a choir of angels singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Then they saw the Christ in Christmas: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

It filled them with joy: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

It was like when that bride of twenty years finally saw the diamond ring. Only better.

Finding Christ in Christmas changes everything. An old Christmas carol declares: “And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas Day.”

That news is worth more than a thousand diamond rings.

With Christ in our lives, Christmas will never be empty.

Will it?



We join with the angels to announce the news:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Amen.



Written by Rev. 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 Branch – December 10, 2021

The Branch – December 10, 2021


“In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.”
Jeremiah 33:15




Military Devotion – December 10, 2021

Devotion based on Jeremiah 33:15

See series: Military Devotions

Once, it was like a mighty oak. Its large limbs stretched upwards. Its leaves offered shade. It stood strong against the wind. It was expected to stand like this forever.

It did not. It was cut down. Only a stump was left.

This once-monumental tree was the nation of Israel, now cut down by her enemies. Assyria trashed the northern tribes. Babylon carted away the debris left behind in the south.

Israel of old that had carried the hope of life and peace forevermore was as good as dead.

It had become an object of pity, its owner the object of derision. Threatening rulers echoed the challenge of the Pharaoh of Egypt, “Who is the Lord that I should listen to him?”

Jacob’s Israel had become diseased with the virus of rebellion against heaven. Corruption had replaced justice. Depravity overtook righteousness. The nation would reap what it had sown. Evil would prevail. Judgment would come.

The weeping prophet instructed mothers: “Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament” (Jeremiah 9:20).

The captives took up that lament: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).

The day of judgment dawned before Jeremiah’s eyes—but it was not the final judgment.

There still was hope. A new day would dawn. The God of Israel made a promise.

“In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line.”

The stump was not dead. The Righteous One would be born of David’s line in the City of David.

He was called “Jesus” because, as the angel said, “He will save his people from their sins.”

The escape from Babylon was startling. The nation of Israel should never have survived the heathen conquest and captivity. Seventy years had passed since Jerusalem was reduced to rubble. No Israelite army arose to regain the city. No rescue team was deployed to free the captives. There was no hope.

Except.

Except, the God of Israel had announced in advance that the captives could come home after seventy years. He could promise this because he was the Lord of nations. The Lord had announced the sentence, and he announced the freedom.

There was no breakout. There was no escape effort. The Jews in Babylon were simply told they were free to leave. The Lord God freed Israel from the Babylonian grip by overturning that empire and replacing it with the Persians—and he did it overnight.

There still was life in the cutoff tree! But release from Babylonian captivity was not the greatest work of Israel’s God.

The rescue of the human race from captivity to sin, death, and the devil—that was his great work of deliverance.

And we are among those that he rescued!

Saint Matthew begins his Gospel by showing the link of the Messiah to King David: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham…”

He ends it with Jesus saying: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”

The righteous Branch grew out of Israel for our benefit. We are co-heirs of the inheritance of salvation through Abraham and David.

This line will live forever.

So will we.



Prayer: With grateful hearts, Savior God, we rejoice with the news that you have kept your promise and have brought life to those who were dead to hope. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Ten hut! – December 3, 2021

Ten hut! – December 3, 2021


“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”
Luke 3:4-6




Military Devotion – December 3, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 3:4-6

See series: Military Devotions

He served at the time when Tiberius Caesar was emperor at Rome. Pontius Pilate was governor of the Roman province called Judea. Herod ruled for the Romans over Galilee and his brother, Phillip, over Iturea and Traconitis in what is now called Syria. A fellow named Lysanias ruled for the Romans in nearby Abilene.

Those names and places may not mean too much to us now, but this official information is critical to establish when, where, and how the famous John the Baptist carried out his mission.

John was not in the chain-of-command of the Roman rulers. He served under the one named Jehovah, Lord of all.

He was called to duty before he was born. He soldiered on until they cut off his head.

He was not an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, but he surely knew how to command attention.

His assignment was to relay the message the Lord God had given to Isaiah some 700 years before. Aboard a U.S. ship, such a message might have been introduced with a “Now hear this!” Since John was not a sailor, we might better picture him calling out: “Ten hut!”

Recruits into the U.S. military quickly learn what it means to come to attention. Not only must the body conform to the prescribed stance, but the mind must also snap to attention.

“Don’t worry about what is happening around you!” “Stop talking!” “Focus your mind on the officer.” “Pay attention now!” is expressed with a simple but forceful, “Ten hut!”

That’s much like the way John the Baptist commanded the attention of those who came out to the deserted wilds to see him. The Holy Spirit relays the message to us as the words are carried over the folds of time by the Holy Scriptures.

The order begins: “Prepare the way for the Lord!”

The picture is given of a road being built. It’s as if the Lord of glory will use that road to enter our hearts.

It’s as if we hear John say, “Ten hut! Straighten out your life!”

The way of God lies in a straight line with truth and right. We tend to bend around unpleasant truths and come up with excuses to detour off the straight and narrow.

Do we think God does not notice that?

Furthermore, at times our lives sink to new lows. Satan tempts us to think it would not be so bad to wander for a while in the valley of sin. Our sinful nature delights in that way of life—much like a pig loves to roll in the mud.

“Every valley shall be filled in….” Are we paying attention?

But the heights also appeal to us. Pride, arrogance and prejudice call out, “I’m better than many!” “I am smarter than most.” “I am above the law.”

The law of God shouts out: “… every mountain and hill made low.”

There is nothing we can boast of before God. Everything good in our life is a gift from him. The bad?

That’s on us: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

Our messed-up life? “The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.”

Yet, John the Baptist does not call us to attention only to have us admit our failures, but to point us to our victory over sin, death, and the devil.

“And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”

Pointing to Jesus, John said: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

We better look. We better listen. We better believe. This is a matter of life or death.

“Ten hut!”



Prayer: Holy Spirit, we have so much going on in our lives. There is so much that distracts us and still more that attracts us. Thank you for drawing our attention to the message from the mouth of John the Baptist. Focus our attention upon Jesus, that we may follow him home to victory. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Advent prayer answered – November 26, 2021

Advent prayer answered – November 22, 2021


He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22:20




Military Devotion – November 26, 2021

Devotion based on Revelation 22:20

See series: Military Devotions

It was Advent. Students at one of our area Lutheran high schools had chosen “Come, Lord Jesus!” as the theme for their chapel services. The words appeared on a large banner for everyone to see.

In those worship services, they heard again about the three comings of Christ: As a child at Bethlehem; through Word and Sacrament today; and finally, when he comes to take his people to heaven.

They sang out, “Come, O Precious Ransom, Come” and “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.”

They left for Christmas break with the cheery greetings of “Merry Christmas!” and “See you next year!” They were looking forward to singing, “Joy to the World” with their families.

Two days after Christmas, the phone rang late at night. “Sad news!” the caller said.

One of the sophomore girls had died in her sleep.

People stood in the snow to listen to the funeral service by loudspeakers, the crowd was so great. “Shocked” would be a good description. Death had drained Christmas joy.

When the students filed in for chapel after Christmas break, some were surprised to see that the Advent banner was still up. Had the janitors forgotten to take it down?

No.

It was time for the mourners to face facts: Jesus had answered their Advent prayer!

They had prayed: “Come, Lord Jesus!” and he came.

But they didn’t mean for him to come like that! They prayed that he would bring joy to Christian hearts and peace to those who had not known he had paid the ransom for their sins.

They did not intend to pray for their friend to die!

But that’s what Jesus had intended all along. Their plans were not his plans.

Were these young people betrayed? Was this some sort of cruel joke by the one who controls life and death? Did this make a mockery of Christmas?

No, it was the fulfillment of Christmas.

Hundreds of presents were opened by the members of that student body that Christmas. Two days after Christmas, their friend received the best Christmas gift of all: a trip to heaven.

Silently, without waking the rest of the family, angels accompanied the Christ of Christmas to bring to her joy and peace beyond measure.

Jesus had told his early disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Stephanie’s place was now ready. She had prayed, along with her classmates, “Come, Lord Jesus.” In loving kindness, he came.

Did she miss out on living a full-term life? No.

Would she trade even a minute of life with Jesus in glory to be able to live to old age here? No.

Do we want to dictate to Jesus when and how he should come to us? Never.

What is Christmas like in heaven? Wait and see.

He tells us, “I am coming soon.”



Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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King of kings – November 19, 2021

King of kings – November 19, 2021


“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
John 19:15




Military Devotion – November 19, 2021

Devotion based on John 19:15

See series: Military Devotions

They didn’t mean what they said. They spoke out of spite. Their answer was shocking. It became a death sentence.

“We have no king but Caesar!”

Those words reveal a level of tragedy surpassed only by the cry, “His blood be upon us and our children!”

What would King David have said about this traitor-like answer? He and others fought many a battle to keep Israel from needing to bow down to some foreign king. Why would the chief spiritual leaders of Israel now declare allegiance to a heathen king?

Because they had rejected their true king—the one who is the King of kings!

When the Lord God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be his chosen nation, he provided for all their governing needs personally. It was not a monarchy or a democracy; it was a theocracy. It was a God-ruled nation. The Lord God was the government.

Imagine if he did that for America. There would be no political squabbling. No bad laws would be passed. There would be no corruption in government.

His laws for the care of the feeble and the poor would be as fair and good as his laws regarding theft or murder. Always, perfect laws.

Always a perfect plan for war and peace. There would never be another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 for us. The Lord of the armies in heaven knows in advance what an enemy is planning and what defensive steps need to be taken. He can control every military operation and defend his people against any enemy.

Sometimes, he used fierce weather to defend Israel’s troops. Sometimes, he used rumors to scatter enemy forces. And, ever so often, he sent the Angel of Death to wipe out thousands of Israel’s enemies without one casualty among his people.

When faithfully following the Lord God as their governing king, Israel never lost a battle. They had a perfect ruler. What else could they want?

They wanted a human king. They looked around at other nations and envied them.

They told the prophet, Samuel, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19).

There is a saying, “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.”

Israel got their earthly king. They got the pomp and ceremony of royalty. They built their palatial quarters. Other nations took note of their prestige. They impressed the Queen of Sheba.

But to gain that worldly acclaim, they gave up much. They gave up the Lord, not just as ruler of their nation, but as Lord of their hearts and souls.

As years passed, Israeli kings faded and failed. By the time Jesus walked the earth, what was left of Israel had groaned under the fist of Babylonian kings and then under the emperor of Rome.

They hated that. They detested the presence of Roman occupation forces. Some became zealous insurrectionists. One of Jesus’ disciples had belonged to such a group. He was called Simon, but not the Simon Peter; this one was known as Simon the Zealot.

So why this sworn allegiance to Caesar by the chief priests? The answer is a sad one.

They hated the Lord God in the person of Jesus more than they hated the Roman king.

“We have no king but Caesar!” They would add their voices to the shout, “Hail Caesar!”

Above a cross, Pilate wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” The words were mockery, but the words were true—and some of the people knew it. They understood his kingdom was not of this world. They believed he was the Son of God, the Savior.

As he was dying, one of them called out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The answer came back, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Blessed assurance!

Jesus has given that assurance to everyone who acknowledges him as LORD, and on the day of their last breath, he keeps that promise without fail.

It shouldn’t surprise us. After all, he is, was, and always will be the King of kings.

By grace and through faith, he will always be our King.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, to you we offer our prayers of praise and our hymns of celebration. You are the King of glory. Your reign is everlasting, and your victory absolute. Grant us the privilege of serving in your kingdom as we hail you as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Whispering hope – November 12, 2021

Whispering hope – November 12, 2021


Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
1 Kings 19:11-13




Military Devotion – November 12, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:11-13

See series: Military Devotions

I had met her only shortly before. She said she was studying to become a nurse. When I said I was studying to become a pastor, she made an unexpected comment.

“I don’t have any hope of heaven.”

That surprised me. I knew enough about her to know that she had been brought up in a Christian family, regularly attended worship services, and was apparently leading a Christian life.

Yet, she was living without hope. She explained why.

She had grown up in a church that taught spiritual life required a decision to accept Christ into one’s life. It usually took place following an “altar call.” After a sermon, the pastor would ask people to step forward to dedicate their lives to the Savior. That was the moment they were “saved.”

There was one other teaching: Once people accepted Christ into their hearts, they would never sin again.

This belief crushed her hope. She knew she had sinned since that altar call. She thought this proved her decision for Christ was fake. She was not saved. She was among the lost.

Thinking she was without Christ, she was without hope.

When we hear the phrase “mission work,” we might think of missionaries heading off to heathen lands.

We may call to mind powerful sermons which proclaimed the way of salvation with clarity and energy.

We could conclude that the every-day-Christian is not qualified to do mission work—that is, to share the good news of Jesus with someone who does not already trust in him for forgiveness and salvation.

That is a lie fed to us by Satan.

A degree in theology is not needed to point others to Jesus. It does not require a six-month instruction course before there is a result. Sometimes a child is an effective missionary.

The Holy Spirit is the one who works saving faith. He uses the words he has inspired writers to pen in Holy Writ. Those who relay the message of the gospel are just his tools. The gospel has the power to bring life to those living in the dungeon of spiritual death.

There have been times when the Holy Spirit came to people in a blaze of glory that none could ignore. We think of the first Pentecost with the tongues of fire on people’s heads and the sound of a mighty rushing wind in their ears.

But at other times, maybe most times, he works gently, quietly.

Elijah learned that lesson. A wind strong enough to split rocks, or a shattering earthquake, or a raging fire, would fit well with the idea of an almighty God. But the Holy One was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. He came as a gentle whisper.

He sometimes still comes that way, with simple words in everyday settings—words that whisper hope.

That’s what happened with that future nurse. She was pointed to the Lord’s Prayer and the phrase, “forgive us our trespasses.” If Jesus was teaching his people to pray for forgiveness, it must mean that his people will commit sin at times—and be forgiven. Does it not?

The Holy Spirit convinced her. She went on to live life as a redeemed child of God, confident of heaven. She experienced the whispering hope.

How do I know this?

I married her.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, giver of life who has spoken through the prophets, we praise you for bringing everlasting hope to us through your powerful, living word. Stay with us and in us forevermore. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Cursed no more – November 5, 2021

Cursed no more – November 5, 2021


See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.
Malachi 4:5




Military Devotion – November 5, 2021

Devotion based on Malachi 4:5

See series: Military Devotions

It seems the world is far too comfortable with the idea of a curse. Cursing has become a human habit. It might damn everything from a coffee spill to a driver who cuts someone off in traffic.

One wonders if demons would be so quick to curse if they were pardoned by God—as we are. After all, fallen angels know what it is like to be damned.

The first curse issued was to the serpent that Satan had used to tempt the humans: “Cursed are you above all the livestock.” The second curse was aimed at Adam: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

Worse than painful toil was the curse that would turn him into dirt: “For dust you are and unto dust you will return” (Genesis 3).

The curse would spread. The hymn is correct when it begins, “When all the world was cursed….” Scripture declares that, even now, the whole creation is groaning under that curse and eagerly waiting to be liberated from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:18-21). This includes all that God’s hand has made.

The whole history of the world revolves around the curse, its consequences, and the hopes to escape from it. Some people believe there is no escape. They conclude Job’s wife was right to advise him “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Suicide is not ruled out.

But death can bring the worst consequences of the curse. The Bible warns with the words Jesus will speak when the world ends: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

The only hope for escape is captured in the closing words of the Old Testament. The Lord God must intervene to rescue all held under the curse of sin.

He did.

It must happen before judgment day.

It did.

The Bethlehem angel called out to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).

That’s good news! It’s the best news ever!

Through Malachi, the Lord God had promised, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”

He came. The New Testament Elijah was John the Baptist. He pointed out exactly who that Savior was: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).

A discord occurs when the new generation rejects the saving faith that its parents had. Acceptance of Jesus by both generations unites their hearts in peace and joy. It “will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

The division between the holy God and mankind was removed by that same Jesus. In the hymn that tells us to “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” the announcement is made: “God and sinners reconciled.”

That realization brings joy to our hearts. Followers of Jesus need not fear facing God. We need not fear judgment. Thus, we need not fear death.

And how far into the world will the reconciliation with the holy God reach? The hymn writer tells us, “Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”

He announced, “Joy to the World.”

We are cursed no more.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, accept our prayers of thanks and our words of praise for the plan of salvation that wiped out the curse that sin had brought upon us. Without this, we would be banished from your kingdom and doomed to death and dismay. Remind us that we need not fear judgment day. Keep pointing us back to Good Friday and Easter so that we know our path leads to heaven. Fill our hearts with joy. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Repent – October 29, 2021

Repent – October 29, 2021


From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 4:17




Military Devotion – October 29, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 4:17

See series: Military Devotions

The great reformation of the holy Christian church did not begin with the closed fist of defiant rebellion. The 95 theses posted on a church door in Germany in 1517 began with a call for sorrow over sin.

It echoed the call Jesus issued at the beginning of his ministry on earth: “Repent!”

Repentance is critical to spiritual life.

At times, it may seem that the celebration of the Lutheran Reformation means pointing fingers at others and declaring, “You’re wrong! We’re right!”

Jesus would have us start with the words: “Wrong lives here—here in my heart.”

We regularly begin our worship services with the confession of sins. The old hymnal used the words, “I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities…”

Human nature does not like to say those words. Human nature wants to cover up sins and deflect guilt. That’s because human nature is infected with sin.

The people of his day had differing ideas about who Jesus was and what he was trying to accomplish.

He quickly attracted those who hated the Roman troops stationed among them. Those who sought to be healed flocked to him. So did those who enjoyed seeing Jesus put the Pharisees and other pompous people into their place.

In the 1960s the slogan, “Power to the people!” became popular. That fit the thinking of some of the people who crowded around Jesus. They expected him to set up his kingdom by driving the Romans out and establishing his throne in Jerusalem.

Scripture shows that some of his close disciples were infected with that false hope.

Since then, generation after generation has looked to Jesus for power and permission to gain for themselves privilege and prosperity. It continues to this day.

If we ask why someone would think they should receive these things, the thought is often: “I’m worth it!”

But we are not. We are not worthy of anything good. We must continue to confess, “I a poor, miserable sinner…”

Our only hope lies with the one who is not a sinner—the one who will judge sinners—the one who will declare the sinner innocent because crimes against God have already been paid for—paid for by this very Judge.

Scripture warns us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Then it adds the horrible words, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1: 8,10).

Denying sin has hellish consequences. Repentance brings heavenly peace.

Let the message sink in: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

This is the reason why we must call out warnings to others who are wandering from the Word. It is not self-righteous to say, “You are on the wrong path!” to those in spiritual peril.

We join with Martin Luther, who refused to give in to error with the words, “Here I stand. I can do no differently. God help me.”

He said his conscience was held captive to the Word of God.

We must say that too.

Repentance leads to that.



Prayer:
Savior, when in dust to you Low we bow in homage due,
When, repentant, to the skies Scarce we lift our weeping eyes;
Oh, by all your pains and woe Suffered once for us below,
Bending from your throne on high, Hear our penitential cry. Amen.
(Christian Worship 124:1)



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

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


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Keeping count – October 22, 2021

Keeping count – October 22, 2021


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




Military Devotion – October 22, 2021

Devotion based on Genesis 46:26,27

See series: Military Devotions

A WWII veteran once remarked: “In war, life is cheap!” He had survived for weeks on the beaches of Anzio without a scratch. Suddenly, pain erupted in his stomach. It was not an enemy shell. It was a ruptured appendix.

The medics hauled him off for treatment. As he watched the mangled wounded come in, he began to realize that he was being overlooked. “I didn’t count!” he said. “I was sick, not wounded. But I knew that unless someone noticed my condition, I was going to die.”

One does not need to be neglected on a battlefield to feel he doesn’t count for much. Bad enough if strangers act like this toward us in our time of need. Worse, if friends and family begin treating us this way. Absolutely the worst, if it seems not even God notices!

A severe famine was heading for Canaan in Jacob’s day. Money would do no good if there was no food to buy. But God provided for Jacob in advance by having one of his sons sold into slavery in Egypt. Years later, Joseph, as an Egyptian government official, would provide his father and brothers and their families with plenty of food—and pastureland, besides.

News reports of the day would not have taken note of this one refugee family. But God noticed. He was counting these people—because they counted to him. Their number was 70!

Four hundred thirty years later, he counted them again. The time had arrived for his people to return to Canaan. By now, they could field an army of 603,550. Adding women, children, and others not able to wage war, the number was easily 2.5 million.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had not forgotten his people or the promises he had made to them. He was watching over them.

If the Lord knows the number of the stars and calls them by name, if he has counted the hairs on our head, then we should not be surprised to learn that he kept count of the people from whom the Savior was going to come.

Or that he is keeping careful watch over us—counting our sorrows, counting our fears, counting our blessings—counting everything but our sins. For those he has removed from us as far as the east is from the west. His Son took them all away.

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

Thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Anzio in 1943. The Lord knew each one of them. The young sergeant from a small town in Wisconsin needed not fear. The eyes of his Lord were upon him. His life was not cheap. It had been bought with the blood of Christ. In God’s sight, he counted dearly.

And so do we.

The soldier’s loved ones offered up their prayers for his safety day after day. They did not know where he was. They did not realize he was at death’s door. They just knew that his help was in the name of the Lord. So, to the Lord they prayed.

The God of grace and glory heard those prayers—every one of them. They probably lost count of how often they prayed.

He did not. He never does.

He keeps count of such things because, to him, such people and prayers count.



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



Written by Rev. 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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Once was lost – October 17, 2021

Once was lost – October 17, 2021


However, Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho, and she lives in Israel to this day.
Joshua 6:25




Military Devotion – October 17, 2021

Devotion based on Joshua 6:25

See series: Military Devotions

It’s a false dream that suggests humans can earn the favor of God by living a good life. It’s despicable arrogance that leads someone to think: “Unlike myself, that person over there does not deserve God’s favor!” The truth is: no one deserves God’s favor!

The Bible almost screams out the message: “There is no one that does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Yet, we humans are inclined to reject this—either because it appears too good to be true or because it seems too bad to be true. Both conclusions assume that we must be deserving of his love.

The truth is a hard pill to swallow. To admit that I am a lost and condemned creature strips me of any intrinsic value and all hope of redeeming myself.

It should! That’s the reality I need to face.

The Savior God reveals the basis for offering his favor and rescue. He shows his undeserved love with words and actions.

Rahab, the prostitute, is one such example.

She lived in Jericho at the time when Israel was entering the Promised Land. By the command of God, every living thing in her hometown was to be killed by the sword—every woman, man, and child; all of the cattle, the sheep, and the donkeys—every living thing in Jericho, except Rahab and her family.

Surely some of those people had lived a better life than this woman! Certainly the children had fewer sins on their records! So why did Rahab deserve to be spared?

She didn’t. She was lost to the kingdom of God. The grace of God spared her.

And how was this undeserved love given to her?

By faith.

The New Testament explains: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Hebrews 11:31).

This thing called faith—that sure, firm, trust in God—that’s what makes all the difference. It’s a matter of believing him when he says, “Son, daughter, be of good cheer! Your sin is forgiven! It is my gift, bought with the lifeblood of my Son!”

When Rahab the prostitute put her faith in this God, she was changed from heathen to servant of the Lord, from sinner to saint. Not only was her earthly life spared, but she gained eternal life in glory.

She even was given glory in her earthly life.

Saint Matthew pens the name “Rahab” as the great-great-grandmother of King David. Amazingly, she became an ancestor of Jesus, the promised Savior of the world! (Matthew 1:5)

That’s good to know. For, like Rahab, I, too, once was lost. But thank God, lost no more!



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we sometimes sing the words, “Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—That saved a wretch like me!” We go on the explain, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Allow us evermore to see your love and glory. Lead us over life’s border to your Promised Land. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Delivered to evil – October 10, 2021

Delivered to evil – October 10, 2021


In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
Daniel 1:1,2




Military Devotion – October 10, 2021

Devotion based on Daniel 1:1,2

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes we are confused, maybe even shocked, to see what the Ruler of heaven and earth allows to happen on this earth.

More so, if it seems he allows evil to triumph. Still more confusing is when he tells us that, at times, he causes evil to succeed—at least for a while.

Jesus taught us to pray to his Father: “Deliver us from evil.”

It might be scary to learn that sometimes he delivers people to the strongholds of evil.

Jehoiakim, king of the land that contained Jerusalem, learned this lesson. He learned it the hard way.

The ancient kingdom of Babylon had its capital north of Baghdad. It was a wealthy, powerful, but heathen kingdom. The Lord God used this powerhouse nation and its king, Nebuchadnezzar, to carry out his judgment.

We call the seventy years of judgment the Babylonian captivity.

The Assyrians had already decimated the northern ten tribes of Israel. One would have thought the southern tribes, called Judah, would have learned not to defy the Holy One of Israel.

They did not. They paid the price.

Destruction is always the result of rebellion against the Creator and Judge of the universe. The pages of Israel’s history are stained with blood and tears as they report the massive attacks, the destruction of the temple, and the dragging off of captives to the land of a tormenting enemy.

Most of these people never saw their homeland again.

Perhaps it does not surprise us to learn that such defiant people were punished. But that does not prepare us for the news that not just the people were dragged off, but so were the sacred items of worship of the one true God.

Why would the Holy One allow the divinely appointed temple of worship to be destroyed? Why permit items consecrated to the only true God to be desecrated by being in the temple of an idol?

We hear, “These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.”

Were the Babylonians not taunting the Lord? Were they not showing that he was lower than their idol—that he was a servant of the idol?

At another time, he killed a person just for touching his ark of the covenant to steady it while moving (2 Samuel 6:6,7). And now he turns a blind eye to this desecration.

Why did God allow these things?

The answer is: Because he wanted to. That was his will.

Israel would be punished. But that is not the end of the story.

Believers like Daniel would survive, even thrive, in the captivity. Others would make it back home and rebuild the temple. The sacred items would be returned. Judah would survive.

Babylon would die.

When the promised Redeemer arrived, he would walk within the walls of the rebuilt temple. He would warn that those walls would be torn down again. But he would accomplish his mission.

There, in the land of Judah, he would bleed and die so that his people could be free from the captivity they had been born into—slavery to sin.

The Lord can use evil to bring good to his people.

He who taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” also bid us pray, “Thy will be done.”

We trust that his will always ends up delivering his people from evil.

It always has. It always will.



Prayer:
The will of God is always best and shall be done forever.
And they who trust in him are blest; He will forsake them never.
He helps indeed in time of need; He chastens with forbearing.
They who depend on God their friend, shall not be left despairing. Amen.
(Christian Worship 435:1)



Written by Rev. 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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Deadly doubts – October 3, 2021

Deadly doubts – October 3, 2021


Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Matthew 28:16




Military Devotion – October 3, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 28:16

See series: Military Devotions

Doubts are like stones thrown onto our path. Small doubts may just make us pay attention to our footing. Large doubts can become spiritual IEDs.

The person who never has any doubts is at great risk. We dare not believe everything we read on the Internet. We scoff at ads that promise: “Lose 50 pounds in 10 days!” Doubt makes us re-examine and re-evaluate. That is good. Doubt has kept many a person from making a mistake. Sometimes doubt has saved lives. Not every announcement of: “All clear!” is factual.

We simply cannot accept every person’s word as gospel truth—unless, of course, it is actually the word of the gospel!

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Was Jesus truly the Son of God and Savior of the world? One disciple who was not there on Easter doubted this—until he was invited to put his hand into the risen Savior’s wounds. This earned him the title “Doubting Thomas.” That should have been the end of all doubts. But it wasn’t.

Easter cleared their path of any doubt that could explode in the face of the disciples and shred their faith to pieces. So where did these doubts come from that St. Matthew talks about, that showed up weeks later?

The Bible gives a clear answer: An enemy did this! The enemy always works this way. Clear away doubt about God on one day and expect that the enemy will re-plant doubt by the next day—maybe even later the same day.

He has done this from the beginning. He planted a deadly doubt in Eden. It was hidden in the words: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” And Eve snagged the tripwire! Satan then grinned as Adam came to her side—and stepped on the pressure plate of his own deadly doubt. Neither would have survived the blast to their faith if God had not come to their rescue.

Satan has continued the tactic of planting doubt in the believer’s path for a simple reason: It works!

But now we are wise to him, aren’t we? We know where he likes to plant the threats to our faith. We have learned how he can disguise a deadly danger by placing it into something that attracts us, or with someone we trust.

We now watch for the telltale signs of this danger, don’t we? We scan the roadway of our life with the devil-detector—the Word of God.

We heed the God-given alarm deep inside of us: our conscience. We listen when others on our spiritual team call out warnings. We know the danger is real.

Only the holy God can see every danger to our spiritual life, and only he can defend us when doubt would kill our faith. Better than Kevlar, tougher than foot-thick armor, our God is there to protect.

And what if some doubts return? Does that mean we have lost our faith? Does that disqualify us from serving our Lord?

Not necessarily! Such doubts are simply temptations that can be overcome—as all temptations should be.

Immediately after revealing that some of the disciples doubted, Jesus issued his famous orders: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those people overcame their doubts. So can we.

A father once told Jesus: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

That should be our prayer, too.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, Satan keeps setting traps to kill our faith. Protect us from that. Destroy the doubts that would destroy our gift of salvation. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Famine – September 26, 2021

Famine – September 26, 2021


“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.”
Amos 8:11




Military Devotion – September 26, 2021

Devotion based on Amos 8:11

See series: Military Devotions

We have heard about famines. We have seen the pictures of emaciated adults and small children whose bones seem to show through their skin. We feel sorry for such people.

The Bible mentions many famines. We are told: “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe” (Genesis 12:10).

It was a famine that sent Joseph’s family down to him in Egypt. A famine brought a young man to Moab, where he met a woman called Ruth. David experienced a famine. So did Elijah.

The body suffers when there is a famine of food.

The soul suffers when there is a famine of the Word of God.

The Lord God controls the flow of food for the body—and for the soul.

We know that. But we wonder why the Lord would cause any type of famine. We are more apt to blame the weather for a shortage of food. We might blame human carelessness for a shortage of hearing the Word of God.

We don’t want to blame God—and we should not!

The blame always falls upon us.

But we can ask why God might be withholding something that he knows we need. In the end, there are only two possible answers. His action is either a judgment or a blessing.

It’s difficult to grasp how the withholding of food could be a blessing. But then, we consider the famine that sent Jacob to Egypt and the one that brought Ruth into the line of the Messiah.

The Almighty One can deliver blessings through hardships.

But the famine that he announces through his prophet, Amos, is not a blessing. Amos wrote: “Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”

Then came the words of judgment: “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!” (Amos 8:2,3)

Devastating judgment.

But for the people of God, there is life in death. He who is the Resurrection and the Life assures us of that.

But how does a person become a member of God’s family? By what means does the Lord adopt sinful humans into his holy kingdom? How can a soul be fed with the Bread of Life?

The answer is: the words of God. The words of God are life-giving. The Holy Spirit uses these words to create faith, and strengthen faith, and guide faith.

The psalmist says it well: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).

When the words of God are not available, we stumble in darkness. Without the words of God there is no life.

Americans do not have a famine of the words of life—at least, not now. But times are changing. We are seeing increased efforts to remove God and his words from our midst. We wonder if the next generation, and the one after that, will be able to feast on God’s Word as easily as we do.

“The days are coming…” the prophet was warned. They came upon Israel of old.

Might a famine of the Word occur in our lifetime?

We pray it will not. We pray it will not.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son, you who has spoken through the prophets, deal with America in your mercy. Do not withdraw the saving Word from our lives. Bless us as you have blessed us. Feed our souls with the Bread of Life. Keep us from famine. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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 – September 19, 2021

The tie that binds – September 19, 2021


Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:2-6




Military Devotion – September 19, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:2-6

See series: Military Devotions

The famous poem declares, “No man is an island.”

We agree. We live our lives connected to other people.

Birth is the tie to families. Geography ties us to neighborhoods and fellow citizens. Similar interests, similar nationalities, and similar uniforms link us to others. So will shared dangers.

Those who have donned the uniform to defend a country share a common bond. The bond tightens under combat. The death of a fellow warrior can bind us together with a knot that refuses to loosen. We then understand the concept of the Band of Brothers.

Emotionally, if no longer physically, we expect to remain tied to such brothers until we draw our last breath.

Is war, then, the strongest bonding agent known to mankind?

No.

Peace is stronger than war.

The greatest unifier is not circumstances or emotions. It is God the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul lists the “ones” that make up our unity. The holy Christian church is one body, even as there is just one Holy Spirit who has created faith in us to bring us into the kingdom of God.

We have only one hope: to be able to live forever in the joy of heaven. There is only one Lord Jesus. There is only one faith among all the different people who wait for the day of heaven to dawn. That faith grabs hold of the redemption Christ has won for us.

There is only one baptism that has washed us from sin and given us new life in Christ.

There is only one God the Father “who is over all, and through all, and in all.”

We are a united people. As the people of God, we are united with one another. We are united with the saints and angels in heaven. We are united with the Triune God himself.

The Holy Spirit has done this. The love and mercy of God has permitted this. The death of the Son of God has enabled this.

And what is the result?

“The peace of God that transcends all understanding.”

Where there is perfect peace, there are no divisions that separate. No jealousy, no anger, no disagreement!

If we have peace with God, as the angels announced, what can divide us against one another?

Sin can. Satan can. False teaching can.

The apostle warns: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17).

We do have enemies who would rob us of our peace with God. Our fight is with them, not with one another.

Our tie is to one another, not to them.

Peace is the tie that binds us to God and everything good.



We treasure the words:
May the peace of God that transcends all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.



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

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


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We remember – September 11, 2021

We remember – September 11, 2021


“Remember my chains.”
Colossians 4:18




Military Devotion – September 11, 2021

Devotion based on Colossians 4:18

See series: Military Devotions

In a famous poem, Rudyard Kipling repeated the warning to his British countrymen, “Lest we forget—lest we forget.”

On the anniversary of a day when terror struck, it would be well for Americans to heed that warning.

It may be disturbing to learn there are some who do not remember the day when planes full of passengers were used as weapons to target buildings full of people.

But we remember.

It may be startling to realize that we are now living among millions of Americans who were not yet born when Osama bin Laden masterminded the plan to bring America to her knees.

But we were here, and we remember.

It may be discouraging to recognize that some Americans have forgotten the many battles fought and the lives sacrificed to keep America as the Land of the Free.

But we remember.

Many seem to be unaware of the meaning behind the Gold Star showing up in a window.

But we remember—and those who live in that house are yet pained by the memory.

There are those who wonder why “In God We Trust” is on our dollar bills.

We remember why.

Some have forgotten that America’s strength and wealth are not the result of her own efforts.

We remember the words of our forefathers: “God shed his grace on thee.”

Some are discouraged to learn that dark days come even to those who call to the Lord for help.

We remember that our heavenly Father has never promised heaven on earth.

We remember the war that was fought in heaven and the peace on earth that was bought with holy blood.

We remember that the Almighty God never forsakes his people.

We remember that Christians before us often endured the pain to gain the prize.

We remember, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”

We will remember to pray for his blessing upon our nation.

Indeed, we can tell the apostle Paul, “We remember your chains!” “We remember that the Savior God never forgets his people.”

We will teach this to the next generation that they may know.

We will remind them lest they forget.

We will remind ourselves and one another.

“Lest we forget—lest we forget.”



Prayer:
O God, forsake us not, though we have often left you out of our life.
O God, forsake us not, though we have often used your blessings as if we have earned them.
O God, forsake us not, though we sometimes forget “from whom all blessings flow.”
Forgive us when we forget. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Praying for Sodom – September 5, 2021

Praying for Sodom – September 5, 2021


Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?”
Genesis 18:23,24




Military Devotion – September 5, 2021

Devotion based on Genesis 18:23,24

See series: Military Devotions

When we think of days that brought death and destruction, 9/11 and New York City might come to mind. So might Pearl Harbor on a December 7.

Yet neither compares to the death and destruction that rained down upon the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have seen the pictures. Survivors have told their stories of the horror. We pray such bombs will never fall from the sky again.

But the story of their destruction doesn’t compare to what happened to two cities in the Middle East: Sodom and Gomorrah.

We can only imagine what it was like to have burning sulfur fall from the sky. Buildings burned. So did human flesh.

There was no rebuilding of these cities. They are forever gone. They had rejected God’s laws. Now they faced his judgment. They learned the depth of the saying, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

The sin was sexual perversion. So depraved were the inhabitants that they wanted to rape angels—though they did not know they were not human.

The remarkable backdrop to the story is the visit the Lord God and two angels made with Abraham and Sarah just before that fatal day. The Lord announced to the elderly couple they would have a son. The news was shocking. More shocking news followed.

As the angels headed toward Sodom, the Lord told Abraham what he was about to do. This horrified Abraham. He immediately began to plead that the cities be spared. He asked the Lord, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Perhaps he was thinking of his nephew, Lot, and his family, who lived in Sodom.

He asked, “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?”

He voiced his concern. “Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Was he really willing to argue with God? Was he really suggesting that God would not do the right thing?

It was not an argument. It was not criticism. It was a plea for mercy.

The result? “The LORD said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’”

But Abraham wasn’t finished. “What about forty-five?” Then “What about forty?” Then “What if thirty are found?” Then “Only twenty?” Then “What if only ten are there who are not guilty of this horrendous defiance of the Holy One?”

Finally, he stopped pleading. The Lord had said, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

But there were not ten. Yet, the Lord did not punish the innocent along with the guilty. Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were allowed to escape. The daughters’ fiancés were offered a chance to go with the survivors—but they chose to stay behind. Lot’s wife turned back to look while already on the path to safety. She was turned to a pillar of salt.

Lot and his two daughters survived. No one else did. Then Abraham “looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” It was like Hiroshima—but worse.

The lessons are many. The tragic result of defying God is one of them. But there is another. The Bible reminds us: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Might we be one of those righteous ones? Remember what was said about Abraham? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).

Since we believe God, we are declared righteous, are we not? Then our prayers must be as powerful and effective as Abraham’s. Are they not?

They are.

It is good to remember that.



Prayer: God of power and mercy, you have declared us holy because of the payment Jesus made for our sins. You have created saving faith within us. You have given us the privilege of powerful and effective prayer. Teach us to use that gift often. Lead us to pray, like Abraham, for the benefit of others. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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 enemy of my enemy – August 29, 2021

The enemy of my enemy – August 29, 2021


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 – August 29, 2021

Devotion based on Revelation 12:7-9

See series: Military Devotions

As much as peace is to be sought for and war to be avoided, we cannot avoid the reality that war dominates the landscape of human existence.

We would like to mark the highlights of good times and progress as we view history. We prefer to point to incidents like the discovery of electricity or the development of the Salk vaccine that prevents polio.

Instead, we find ourselves noting the Battle of Gettysburg or the invasion on D-Day as the chapter headings of American history.

Readers of the Bible are not surprised by this. It reveals that human nature is prone to conflict. It warns that wars and rumors of war will continue to the end of time.

It informs us that the very first war was waged in heaven. It reports that, as a result, humans have been in a permanent state of war ever since. The threat of an enemy is always before our eyes.

We are either fighting against the holy God or against the enemy of the holy God. There is no third option. There is no room for neutrality.

A saying that came out of the Middle East declares: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The flip side tells us: “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

There is more truth to this than we might at first realize. Jesus put it another way, “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30).

It is difficult for us who are still tied to earth to visualize holy angels fighting against angels that have followed Satan in going over to the dark side.

We ask, “How did they fight? What were their weapons?” We don’t know.

We ask, “Can an angel, even one turned rebel, be killed?” The answer is: “Yes.”

Not like a human whose spirit can separate from his body. The decree is: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). This death is a separation from God and his goodness.

This is the destiny of the demons thrown out of heaven to end up in hell. Jesus described that as being in a fiery furnace, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42).

This warns us to be careful. God says, “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

But the opposite is also true: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Saint Peter IDs our prime enemy: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The forces of darkness have no greater enemy than their Creator, the Lord Almighty. He deploys legions of angels to join battle on the side of his people.

He is our friend.

The famous hymn reminds us: “With might of ours can naught be done; soon were our loss effected. But for us fights the valiant one whom God himself elected.”

We know the name of that “valiant one.” We celebrate his partnership in our life when we sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

To be able to call the Holy Eternal One our friend is beyond amazing.

“But wait! There’s more!”

“And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend” (James 2:3).

He calls us, “Friend.”

No greater honor could we have.

“The enemy of our enemy is our friend.”

Thank God.



Prayer: Friend of sinners, continue to fight for us until our battles are over. Deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Down in the dumps – August 22, 2021

Down in the dumps – August 22, 2021


“There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:9




Military Devotion – August 22, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:9

See series: Military Devotions

He was hiding. He was giving up. He was feeling sorry for himself.

From the heights to the depths! Sometimes, that’s how our lives go.

Just a short time earlier, Elijah was riding the crest of success. He had challenged the priests of Baal and overcome them. The people had shouted, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” Elijah was a hero. It was an exhilarating feeling. But it didn’t last.

Those emotional highs never do. Not this side of heaven.

When King Ahab told his wife what had happened at Mount Carmel, when he reported the slaughter of the priests of Baal, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with the threat, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like one of them.”

Elijah panicked. He ran south to Judah, out of her grasp—and he gave up. He wanted to die. “I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

Despite his best efforts, despite some signs of success, it was now clear that he never would gain total victory over his enemies. When he overcame one threat, another took its place. Life seemed to be telling him: “You cannot win.”

At times, we may know how he felt. Sometimes, we also ask, “What’s the use?” Sometimes, just like Elijah, we may want to give up on trying to soldier on.

We, too, may feel down in the dumps.

Those who have fought battles and lost friends in distant lands without seeing total victory might sometimes feel that way.

So might the family struggling to get ahead on bills, only to be hit by another one, and still another.

People who have been fighting against a disease may feel this way. So may those who are trying to adjust to the new normal after a crippling wound—be it with the loss of the use of a limb or the invasion of PTSD.

It makes us wonder, who could blame Elijah for feeling down in the dumps?

The answer is: God.

When the Lord asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” he replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

His mission was obviously hopeless, wasn’t it? In the end, he was a failure, wasn’t he?

No. The final victory did not depend upon him, but upon the Lord, his God. Elijah needed to learn what that meant. So, the Lord showed him.

The Lord told him, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” A powerful wind that shattered rocks came by. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then came an earthquake followed by a fierce fire. But the Lord was not in them, either. Then came a gentle whisper.

The Lord was in the whisper.

Sometimes the Almighty works, not with explosive drama, but with quiet gentleness.

Elijah’s tour of duty wasn’t over. He received new orders: “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.”

Elijah had done his part of God’s plan. These people would now continue it.

All was not lost. The Lord revealed: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

The lesson has been taught: Don’t let feelings rule your life! Don’t judge only by what you can see! The Lord, he is God. Let him be the judge of your life. He is, in fact, Lord of life and death.

When the Lord knew that Elijah’s mission on earth was finally over, he sent a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire inside a tornado to carry him to the home he had longed for when he was down in the dumps.



We remember the words of the hymn:
“If you but trust in God to guide you and place your confidence in him,
He’ll give you strength and stand beside you when days are dreary, dark and dim.
For those who trust his changeless love build on the rock that does not move.” Amen.
(Christian Worship 444:1)



Written by Rev. 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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She brought a blanket – August 15, 2021

She brought a blanket – August 15, 2021


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Mark 10:14




Military Devotion – August 15, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 10:14

See series: Military Devotions

She brought a blanket to the cemetery. It was a pink one. It was a baby blanket.

She did not smile, but she did not cry. She had that faraway look that combat veterans sometimes get. She had come to complete a task. She had come to bury her daughter.

There had been no funeral. There was no crowd of mourners. Only the parents, the pastor, and a man from the mortuary were present to stand next to the hole in the ground and gaze at a tiny casket. A fellow with a baseball cap was sitting at a distance in his pickup truck, with a shovel leaning against the tailgate.

This is not what the new parents had planned. The father was a Marine scheduled to be discharged about the time the baby would be born. As soon as it was safe for the baby to travel, the three would head back to waiting family and friends in the Midwest.

They had bought only a few baby things in advance because there would be a baby shower when they got home—and Christmas was just around the corner. Piles of presents were waiting for the new member of the family. Now, she wondered if those presents could be returned. She hoped she would not need to look at them.

They had been so excited about the upcoming birth. They had no hint of a problem until the doctor came into the room to say something was wrong with the newborn—something very wrong. He did not expect the baby to survive.

It did not.

She knew it might seem foolish, but she felt she could not allow her daughter to lie uncovered in the cold North Carolina soil. She would feel better if she could just one-time tuck her baby into bed. So, she brought a blanket.

Unnoticed, there were some others watching this sad scene. Jesus reminds us: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

He who notes the sparrow falling from the sky watched as the blanket was placed over the coffin.

There was simply no chance this little one would feel the cold. Before her nurse rushed to answer the code blue alarm, before the parents knew what had happened, the baby was already wrapped in the warm, everlasting arms of her Savior God.

She was safe. She had been rescued from death’s grip. The North Carolina soil will not be able to hold her body. It never did hold her soul.

She had lived on this earth for only a few hours—but that was enough. During that brief time, she had been born a second time. She had been baptized. She was cleared to live in heaven.

She didn’t need the blanket bought at Kmart. She was already wrapped in a heavenly blanket. It had been bought for her by Jesus.

The Lord God explains: “As many of you as were baptized in Christ have been clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27 EHV).

Her mom had seen to it that her baby was wrapped in the loving robe of righteousness given by Jesus before the little one left this earth.

She knew the words of the Savior, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

She would have told her daughter all about Jesus. She would have taught her how to pray. She would have held her on her lap in church. But Jesus intervened. He had a better plan.

This baby will never get sick, will never be heartbroken, will never be tempted to sin—will never, ever die.

She now lives in joy and bliss. One day she will get to greet her mother in heaven. We wonder what she will say. Maybe it will be: “Hi, Mom! Thanks for the blanket!”

Maybe she will say that. We hope she will.

God grant it.



Prayer: Lord of life and death, Guardian of our souls, we thank you for the new life in Christ. We thank you for those who brought us to Jesus. We thank you that we can announce: “God’s own child, I gladly say it. I was baptized into Christ.” Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Sleeping gods – August 8, 2021

Sleeping gods – August 8, 2021


At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
1 Kings 18:27




Military Devotion – August 8, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 18:27

See series: Military Devotions

He showed no mercy. He was not polite. He made fun of their faith. He ridiculed their “higher power.”

He taunted them.

It might make us wonder if Elijah went too far. Perhaps his zeal for the Lord God caused him to cross the line of what was acceptable and God-pleasing.

After all, did not the Lord God love these people? Was the Savior of the world not going to die for these people?

He did love them. He would die for them. In fact, these were some of his chosen people.

They were children of Israel.

And that made the situation much worse.

These were the descendants of Abraham, the heirs of the covenant, relatives of the heroes of faith. How did they end up as fanatic followers of the idol, Baal?

After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel split in two. The northern ten tribes kept the name “Israel.” The southern two tribes called themselves, “Judah.” Jerusalem, with the temple, was in Judah.

To keep the nations apart, the leaders of the northern kingdom set up an alternate temple, an alternate priesthood—essentially an alternate religion. By the time of the prophet Elijah, the worship of idols dominated their religious scene. Under the rule of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the worship of Baal was the state religion of Israel.

Worshipers of the true God were threatened. Elijah, spokesman of Jehovah, was branded as a traitor and sentenced to death—if ever he could be found. He was in hiding.

At the Lord’s direction, Elijah finally showed himself to Ahab to demand a showdown. He invited the people to gather at Mount Carmel as he confronted the 450 prophets of Baal.

To the people of Israel, he posed the question: “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. They were waiting to see the outcome of the test.

Slaughtered bulls were placed upon two altars with wood underneath. Elijah told the priests of Baal, “Then 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.”

The prophets of Baal went first. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.” That’s when Elijah began to taunt them. “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.”

Still no answer. No fire. Because Baal was no God.

Elijah needed to demonstrate the frailty, the emptiness, and the sinfulness of idolatry. So, he acted boldly.

Idolatry was the work of Satan. Elijah’s taunting was a rejection of the devil and all of his works and all of his ways.

As the day came to an end, they poured water again and again over the altar before Elijah. Following a prayer to the LORD, fire streaked from heaven to burn up the sacrifice, the wood, and even the surrounding stones.

“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)

Those prophets of Baal? This was their judgment day. By Elijah’s command, they were brought into the Kishon Valley and slaughtered. All of them.

Surely, this is a warning never to place faith into anything other but the true and living God.

Surely, this is a reminder of the grace of God for sinners that he would send his Son to die for people like us—people who by nature are idolaters, those who tend to fear, love, and trust in things other than God.

Surely, our entire life should be an offering of thanksgiving, service, and praise to the only true Savior God.

Surely, the LORD our God never does sleep. There is never a need to wake him. Never.



Prayer:Almighty God, Lord of creation, and God of mercy, we look back with fretful eyes into the valley of Kishon and the fate of those idolaters. We remember your saying that “The wages of sin is death.” But you have given us life, instead. You have given us Jesus. We need not fear a valley of Kishon. We fear no evil in the valley of the shadow of death. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Ichabod – August 1, 2021

Ichabod – August 1, 2021


As her death approached, the women who stood by her said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay attention. She named the boy Ichabod and said, “The glory has departed from Israel.”
1 Samuel 4:20,21 EHV




Military Devotion – August 1, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Samuel 4:20,21 EHV

See series: Military Devotions

This sad story comes from among other sad stories at a sad time in the history of God’s Old Testament people.

A mother died in childbirth. On the same day, the child’s father died. On that same day, its grandfather died.

Yet, the dying words of the mother lamented not the loss of these people, or even of her own life. Something worse had happened. She knew something so dreadful that she wanted to burn the news of the tragedy into the memory of everyone who would come to know her orphan son.

She did it with one word: Ichabod.

The Hebrew word means: “Glory has departed.” Every time someone would call the boy’s name, the lamentation would be repeated: “The glory has departed from Israel.”

The story begins with an Old Testament priest whose sons were priests under him. The younger priests were scoundrels. Abusing their positions, they took the choice offerings for themselves and slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The Tent of Meeting is also known as the tabernacle, which served as the house of God before the temple was built.

Eli knew of this. He warned them. Yet, when they did not listen, he did nothing more to stop them.

The Lord God also knew. He asked Eli, “Why do you honor your sons more than me?”

The day of reckoning came when the Philistines attacked and overran Israel’s army. Confused and panicked, the leaders of Israel came up with a desperate solution: “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that it may come into our midst and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

The ark of the covenant was that special box overlaid with gold that symbolized the covenant, the sacred promise by the holy God that he would accept Israel as his special people. This consecrated object was kept in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, and afterwards, in the temple. Only one person, the high priest, was permitted to enter this holy place on only one day of the year—the great Day of Atonement.

It symbolized the atonement that the Son of God would one day make upon a cross for the sins of the whole world.

Now, sadly, Israel was going to try to use this consecrated item as a magical weapon.

After the two sons of Eli brought the ark of the covenant into the camp of Israel’s army amidst great celebration, they carried it into battle, confident of victory.

The victory, however, went to the enemy. 30,000 Israeli soldiers died in that fight. Lying among them were the two sons of Eli.

The Philistines took the ark of the covenant as a prize of war and placed it into the temple of their idol, Dagon.

When Eli heard that news, he fell from where he was sitting and broke his neck.

When his pregnant daughter-in-law heard the news, she went into labor—and Ichabod was born.

The Lord God later returned the ark of the covenant to Israel by a series of amazing events. But that box never was the glory of Israel.

The Lord God was. Always was. The greatest showing forth of his glory took place when he made the great atonement for sin.

Saint John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The sad story of Ichabod is outshone by the happy story of Jesus.

His glory never departs.



Prayer:Heavenly Father, as we look into the pages of Scripture we see again and again how we humans misunderstand your ways as we seek our own solutions to fear and pain. Keep pointing us to Jesus. Show us the glory of our true Light and Salvation. Amen.



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

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


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Just words – July 25, 2021

Just words – July 25, 2021


Father, forgive them.
Luke 23:34




Military Devotion – July 25, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 23:34

See series: Military Devotions

We were taught the words when we were very young. Grownups asked, “What do you say?” We replied, “Please.” Again, they asked, “What do you say?” Then, we answered, “Thank you.” They were teaching us. We also learned when to say, “I’m sorry.”

They were like magic words. “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry” opened the doors to approval and acceptance. Say those words, and life goes smoother.

After a while, we discovered that we did not necessarily need to mean the words. We just had to say them the right way. Not through gritted teeth. Not as a sneer. Not in anger.

But with politeness, as if we were speaking from our hearts, even though they came only from our mouth.

As we grew older, we found this empty-hearted method also worked with the serious words, such as, “I forgive you.” or “I love you.”

At times we meant those powerful words. But sometimes, they became counterfeit words, empty words, lying words. There was no truth behind those words.

They were just words.

Such words are not God-words.

His words may have come from his mouth, but they have always sprung from his heart.

God’s words are not always polite. They may expose our emptiness and selfishness. They may call us “Liar!” or “Hypocrite!” They may hurt our feelings. But they always accurately express his feelings.

His words are always true. His words are backed up with actions.

Of the forbidden tree in Eden, he said, “when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). To murderous Cain, he said, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Genesis 4:11). To an overconfident Peter he said, “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times” (Mark 14:30).

Which of these words did he not mean? Which warning was not carried out?

They were not just words.

To the Israeli slaves in Egypt, he said, “I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob” (Exodus 6:8). To fisherman Peter and his brother, Andrew, he said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). To the hostile crowd, he said, “After three days I will rise again” (Matthew 27:63).

Which of these words did he not mean? Which promise was not carried out?

They were not just words, were they?

They never are.

When the Savior God tells us, “I forgive you,” there is truth behind those words because there is blood behind those words.

Blood was dripping from his hands and feet when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The prayer fits every member of the human race. The ones who were carrying out his execution, those who said, “His blood be upon us and our children,” they had no idea of the depth of the crime against heaven they were committing. So little do we know of the seriousness of our sin—any sin.

“Father, forgive them!” is his continuing prayer for us.

Those words have meaning. They have power. They give forgiveness.

They are more than just words.



Prayer: Lord God, your Bible contains the most important words for our life. In its pages, we learn of the judgment against us. In its pages, we learn of the judgment for us. Lead us to listen to your words. They show us our sin. Then they show us our Savior. They offer salvation. For this, we thank you. Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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Jesus wasn’t worried – July 18, 2021

Jesus wasn’t worried – July 18, 2021


A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Mark 4:37,38




Military Devotion – July 18, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 4:37,38

See series: Military Devotions

It was a traumatic event. Lives were in peril on the sea—on the Sea of Galilee.

Some in the boat were experienced seamen. They knew when it was time to be afraid. They felt, “That time is now!”

It was a squall, a furious squall. It wasn’t a hurricane. But for the occupants of that boat, it might just as well have been. They were facing death.

Probably, some were straining at oars to keep the prow into the wind. Others were, no doubt, frantically bailing to keep the boat from sinking. It was an “All hands on deck!” time.

But not everyone aboard was fighting to survive. One was sleeping. They woke him up with the rebuke. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Of course, he did. He was in the same boat with them. But there was a major difference.

Jesus wasn’t worried.

That’s the difference between the Lord of life and those who look to him for help.

Jesus never worries.

That doesn’t mean he is never troubled. As a true human, he shared our emotions. As true God, he could see dangers hidden from us. He could read hearts. What he saw there is what often troubled him.

He was troubled when he saw Mary weeping over the death of her brother, Lazarus. (John 11:33)

He was troubled when he told his disciples, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:21).

He was troubled when he poured out his heart to his heavenly Father while in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But he wasn’t worried.

We hear him say, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

He was troubled by seeing the damage that sin was causing his creation—especially the pain that was searing human hearts.

A furious squall was not troubling. Weather posed no threat—not to the son of God.

But what about those in that boat who did not have divine powers? Were they not at the mercy of the storm?

No.

They were at the mercy of God.

Just as we always are.

Like those disciples, usually, we don’t see Jesus doing anything to protect us. We don’t see the angel squads he deploys. We don’t see how often he blocks demonic attacks. We don’t see the holy blood that covers our sins.

We do not see this because we cannot yet see beyond the boundaries of time and space.

Would that storm have stopped if Jesus had remained asleep? It surely could have. His human side might have been sleeping, but he remained the constant Ruler of all things great and small.

The command, “Quiet! Be still!” was for the benefit of the disciples—and us. He showed forth his glory to address human weakness of faith.

Jesus wasn’t worried.

Nor should we be.

Ever.



Prayer:
Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.
(from Christian Worship 415:2)



Written by Rev. 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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Skipping thanksgiving – July 11, 2021

Skipping thanksgiving – July 11, 2021


Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
Luke 17:17




Military Devotion – July 11, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 17:17

See series: Military Devotions

It appears that America is going to skip thanksgiving.

No, not that day in November which is spelled with a capital “T” and celebrated with turkey and pumpkin pie. But the giving of thanks to the one who has presented a gift.

The gift in question is the rather rapid discovery of vaccines that are effective against Covid-19.

The giver of the gift is God.

Indeed, there have been expressions of appreciation for those who worked on the vaccines. Parades are planned to honor those who risked their health by tending to people who were afflicted.

That is only proper.

But the Ruler of the universe should not be forgotten. He can both bring disease, and he can end it. He once told his people: “I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus15:26).

Infectious diseases have plagued humans for eons. Old Testament Law decreed that a person who broke out with leprosy must leave his family and quarantine himself with other lepers. As the disease progressed, parts of the body, such as fingers and toes, began to drop off. There was no cure. There was only the prospect of a miserable, painful, and lonely life.

One day, as Jesus was walking to a village, a group of lepers called out from a safe distance: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

They must have heard the reports of Jesus performing miraculous healings. They begged for his help.

They did not expect his response. He simply told them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

By Law, that is what a person was to do if the symptoms of leprosy went away. If the priest saw no longer any sign of the disease, he was to pronounce the person free to return to normal life. The quarantine restriction would be lifted.

But these lepers were sent to the priest before they were cured. Their leprosy was still evident as they headed off. They needed to trust that they would be healed before they reached the point of inspection.

They were. We hear: “As they went, they were cleansed.”

We can imagine their joy. We can envision their eagerness to get back to family and friends and a normal life.

In their excitement and relief, we can also understand how some of them neglected to thank the one who had healed them. We understand because we easily do the same.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Those words might make us wince. Sadly, sometimes we are among the “other nine.”

Like them, it isn’t that we don’t trust Jesus. We will go on record to declare that he is our Lord and Savior. We have saving faith.

But sometimes, it is also a forgetful faith, a self-centered faith. Sometimes we act as if we are entitled to special blessings from the Lord God. Sometimes we pout when we don’t get them and become ungrateful when we do.

This is more than a weakness and more serious than a mistake. To forget about thanking him is wrong. That makes it a sin.

Fortunately, he has the remedy for our sin. He has forgiveness.

The warrior king, David, knew this. He invites us to join him in saying, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2,3).

No, we will not skip thanksgiving.



Prayer: Good and gracious are you, O Lord! You have offered us healing. You have shown your mighty hand by enabling not just one vaccine for the virus that has isolated us from others but many of them. Protect us from variants that will survive vaccines. Protect our souls as well as our bodies. Thank you for all your benefits! Amen.



Written by Rev. 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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