The strong weakness – June 16, 2019

The strong weakness – June 16, 2019


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




Military Devotion – June 16, 2019

Devotion based on 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It led him to his Strength.

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

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

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

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

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

So it should be with us.

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

But our God is not.

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

We will overcome death.



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



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

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


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If angels ask – June 9, 2019

If angels ask – June 9, 2019


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




Military Devotion – June 9, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 12:7-9

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are told about a war in heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Troubling transitions – June 2, 2019

Troubling transitions – June 2, 2019


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




Military Devotion – June 2, 2019

Devotion based on John 21:18,19

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That could be a most-troubling transition.

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

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

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

Except.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always with him.



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



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

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


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Honor – May 26, 2019

Honor – May 26, 2019


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




Military Devotion – May 26, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 13:7

See series: Military Devotions

He didn’t want to go to war.

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

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

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

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

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

But he kept his honor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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And Peter – May 19, 2019

And Peter – May 18, 2019


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




Military Devotion – May 19, 2019

Devotion based on Mark 16:7

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

That was Peter.

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

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

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

“And Peter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And Peter.”

And Paul.



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



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

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


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Dear Mom – May 12, 2019

Dear Mom – May 12, 2019


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




Military Devotion – May 12, 2019

Devotion based on John 19:25

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many such flags have been handed out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She will forever be our dear Mom.



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



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

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


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Weather watching – May 5, 2019

Weather watching – May 5, 2019


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




Military Devotion – May 5, 2019

Devotion based on Matthew 16:2

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gathering storm…

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

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

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

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

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





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

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


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Scapegoat – April 28, 2019

Scapegoat – April 28, 2019


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




Military Devotion – April 28, 2019

Devotion based on Leviticus 16:10

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

His Son became the greatest one.

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

The answer? Jesus is our scapegoat.

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

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

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

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

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

That one became the scapegoat.

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

That one was to be abandoned in the desert wilderness.

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

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

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

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

Jesus was the scapegoat.

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

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



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



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

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


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Go to sleep now – April 21, 2019

Go to sleep now – April 21, 2019


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




Military Devotion – April 21, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They told him why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter is proof of that.

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

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

And we do.

“See you in heaven!”



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



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

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


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Parades – April 14, 2019

Parades – April 14, 2019


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

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




Military Devotion – April 14, 2019

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

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

It was a matter of expectations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Season of sorrows – April 7, 2019

Season of sorrows – April 7, 2019


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




Military Devotion – April 7, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 53:4

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can we not feel sorry about that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes we actually became ashamed of him.

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

It is the season of sorrows.

But Easter is coming!



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



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

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


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Confidence – March 31, 2019

Confidence – March 31, 2019


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




Military Devotion – March 31, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 4:13

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not.

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

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

Makes us think, doesn’t it?

Are we not the same?



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



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

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


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Short – March 24, 2019

Short – March 24, 2019


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




Military Devotion – March 24, 2019

Devotion based on Matthew 24:22

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better to thank him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It takes the worry out of being short.



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



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

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


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Tremble – March 17, 2019

Tremble – March 17, 2019


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




Military Devotion – March 17, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 66:2

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

Surely he was…

It was enough to cause hardened soldiers to tremble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We believe him.

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

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

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

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

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

Contrite? “Father, I have sinned.”

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

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



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



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

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


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Those firstborns – March 10, 2019

Those firstborns – March 10, 2019


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




Military Devotion – March 10, 2019

Devotion based on Exodus 22:29

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To redeem means to gain something in exchange for payment.

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

Golgotha shows the payment being made.

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

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

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

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

Thus he redeemed us.



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



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

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


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Broken arms – March 3, 2019

Broken arms – March 3, 2019


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




Military Devotion – March 3, 2019

Devotion based on Job 38:15

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Sowing the wind – February 24, 2019

Sowing the wind – February 24, 2019


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




Military Devotion – February 24, 2019

Devotion based on Hosea 8:7

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

One must be careful about what one is sowing.

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

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

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

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

Sow the wind. Reap the whirlwind.

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

Just ask the angels who picked a fight with him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Nearer my God – February 17, 2019

Nearer my God – February 17, 2019


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




Military Devotion – February 17, 2019

Devotion based on Exodus 19:20,21

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is, and he has not.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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My Brother – February 10, 2019

My Brother – February 10, 2019


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




Military Devotion – February 10, 2019

Devotion based on Genesis 45:3

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my brother.



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



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

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


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Burned into memory – February 3, 2019

Burned into memory – February 3, 2019


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




Military Devotion – February 3, 2019

Devotion based on Jeremiah 39:6,7

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

We dare never forget it.

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

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

This scene must be burned into memory.

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

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

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

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

It teaches a lesson:

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

We dare never forget it.

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

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

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

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

The Bible paints many such pictures of our salvation’s story. Some even show the future: “Look!” we are told, “ God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:3,4).

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

Burn that vision into memory!



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



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

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


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Authority – January 27, 2019

Authority – January 27, 2019


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




Military Devotion – January 27, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:8

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

Jesus was a witness to it.

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

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

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

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

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

Astonishing!

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

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

This soldier was different!

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

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

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

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

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

Not only by this soldier, but by us.

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

His words have the authority to make it so.



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



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

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


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Faulty faith – January 20, 2019

Faulty faith – January 20, 2019


I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13




Military Devotion – January 20, 2019

Devotion based on 1 John 5:13

See series: Military Devotions

“I’ve lost my faith in religion.” the Navy wife said. With her two children, she had been living in Florida and now moved back to her hometown. She added that she did not think she would let her children go to Sunday School. “Why bring them up to believe in something I no longer believe myself?”

She used to have faith in religion. She used to have a wonderful life. Then her wonderful husband became a KIA (killed in action). That’s when her world fell apart. So, she thought, did her faith.

Our hearts must go out to such a person. Only those who have suffered such loss can appreciate the agony this mother was going through. The situation called for a response with compassion, tact—and the truth.

The truth is that she had been making a grave mistake by placing her faith in religion.

Not that religion is a bad thing, especially if the religion is tied to the Word of God. But religion is only a system of beliefs. Never do we want to say, “I believe in Christianity”, or, “I believe in Lutheranism.” That would be a faulty faith. Religion, itself, dare never become the object of faith. Only the Savior God can hold that position.

The new widow felt that religion had betrayed her. She was saying, “What good is religion if it cannot keep you safe?”

She needed to understand that religion is not a way of getting God on your side so that you can escape the heartaches of life.

Jesus has laid out what his followers should expect: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The lives of some of his famous followers illustrate this. These are the words the Apostle Paul used to describe his life: “Frequently imprisoned; severely flogged; beaten with stones and left for dead; shipwrecked; knowing hunger and thirst” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Finally, he was executed.

So, what good did his religion do for him? Everything good!

His religion consisted in placing his faith in the Savior God who sent his Son to rescue him. That faith placed him into heaven’s royal family. He became the adopted child of the holy, eternal God. The Good Shepherd counted him as one of his own.

The Son of God included him in the announcement: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Thus, the apostle could say: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He rejected the idea that hardship or suffering is a sign that God has failed his people.

“No,” he wrote, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:28,37).

Faith in Jesus as the Savior is not a good-luck charm. It is the laying hold of the victory won on Golgotha. It is the receiving of power and protection from on high. It is the expecting that life in this world will be turbulent and painful at times.

It is the firm conviction that the Lord of earth and heaven is on our side; he will never leave us; he will carry us through the storms of life. He will land us on heaven’s shore.

If that faith is ours, we know we have eternal life.

Such faith is never faulty.



We pray the prayer of the hymnist:
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink of poverty or woe,
That will not murmur nor complain beneath the chast’ning rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain can lean upon its God. Amen.
(Christian Worship 405:1,2)



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

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


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Remembering Tet – January 13, 2019

Remembering Tet – January 13, 2019


Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
Isaiah 53:1




Military Devotion – January 13, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 53:1

See series: Military Devotions

In January of 1968, more than a quarter million North Vietnamese soldiers and 100,000 Viet Cong irregulars launched a massive attack on South Vietnam.

It was a sneak attack that came under the deception of a truce of peace during the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year. Hanoi expected it would trigger a popular uprising leading to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. It did not.

After the initial shock, and the capture of a number of cities, the attack was beaten back. It became a major military defeat for North Vietnam.

But that’s not what many Americans believed. In the minds of some, including influential newscaster Walter Cronkite, this was proof that America was losing the war.

In the aftermath, many a person has asked, “Why was the report of an American victory not believed?

Perhaps it is because the typical human is inclined to believe what he wants to believe—regardless of the facts.

The significance of the Tet Offensive and America’s role in that war continues to be debated. But the refusal to accept an accurate report because of a bias goes back far before that attack.

The prophet Isaiah addressed that same question in 700 B.C. Saint John repeated it when he wrote about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (John 12:38). And Saint Paul repeated it again when he wrote to the Christians in Rome (Romans 10:16).

The Christian Church of today raises the same question: “Who has believed our message?”

Isaiah had told the people of Israel that the coming Messiah would be accepted as King by Gentile nations:

“The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).

“Just as there were many who were appalled at him…so he will sprinkle many nations and kings will shut their mouths because of him (Isaiah 52:14,15).

There are the facts! History has confirmed them. We are living proof. Most of the people who accept the Messiah as their Lord, Savior, and King are Gentiles—not the physical descendants of Abraham or the people to whom God first revealed this message.

Sadly, a bias still appears in our day when the glory of the Messiah and his victory over sin, death and the devil is announced.

Once again, “Who believes our message?”

We do. To Isaiah’s question, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” we answer, “To us!” “To me!”

By the work of the Holy Spirit we have seen the glory of Jesus, the Messiah. We have witnessed his power through his Word. With our own eyes we have seen people of all races come to love him as their Savior.

To that question of Isaiah, “Who believes our message?” we joyfully and gratefully answer: “By the grace of God—I do!”



Prayer: Jesus, King of glory, and only Savior of mankind, it is purely by your power and mercy that we are not among the crowds that do not believe the report of the victory over sin and death that you won for us. Keep us safely within your grasp so that the sinful world, our sinful flesh, and princes of hell do not mislead us into unbelief. Help us point you out to the rest of the world with the words of the prophet: “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” Amen.



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

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


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Motivation – January 6, 2019

Motivation – January 6, 2019


Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1




Military Devotion – January 6, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 12:1

See series: Military Devotions

Fear can be a great motivator. Fear of failure, fear of disease, or the fear of a drill instructor can inspire a person to do things never before attempted.

Some people even use fear as motivation to serve God. That’s understandable, but sad.

Fear does, indeed, enter into our relationship with the Lord of life and death. Our conscience quickly tells us that we have violated his laws—and there will be consequences.

His Word tells us that our violations are greater than we imagined, and the penalties are so severe that they go beyond our imagination.

So, who is not going to be driven by fear to try to do that which God commands?

The child of God.

A small child may help put away some groceries lest his mother becomes angry. The mature child will help put them away out of love for her. The Christian is that loving child.

As the new year begins, we give thought to what we want to do in the days ahead. We will be considering how we want to live the rest of our life. Maybe we want to make some lifestyle changes: lose weight, exercise more, pay all of our bills on time.

All this might be good, but it is not as important as deciding how we want to live our lives in relation to God’s expectations.

The apostle Paul told those Christians in the capital city of the Roman Empire: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Whoa!

This goes beyond deciding to curse less, go to church more, and be kind to others. This involves giving up our lives. The word is, “sacrifice.”

We know what it means to sacrifice a life for our nation. Are we also supposed to sacrifice our life for our God? Isn’t that a bit extreme?

But didn’t the Son of God sacrifice his life for us? Isn’t every good thing we have in life a gift from him?

What enables us to keep breathing? Who provides the food and air that we cannot live without? If he would withdraw his support, we would be like a brain deprived of oxygen. We could only whimper and die.

So, why did the holy God give us life and salvation? We recall the famous words, “God so loved the world….”

Why should we freely want to live our life—not for ourselves, but for him?

Because, “God so loved the world….”

We love him because he first loved us.

We enter the new year thus motivated.



In the Second Article of the famous Apostles’ Creed we admit that we believe, “in Jesus Christ.” We acknowledge that he is our Lord who bought us with his “holy, precious blood….” Then, we make our commitment: “That I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” We reaffirm that loving commitment for yet another year with the words: “This is most certainly true.” Amen.



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

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


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A thousand years – December 30, 2018

A thousand years – December 30, 2018


A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:4




Military Devotion – December 30, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 90:4

See series: Military Devotions

1,000 years ago Sweyn Forkbeard was crowned King of England. He didn’t last long. Few remember him now.

1,000 years ago the Holy Roman Empire was the superpower. Not many care about that now.

1,000 years ago it was believed that if a ship sailed too far west, it would drop off the edge of the world. Does anyone believe that now?

To us, 1,000 years is a long, long time. To the Lord God it’s like yesterday, or last night.

That helps us keep things in perspective as we turn the calendar to a new year. To some, the last 12 months might have sped by; to others, they may have dragged. It all depends upon what was happening in life. Happy days go fast. Hard days don’t.

We wonder what the next 12 months will bring. We hope it will be a happy new year. It’s hard for us to imagine what our life will be like 10 years from now. We give no thought to what it will be like on earth in 1,000 years. Who cares?

God does. He knows exactly what life on planet earth will be like every day in the future—and the exact day and minute it will end.

We set our clocks and turn our calendars, but we do not control our time. Thank God, he does!

We may wonder with worry. He doesn’t. Neither should we.

Moses wrote the words of Psalm 90 some 1,500 years before Jesus was born. They were true then, they are true now, 2,000 years after that birth.

Moses pleaded, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (v.14).

The only way that prayer could be granted is if the eternal God would send his Son into the realm of time and space to rescue prisoners held captive by the Prince of Darkness and doomed to forever death.

When the message of his coming went out, those who clung to the hope waited and waited. The years appeared to drag on. Finally, the day for the Desire of nations to appear arrived—and the new calendar, labeled, “In the year of our Lord”, turned its first page.

In heaven, the time between the birth of Moses and the birth of Jesus was like a watch in the night. The time between the return of Jesus to heaven and the crowning of King Forkbeard—like a watch in the night.

Between this New Year’s Eve and the end of the world will be to him like a watch in the night—or like yesterday when it is passed.

The Lord is greater than time. He is the creator and controller of time.

The new year is in good hands. So are we.



Prayer: Eternal God, we come before you with limited understanding and often limited faith. We know that our life on this earth is also limited, but you entered into the dominion of time so that we might spend a timeless life with you in glory. For the blessings of the past year, we thank you.  For your blessing upon us in the new year, we pray with confidence in the name of Jesus, the ever-newborn King.  Amen.



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

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


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Hopes and fears – December 23, 2018

Hopes and fears – December 23, 2018


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14




Military Devotion – December 23, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 7:14

See series: Military Devotions

The speck of a planet called earth experienced a series of breakthroughs on the night we call Christmas Eve.

A squad of angels broke through the atmosphere to reveal their presence with blinding light and an earth-shaking message: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

The eternal God broke through the barrier of the wall between the human and the divine—to become the God-man.

The salvation of mankind broke through the curse of the law.

But not everyone celebrated. The great King Herod shuddered at the news that a king had been born. He responded with a death sentence for babies.

Demons were terrified. At the sight of him, one cried out: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24).

And the people he came to rescue? After Jesus drove the money-makers out of the Temple, we are told: “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching” (Mark 11:18).

Those refusing to celebrate the coming of the Savior held one emotion in common: fear!

The writer of the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem, pictured the situation with his words, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Hopes and fears…

A strange combination, but an accurate report. The decree delivered to Satan told of one who would free the human race from his death grip: “He will crush your head…” The added thought: “and you will strike his heel” told of that special one only being wounded, not defeated.

From the time of the rebellion in heaven, a state of war existed between the holy Creator God and those who fought against him. From the time humans first joined that rebellion, the descendants of Adam and Eve came into this world to champion sin and revile all that is holy.

The battle lines had been drawn. Yet the outcome never was in doubt. The pits of hell awaited those who defied God.

The breakthrough came with Christmas. Demons had been rejected without mercy. But humans—for some reason—the humans were pardoned. God became man in order to win their freedom. Humans received mercy—at the cost of the life of the Holy One.

It should not surprise us to learn that demons fear Jesus of Nazareth. They know what’s coming to them.

But humans? How do we explain humans rejecting the mercy of God and joining with demons in spitting out defiance and choosing to stay condemned?

We come to better understand the power of sin and the blindness of unbelief. We come to better heed the warning against all that is evil.

This Christmas we will see once again the evidence of the breakthrough of God’s love for us.

We can live in a sure and certain hope. We have no reason to fear.



Prayer: To earth you came, Jesus, to be our brother. We do not know how that was possible, so we call it a miracle. Now, allow the miracle of Christmas to fill our hearts and minds with hope—and banish fear from our lives. Amen.



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

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


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Counting down – December 16, 2018

Counting down – December 16, 2018


But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Galatians 4:4




Military Devotion – December 16, 2018

Devotion based on Galatians 4:4

See series: Military Devotions

We are in the season of counting down to Christmas. Merchants are counting down the shopping days. Youngsters are counting down until presents are opened. And some troops are counting down to when holiday leave begins.

Advent is an entire season of counting down. It reminds us that the first Christmas was waited for with great anticipation by those who longed for the coming of their Savior. It tells us that we are now counting down the days for him to come again.

This can be a disturbing thought. We are talking about our death, here. Or, we are speaking of the end of the world. The words of Moses might come to mind: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

An old song speaks of a clock that was bought on the day a baby was born and stayed with him throughout life. With the tick-tock, tick-tock of the clock in mind, the song goes on to state: “his life seconds numbering.”

It makes us wonder if our timepieces might be counting down the days, minutes, and seconds left in our life. They are!

This can be a frightening thought. A pilot watches his fuel gauges carefully because when fuel runs out, the flight will come to a disturbing end. Is it not the same when time runs out on a life?

Not for the Christian! Not for the one who was created to live forever, has been redeemed with holy blood, and has been promised a forever of bliss.

Those Old Testament believers were not counting down to a day of dread when the Messiah would appear. Neither should we.

Their eyes were not watching for the occasion when hope and joy drained down to empty. They looked for the time when their lives would overflow with joy. So should we.

God calls it, the fullness of time.

Many events needed to take place before it was the perfect time for the Son of God to arrive as a human. The plan began to unroll already in the Garden of Eden. An Abraham and a Joseph, a Moses and a Daniel had to appear to fulfill their roles. The captives needed to come back from the land of the Tigris and Euphrates. The temple needed to be rebuilt. Rome needed to come to power and deploy its troops in Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate needed to be installed as governor. Herod the Great needed to be established on his throne.

And a common language needed to be understood by people of many nations.

When all of this—and much more—was accomplished, the world was set to receive the King of kings, and his gospel was ready to reach to the ends of the earth.

Like a cup filled to the brim, the fullness of time had come.

So will it be when the Babe of Bethlehem returns. He will come on clouds of glory in the sight of everyone—when the time is perfect.

Before then, he will come to individual believers to take them to heaven—when the time is perfect.

We continue to count down till that perfect time for the return of Jesus. Not in dread! Rather, much the same way that little ones eagerly count down to Christmas.

We look for a sequel. We are waiting for Christmas II.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, eternal God, you brought us to life when you called us to become children of the heavenly Father. You allowed us to see Jesus as the Son of God who paid for our way into heaven. Stay with us now as we walk our path in life. Remind us of eternal truths, guide us with your loving hand. Lift up our eyes so that we might catch a glimpse of the wonders waiting for us when Jesus returns at the fullness of time. Amen.



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

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


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I swear – December 9, 2018

I swear – December 9, 2018


Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Deuteronomy 6:13




Military Devotion – December 9, 2018

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 6:13

See series: Military Devotions

Their words showed their distress. Articles written by faculty members of the WELS seminary warned pastors about the disturbing development. They had received word that Lutheran pastors in Germany would not be allowed to continue their ministry unless they took a new oath.

The oath began: “Ich schwöre bei Gott…” In English, it read: “I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient I will be loyal and obedient to the Führer of the German Reich and nation, Adolf Hitler, observe the laws and faithfully perform my official duties, so help me God.”

Lutheran pastors in Saxony, the home of Martin Luther, accepted that oath on April 20, 1938, the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary was near Milwaukee, far away from Nazi Germany. We might wonder why the professors were so disturbed at this news. But most of the members of our church body had relatives in Germany at that time. Many of our pastors and professors had come from there. They were concerned about the Christians now in the hands of the Nazis.

The question was, “Could the day come when such an oath be demanded of the pastors in America?”

This was not a pledge of allegiance to a nation. It was a surrender of the Christian Church to the whims of a man, and partnership with those who would kill millions of innocents. It was an attempt by the Nazis to highjack the Christian faith by having pastors swear loyalty to their leader with God as a witness. Faithfulness to Hitler was to be tied to faithfulness to God.

As WWII progressed, the threat looked more real. The Wehrmacht rolled up victory after victory. With the entire British army cornered at Dunkirk, it looked like Hitler would rule Europe and England. Germany and Japan were planning for the United States to be the next victim.

Today we look back on those years in the comfort of knowing how the war turned out. Germany was defeated. Hitler killed himself. Atomic bombs brought Japan to its knees. The threat to American pastors evaporated.

But it could have easily ended differently. The victory of the Allies over Germany and Japan was often in doubt. History shows that if just a few things had taken a different turn, we might be speaking German today—and our pastors might be forced to take an oath of loyalty to a modern Nazi leader.

Many of those developing the atomic bomb came from Germany. What if they had been loyal to the Führer? Other new weapons—rockets, jet engines—were coming into German production. What if they had arrived earlier? Numerous battles in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific ended up being Allied victories by apparent flukes.

Codes were cracked without the enemies realizing it. A pilot spotted the Japanese fleet heading toward Midway only minutes before he had to turn back or run out of fuel and ditch in the ocean. A storm ended just in time for the D-Day landing. Clouds cleared just in time for airpower to turn the tide in the Battle of the Bulge. More examples could be listed. How lucky could we get?

But it was not luck. Nor was it superior planning, equipment, or manpower that won the war for the Allies. It was the grace of God at work. And he worked through sinful, frail, mistake-prone humans.

“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:31). Good to remember that. We might add, “Let him who would serve his country loyally, first serve his Lord faithfully.”

May our pastors continue to swear faithfulness to the Good Shepherd alone.

“So help me God!”



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we praise, thank and glorify you for preserving our nation from those who would have taken away our freedom to worship you in spirit and in truth. We know that such enemies still threaten. We know that efforts without your help will fail. Thank you for the veterans of the past and provide us with warriors and leaders who will serve faithfully in the future. To you alone the glory! Amen.



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

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


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Deadly shepherd – December 2, 2018

Deadly shepherd – December 2, 2018


They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd.
Psalm 49:14




Military Devotion – December 2, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 49:14

See series: Military Devotions

When we think about the word shepherd in the Bible, our thoughts might quickly go to the phrase, the Lord is my shepherd. Those words have comforted God’s people ever since the shepherd-boy David wrote them some thousand years before Jesus proclaimed himself as the Good Shepherd.

How strange then, to hear death called a shepherd! We must look at this more closely.

The psalm calls out a warning to those who boast of their riches and trust in their wealth. Those who think themselves so smart that they do not need God, need to learn the lesson of their frailty: “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7,8).

What makes a person think that wisdom or wealth is insurance against death? Yet, how common it is to trust these things and strive to get these things as if life or death depended upon them!

Something leads such people. They surely follow something in the hope for happiness. They cannot see that they are being led to destruction in the same way that sheep follow a shepherd. They are being led by Death to death.

At this time of year, thoughts return to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1944, and the destruction and death that followed on some islands in the Pacific. War is always horrible, but seldom has the world seen the willingness of soldiers to die by the thousands instead of surrendering.

Some 18,000 Japanese soldiers fought in the battle for Iwo Jima. Only 216 survived. The rest fought till they were killed or died by their own hand. On island after island, U.S. forces had to kill their enemy until almost none were left. Swarms of kamikaze pilots flung themselves against American ships.

What can account for this? They were like sheep being led to the slaughter. They were willing to die for their Emperor and the ambitions of their military leaders.

Their bravery is without question. Their fanaticism, however, is without merit. Death was their shepherd.

The bloody battles in the Pacific taught a lesson: Honor, zeal, and faithfulness become deadly when attached to lethal leadership.

Japanese leaders began the campaign of conquests to acquire land, power, and wealth. The Japanese people followed.

That thought makes us ask what we are following after in life?

We know that pursuing crime leads to a bad end. What about chasing after success, or popularity, or just plain fun?

The world is filled with candidates for leadership. Many are the ideas that want to lead us. Some potential leaders are feelings. Some are people. And some are deadly.

But not the Good Shepherd. Listen to Jesus: “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10,11).

There’s our answer!

When following Jesus, it is not death, but Life is our shepherd.



Prayer: Lord of Glory, who has bought us with your lifeblood as the price, we hear the warning against following after that which is deadly. Teach us your ways. Show us your will. Keep us in your fold. Amen.



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

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


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Horrid days – November 25, 2018

Horrid days – November 25, 2018


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15




Military Devotion – November 25, 2018

Devotion based on Romans 12:15

See series: Military Devotions

We call them holidays. They span from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We look forward to them. We celebrate them.

But not all of us.

For some, the holidays are actually horrid days. Troops deployed in distant and dangerous places can feel that way. So can those can those who are struggling with something like PTSD. The holiday season can be a miserable time.

Perhaps it is easier to understand why a Memorial Day may cause a person to be troubled, but why feel down and disturbed at a time of so many incentives to feel love, peace, and joy?

Those incentives are precisely the problem! The happy sights and sounds only underscore the pain and loss of the suffering one. We have seen that it is not uncommon for a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one to have a hard time with the holidays. Instead of a source of joy, the days remind such people that someone special is missing.

PTSD patients may grieve the loss of their former life. If we are not aware of this, if we urge the victim to join in the celebrations, we are increasing their pain. It is like encouraging the one with the broken leg to join in on a dance.

The person far from home during a holiday may feel more misery than joy. Some volunteer for extra duty during those days. Some do whatever they can to keep themselves from thinking about what they are missing.

Ken Gire sums it up in his book, The North Face of God: “There are times in our lives when it is hard being a Christian. Christmases when it’s hard to be joyful. Thanksgivings when it’s hard to be grateful. New Year’s when it’s hard to be hopeful. Times when we feel disappointed with life, maybe even despairing of life. Times when we feel abandoned by God.”

When everyone else is celebrating, the one downcast and miserable doesn’t fit in. He feels he does not belong.

What a shame! He is believing a lie. He is a member of the family of God. Everyone in that family is precious. Each one is special. Each one is the beloved of God and guarded by angels.

Strangely enough, the miserable one may know this to be true—but that does not change how he feels.

King Solomon wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

Saint Paul wrote that we should take note of what our brother or sister is going through—and share in their feelings. We will find that their sorrow does not lessen our joy, but their joy can surely diminish our sorrow. “I know how you feel!” become words of truth.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

If this holiday season does not fill you with the emotions of joy, know that you are not alone.

If you see another one struggling with the holidays, do not let that one be alone.

Feelings are often beyond our control. Our mind is blown back and forth by the winds of many thoughts. Our soul is different. It rests on a Rock.

Our soul knows, even if our feelings don’t: the holidays are actually holy days. They exist, not to make us happy, but to focus our attention beyond ourselves, to the very heights of heaven.

We find that when we look toward the face of God, we can see that we live under the benediction of the source of all joy and comfort.

For the Christian, every day is a holiday.



We live our lives in the sunlight of these words:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace. Amen.



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

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


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