God hears – October 21, 2018

God hears – October 21, 2018


It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard.
Isaiah 37:4




Military Devotion – October 21, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 37:4

See series: Military Devotions

Gathering intelligence is important for any military operation. The more one learns about the enemy with its strength and plans, the better. This is especially true if the enemy force outnumbers and out powers the defenders.

That’s the situation King Hezekiah was in when the massive army of the Assyrians assembled before the walls of Jerusalem. They came with high confidence and massive strength. They had invaded Israel from the north and already wiped out all the ten northern tribes. Then they crossed the border into Judah and quickly demolished the fortified cities in their path. Now their field commander was demanding the unconditional surrender of Jerusalem.

He relayed the words of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib: “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’” He named off the string of his army’s victories and then asked: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”

The demand ended with the boast, “How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

Hezekiah responded by going to the temple and sending some of his officials to deliver the news to the prophet Isaiah and ask for his prayers.

Hopeless against all odds, Hezekiah turned to the God of hope.

There was no need for God’s people to gather intelligence about the strength and movements of this enemy. The swaggering troops were encamped in plain and frightening view. They had announced the plans to kill those who resisted and take everyone else away as prisoners of war.

Hezekiah needed to know nothing more for himself. He had heard enough. He only hoped that the Lord God had also heard.

He had. He would teach Sennacherib and his army a lesson that the whole world could learn: No one, no power, and no army can defy the holy God without suffering severe consequences! He will deliver his people at the time and in the manner of his choosing.

Through his prophet, the Lord told Sennacherib, “But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came” (Isaiah 37:28,29).

Not an empty threat.

Isaiah reports, “Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there” (Isaiah 37:36,37).

The Assyrian threat was over. Sennacherib never ventured out of his capital again—and then it got worse. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his idol, his sons murdered him.

God hears. He hears those bragging of their own power. He hears the plans against his people. In war or peace, our intelligence gathering may be limited. His is not. He hears every whisper.

This does not mean that he will work a miracle to stop every threat. Later on, he allowed another heathen force to overrun this same city and lead many away as captives.

The lesson is that he is in control. One of his angels on our side is better than hundreds of thousands against us.

Believe it, we must. It is true.



Prayer: All-knowing Lord God, we are happy to learn that you hear the boasts of our enemies. Frustrate their plans. Send your angels to keep us safe—everywhere and always. In Jesus’ name, amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


What hath God wrought – October 14, 2018

What hath God wrought – October 14, 2018


It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, “See what God has done!”
Numbers 23:23




Military Devotion – October 14, 2018

Devotion based on Numbers 23:23

See series: Military Devotions

We tend to want credit for things we did not do. We do that as individuals and we do that collectively, as a human race. Earlier Americans were more likely to give credit to God.

Communication has always been vital in our lives. We want to tell others the news they should know. We want to hear what others have to say.

When people are far apart, they must communicate with something beyond the human voice. Writing was a common tool. Pony Express riders galloped to connect the East to the West by means of letters in the early days of our country. This was faster than most methods, but it still could be agonizingly slow.

Friendly letters and business advertisements might survive with that pace. Military forces might not. May 24, 1844 marked a milestone event in the history of communication speed. The U.S. Military quickly moved to take advantage of the new speed. It proved indispensable in some future wars.

Samuel F.B. Morse had come up with a way of communicating through a metal wire. Clicks from one side of the wire could instantly be heard on the other. An ingenious system of these clicks (which were called dots and dashes) was set forth as a code. It was called Morse Code.

In a dramatic demonstration, a wire was stretched from the U.S. Capitol to a railroad station in Baltimore. Witnesses, including members of Congress, marveled at the sound that came over that long wire. The message was also striking.

It read: “What hath God wrought.”

Samuel Morse would become famous, but he knew he was only an instrument in the hand of his God. He had turned to the Bible for the famous words he would send.

We don’t use the word, wrought, very much today. So, we quote from the Book of Numbers with the words, “It will now be said of Jacob and Israel, “See what God has done!”

“See what God has done!” Not the man named, Morse. Not the human race. “See what God has done!”

We appreciate and praise the people who found out how to safely conduct electricity, or those who discovered how to use x-rays, or realized that penicillin could be made from mold.

Troops who had been preparing to invade mainland Japan after the bloodbath on Okinawa told us how much they appreciated the people who developed the Atomic Bomb.

But the source of all these things is not found in the ingenuity of humans or in the materials they used. The source was, and always is, God.

The words found in Numbers were spoken in a most unusual situation. A man who claimed to see the future had been hired by an enemy of Israel to curse God’s people. But every time he opened his mouth to curse, a blessing on Israel came out, instead. He finally submitted to God’s will and told his disappointed client, “It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’”

Escaping from Egypt, passing through dangerous countries, with women and children in their midst, the Israelites were headed toward a wondrous future. From the former slaves would come a nation that would be the envy of many, including the Queen of Sheba.

Great leaders would arise. Power and glory would be enjoyed. But a King David and Solomon could not, and did not, claim that they were the cause of all this.

They had to quickly point heavenward and declare, “See what God has done!”

The same phrase had to be used to describe the Savior of the world coming from their midst.

The same is true for us. Any success that America has gained, any development that has brought wonder by others, any greatness of all, is not of our doing.

The victory over sin and death, the inheritance that we shall receive in glory—all of this, and everything else that is good and right—is not our doing.

In grateful humility, we look at the achievements in the history of our nation and find that we must quote the inventor of the Morse Code and declare, “What hath God wrought!”



Prayer: Eternal Lord, source of all that is good, we acknowledge that you have not only showered us with gifts, but you have given us the privilege of serving as your instruments. Use us today and tomorrow, use us in ways that we have not yet seen, to bring your blessings to our nation and its people. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Not my mother – October 7, 2018

Not my mother – October 7, 2018


“Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm…?”
Job 38:25




Military Devotion – October 7, 2018

Devotion based on Job 38:25

See series: Military Devotions

Humans have long tried to replace the Creator with the created. They have bowed down to pieces of wood; sacrificed to pieces of stone; and cried out for help to the sun, the moon, and the stars—all in vain.

The scientific age is supposed to have done away with superstition. It has not. Horoscopes and good luck charms seem as popular as ever. If God does not occupy the throne in a person’s heart, something else will. Yet, any replacement for the Holy One will always be a fake. This remains true even if the substitute seems to operate with force uncontrollable.

Nature, at times, appears to have such force. When the forecast calls for threatening weather, we take appropriate action. We have seen damage caused by lightning and tornados. We know all about hurricanes. If we have not lived through them, we have seen the pictures.

An old commercial said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” The ad may strike us as humorous, but a part of us knows that nature can be deadly. If it comes in the form of a rain shower, we might just stay indoors or get out that umbrella. If it comes as a hurricane, we may truly feel at its mercy.

When storms develop over an ocean, millions begin watching their projected paths. Estimates, guesstimates, and spaghetti models are followed closely. A shift in a high-pressure system, an increase in water temperature, or the appearance of wind shear can move the storm further away or bring it right on top of us. Some say this is Mother Nature at work.

Nature is indeed real. Mother Nature is not.

Nature is not a being. It has no control over itself. It does not hear us. It does not care about us. God does.

If we ask, “Who knows what path a storm will take? Who can control it?” the answer is simple: our Savior God. He brings storms into existence. He sets their limits. He sets their paths.

Our loving God rules all of nature for the benefit of those who place in him their faith and trust.
We would not be wrong to carry this truth over to all of the storms of life. Accident, sickness, failure, and heartache can be as devastating as roaring wind and pounding rain. The Maker of heaven and earth is in control of these storms, too.
We recall when a fierce storm at sea once caught the Son of God sleeping in a boat. His companions included seasoned sailors. When they looked at the height of the waves and heard the howl of the wind, they panicked. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He did. Even asleep, he was in control. Then he showed them to what degree he was in charge of nature: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:38,39).

Children of the heavenly Father are not at the mercy of anything but his mercy. It is a level of compassion so high that it cannot be measured; so strong that it cannot be overcome.

Jesus had not come to earth merely to impress people by having wind and waves obey. His mission had a greater goal. He came to enable us to become children of his own Father. He bought our adoption with his lifeblood. He taught us who we really are when he taught us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” To him belong the kingdom, the power, and the glory.

We can say of ourselves, “God’s own child, I gladly say it! I was baptized into Christ.”

I know God is now my Father!

Nature is not my mother.



We can sing:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.
(Christian Worship 415:1-2)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Plans – September 30, 2018

Plans – September 30, 2018


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11




Military Devotion – September 30, 2018

Devotion based on Jeremiah 29:11

See series: Military Devotions

An old saying declares, “If you want God to laugh, tell him your plans.” More than one person has decided this is true.

The background to the saying is the repeated experience of human plans being dashed to pieces. The message of such disappointment is, “Humans are not in control of their lives.” For some, this is a bitter taste of reality. We prefer to be, as the poet said, master of my fate, and captain of my soul.

We are neither.

Nor are we puppets at the end of some strings from heaven. We do have freedom of movement. We have freedom of thought. But in the end, God does rule.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy will be done.” Yet, he does not need our permission to do what he wants to do. He does not need this prayer. We do. It is a statement of faith. We believe that the will of God is good and gracious. We believe that what he wants for us, for our nation, and for our world is absolutely good and right.

We do not want to reject his plans. We do not seek to replace his plans with our own ideas. We know better—or we should know better—even if we don’t always act that way.

Our plans may not include failures or heartaches or hospital stays. His, might. But that doesn’t make them bad.

Our knowledge is limited. To us, the future is unknown. But not to him. Jeremiah needed to know this. Ancient Israel needed to know this. And so do we.

The city of Jerusalem had been smashed, the temple destroyed, and the nation decimated. Many Israelites were taken as captives to the land now called Iraq. This message was for them.

“I know the plans I have for you,” the LORD tells them. He describes his plans with the words, “prosper,” and “not to harm”. To those who seemed hopeless, he promises a good future.

The later return of the captives, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, and the arrival of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth, testify to the truth of his words and the goodness of his plans.

As it was for them, so it is for us.

To some frightened followers, Jesus gave the assurance, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

We live our lives just one step short of disaster. Even on the best of days, one missed red light, one missed heartbeat, or one missed IED could make it the worst of days.

Our good ideas can turn out to be bad ideas. Our best efforts, wasted. Our worst fears, realized.

It’s enough to make us discouraged, if not frightened.

Good thing we are not the masters of our fate! Good thing our plans do not determine the course of our lives! Good thing Someone at the top of the chain-of-command can override our plans!

Good thing our all-wise, all-knowing, and ever-loving God is in charge.

The life of the Christian is the life of the winner. Warrior-king David was right when he wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).

He knew that God’s plans are good plans.

So, do we.



Prayer: Faithful Lord, and loving Savior, we live our life in the unknown. We make our plans, but they are only our guesses for what the future will bring and what will be best for us. We thank you that your plans for us give us hope and a future.  May your will be done. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


A Father’s pain – September 23, 2018

A Father’s pain – September 23, 2018


The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33




Military Devotion – September 23, 2018

Devotion based on 2 Samuel 18:33

See series: Military Devotions

Mothers may shed more tears, but fathers are no strangers to anguish. The father who feels responsible for nurturing and protecting his family tends to feel an extra level of pain when disaster strikes those loved ones. King David is an example.

Absalom was his favorite. David’s eyes lit up at the mere sight of him. Absalom was special, and others saw it too. He was handsome, strong, and had a way of getting people to like him. He was the obvious choice to follow David as the king of Israel. And that became part of David’s pain.

Absalom was conceited. Absalom was self-centered. And Absalom was greedy for power. He wasn’t willing to wait until his father’s death to become king. He drew a crowd of insurgents around him and tried to take the throne by force. He started a civil war. He was willing to kill his father to get what he wanted.

But the Lord God had other plans. David’s life would be spared. His kingdom would remain secure. The rebellious son would be put down. This came about in a dreadful way. Riding for his life in a battle that was going against him, his head got caught in some low branches of a tree and he was pulled out of the saddle. While hanging in midair, three javelins hit his body and ten soldiers finished him off. He was thrown into a pit, and his corpse abandoned.

We might have expected David to be relieved to hear that the son-turned-enemy was no longer a threat. We would assume that he had disowned this unappreciative traitor by now. Instead, he cries out, “If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” He reveals a father’s pain.

David is not only an ancestor of Jesus, the Savior of the world; parts of his life reflect the workings of the holy God. This is one of them. It brings to mind another Father and his rebellious children. We can see how fitting it would be for God the Father to disown those rebels and punish them. Who could blame him?

The reflection becomes fearful when we realize that we once were counted among the rebels. We have, at times, rejected our Father, and taken our stand with Satan, his enemy. We sometimes still join with those who defy the King. We are the modern-day Absalom!

Could it be that the Lord God weeps over us when we rebel with sin? Might it be that he is actually willing to die in our place? Was the Son of God killed so that we might be adopted into the family of God? Do we mean that much to him?

Yes.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, it shames us to think that so often we throw away your kindness and reject your rules.  We deplore our weakness and regret our rebellious wanderings.  Reach out to take hold of us by your powerful hand.  Keep us from straying.  Hold us close.  We want to cause you no further pain.  To that end, shower us with your powerful love through the working of the Holy Spirit.  We pray this in the name of your beloved Son, who even now shares your kingdom, power, and glory. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


The far-off God – September 16, 2018

The far-off God – September 16, 2018


Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1




Military Devotion – September 16, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 10:1

See series: Military Devotions

“They cut off her leg and left her in the road to draw us into range of the snipers!”

He was a young soldier. First tour. Just a few days into it. The email carried his confusion, frustration, and distress.

“I jumped out of the MRAP to help her, but my sergeant tackled me and dragged me back.” Someone in another vehicle also tried to run to help. He too, was pulled back. The small convoy had to stop and watch as the woman was bleeding to death. “Wait for the Blackhawks!” was the command. So, they did.

As others were wondering, “Where are the Blackhawks?” this soldier was asking himself, “Where is God?”

The writer of Psalm 10 asked the same question. He observed, “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak” (verse 2). He complained: “He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent…” (verse 8). He then told the Lord what should happen: “Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness!” (Verse 15).

We don’t have to be in a distant and dangerous place to run into times when it seems that the Lord God is far away. We know that he exists. We know of his power and his love. But sometimes we cannot see that he is doing anything to help where he is desperately needed. It appears that he sees the problem, he sees the need to step in—but he will not engage!

What are we to think?

We are to think that he he does know. He does see. And he will act—at the time and in the way that he knows is best.

Our vision is limited. Our knowledge is scant. We cannot see even one second into the future. He knows, he sees, and he ultimately controls everything.

We are not to think that we are God.

We have absolutely no reason to doubt him. He has proven his power, his caring, and his boundless love again and again—most of all, in giving his Son to rescue us. In the end, with the psalmist we must say, “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encouraged them, and you listened to their cry.” (verse 17).

We may not see him, but he is always near. He is hidden only to human eyes. Angels can see what he is doing, and they praise him for it. We need daily to join them in those words of praise, for daily he watches over us with a Father’s care.

And about that distressed young soldier? He went on to report: “Then the Blackhawks came!” That took care of the snipers. And God no longer felt far away.

But then, he never was.



Prayer: Lord of Glory, who has bought us with your lifeblood as the price, remind and assure us that you never are far away from those who love and trust you.  Keep our doubts and frail understanding from questioning your way or your will. We place ourselves, and those we love, into your care.  Keep us under the shadow of your powerful hand. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


On the side of the angels – September 9, 2018

On the side of the angels – September 9, 2018


O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle—do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused. Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise…may disaster hunt down men of violence.
Psalm 140:7-11




Military Devotion – September 9, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 140:7-11

See series: Military Devotions

On the back of a Special Forces cap are the words: “WE DO BAD THINGS TO BAD PEOPLE.”

Those words disturb some folks. They anger others. They confuse still others. But there are some who understand. King David would be among this last group. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned the words of Psalm 140 , which calls for bad things to happen to bad people.

Some claim this goes against the directive of Jesus: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39).

Some would argue that there is no such group as “good people,” since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They point to the words of Jesus saying only those who have no sin should throw the first stone of punishment (Cf. John 8:7). This would eliminate everyone.

But Scripture must always interpret Scripture. The words of Jesus do not mean that evil, and the people who carry it out, are never to be fought against. That would be a misapplication of God’s Word.

In both Old and New Testaments, God has spoken clearly about protecting human lives. He charges ruling power to protect its citizens. He authorizes the use of extreme force to provide that defense. Those doing bad things—carrying out evil against others—are to be stopped. They have forfeited the goodwill of others. Sometimes they forfeit their very lives.

There is a famous saying that declares, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke—1770).

That is not a Bible passage, but it does reflect biblical teaching. “Good” can mean sinless, but it does not need to. It can also indicate those who are standing up for what is right and good. Sometimes this is called, “being on the side of the angels.”

“Bad people” can refer to those who stand for that which is bad. That is the side of the demons.

Those who serve their nation in defense of its people are authorized and expected to take a stand against those doing evil.

King David placed himself with the forces for good. When he wrote, “Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise…may disaster hunt down men of violence.” he was asking the Lord to prevent the triumph of evil.

He prayed that bad things would happen to bad people. The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that we may have prayed the same.

Jesus addressed a different type of situation with his words about turning the other cheek. The slap on the cheek is a personal affront. It’s an insult. The natural reaction to that is to seek revenge. We want payback. But then, shameful acts will escalate. Demons will cheer.

Jesus reminds us that vengeance belongs to God. We can put up with those who dishonor us. We can shake off their attacks. We can walk away.

But we cannot ignore our duty to protect others. We will risk our lives to do that. We will fight against those who threaten with evil designs. We will call upon God to aid us in that fight.

We will take our stand with King David on the side of the angels.



Prayer: Eternal and holy God, we know that we are sinful creatures who live in a sinful world. But we also know that the sacrifice of Jesus has liberated us from the death-grip of sin. We are now free to serve you by serving others who need our help.  Keep us from abusing the power that you have given to us. Bless our efforts to overcome evil. Keep our feet on the holy path. Keep us on the side of the angels. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Ancient paths – September 2, 2018

Ancient paths – September 2, 2018


This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Jeremiah 6:16




Military Devotion – September 2, 2018

Devotion based on Jeremiah 6:16

See series: Military Devotions

When decisions need to be made, care needs to be taken. The more serious the decision, the greater the care.

Deciding which brand of toothpaste to buy is not high on the critical list. Deciding which person to marry is. Deciding upon a path in life is at the top of that list.

When a decision can change the course of our life, we say we are at a crossroad. Graduation from high school places us there. College, job, or military are some of the ways we might go. The decision we make at that time will determine the road we take.

While sometimes we make such a decision carefully, at other times we may not even be aware that we stand at a critical point. Sometimes we give little thought to the direction we are taking in life. In our physical life, this can be dangerous. In spiritual life, it is deadly.

“What kind of life do I want to live?” “What’s the most important thing in my life?” “What role do I want God to have in my life?”

Critical questions, all!

When we were young, we already saw people walking different life-paths. With loved ones giving guidance, we could recognize the dangerous ones. When we joined the military, it was different. We were now an adult. Mom and dad were not around. We had to live and work with people who were together with us on the military career-path, but whose life-paths were far different from our own. The question arose, “Should I turn off onto their roads?”

The answer is, “No!”

When driving home for a visit, we look for familiar markers. If the signs are in a foreign language; if they show no speed limit; and if the exits name places we never heard of, this tells us something is wrong. This is not the familiar and safe road home.

When choosing a route for life, if the exits list only “Fun” or “Money,” it’s a route to stay away from. If the highway sign says, “Make up your own rules,” it is a dangerous road to be on. If the sign says: “No Gods allowed in this lane,” better get off that road. Fast.

To decide which road to take, a person needs to know where he wants to go. We may travel to many places on this planet, but at the end of our earthly journey we seek only one destination—and it is not on this planet. We want to go home.

Home is where we are safe. Home is where we are loved. Home is where life is lived to the full and happiness runs over.

For the children of God, heaven is our home.

The way home is by an ancient path. It has been walked on by God’s people from days of old.

It is a good road. It is the right road. It is sprinkled with holy blood and patrolled by angels.

The toll has already been paid. A friendly face is waiting for us at the entry control point (ECP). Our Friend has reserved a place for us. This is his Father’s house. This will be our forever home.

Whenever standing at a crossroad in life, look for the right road. Look for the road home. Look for the road with the cross on it.



Prayer: Savior of the world and our heavenly Friend, life can be confusing and the paths of life dangerous. Too often we head off on a path without thinking. Too often we choose a wrong road. Lead us, then, back to the Way of Life. Keep us on the road where we walk home with Jesus. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Day of trouble – August 26, 2018

Day of trouble – August 26, 2018


Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
Psalm 50:15




Military Devotion – August 26, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 50:15

See series: Military Devotions

Trouble can come at us slowly, like a hurricane; or strike suddenly, like a bolt of lightning. Either way, it often brings anguish, pain, and loss. When it hits, we want fast answers and even faster relief.

If we are smart, we will try to avoid trouble. We don’t touch bare electrical wires. We don’t drive on the wrong side of the road. Already as a child, we learned not to play with fire. We try to be careful.

But no life is trouble-free. Never has there been such a life! Not even Jesus escaped trouble while on earth. A friend of Job points out, “For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:6,7).

Anyone who has sat around a campfire can understand the picture of those flying sparks. Trouble is only natural. Bad days will come.

Some of those days carry the label, “Infamous.” December 7, 1941, was one such day. 9/11 was another. But the day of a doctor’s diagnosis, or of a house fire, or the day a loved one dies—any of these can earn the title, “Day of Trouble.” And one trouble can easily overlap into many days.

Of course, we try to get ourselves out of trouble. We may go to others for help. Sometimes the anguish is so severe that we are willing to go almost anywhere and try almost anything for relief. In desperation, some have even turned to suicide.

The Creator and Savior God says, “Turn to me!” A promise comes along with his invitation: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

He does not say, “I will try…” He does not tell us he hopes he can help. His words are: “I will deliver you.”

It reminds us of the prayer-words, “Deliver us from evil.” We pray those words with confidence because we know that the powerful love of the Godhead is behind them. What we don’t know—is exactly how he will do it.

We want deliverance to be fast. It may not be. We want never to face that trouble again. We may need to. We may pray for strength and guidance to overcome trouble. That prayer will be granted.

There are those who believe we are alone in the universe. We must feel sorry for them. Because they cannot see the Lord of glory and the angels he sends to watch over his people, they do not believe he is there to help.

We do believe. Yet, sometimes it is hard to keep on believing. Sometimes fear overtakes faith. Sometimes we are tempted to give up on God.

How sad then! How horrible! He has given his word. He will deliver us in the best possible way and at the best possible time.

“And you will honor me,” he says. This is not the request for payment. It’s his promise of our success.

The deliverance is certain. The victory will be ours. We will able to say, “Thank you, God!”

We will rejoice to tell him, “How great thou art!”



Already now, let us honor him with the words:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim: “My God, how great thou art!”
Then sings my soul, my Savior-God to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!!”
Then sings my soul, my Savior-God to thee,
“How great thou art! How great thou art!” Amen.
(Christian Worship 256:4)

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Tears in a bottle – August 19, 2018

Tears in a bottle – August 19, 2018


You number my wanderings. You put my tears into your bottle. Aren’t they in your book?
Psalm 56:8




Military Devotion – August 19, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 56:8

See series: Military Devotions

They say we live in a vale of tears. But not always are we stuck in that valley. Sometimes we walk in the big sky country of life. Once in a while, it even seems we are on top of the world. Yet, all too soon, we descend again into the depths—sometimes even into the deep valley of the shadow of death.

Isn’t it striking that when we look back over our path in life we more quickly pick out the times of pain or regret instead of the joy and success? Maybe it’s because pain stings more than success soothes. Maybe it is simply that life contains more sorrow than joy.

We were born crying. We cried often in the toddler years. As we grew up we learned to stifle our cries and hide our tears. But that did not mean they were not there. Sometimes the greatest pain of heart is suffered in silence and isolation. Maybe not even those closest to us knew of the hurt inside and the tears that were swallowed.

An old song contains the words, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus!” Those words aren’t written in the Bible, but they carry the Bible’s message.

David wrote this psalm when he was taken captive by the Philistines. They knew who he was. They knew the song of the Israelites: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (I Samuel 21:11). They knew they had the killer of Goliath in their hands. David knew that there was a good chance that his life was over.

As he thought of this, he raised his voice in prayer. To the Lord he declared: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). The Lord God knew the trouble he was in. David believed that the Lord had always kept track of him, had numbered all of his many wanderings. And he was right!

The Holy One of Israel had also noted every last tear that had fallen on his cheek. Not one was ignored. Each one was remembered and recorded, as if it were a keepsake to be stored in a bottle.

David knew what we should know. The watchful eyes of our Lord God are caring eyes. He does not prevent us from having tears, but he does measure them. His own Son wept before the tomb of Lazarus, and sweated blood in Gethsemane. God the Father’s heart ached over the tears his Son shed, but he did not intervene to stop them. He did not excuse his Son from having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But, he did not forget him, either. Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God the Father. One day we will join him.

We hear that he shall wipe away every tear from our eyes—and we will never cry again. That’s his promise!

The God of grace and glory knows the trouble we have seen. He has counted our tears—and put them into a bottle.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, your eyes look into the deep recesses of our hearts and see the traces of the hurt and pain that are stored there. This was not part of your plan for humans. You had intended that we would live in a sinless, painless world forever. The rebellion in Eden ruined all that. We thank you for sending Jesus to rescue us from the dominion of sin, death, and the devil. Reassure us that you are standing watch over our lives.  Let us find comfort and strength in knowing that you see the troubles we have, and that even our tears are precious to you. Lead us on as we walk through that valley. Lead us home. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Shame on parade – August 12, 2018

Shame on parade – August 12, 2018


The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.
Isaiah 3:9




Military Devotion – August 12, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 3:9

See series: Military Devotions

A cloud hovers over America today. Years ago, we saw only some wisps of fog. Now, a dark thunderhead threatens to break over our heads. It is a cloud of shame.

It gives little comfort to know that much of the earth is covered by this cloud. Perhaps we knew it was coming here. But it is still startling to look out of the windows of our life to see this cloud growing over the country that we love.

Sexual perversion is not a new sin. It grew out of the rebellion that began in heaven and spread to the Garden of Eden. It is the spawn of demons.

This does not mean that lying or cursing or stealing or murder are smaller sins. All are deadly.

This does not mean that only the worst or weakest of people are inclined toward such sin. Everyone is born with lying and cursing and killing and sexual perversion in his heart. The lesbian who says, “I was born this way!” has a point. We all were born that way. But that is no excuse. And God is not to blame.

Jesus points to the source of evil: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

God makes it clear that homosexuality is not just an alternate lifestyle. From the billowing fire and smoke on Mount Sinai he issued the order: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22).

He had already shown that he was serious about this: “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24). Only three people survived—people who had not approved of this lifestyle.

Often people are ashamed of sin. Their conscience condemns them. They try to hide it. But when insurrection against the Holy One has been stoked with the flames of hell, pretense is discarded, and the fist of defiance is thrust into the air.

It’s not out of ignorance. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

No excuse, but there is an explanation: “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

“So God gave them over to a depraved mind…” Some of the saddest words ever written. They explain so much. “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).

Isaiah wrote, “The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.”

Is there no hope for such people? Have they no choice but to parade their sin down to the grave and then through the gates of hell?

Where there is life, there may be hope. Sin is an equal-opportunity destroyer. But the Son of God paid for the very last sin of the very last sinner.

The Apostle writes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).

God offers salvation! We believe it. We live it. We offer it to others.

Shame is not something to boast of. It’s time to put faith on parade.



Prayer: God of infinite glory, we rejoice that you are also the God of grace. Hear our plea for those who rebel against you, as we once did. Send the Holy Spirit to convert hearts and minds. Send him to bolster our faith. Send him to empower us to speak the truth in love. Preserve our nation. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Neither/nor – August 5, 2018

Neither/nor – August 5, 2018


For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38,39




Military Devotion – August 5, 2018

Devotion based on Romans 8:38,39

See series: Military Devotions

We live our life dodging threats. Disease threatens our heart. Rumors threaten our reputation. An IED can threaten our very life. It seems we live in the spiderweb of either/or. Either one bad thing will happen to us, or another will.

So, it should bring a flood of relief to learn that, when it comes to the most critical part of our life, God declares the threat possibilities to be neither/nor.

Threats poise to separate us from something good—maybe even something essential to life. Our ability to avoid or overcome threats is limited. Our approach to survival may be expressed in the saying, “Improvise, adapt, and overcome!”

That’s good guidance. But sometimes we cannot improvise or adapt.

Sometimes we cannot overcome.

Sometimes we find ourselves at the mercy of forces over which we have no control. That’s when we want to turn to the all-powerful God for help.

That, too, is good guidance. But he may know that it is not best for us to be spared a certain pain or failure.

At times he allows us to be separated from things that we like, or love, or think we need.

That’s difficult to accept. We may then be tempted to doubt his wisdom or love. Yet, such temptation flows from fear rather than fact. The reality is that God’s wisdom and power are perfect—and so is his love for us.

The rock-solid truth relayed by the holy Rock of ages is that he will not allow any force, no matter what its power, to separate us from his love. It is a case of neither/nor.

“Neither death nor life. Neither angels nor demons. Neither the present nor the future. Nor any powers. Neither height nor depth—nor anything else in all creation…”

That’s quite a string of possible threats that he has ruled out. But notice that he is not saying he will separate us from painful happenings. Those possibilities remain. What he does promise is that he will never withdraw his love.

When the soldiers at Combat Outpost Restrepo voiced their dismay in words of black paint on a wall in their pod, they showed they felt they had been separated from his love. Under daily attack, separated from large support forces, they let stand the message: “God hates us all forever!”

They may have felt that way, but it was not true. Nor is it true when we feel that God has turned against us.

Satan may point to the accusations of our conscience and declare: “You don’t deserve God’s love! You know that deep in your heart. Your sin condemns you. God hates you.”

God answers, “That is not true! The proof can be seen in the blood-payment my Son made. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’” (Romans 8:1).

His judgment stands.

Not any power on earth, nor any power in heaven, nor any power in hell can separate us from his love.

It’s always a case of neither/nor.



We join in the words of the old hymn:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


For what? – July 29, 2018

For what? – July 29, 2018


He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
I Kings 19:4




Military Devotion – July 29, 2018

Devotion based on I Kings 19:4

See series: Military Devotions

The prophet Elijah was no wimp. He championed the message of God to a people who had turned against him. He challenged 400 priests of Baal to a showdown about who truly is God—and then he killed them. He confronted an evil king and queen that vowed to take his life.

Elijah had served his God and his nation with faith and fury. Now the conviction and passion are gone. Now we see him disgusted, discouraged, and depressed.

“I have had enough, LORD!”

Why feel defeated after so much success? The answer lies in something we can relate to. Disheartened Elijah was asking himself, “For what?”

The same question has been asked by troops returning from places where they worked feverishly to carry out their missions, risked their very lives, and saw comrades fall. Coming home, it seemed America didn’t care. And the people they had protected were still at risk.

Wasn’t it Jesus who said that wars and rumors of wars will take place until the end of time? So, what’s the use of confronting enemies? Why risk one’s life when there will be no end of war?

For that matter, will any of our efforts accomplish something that will last? Won’t we, and most everything else, turn to dust? All of our hard work and planning: “For what?”

The Lord God shocked Elijah out of his misery by asking: “What are you doing here Elijah?”

No self-pity allowed! No attempt to convince him that he had accomplished much good. In the same way that a sergeant may straighten out the complaining private, so God informs Elijah, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You have a mission to accomplish. Get going!”

He commanded Elijah: “Go back the way you came…” “Anoint Hazael king over Aram.” “Anoint Jehu king over Israel.” “Anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet.”

And then, because Elijah had said he was the only one left being faithful to the Lord, he was told: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him” (I Kings 19:18).

The Savior God is still in control. His will certainly will be done. His kingdom will come. We are not God. We have no way of knowing what all is taking place. Our vision is limited. Our judgment is flawed.

His strength overruns our weakness. His victory wipes out our failures.

Faithful service is never for nothing.

If we find we are still stationed on earth, we have a purpose here and work to do before we PCS to heaven.

We know what we are living for. We live for the Lord God.



Prayer: Because we are weak and sometimes weary; because our vision is limited; because our faith sometimes falters; sometimes we grow discouraged and even depressed. Reach down to help us, heavenly Father. As you did for Elijah, so remind us of your presence and our purpose in life.  Open our eyes to see your glory and open our hearts to accept your love. Use us in service to your kingdom. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Lesson not learned – July 22, 2018

Lesson not learned – July 22, 2018


After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
I Kings 12:28




Military Devotion – July 22, 2018

Devotion based on I Kings 12:28

See series: Military Devotions

Of all the stupid things to do! This must be near the top of the list. We remember clearly what happened the last time the Israelites decided to worship a golden calf. They had barely left Egypt. Moses was away, receiving God’s law on Mount Sinai. And 3,000 Israelites died because of this idol. Worse yet, the Lord told Moses, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them…” (Exodus 32:9). Good thing God relented!

Many years later King Jeroboam decided that setting up some new golden calves was now a great idea. It was not. He should have known better. He listened to bad advice.

The lesson from Sinai was not learned.

With the death of King Solomon, the Nation of Israel broke in two. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained with the line of David under his grandson, Rehoboam. The ten northern tribes instead followed Jeroboam, a former treacherous official under Solomon.

The new king in the north decided to revise his religion to gain a political advantage. He was more afraid of losing his kingship than he was of defying the holy God.

We understand his fear. Jerusalem was in the southern kingdom. The temple was in Jerusalem. Israelites would want to go to Jerusalem to worship regularly. He might lose control of his people.

We have watched others act this way. Right now, we are watching the ruler of North Korea trying to keep his hold on power by keeping his subjects from contact with the South. Kim Jong Un has much to lose.

So do we. At times, like Jeroboam, we are tempted to set aside God’s will in order to not lose something we treasure. We know what he expects of us. But we sometimes don’t want to pay the price that faithfulness demands. Instead, we look for ways to get around his expectations. We offer alternative answers. We listen to humans instead of to the Lord of angels.

Often, we are inclined to set up our own golden calves.

We may be tempted to make friends, or money, or career, or simply having fun, as substitutes for God. We won’t stop being religious. We will just modify our religion to fit our wishes better.

And if God does not like what we do? Well, he won’t strike us dead, will he? Later on, maybe we can get back into his good graces.

That didn’t work for Jeroboam, and it won’t work for us. The only ones who will give a nod of approval to disobedience are the dishonorably discharged angels assigned to the pits of hell.

The lesson of faithfulness needs to be learned.

Only the Creator is the source of life. Only the Redeemer makes things right. Only the Holy Spirit can bring us real joy. There is no substitute for the Triune God.

The entire history of ancient Israel is a lesson in the justice and mercy of God. Judgment came when mercy was spurned. Listen to his words: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

The same message comes to us: Turn from evil to the Savior God. Forgiveness is full and free. Jesus saw to that. Hope lies alone in the true God of Israel. No substitute can take his place.

Let it be for us a lesson learned.



Prayer: God of grace and glory, too often we stray from your will and way. Too easily we set up rival gods in our lives. Cleanse our minds and desires. Crush our false gods. Forgive our sin. Renew our faith. Teach us, again and again, the lesson of your holy love. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


About killing – July 15, 2018

About killing – July 15, 2018


For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:4




Military Devotion – July 15, 2018

Devotion based on Romans 13:4

See series: Military Devotions

“Honestly, chaplain, what does God think about someone like me—someone who kills people from ambush in the dark?”

He was an Army sniper. His commendations showed what the Army thought about him. He felt good about that. But it was not the Army that he would have to answer to when he died. Thus, the question, “What does God think?”

It’s a question that requires an honest answer.

Some other occupations may also require a person to take the life of another. Law enforcement quickly comes to mind. But the military operates on a different plane. Military command plans in detail how best to kill as many of the enemy as possible. Then, it trains and motivates its members to do just that.

The warrior is trained to kill without hesitation. Hesitancy may cost lives. The warrior is trained to kill without regret. Regret may make him hesitate next time.

Depersonalizing the enemy makes it easier to kill him. Thus, we strip him of personhood. We use demeaning names: “Kraut,” “Nip,” “Charlie,” or “Haji”. Atrocities committed by the enemy make it even easier to kill him. Watching a buddy bleed out while under attack, can remove any lingering hesitation.

But the question, “What does God think?” may still pop up in the Christian’s mind, maybe years after he packed away his uniform.

The best and only acceptable answer comes from God himself. With the Fifth Commandment, the Lord directly addresses the matter of taking a human life. His message is: Life is precious to me. It needs to be priceless to you. I demand that you protect it.

“Do not murder!” is quite clear—and a much more accurate translation than, “Thou shalt not kill!” What is often missed is that there are two sides to the commandment—positive actions are expected as well as the forbidding of the negative action.

Both Old and New Testaments reveal God’s fervent desire that human lives be protected. One way to do that is not to harm others. Another way is to keep someone else from harming them.

While that applies to individual lives, it also pertains in larger settings. We think especially of the nation.

Sometimes, to keep the Fifth Commandment a person needs to take a life.

The one threatening to take the life of a hostage is potentially sacrificing his own life. To safeguard the life of the hostage, the protector may need to kill the hostage-taker.

The same applies to a person who is threatening our country.

God has given the responsibility for protecting its citizens to the ruling powers—in our case, government. As Saint Paul reports: “he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant…”

Those in law enforcement and those in the military serve as God’s agents. When they must kill to carry out their duties, they do so not just with his permission, but with his blessing.

When it comes to killing, God knows all about it.



Prayer: Holy God, Lord of nations and protector of people, we pray that you would keep us safe as we strive to serve you faithfully. We take our role of protector seriously. We ask that you allow us to serve you without taking the life of another. But if we must kill, give us clarity of mind and peace of conscience. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Facing fear – July 8, 2018

Facing fear – July 8, 2018


Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1,2




Military Devotion – July 8, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 43:1,2

See series: Military Devotions

Fear is simply a fact of life. Since the fall into sin, we cannot escape it. It does no good to deny it. It may be dangerous to ignore it.

Pity the person with no fear. Not afraid to put his hand onto a hot stove; willing to reach down to pet a rattlesnake, he is a danger to himself and others.

In love, our Creator has built into us the ability to be afraid. It’s an alarm system. It triggers defensive reactions before danger strikes. In severe circumstances it will automatically activate one of three responses: fight, flee, or freeze.

Some fear is good for us. But fear can become debilitating, gut-wrenching, and life-ruling. Fear for the future can destroy any joy and hope we might have at the present. Fear can become a weapon of the devil.

We come to recognize that there are different types of fear. There is baseless fear. There is faithless fear. And then, there is a fear that flows from the mercy of God.

A child’s fear of a department Santa Claus is baseless. An adult’s fear that life is controlled by luck is faithless. Fear of God flows from the mercy of God. He plants a conscience within us to alert us to danger spiritual. He provides an alarm system to warn of danger physical. He wants to protect body and soul.

By facing fear, we are able to identify its type and respond accordingly.

To the question, “Of what should I be afraid?” the first answer is: the holy God. Listen to Jesus: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:5).

The First Commandment directs us to fear, love, and trust in him above all things.

This is the key to facing fear. We are not at the mercy of threats from tornadoes, car wrecks, diseases, bank failures, and people with weapons. The one who clothes the flowers of the fields and feeds the birds of the air reminds us that he is Lord of all.

He will tell us when to be afraid and when not to. When he tells us, “Fear not!” about something, we should obey in love and trust.

David the warrior king asked, “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)

The answer was: no one, no thing, not ever—not if the God of grace and glory was at his side.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God’s people are reminded that they are more than specks on a planet. The Son of God has paid for their life with his blood. Their Savior God knows them by name. He will not forsake them in times of danger.

The words make us think of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. We remember Daniel in the lions’ den and his friends in the fiery furnace. We know that he can work miracles if that is best for us. We know that, miracles or not, he always will make things work out for our good.

We know that the death of Jesus was not a mistake, not a sign of weakness, and not failure of his mission. It is our passport to glory.

We need not fear fear.

Facing fear is the way we victors live—until fear fades away at eternity’s dawn.



Prayer: Our forefathers sang out their faith in the words of a hymn that carried God’s promise:

Fear not, I am with you oh be not dismayed, for I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
For I will be with you your troubles to bless and sanctify to you your deepest distress.
(CW 416:3,4)

We remember his promises. We will fear, love, and trust in him above all things. Amen.

 



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Any price – July 4, 2018

Any price – July 4, 2018


They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel…
Matthew 27:9




Military Devotion – July 4, 2018

Devotion based on Matthew 27:9

See series: Military Devotions

He had been in the Navy, been wounded in battle, and now was speaking his first words to the nation as its president.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

He no doubt meant them. He did not know that his nation would shortly decide it was not willing to pay any price or bear any burden.

JFK did not realize that the price he would pay for the presidency would be his own life.

He had no way of foreseeing that after paying 58,200 lives in support of a South Asian friend, the government of his nation would say: We will pay no more.

The famous quote from President Kennedy would have been more accurate if he had said, “We shall pay almost any price, bear almost any burden.

There was a limit to what America was willing to do to assure the survival and success of liberty.

The 4th of July raises again the question of, “How much?” How much of a price is this generation willing to pay for its own freedom? How much of a burden is it willing to bear in support of others?

Opinions vary. Estimates are no more than guesses. But the fear among many veterans is that the answer may end up being, “Not much.”

Realism reports that there are limits to everything. Even if the spirit is willing, the means may not be there.

Good thing there is God! Good thing he has no limits! Good thing he was willing to pay any price for our freedom! Good thing that he has not yet withdrawn his hand of blessing from our nation.

Our mind staggers at the price our nation has paid to gain, and then maintain, its liberty. The price in lives runs into the millions—in essential goods, into the billions.

But for all of that, our freedom remains partial. We cannot control the economy. We cannot control the weather. We cannot vanquish disease.

By ourselves, we were absolutely powerless before the dreaded enemies of sin, Satan, and death.

Rescue had to come from outside of us—and it would not be cheap.

Would the holy God pay any price, bear any burden to assure the success and survival of our liberty?

Or, do we need to add the word almost to that statement?

Those who know Jesus as their Savior know the answer to that question.

No price was too high to pay. Not even the death of the Son of God.

No burden was too great to bear. Not even the sins of the world.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, you have carried our country through days of sunshine and the darkness of nights. Many were the times when it seemed our enemies would overwhelm us. Many were the enemies striving to pull us down. That we can still celebrate an Independence Day testifies to your abundant grace. We thank you for those who were willing to sacrifice their lives to keep our nation free. We thank you more for your willingness to sacrifice your Son to free us from sin, Satan, and death. We bow our heads at the recognition that you were willing to pay any price to rescue us. Amen.

Provided by Lutheran Military Support Group
lutheranmilitary.org



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Star-Spangled – July 1, 2018

Star-Spangled – July 1, 2018


The heavens declare the glory of God…
Psalm 19:1




Military Devotion – July 1, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 19:1

See series: Military Devotions

If the words star-spangled appear, the word banner is bound to follow. We might not be able to quickly define spangle as a small sparking object, but our mind’s eye can clearly see those stars upon the field of blue in our flag. We know what the Star-Spangled Banner is, and we know what it stands for.

There is a reason why we salute our flag, and why our enemies burn it. It is more than a piece of colored cloth. It is a symbol of America. It is a declaration of America’s values and a reminder of America’s might. It stands for what America has done in the past, and a promise for the future.

There is a reason why our flag is called Old Glory. There is a reason why people stream to our shores. There is a reason why the flag is draped over the casket of those who defended it. The bumper sticker says, Freedom is not free. It is bought with blood.

For the Christian American, there is more to the story.

The Christian believes the words, “God shed his grace on thee…” The Christian understands that the strength of America lies not in its arsenal of weapons, but in the mercy of its God. The Christian recognizes that the bounty of America flows only from the goodwill of God. The liberty that Americans cherish begins with the freedom that the holy God has bought with the blood of his Son. It definitely was not free.

As we celebrate Independence Day, we surely do not want to declare freedom from our only source of life and blessing.

We want to remember who the Lord is, what he has done, and what his promise is for the future. We want to catch a glimpse of his greatness and glory. We want to be assured that our future is secure, and no enemy that threatens our eternal life can overcome us.

We want to lift up our eyes to God’s own star-spangled banner.

It is there for us. It is easy to see. It appears even more clear in darkness. The psalmist points us to it with the words, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

Just as the American flag in distant and dangerous places can lift our spirits, so can the sparkling lights of the sky wipe away gloom and doubt as they testify to the faithfulness of the Savior God and his promise for the future.

Old Glory may be spit on and burned. It may be lowered to half-mast. Maybe one day it may no longer wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. We pray this will never happen. We fight to prevent it. But we acknowledge that other great nations have fallen among the wrecks of time. We have no promise from heaven that our country will remain strong and free.

But here are the promises that do stand forever: the strength that flows from the Lord God will never falter. The freedom from sin, death, and the devil will never fail. The glory of the redeemed will never fade.

We thank God for America as we see the stars and stripes fluttering in the wind. We thank God for salvation as we see the stars in the sky.

Both of these star-spangled banners lift up our hearts.



Prayer:  Lord of the nations and only hope for humankind, our flag reminds us of the abundant blessings with which you have showered our nation. We pray that you keep it strong and guide its path. The celestial bodies that fill the sky and lighten the night remind us that your power is unlimited and your mercy unending. We pray that you keep us strong and guide our path. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Happy now – June 24, 2018

Happy now – June 24, 2018


Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.
Psalm 146:5




Military Devotion – June 24, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 146:5

See series: Military Devotions

We want to be happy. America’s Declaration of Independence claims that, along with life and liberty, we have the God-endowed right to pursue this thing called happiness.

And pursue it we do.

We humans will work hard. We will pay big money. We will cheat and steal. We will poison our minds and ruin our health in the hunt for happiness. We will break laws and relationships to gain the prize. We will defy the commands of our Creator if we think it will make us happy.

If we cannot find happiness in our job, we will try a different one. If we cannot find happiness in our marriage, we think about leaving it. A new car, a new house, a new set of clothes? If we think it will make us happy, we want it.

And sometimes we get it.

But to our dismay, true and lasting happiness is not included in the package. It breaks, it wears out, it disappoints us. We grow tired of it. People die. We are not happy.

The days may come when we are not only not happy with the things in life—we are not happy with life itself. Hopeless and helpless is a distressing state to be in.

The question, “Happy now?” is usually a rebuke. It comes after a person has rejected guidance and is now living with a mess.

It is a question that God can ask the human race every day. It is a question that we must ask ourselves.

And our answer must be honest.

If we look for happiness anywhere but in our Creator and Savior God, we will be gravely disappointed. “Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob.” This is the God of a free and faithful promise. “He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them—he remains faithful forever.” So the psalmist writes in the next verse.

This One will never forget. He will never change. He will never fail. He is our only hope.

He can make us happy. He can give us gifts that bring happiness. He can use the things and the people in this world to give us a foretaste of everlasting happiness.

The birth of a child? The love of a loved one? A battle won, a prize gained, a challenge overcome? The Creator can use any of these to bring us some happiness.

He has never promised that our life will always go the way we want it to. He has warned about sorrow and disappointment. He will not always keep us from sickness. We must expect plans to fail, bodies to grow feeble.

And death. We must expect to die.

But that does not cause our happiness to evaporate. Our hope is solid. It is built upon a Rock—not sand. Death has been conquered. Angels watch over us. Everything must turn out for our good.

We win.

We can be happy now.



Prayer:  Lord Jesus, your apostle assures us with words from the Holy Spirit: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Allow our hope and happiness to always rest upon that love. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Dads – June 17, 2018

Dads – June 17, 2018


Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.
Genesis 4:20




Military Devotion – June 17, 2018

Devotion based on Genesis 4:20

See series: Military Devotions

The prayer is not, “Our Mother, who art in heaven…” This person of the Trinity is addressed as “Father.”

This is not a putdown of human mothers. It is a notice given to dads. If the almighty God chooses to use the title father for a person of the Godhead, we had better be certain about what he expects a human father to be.

Living in our modern world, we are struck by the repeated biblical phrases that declare that a person lived so-and-so-many years, and then became the father of so-and-so. We ask, what about the mothers?

They are not forgotten. Adah’s name has been read by millions over thousands of years as the mother of Jabal. We can quickly name other noted women in the Bible. But fathers still receive special notice—because fathers have a special load of responsibility.

Fathers and mothers stand equal in the sight of God. They are to love one another and care for their children. God entrusts little ones into their hands. It is an awesome responsibility. Jesus issues the strong warning: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Heaven is watching!

Yet, fathers and mothers have also been assigned distinct and different roles in life. Not only are their biological roles different, so are their responsibilities: Mothers and fathers are responsible for the care of their children. Fathers are responsible for the entire family.

It is as if God points his finger at fathers and says, “The buck stops here!”

Sad, if the father is not there. Sad, if the father refuses to take responsibility. Blessed is the mother who then steps up to take charge. But no one else can truly take the place of the father. The best we can offer is a substitute.

Responsibilities may be properly delegated. Maybe the mother is better at handling the finances. Maybe the father will be deployed for months on end. That is not a rejection of a father’s role. That may be love and care in action.

So, from Jabal came people of the flocks and tents. From his brother, Jubal, came musicians. Adah was mother to both, and grandmother to their children.

This was God’s plan. This was God’s way. This is how God brought blessings to those families. This is how God brings blessings to the people of earth.

We look in with reverent eyes as we see the Son of God asking his Father for help. Jesus used the word, Abba. It’s like us saying, Dad.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). By “cup” he meant suffering and death to rescue us.

We know how the Father answered. The reply was, No!

God the Father did not hate the Son. He loved him beyond all measure. But he also loved us. He loved us so much that he did not spare his own Son.

To define the role of a father, we cannot omit the word, love.

Fathers carry a heavy load of responsibility. But it is also one of the greatest of honors.

It is a gift from heaven to be called, Dad.



Prayer:  Father in heaven, those who bear that title on earth can never measure up to your standards. You have given fathers their children. You have placed great weight upon their shoulders. Be, then, the source of their strength. Enable them to be a blessing. Let them know the joy of being a faithful, loving dad. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Cheering crowds – June 10, 2018

Cheering crowds – June 10, 2018


The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Matthew 21:9




Military Devotion – June 10, 2018

Devotion based on Matthew 21:9

See series: Military Devotions

Crowds enjoy seeing troops marching. They are quick to cheer. Usually, that is good. But sometimes it causes resentment.

Consider these words, written by a British soldier in WWI:

“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.” (Siegfried Sassoon)

The cheering people would have been shocked and confused by these words. They thought they were doing something good; something that would show encouragement.

Why, then, did the soldier write, “You smug-faced crowds…”? Why the anger?

Those who lined the roads to cheer had no idea of what the troops were marching into. No idea of the desperation of those who had already been on the front lines. No idea of how much they did not want to go where the march would end.

Come to think of it, neither did the Palm Sunday crowds.

Those who watched Jesus heading to Jerusalem had no clue that Jesus was riding to torture and execution. No understanding of what really was taking place.

By Friday, the crowds would again gather. This time they would include women weeping and wailing at the sight of the bloody, stumbling Jesus. They would wonder at his words, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Luke 23:28).

Again, they did not understand.

His later words were: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

A response far different from, “You smug-faced crowds…”

Those who are willing to step into harm’s way to defend a nation will regularly encounter people who do not understand. If that step brings one into the theater of war, the lack of understanding will escalate. Misconceptions will abound. Feelings will be hurt. Anger may arise.

Don’t let it.

The only way someone else could clearly know what the warrior went through is if that person had been there. Would we want our spouse, or parents, or neighbors to have done that?

It’s understandable that they do not understand.

If we are tempted to think that this is unfair, the example of Jesus will set us straight. We can say, “Jesus loves me.” We can know, “Jesus saved me.” We can sing: “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.” But we can never fully understand what Jesus went through to rescue us.

That much we do understand.

We will not stand smug-faced as we review the march of Jesus to his death. We will smile, however. We already know that this ends not with the grave or hell. Jesus was heading for heaven—and there, we will join him.

We will stand with his cheering crowds.



Prayer:  Jesus, Son of God and Savior, we look on in wonder as the story of your life is brought before our eyes in the sacred Scriptures. We cannot begin to imagine your pain and sacrifice. We cannot envision the depth of your love. You are beyond our understanding. But the Holy Spirit has worked in us a saving faith. Accept our words of praise. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Wings of the dawn – June 3, 2018

Wings of the dawn – June 3, 2018


If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:9,10




Military Devotion – June 6, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 139:9,10

See series: Military Devotions

The old recruitment slogan read: “Join the Navy and see the world.” Many a young American did just that. Some still do.

Another slogan announced: “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!” That one was also successful.

Behind both of the slogans is the message that to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces will enable a person to see places and do things unusual and exciting. What is not mentioned is that the recruits will have little to say about where they will go or what they will do. In the lingo of the Marines, “The head shed decides all of that.”

The phrase, “the wings of the dawn,” points one to the east, where the sunrise spreads itself on the horizon as if it had wings. For the Israelite, “the far side of the sea” was to the west, where the sun sets. The psalmist is saying: “Wherever I go…”

Many who have worn the uniform have seen sunrises and sunsets in far off places. Sometimes they were on an adventure. At other times, they certainly would have not called it that. At all times, there was an element of risk. It came with the job. The job is to protect America, even if it means going to distant and dangerous places.

The writer of this psalm, King David, understood the risk of being a warrior. He spent most of his life at war. His career started with taking down of Goliath. He carried his weapons even into old age. He was a hero.

But he was not self-reliant. He was not cocky. He knew that his life was but a breath that could fade in less than a minute. He understood that the Lord God was king over him, and the source of his strength. Of the Lord, David said, “You shield my head in the day of battle” (Psalm 140:7).

The question every warrior asks as he heads into danger is, “Will my support be there when I need it? Will someone have my back? Will someone cover me when I move into danger?”

David had brave and tested troops under him. He depended upon them. But most of all, he depended upon the Lord his God. The Lord would be there no matter where he went. He would be there to guide him. He would be there to support him. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” David will write in the 23rd Psalm. “I will fear no evil” he will say. “For thou art with me…” he will explain.

“Wherever I go…” he said. East or west, or anyplace in between—his God will be there.

“Wherever I go…” On mountain tops or in valleys—his God will be there.

“Wherever I go…” In life or in death—his God will be there.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This is the promise of the one who defeated death and gave us life everlasting.

This God is our God. This promise is to us. Our God will be there to guide and support.

Even when we rise on the wings of the dawn.



Prayer: Almighty Father, strong to save. Be with us wherever we go. Guide and support us. Forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and send the Holy Spirit to keep us from harm to body or soul. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Remembrance – May 27, 2018

Remembrance – May 27, 2018


There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.
Ecclesiastes 1:11




Military Devotion – May 27, 2018

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 1:11

See series: Military Devotions

“The end of war is in remembrance.”

This old saying may surprise us. Few who have survived the trauma of war are anxious to relive those days in memory. The pain of the disorder from post-traumatic stress is often caused by the mental replaying of those traumatic events. Thus, the natural inclination is to avoid the memories of war, and many veterans have become quite good at doing that.

That is not necessarily good. Avoiding memories can prevent healing.

Memorial Day is a good time for us to remember war with its casualties of bodies and minds. King Solomon of old would encourage us to do this.

For all of his wealth, wisdom, and power, Solomon had much to lament. In the God-inspired Book of Ecclesiastes, he groans out his misery in life. He opens the book with the words: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

He soon moves to his complaint about remembrance. He says there is none. Thus, there is no meaning to what people have done.

As flags are lowered and wreaths are laid on tombstones at this time of year, the phrase that may come to our ears is, “They have not died in vain.”

This declares that the death of those who have fallen in service to our nation was not meaningless.

Not everyone agrees. Not everyone follows the parade to the burial ground. Not everyone acknowledges the flag at half-mast. Not everyone stands still at the sound of taps.

Not everyone appreciates the sacrifices of those who lost their life to preserve our freedoms.

But those who, like Solomon, lament the lack of remembrance of what was accomplished by those who came before, they will see the meaning of Memorial Day.

The Christian will see the day through God’s eyes. The Christian will remember that our nation does not deserve the blessings of freedom that float down upon it. The Christian will remember how close our nation has come to losing these freedoms at times. The Christian will remember that those who stepped forward to defend our nation were gifts provided by the hand of God.

It is a time to acknowledge the gifts we have received through the wars that have been waged and the sacrifices that others have made.

It is a time to consider the cost that the loved ones of the fallen have paid.

Remembrance allows us to see the larger picture, to weigh the fuller cost, and to appreciate the greater value of what has been handed down.

We will remember God’s promise that the day will come when, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Micah 4:3).

Until that time comes, on Memorial Day we will repeat the prayer of those who have gone before us.



Prayer: “Lord God of hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.” Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Pure trash – May 20, 2018

Pure trash – May 20, 2018


What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:8




Military Devotion – May 20, 2018

Devotion based on Philippians 3:8

See series: Military Devotions

The higher the hope, the greater the disappointment when the hope falls.

The young Marine was to be commended. Every other Sunday he drove some 200 miles to attend a WELS worship service. Sometimes he brought buddies with him. He probably came from a good Christian home. More recently, he had come from Vietnam. It was the early ‘70s.

His car broke down on a trip back to Lejeune, so he visited one of the typical used car lots that are sprinkled around military installations. The next time he showed up, he had big smile on his face. “God was with me!” he gushed. He had found a peach of a car at a bargain price.

Two weeks later, he returned with his “new” car. This time the words, “Pure Trash” were spray-painted on the front plate.

One’s heart had to go out to the hapless Marine. The car was a clunker. But he didn’t have enough money to simply buy another one—and the dealer surely wouldn’t take it back. So, he had to limp along from one repair bill to another for a while.

The peach had turned into a lemon.

The apostle Paul never did buy an automobile, but like this 20th century Christian, he had learned the value of everything apart from his Savior God. He used the word, garbage. He probably would have given a thumb’s up at this car being labeled, pure trash.

In fact, even if it was a brand-new Corvette that the young man found himself in, the apostle would still list it as, no better.

This is not to say that a new car is not an improvement over the clunker. The point is, nothing in this world is everlasting, truly precious, or worth trading one ounce of salvation for. Better to lose everything on earth than to lose the inheritance in heaven.

The nice house cannot be used as collateral against the debt we owe God. Those new clothes will not serve to get us out on bail when we face divine judgment. Nor will friends be able to influence the Judge.

In the court of God, the only thing that counts is the blood of Jesus.

No wonder the apostle treasured “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Without knowing Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he had nothing—though he was earthly rich.

With the certain knowledge that the Son of God paid his debt to God, he was rich beyond all measure—though he had nothing else.

He knew with absolute certainty: those who place their hope on Jesus are never disappointed.

We agree.



Thus we declare in the words of the hymn:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. Amen.
(Christian Worship 382:1,3)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Moms – May 13, 2018

Moms – May 13, 2018


For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13




Military Devotion – May 13, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 139:13

See series: Military Devotions

We did not pick our mothers, nor did they pick us. Someone else was in charge of the selections.

If we wonder why we were not born in Bangladesh or in the year 1496, the answer lies not in our genes, but with our God. Without his direct action, we would not be. Before our mother was born, we were already chosen to be her child. It was foreordained.

But that does not mean that we are the product of some mechanical formula worked out eons before our birth. We are the result of individual, careful, and loving decisions by the same one who formed the stars and calls them out by name.

Our heart and lungs, our brain and nervous system were custom made. Our fingerprints were designed just for us.

As one knits a blanket to a certain size and with a certain pattern, so the Creator fashioned us. The psalmist calls out in the next verse, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

But the pattern we were made from was not completely new. Pieces of us match pieces of our parents and relatives before them. Maybe it is said that we have our father’s ears or our mother’s smile. Someone may have pointed out that we have our grandfather’s eyes. Maybe when we look at old pictures we notice that, as a child, we looked much like one of our great-grandparents when they were young.

We are not an accident. We are not merely the product of a biological process. We are the handiwork of God. We are wonderfully made.

He could have decided to call us into being out of nothing, as he did the sun and moon. Instead, he chose to form us inside of a woman. He picked out our extended family. He set the time and place for us to draw our first breath.

He selected our mother.

Our father was also of his choosing. A dad’s role is different, however. But both deserve special treatment. “Honor your father and mother!” is an order from our Creator.

That command stands no matter how good of parents we think they are. By honoring them, we honor God.

But mothers stand out as extra special. It was a female that was chosen as the one to serve mankind in a very special way. It was a woman who gave birth to the incarnate Son of God.

Jesus of Nazareth called Mary, “Mama.” He was both her son and her Savior. He brought her pain. He gave her heaven. It’s the same gift he offers us.

We were fashioned according to God’s pattern for God’s purpose. We were designed to live forever. Mary’s Son has made this possible.

For that, we thank our Savior God and acknowledge the wonder of his greatness. He has blessed us in many wondrous ways.

As one of his wonders, he has given us our moms.



Prayer: God of mercy and might, as we consider how wonderfully we are made, we are compelled to declare, “How great thou art!” We thank you for giving us life. We ask you to use us for the purposes you have chosen for us. We thank you for our moms. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Watch your step – May 6, 2018

Watch your step – May 6, 2018


Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.
1 Samuel 20:3




Military Devotion – May 6, 2018

Devotion based on 1 Samuel 20:3

See series: Military Devotions

The warning, “Watch your step!” takes on extra weight for those who do foot patrols where IEDs are likely to be placed. When King David said there was only a step between him and death, he may have been speaking figuratively. In modern warfare this is often a reality.

Actually, it is always a reality.

The transition back from a combat zone is seldom easy. Hypervigilant is the term sometimes used to describe the person having difficulty doing this. Reckless is another. So is unpredictable. Warzone thoughts and feelings do not fit well in the back-home peace zone. Adjustments need to be made.

Over time, most make the switch back to normal, or at least to the new normal. But few forget what it was like to live one step away from death.

That’s not necessarily bad. The remembrance pays dividends as life goes on. It reminds us that no matter where we are or how old we are, there is only one step to death’s door.

That honest realization should not terrify us, but it should make us careful. After spending time in distant and dangerous places, we may be tempted to think that if we made it through that, we can make it through anything. We abandon caution.

Or maybe, we are tempted to renew that emotional rush brought on by living on the edge. Defying death with speed down a roadway or with speed in our system can be exhilarating—but surely not wise. Those are deathtraps, and to be avoided.

Tiptoeing through life in fear or racing through life in bravado is not a good way to live a life. It is not God’s way. God’s way involves confident caution.

A troubled Job once asked about his Creator and Lord, “Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” (Job 31:4) The expected answer was: “Yes! Yes, he does!”

Yes, he does see my ways. I am never off his radar screen. He sees what is done in secret. He sees the plans I am making. Camouflage doesn’t fool him. The future doesn’t surprise him.

He counts every step. He knows how tired I become. He knows how many steps away I am from danger or disaster. He watches over my soul as well as my body. He sees the dangers that threaten either of them or both of them.

Some newer cars come equipped with sensors that detect when the vehicle crosses into a different lane without the turn signal activated. It’s there to prevent unintentional drifting into danger. A signal shows up on the dashboard. A vibration is felt in the driver’s seat. The steering wheel is nudged back to the original lane. It can be a lifesaver.

God does this even better. The Creator-God has given us an alerting conscience. His Word points us to the safe path and warns against the dangerous dead ends. As the Savior-God, he has given us forgiveness and redemption. As the Sanctifying-God, he empowers us to follow the road to heaven. We can joyfully live a life of cautious confidence.

After all, it is God who watches our steps.



Prayer: Lord of the nations and Savior of our souls, we live our lives—one step after another—without knowing what that next stride will bring. When we look back over our path, we can now see how close to tragedy we have come at times. When we look ahead, we wonder how we will avoid disaster. But you know. In you we put our trust. Keep watching our steps. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Living free – April 29, 2018

Living free – April 29, 2018


Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
1 Peter 2:16




Military Devotion – April 29, 2018

Devotion based on 1 Peter 2:16

See series: Military Devotions

The ancient Greek warriors had a motto: “To Rule and to be Ruled”. Perhaps that will help us more easily understand these words of the Apostle Peter. At first glance, the commands to live as free people and to live as slaves seem to present a contradiction.

Isn’t it one or the other? How can we be free and slaves at the same time? Isn’t the first order countermanded by the second? Which order should we obey?

Both. One order declares our freedom. The other order defines our freedom. Those in service to defend our country are free Americans. But they are not free from authority. If confused before, the recruit quickly learns this to be true.

In all of life, the chain-of-command goes all the way to the top—way above the national commander-in-chief. Above every dictator, president, and king is the King of kings. His word is absolute. He owns us.

Saint Paul has written, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). That’s true! Christians live not for themselves, but for him. We submit our wishes to his will. He is our master. We are slaves of the holy God—and glad of it!

We are not ground-into-the-dirt slaves. Listen to how the apostle Peter describes us: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” (1 Peter 2:9).

We are people of powerful privilege. We enjoy the freedom of the redeemed. Jesus has declared, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31,32). He drives home the meaning of this with these words: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

But not free to sin! Not free to ignore the master’s will. Not free to use freedom as a cover-up for evil. Instead, we are free from the death-grip of evil. Satan, sin, and death rule us no more. We need not bow before them.

But that does not mean we obey no one. From the vault of heaven comes the standing order to the heirs of glory: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors…” (1 Peter 2:13).

To every human authority? Even those who issue foolish orders? Even those who do not acknowledge that God lives and rules?

Yes.

Except—except when they give an order that countermands one of God’s orders. This same Saint Peter once told Jewish authorities who they demanded that he stop preaching about Jesus: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29)

We must obey God. Love for him makes us want to do this. Jesus set the example. As the Son of God, he was free to do whatever he wanted. Yet, he conformed his will to what his Father wanted, even when this brought him pain and death.

We want to do the same. When we freely follow the orders of our Savior God, we make that motto of the long-ago warriors our very own.

“To rule and to be ruled.” That’s living free.



We pray in the spirit of Jesus: Our Father who art in heaven…thy will be done. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Neither slumbers nor sleeps – April 22, 2018

Neither slumbers nor sleeps – April 22, 2018


Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:4




Military Devotion – April 22, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 121:4

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes it does not seem that way. Sometimes we aren’t so sure that he is watching over us.

Sometimes we want to join the sons of Korah who shouted: “Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever” (Psalm 44:23).

These were not the words of unbelief. The sons of Korah wrote the psalm that begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46). The famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” is based upon their words.

These words flowed from confusion and stress—and a bit of doubt.

Their forefathers had flourished under the hand of God. Enemies had been pushed back. Victories had been gained.

“But now” they lament, “you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies.” The result? “You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.” “I live in disgrace all day long…” (Psalm 44:10,15).

We might pass over this lament as just old words from the Old Testament, but the Apostle Paul repeats the thought for New Testament Christians. He writes: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

For many New Testament Christians, the meaning was literal. Many were killed because of their faith in the true and living God. Others faced hard-times, rejection, disappointment, and failure. Many wondered, “Why?”

So might we.

Those who have seen horrible sights in wars; those who have been unfairly judged and punished; those who have seen hopes die and evil triumph—those are the ones who sometimes wonder if God has fallen asleep.

It’s not as if we were expecting only good things in life. We know better. But we tend to set a limit to how much bad the good Lord will allow to come into the lives of his people. When bad gushes in like a flood over a dam, we fear all is lost.

We wonder if God is angry at us. We wonder if he is too busy, too careless, or just too tired to step in to help.

In short, we begin to view God as if he were only human.

He is not.

He is the Creator. He is the Judge who rules all things for our benefit. He is our Savior Lord. He does not lie. He does not treat us as we deserve. Again, and again he tells his sheep, “Fear not!” He has bought us with holy blood. Our doubts are foolish.

The sons of Korah knew that. That’s why they ended their lament with the confident plea: “Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 44:26).

That’s our petition, too. In a hymn we sing: “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” His love will never fail.

He who sent his Son to bleed for us—he is the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, dangers, sorrows, and fears wash over our faith at times. We don’t often see what you are doing to protect us. We read the worst into the cause of trouble in life. We easily doubt your love and your care. Send the Holy Spirit into our lives that faith may replace doubt; courage replace fear; and joy replace worry. Watch over us always and everywhere. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


The new normal – April 15, 2018

The new normal – April 15, 2018


Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
John 16:16




Military Devotion – April 15, 2018

Devotion based on John 16:16

See series: Military Devotions

With hand raised and back straight, the recruit begins to: “solemnly swear I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies…”

That step not only granted the former civilian some new clothes to wear, it ushered in an entirely new way of life. Gone were the carefree days of high school—living under the roof of parents and wondering what fun thing to do next. Suddenly life was filled with shouts of commands, strange living arrangements, and wondering what stressful demand would come next.

What used to be normal was no more. The first blasting strains of reveille woke the person up to a new normal. The message was, “Get used to it!”

The wife who comes back from the ER with only her husband’s wallet; the child who is told, “Daddy went to heaven;” and the victim of post-traumatic stress whose mind keeps replaying a dreadful tape—these too will learn that life will never go back to normal.

They are facing a new normal—and they need to get used to it. But it will not be easy.

The post-Easter disciples suddenly found themselves in a new, spinning world with little to grab onto. For some three years they had lived alongside of Jesus. They had been taught by him, warned by him, and comforted by him. They had seen miracles. They could see his face most every day.

Now they could not. After he returned to heaven, they could see him no more.

They needed to get used to it. That would not be easy.

To prepare them for the new normal Jesus had told them what to expect. “In a little while you will see me no more…”

His death was not a failure, it was according to plan. So was his resurrection. They would see him later.

So will we.

Imagine waking up to pure beauty and glory. Envision what life would be like with nothing going wrong. Picture us joining those first disciples in visiting with Jesus.

Imagine living in heaven.

What a change! What an experience! What a joy!

“…and then after a little while you will see me.”

That is the new normal we are waiting for.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, our eyes have not seen you face-to-face as did your early disciples. Our eyes of faith look at you through their eyes as they tell us what they saw and heard. We look forward to seeing you as we join them with you in glory. Until then, keep us safe. Keep us faithful. Bring us home. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


No ghost – April 8, 2018

No ghost – April 8, 2018


They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
Luke 24:37




Military Devotion – April 8, 2018

Devotion based on Luke 24:37

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes God frightens us with his presence. Sometimes we mistake him for something bad. We would run from him if we could.

Sometimes we make the same mistake his early disciples made.

This wasn’t the first time they mistook Jesus for something frightening. Once they were caught in a fierce storm in a small boat. They feared they would drown. They panicked when Jesus came to them by walking on the water. This they did not expect. They cried out in terror at what they thought was a ghost.

When Jesus showed himself transfigured in the brightness of glory, Peter stammered out some senseless words about building shelters. In the gospel of Mark, we are told: “He did not know what to say, they were so frightened” (Mark 9:6).

And now we are looking in at the disciples on Easter evening. They knew the grave of Jesus was empty. Angels had told them he was risen. They should have been excited and happy to see the one they called Master. Instead, they were startled and frightened.

We shouldn’t be too hard on those disciples. We are tempted to act in the same way in times of alarm and stress.

Jesus may not appear to us in bodily form, as he did back then. But he did promise that he will always be with us. We know that he comes to us in Word and sacrament. He also enters into our time and space with his loving care. Many times, we aren’t aware of his presence. Sometimes we mistake him for something bad.

Like those disciples, we have expectations of how and when he will show himself in our lives. We look for things like days of joy and success, or recovery from illness, things that lift up hope. We sense the hand of our Savior in such things—and we welcome them.

When dark days dawn, when pain strikes, when a dreadful future suddenly looms—we don’t like what we see. These look like nightmares. We think, “This cannot be God at work.” We become frightened.

Jesus knows that. That’s why he has told us in advance that scary things can happen to his people. His words are: “Fear not!” He is still our Savior God.

To the disciples huddled in fright he said: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet” (Luke 24:38,39).

We may be a long way from Jerusalem on the first Easter, but we can still do what he says. We can look at his pierced hands and feet. In his Word he shows them to us.

Already in prophecy he had called out, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16).

So they did. In the New Testament we receive the details of his anguish at Golgotha. Roman hands drove the nails. Jewish voices called for it.

By means of the Scriptures the Holy Spirit allows us to see this, too.

If Jesus did this for us; if he loved us this much; then we need not be frightened if he startles us by acting in a manner we do not expect or understand.

This is Jesus. He is not some scary ghost.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, our eyesight is dim and our understanding of what is happening to us is often limited and flawed. Teach us to never be afraid of your presence in our lives. With eyes of faith we have seen the nails piercing your flesh. Remind us that this is proof positive that you are on our side. Stay there! Abide with us as we walk the path of life. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


Print Friendly, PDF & Email