Counting down – December 16, 2018

Counting down – December 16, 2018


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




Military Devotion – December 16, 2018

Devotion based on Galatians 4:4

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God calls it, the fullness of time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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


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I swear – December 9, 2018

I swear – December 9, 2018


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




Military Devotion – December 9, 2018

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 6:13

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So help me God!”



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



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


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Deadly shepherd – December 2, 2018

Deadly shepherd – December 2, 2018


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




Military Devotion – December 2, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 49:14

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s our answer!

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



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



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


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Horrid days – November 25, 2018

Horrid days – November 25, 2018


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




Military Devotion – November 25, 2018

Devotion based on Romans 12:15

See series: Military Devotions

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

But not all of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Christian, every day is a holiday.



We live our lives in the sunlight of these words:

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



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


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Then came thanksgiving – November 18, 2018

Then came thanksgiving – November 18, 2018


O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34




Military Devotion – November 18, 2018

Devotion based on 1 Chronicles 16:34

See series: Military Devotions

He was tired of it. Tired of the sand, tired of the smell—tired of the whole mess.

He was sick of it. Sick of the heat, sick of the people, sick of looking at sick-looking houses and wondering if someone inside was waiting to kill him.

It reminded him of the movie Groundhog Day. This deployment was hours of boredom, broken ever-so-often by moments of terror. Life had become one miserable day after another.

Then came Thanksgiving.

At first the thought depressed him. He thought of Thanksgivings past. He remembered the food, the fun, and football games watched with family.

None of that now. He didn’t want to think of Thanksgiving. It only made him think of what he was missing.

Then the phrase struck him: “What he was missing!”

It reminded him of what his grandmother had said years ago: “Don’t just be thankful for what you have, be also thankful for what you don’t have—for what is missing from your life.”

The words confused him then, but now he began to understand. He started to look at his life with fresh eyes. What was he missing?

Well, cancer, for one thing! He had no cancer. That’s what had taken his grandma away. He missed her, but was that something to be thankful for? Maybe he could give thanks that she did not have to suffer and now was in the glory of heaven.

What else was he missing? The list began to grow as he looked around. He was missing desolation and hunger. He was missing a life lived in the stench and poverty that these people had to endure. His life was lived without worry that a death squad would break into his family’s house.

He lived without the fear that Allah would punish him if he did not bow toward Mecca.

He remembered learning about the “Four Freedoms” speech that President Roosevelt gave when America was on the trailing edge of the Depression and moving toward the brink of war:

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear.

Loss of these freedoms was missing from his life.

Thank God for that!

But he knew his grandmother would be sure to point out other things missing from his life:

Fear of hopelessness. Fear of godlessness. Fear of meaninglessness. Fear of death.

Thank God for grandma! Thank God for all those who loved him; taught him; and prayed for him! Thank God for Jesus, for forgiveness, and salvation!

Life looked different now. The irritations remained, but so did the faith that God was with him.

He had been miserable, forgetful, and unthankful.

Then came thanksgiving—not just the day, but the words of thanksgiving flowing from his heart: O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.



We join in the words of the Thanksgiving hymn of our forefathers:

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices,
Who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever-joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his grace and guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills in this world and the next. Amen.
(Christian Worship 610:1-2)



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.


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Remember – November 11, 2018

Remember – November 11, 2018


Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.
Deuteronomy 32:7




Military Devotion – November 11, 2018

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 32:7

See series: Military Devotions

It might be argued that we no longer know how to properly observe Veterans Day because we have forgotten Armistice Day.

There may be something to that. The generation that stopped in silence as church bells rang for two minutes each year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—that generation has faded away. The armistice went into effect exactly 100 years ago.

We might find some of their names etched into old gravestones. We might recall the words of their poem, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row…” In a history book we might read that on one day, July 1, 1916, British forces suffered 57,470 casualties—including 19,240 fatalities (in one day!)—and gained three miles of blood-soaked soil.

Armistice Day was always observed, never celebrated. It was much too painful of a memory marker. Total World War I fatalities were over 20 million, with 21 million wounded. Over 116,000 American troops died in that war. Nothing to celebrate.

We don’t feel that pain. Our generation has been spared that anguish.

60 million lost their lives in World War Two. Over 400,00 were Americans. Add 34,000 Americans in Korea; over 58,000 in Vietnam; include the Gulf Wars, and the numbers become painful.

But many Americans don’t feel that pain. Some are too young. Some don’t care.

We do. We should. The name may now be Veterans Day, but the cause of the observance remains the same: We need to remember. There are lessons to be learned. Appreciations to be offered.

“Thank you for your service!” has replaced the “Baby killers!” that some Vietnam veterans heard. We thank God for that.

We thank him for those in the past who left behind factory jobs and college classrooms; those who left behind carpenter tools and horse-drawn plows; those who left behind high school sweethearts, weeping mothers, and moist-eyed fathers—because their country called.

We remember them.

We remember those who never fired a shot in anger, whose job was to load trucks; fill out forms; or prepare food. We needed them.

We remember those who had to make decisions that others would receive as orders. We remember those who tended to the wounded; and those who prayed with the dying.

We remember them all.

We remember them as gifts provided to our nation by a gracious God.

We remember him most of all. Without him, all valiant efforts would fail.

Without him, there would be no heaven for any of the fallen.

We remember that it was no armistice that his Bethlehem angels announced. Heaven’s declaration of peace between the Holy One and mankind stands through the end of time into forever.

We will not forget that.



We pray words from a generation long past:

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.


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None missing – November 4, 2018

None missing – November 4, 2018


Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.
Numbers 31:48




Military Devotion – November 4, 2018

Devotion based on Numbers 31:48

See series: Military Devotions

The Missing Man flyover never fails to lift eyes to the skies. It prompts sobering thoughts. Reminders of missing warriors often do that.

The historian reports: “Even in World War I the lesson was learned that any unit could endure severe losses if the vacant seats in the mess were occupied by the following morning. This was the “full-breakfast-table” policy, and it was one that the Royal Air Force pursued with religious intensity. But the American stations did not fill up so quickly. The VIII Bomber Command in those days simply didn’t have the men to bring in.”

Empty seats can disturb us. It was a major concern for America’s Mighty 8th that flew daylight bombing runs over Germany in WWII. In August of 1943, that command lost 88 heavy bombers and 900 men over a three-day period.

Then came Black Thursday, on which 60 planes and 600 men failed to return.

They had been attacking ball-bearing factories. Though seemingly insignificant, the German military depended upon ball-bearings for almost all of its war machinery. The attacks on places like Schweinfurt were critical. The question was, were they worth the cost?

The empty seats at the breakfast tables and the empty cots in the barracks were blows to the morale of the airmen who would take to the skies next. Bomber Command was not able to send replacements fast enough to eliminate the disturbing signs of losses.

But empty spots are the price of any war. They make us count the cost in human lives.

Reminders of the missing bring pain to those who fought alongside them. Civilians may wonder how it can be that the loss of someone the warrior knew for only a relatively short time can hurt so much. To grieve over a family member is understandable. But to mourn the death of someone known only briefly—and still do so 30 years later—is mystifying to them.

To feel sad over the death of someone the warrior never met, whose only connection was the uniform both wore—that’s even more puzzling!

But those who have donned the uniform to protect a nation know that the bond between warriors may be different from that of family members—but it may be even stronger.

Reminders of the missing—be that by names on a wall, pictures in an album, or the flash of memories old—reopen wounds. The sunlight of happiness dims. In come the dark clouds of loss.

Defenders of ancient Israel also knew how it felt to see signs of missing warriors. But in the last days of Moses, they were reminded that the Lord their God was in complete control of the body count. If it was his will, a major battle could be fought without the loss of even one of their lives.

The Midianites had been a threat to Israel ever since the march to the Promised Land. When the showdown came, the Lord called up 1,000 from each tribe of Israel—12,000 in all—to take on this dangerous enemy of impressive size.

The victory by Israel was more impressive, as was the plunder. But most impressive was this: not one Israelite soldier was missing afterward.

The Lord God had loved each of them. Each one would be ransomed by his Son. The mighty God would win the war against sin and death for each of them—and for all of us.

All those who trust in him will find themselves celebrating the victory in heaven.

And, as it was following Midian’s defeat, not one of his own—not even one—will be missing.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have said that you would always be with us, be with us as we think of those special to us but who are now missing from earth. Let the thought of the missing man formation remind us that you once ascended into those skies to return to heaven. Comfort us with the assurance that none who put their faith in you here will there be missing there. 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.


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If I die – October 28, 2018

If I die – October 28, 2018


And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:3




Military Devotion – October 28, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 37:4

See series: Military Devotions

A famous children’s prayer begins with the words, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” It continues, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

That’s a prayer for all ages. If I don’t die tonight in my sleep, I will surely die sometime—unless Jesus first returns to close out our universe. It is important then, to know what to expect if I die.

It’s not as if there is a scarcity of theories. Some would say, “If I die I will become an angel.” Others think they will become nothing more than some molecules mixed into the dirt. At this time of year, we might see people in costumes pretending to be the walking dead. Sadly, some believe this could actually happen.

Jesus, the Lord of life and death sets us straight. The day of the death of a Christian is the day Jesus comes to take that one home to heaven. Only the outer shell, the body, is left behind.

It’s as simple and as wonderful as that.

The first of November was named as All Saints Day in the Roman Catholic Church. October 31 was then called a hallowed evening, now called Halloween. In that religion, a saint is said to be someone who lived such a high level of spiritual life that death led directly to heaven—and purgatory was skipped.

Purgatory is supposed to be half-way between hell and heaven where a person serves time to pay for sins. The idea is based on the teaching that a person earns heaven by doing good works. In this plan, every sin needs to be made up for with a good work of at least as great a value. Theoretically, if, as a child, you lied to your mother about your homework, you could make up for it by taking out the garbage without being asked. If you stole a car, a much greater good work is required. Sin not paid for is a debt before God.

But there is no way of knowing exactly how many sins a person has committed, and no way of being sure of what one must do to make up for a certain sin. The result is frightening uncertainty. “The greater the debt at death, the greater the punishment in purgatory.”

So, unless a person led an exceptionally holy life, purgatory was expected to follow death. Heaven came only after pain.

Thus, the words, “If I die…” brought dread.

Ironically, the hallowed evening was also said to be a time when the powers of evil ran free. The American celebration of Halloween does not speak of evil powers unleashed, but it does reflect that history. Costumes of witches and goblins have frightening stories in their background.

For the Christian who dedicates every day and every night to the holy Lord God, Halloween can be a true holy evening.

It can be a reminder that the death of the Son of God paid for every last human sin. Everyone who believes this is truly a saint in God’s eyes.

The words, “If I die before I wake…” do not frighten us. The request, “I pray the Lord my soul to take.” will be answered. The Lord will come to take that soul immediately to heaven. There is no purgatory.

Jesus has spoken. Jesus has promised. Jesus will do it.

We can sleep in peace.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, Savior of the world and caretaker of our souls, we have been declared holy because your holiness now covers our guilt. Remind us that we are saints in the eyes of the holy God. Teach us to fear our grave as little as our bed. 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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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