Beware the defiant – May 13, 2022

Beware the defiant – May 13, 2022


They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
Jude 13




Military Devotion – May 13, 2022

Devotion based on Jude 13

See series: Military Devotions

Part of America seems to idolize the defiant.

Raised fists; loud voices and sneering faces show up on news clips and Facebook pages. Some claim this is part of America’s heritage. After all, did not our nation come into being by defying the rule of Britain? Are we not heirs of a rebellion?

We are. But not just because we are Americans. We can trace the roots of our rebellious spirit back to our first parents, who lived near the original Tigris and Euphrates.

We were born rebellious and defiant. It is part of our nature.

Should we not, at times, rebel against some expectations and defy certain threats?

Absolutely! We sing the words, “Death, I now defy thee. Fear, I bid thee cease.”

We mean that. The death and resurrection of the Son of God give us the freedom to overcome the powers of sin, of death, and of the devil. These enemies of peace and joy have been conquered. We claim victory over them in the name of Jesus. We defy them.

We do not, however, challenge the rule of our Creator and Savior God. The Holy One of Israel warns us against those who do.

The Book of Jude contains only one chapter. Jude identifies himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” This James is not John’s brother, the fisherman, but the writer of the Epistle of James. He is identified as a physical half-brother of Jesus. Thus, so is Jude.

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jude writes to warn early Christians against men who had slipped in among them, claiming to speak for Jesus, but they did not. Jude wrote, “They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

He reminds his readers of angels who rebelled and were sentenced to hell. He points to the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, who defied the Sixth Commandment the Lord had decreed. Defying God leads to a horrible end.

Such false leaders are to be condemned. They are called shepherds who only feed themselves instead of their flocks. They are like clouds without rain and trees that bear no fruit—and then are uprooted, thus twice dead.

We begin to get the picture that they can offer the Christian nothing of value despite their claims or popularity. They should not be listened to. They should not be followed.

Then, the Holy Spirit pictures their deadly defiance by comparing them to wild waves and wandering stars. This strange comparison packs a punch when we stop to think about it.

Nature is controlled by its Creator. The Lord tells of his rule over oceans when he sets boundaries by telling the waves “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11).

We remember Jesus giving commands to wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee. And then, there was the flood in Noah’s day and the command of God to the waters to rise and then recede.

He labels defiant waves as wild waves. He says they foam up to their shame.

He declares that the stars are to shine (Jeremiah 31:33), determines their number, and calls them out by name (Psalm 147:4).

A wandering star is one that goes off track from the path that God has laid down.

For such, the warning is issued: “blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”

We probably never thought of that; we never expected the Lord God to take such action. But he did, and he will.

The Lord is serious about anyone or anything defying his commands.

So, why would we ever listen to someone who tells us to go against him?

We won’t.

We are on the alert for those who would defy the Almighty.

Our souls know he paid the price of our rescue. We bow our heads in respect, appreciation, and obedience.

Death and the devils we defy.

The Lord of life we serve—gladly.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, who died that we may live, grant unto us the clear realization that serving you is no loss of freedom, and defying you is loss of everything good. Keep us on the narrow path. Deliver us from all evil. Amen.



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

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


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Scolding God – May 6, 2022

Scolding God – May 6, 2022


It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:31




Military Devotion – May 6, 2022

Devotion based on Hebrews 10:31

See series: Military Devotions

“After the battle, everything was pretty foggy. I stopped praying; I grew up in a Christian environment, but I didn’t believe it anymore. Human flesh melting on steel? Someone’s not listening.”1

This soldier’s words are disturbing. But sadly, not surprising. They can be easily brushed aside by those who have no idea how disturbing combat can be.

Those who have seen the inside of horror may nod their heads in understanding even if they disagree with the warrior’s conclusion.

When the shock is so great, one is prone to say, “This cannot be!” At other times, one feels forced to scream, “This should not be!”

If it should not be, then someone must be at fault. Someone must be blamed.

Sometimes, it seems no one is left to blame other than the one who is said to watch over the world.

That someone is the living God.

There is a natural tendency to acknowledge that a supreme being operates on a plane higher than humans. The evidence is there in nature. The confirmation rests in one’s conscience.

To deny the existence of the One who is greater is to lie to oneself.

It can be done. But most are not willing to take that step.

More commonly, people may envision a big guy in the sky who might be able to give help.

They see him similar to a helper in a preschool room. Besides tying shoes and giving out smiles, this is the one who watches over the youngsters to keep them safe. If a scuffle breaks out, this is the one that prevents it from getting out of hand.

The helper is blamed if someone gets hurt. What good are they if they cannot keep serious harm from happening?

If God is viewed as the helper for the world, he is blamed when the horrible happens.

“Someone’s not listening!” the disgusted warrior complained.

The one he had thought of as God failed to keep the warfare to an acceptable level.

The soldier knew some could be wounded in firefights. He expected some might even die. But to his mind, none—not even one—should have their flesh melted on hot steel!

So, this angry creature of dust raised his voice in empty righteous wrath to scold his creator and judge.

Someone should warn him. Someone should remind him that the Lord of creation does not answer to him. He does not answer to anyone. And never does he fail to do what is right.

The Bible speaks of such people. It says of them, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

They will learn, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The soldier is deadly wrong. But we understand him. That same haughty spirit lives in us, and at times, it takes control of our words and actions.

But the Spirit of Christ also dwells within us. His voice overrides the foolishness of evil. His spirit calls for forgiveness. It begs for greater strength to battle evil.

It is the voice of Satan that accuses the holy God. It is the blood of Jesus that washes away our guilt of listening to the rebellious angel.

The Holy Spirit, the Comforter from on high, quiets our disturbed souls and allows peace to come to hurting hearts.

We hear the assurance, “Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side.”

Scold God?

Never.


1From The Things they Cannot Say, page 132.



Prayer:
God of might, God of mercy, scold us when we dare to step out of line. Keep us on the narrow path. Call us back when we wander and hold us close when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. If our eyes ever gaze upon the horrible, lift them up to see your glory. Show us Jesus. Amen.



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

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


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Missing Persons – April 29, 2022

Missing Persons – April 29, 2022


Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Genesis 5:24




Military Devotion – April 29, 2022

Devotion based on Genesis 5:24

See series: Military Devotions

I wish to report some missing persons.

When I look in places where I have seen them before, they are not there. Sometimes I think I hear their voices, but I am always mistaken. I wish they had not left. There is happy news I would like to share with them. There have been sorrows that their presence would have lessened.

Sometimes I dream that their going away was only a dream and everything is good again—that they are in my life again.

But they are not.

Some mornings I awake with the feeling of the old days—until memory tells me that those days have passed and will never return.

They are no more.

This does not surprise me. I have learned of the thing called death. My earliest memory of it was when my puppy was run over by a car. My dad buried it next to the garden. I checked the next day to see if the puppy dug himself out of his grave.

He did not.

I learned that death was permanent. The most we can do is shed some tears over it and accept that what has died will be missing.

Thankfully, some of the people who are now missing from my life told me about the life after this life. I learned that not only did I have a daddy who was with me at the burial of my puppy, but also another father who once watched over the burial of his beloved son.

Both fathers loved me. One of them was helpless before death. The other one destroyed the power of death.

I learned to sing, “Death itself, is transitory. I shall lift my head in glory.”

The one who taught me that hymn is now among the missing. I no longer see or hear him. I miss him.

Dreadful words echo from a long-ago garden.

“Dust you are and to dust you will return.”

It is said that no one leaves this life alive. That is usually true.

Except.

Except someone called Elijah who was escorted to heaven in a fiery chariot without dying.

Except an Enoch, of whom it is written, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”

Both are listed among the missing. But we know where they went, and we know how they got there. We know where to find them now.

They are with God because God took them to heaven.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could happen as easy as that to our loved ones? If it could happen to us?

Is that not actually what has happened and will happen to those who placed their hope in Jesus, the Lord of life?

It is.

So, they are not missing after all. We just cannot see them now.

They are more alive than ever because the threat of death has been canceled. They flourish in the wonder and glory of the ever-living Creator and Savior.

Enoch has nothing over us.

We, too, walk with God each day, do we not?

One day he will take us away, will he not?

Someday someone may list my name on a stone placed among others that serve as memorials for the missing.

But you will know where to find me.

Let the inscription read: “He walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”



Prayer:
“Jesus, your blood and righteousness
my beauty are, my glorious dress;
mid flaming worlds in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.” Amen.
(Christian Worship 573:1)



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

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


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Not a Picnic – April 22, 2022

Not a Picnic – April 22, 2022


When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
John 21:9,10




Military Devotion – April 22, 2022

Devotion based on John 21:9,10

See series: Military Devotions

It might have looked like a picnic. But it wasn’t.

It was by a lake. A small group of men was gathered near some fish cooking over hot coals, and some bread was there. Seeing this, someone might have thought perhaps it was a crew of fishermen gathered for breakfast. Indeed, it might have been that.

But it was not a picnic.

These men had recently gone through traumatic experiences. One of their friends had recently committed suicide. Another had shamelessly denied he belonged to this group. Their leader had been executed.

These men had witnessed the horrible and seen the impossible. They were coping with the horrendous aftermath of one event and the wonderful afterglow of another.

They were eight of the famous twelve disciples of Jesus. They were meeting with the one who had died and then rose from the dead. They wrestled with a jumble of emotions. Their lives had been radically changed. Their relationship with Jesus was now very different. He no longer stayed with them, and he suddenly would appear and then disappear.

They knew he would soon leave them and not return.

They had to process all this. They needed to decompress. They wanted to know what to expect in the future. One of them questioned if he still was accepted as a disciple.

Indeed, their lives were not a picnic.

So, they sat by the fire, ate some food, and waited to hear what Jesus had to say. They did not have to wait long.

Finishing breakfast, Jesus turned to Simon Peter and asked, “Do you truly love me more than these?”

It was a painful question. Peter had once bragged that he loved Jesus more than all the other disciples. Now, he answered in meekness.

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He did not add, “More than these.”

Again, he was asked, “Do you truly love me?” The word “truly” reflects a deep form of love, a love like what God has for the world.

Again, Peter did not claim that high level of love. He just repeated, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” This type of love was small and humble.

Then Jesus changed the question. He used a different word for love. “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

The question hurt Peter. He was being asked if he had even a small and feeble love for Jesus.

No longer bragging, no longer sure of his own strength, now Peter appealed to the omniscience of Jesus.

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

We can relate to Peter. Too often, our love for the Savior God has been feeble and faltering. There have been times when someone looking in at our life would not have recognized us as a redeemed child of God.

But, like Peter, Jesus has not forgotten us nor forsaken us. Instead, he comes to us in Word and sacrament to assure us that he forgives us. He points to the scars on his hands and feet. He assures us with the inspired words, “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).

We wait for his plans for us to unfold, as did those disciples by the lake. We look forward to when he will return.

From then on, our lives will indeed be like a picnic.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Risen Savior, you know that I love you. I ask that you deal with me in love as you did with Simon Peter. I have nothing to boast of about myself. Instead, I sing, “I boast a Savior slain.” Give me that abiding hope you spoke of, and allow me to share that bright future with you. Amen.



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

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


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If no Easter – April 15, 2022

If no Easter – April 15, 2022


He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Mark 16:6




Military Devotion – April 15, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 16:6

See series: Military Devotions

If there were no Easter, there would be no Christmas. No Savior would have been born.

If there were no Easter, there would be no reason to celebrate a birthday. Each year added to life would be but a step downward to the pit of the grave. There would be no reason to celebrate a New Year, either. Birthdays and New Year’s would still be observed. The passage of time could not be unnoticed. But the turning of the years would bring no joy.

Of course, joy can be artificially stimulated. Drugs and alcohol can do that. So can indulging in anything that gives pleasure to mind and body. The ancient phrase is, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” That is called fatalism.

If there were no Easter, our entire life would be a fatality.

If there were no Easter, everything we attempt would end up in failure. So what if we were handed a diploma; were decorated for valor; and amassed a fortune? In the end, it would mean nothing. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” Solomon concluded. “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). If there were no Easter, that phrase would be the billboard for our life.

If there were no Easter there would be no hope. Any avoidance of pain or misfortune would only be a postponing of the inevitable disaster. For a while we might walk in sunshine, but the path would lead only to darkness. The horizon would offer no brightening of the clouds, no streaks of early dawn—only the blackness of more night.

To such a one the words of the poet are sent: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

If there were no Easter, rage would be our only recourse—feeble and fruitless as it may be. The night of death would not be good. Terror would replace rage. The bars of the dungeon would be ever locked. Misery would be our eternal cellmate.

Instead, we sing out the words: “But now is Christ arisen!”

The women did not find the body of Jesus on Easter morning. The stone was rolled away. An angel with the appearance of lightning was sitting on it. “He has risen!” he announced. “Come see the place where they laid him.”

Thousands of years later, no matter where we are, no matter how old, no matter what our circumstances in life—thousands of years later we take up the invitation of the angel. Through the eyes of the Gospel writers, with words sent from heaven, we draw near to the graveyard not far from Golgotha, and we peer into the tomb.

There we see the empty grave. There we see proof that Jesus of Nazareth, true man and true God, conquered death, paid our ransom, and gave us life everlasting.

It is Easter once again—and we celebrate it!



Our hearts sing the old hymn:
He is arisen! Glorious Word! Now reconciled is God, my Lord;
The gates of heaven are open.
My Jesus did triumphant die, and Satan’s arrows broken lie,
Destroyed hell’s fiercest weapon.
Oh, hear! What cheer! Christ victorious,
Rising glorious, Life is giving.
He was dead, but now is living! Amen.
(Christian Worship 461)



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

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


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A different crown – April 8, 2022

A different crown – April 8, 2022


Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest.”
Mark 11:9-10




Military Devotion – April 8, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 11:9-10

See series: Military Devotions

It was a different type of crowd that streamed into Jerusalem for the Passover that year. It buzzed with excitement. It came with expectations. Many believed they were going to crown a king.

It surely looked that way.

The palm branches and cloaks spread on the road; the chants of “Hosanna”; the sight of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey—all this reminded them of the prophet’s words: “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9).

The chosen 12 disciples thought for sure they were on their way to his coronation. The mother of two of them quickly submitted their names for choice spots in his government.

For the Jewish leaders, an attempt to crown Jesus as King of the Jews was one of their greatest fears. If successful, they expected he would quickly throw them out of their positions of power just as he had thrown the moneychangers out of the temple. How the Romans would react to this insurrection was another great fear.

Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, and Herod, king of Galilee, were concerned about the possibility of Jesus being crowned as a king to take their places. They feared the repercussions that would come from the powers back at Rome. The Roman Senate did not tolerate disturbances to the famed “Pax Romana,” the peace which existed between nationalities within the Roman Empire.

Even if the attempt at rebellion by this Jesus was quickly smashed, heads would roll—and not necessarily figuratively.

By the end of this week, many charges would be raised against the rabbi from Nazareth. For the Jewish leaders, the condemning one was that he claimed to be the Son of God. By Jewish law, that called for the death sentence, even though they no longer had the right to carry it out.

For the Romans, it was the claim to be a king that sealed his fate. And Rome did have the authority to carry out a legal execution.

We might ask if the frenzied Palm Sunday crowd realized how dangerous the situation was. If they did, they might have dismissed the danger by pointing out that Jesus of Nazareth had already shown that he was not intimidated by Jewish or Roman authorities. In fact, it seemed he was not afraid of anyone or anything.

If he could drive out demons, cure afflictions with a touch, and raise the dead, what chance did his enemies have to overpower him?

He didn’t need an army to back his claim to the throne. He was in possession of superhuman power.

He showed that supremacy when the detachment of soldiers came to arrest him in Gethsemane. The mere words, “I am he” threw them to the ground, helpless.

What chance did his enemies have to prevent him from taking over as their king?

The very chance that he gave them. He would not resist them. He came to place himself into their hands. That had been the plan all along.

The Jewish leaders, the Romans, and the Palm Sunday crowds misunderstood his objective. They thought he was aiming for a crown of silver or gold.

He had in mind a different crown.

He rode into Jerusalem on that day to receive a crown of thorns.

Thereby, he won for us the crown of life.

Thus, he gained his victory—and so did we.



Prayer:
“All glory, laud and honor to thee Redeemer King.” We shout out, “Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.” Heaven declares him to be “King of kings and Lord of lords.” We agree. “Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.



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

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


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Did what she could – April 1, 2022

Did what she could – April 1, 2022


“She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
Mark 14:8




Military Devotion – April 1, 2022

Devotion based on Isaiah 1:27

See series: Military Devotions

Her name was Mary. She lived with her brother and sister in a home not too far from Jerusalem. She was a friend of Jesus of Nazareth.

She was worried. She knew something bad was going to happen. She saw the proverbial train wreck coming—and she could not stop it.

The word had gotten out. Jesus was going to be killed.

Even some of his enemies tried to warn him. Luke reports, “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

Jesus’ reply was, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:31,32).

This would not bode well.

Worse, Jesus began to tell his disciples that he must suffer many things and must be killed.

None of this made any sense to them. When Peter objected, Jesus called him “Satan” and said, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)

Mary could not stop the coming tragedy. So, she did what she could. She prepared his body for burial.

We can relate to Mary. We, too, may have encountered situations where we felt helpless to help someone else in time of need.

We can’t cure terminal cancer. We can’t stop wars. We can’t erase the replay of traumatic events that torment a mind. There are many things we cannot do no matter how much we wish we could.

Sometimes, like Mary, we cannot stop a person from doing something that we know will cause pain, maybe even death.

That can leave us frustrated or angry; and certainly, sad.

We might say, “I can only do what I can do.” But we are not happy with that. We think, “If it were me, if it were my life, I would do something about it.”

Then, the realization dawns that there are things we cannot fix, problems we cannot solve.

Judas had the same concern as Mary. He looked in and saw that Jesus was not going to set himself up as king in Jerusalem. Perhaps, he saw this coming before other disciples did. James and John were still thinking that they could get a share of the power and glory of the kingdom that Jesus was going to establish on earth. So did their mother.

All of them were wrong. “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus explained to Pilate.

So, why was he here? Why was he not sitting on his throne in heaven?

We think back to that scene in Bethany. We begin to realize that Jesus had come to earth to fix a problem for us. The problem was our damning sin and the death sentence it carried. We needed his help. We were lost without it.

He could do what we could not.

Jesus was pleased to accept Mary’s loving gift. He praised her for it.

He rejected the claim of Judas that the money could have been spent for a better cause.

He pressed forward on his rescue mission. He was willing to bear the pain and pay the price though it would cost his life.

He did what he could. He suffered. He died—because he loved us.

Was that enough?

Easter morning’s empty grave is our receipt.

Our debt is paid in full.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you are the help of the helpless and the hope of the hopeless. What was impossible for us was given as a gift to us. We marvel at your power. We marvel more at your love. Amen.



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

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


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Zion redeemed – March 25, 2022

Zion redeemed – March 25, 2022


Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.
Isaiah 1:27




Military Devotion – March 25 2022

Devotion based on Isaiah 1:27

See series: Military Devotions

The story of our salvation is the story of Zion redeemed.

Mount Zion was a hill in Jerusalem the Canaanites had used as a fortress. Zion became a synonym for Jerusalem as well as for the whole land of Israel. Sometimes, it also represents the people of God, the holy Christian church.

Through the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Spirit pointed an accusing finger at his people with the words, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt…” He went on to identify the guilt. “They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him” (Isaiah 2:4ff).

This will have consequences. Isaiah admits, “Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”

We can picture what that would be like. We have seen photos of destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have learned of the power the Creator has at his command. It is frightful.

Long before, Moses had written of the Holy One, “We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation” (Psalm 90:7).

How does someone escape this fury? What can be done to turn away his anger? Could sinners pay a fine? Could they offer a bribe? Could those people pay the Holy One off by offering him sacrifices?

They tried it. It didn’t work. It will never work. He scolded them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”

He told them, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.”

But then they heard, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

How can that be? Those people surely were not able to stop sinning, were they? They surely were not able to make up for the evil they had done by trying extra hard to do good, were they?

Of course not. They and we must confess with the prophet, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Filthy rags! That’s the best we can offer. It’s an impossible situation for us.

But not for the Redeemer God. As Jesus would tell the people of his day, “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). The LORD himself would step into that impossible situation.

“Zion will be redeemed with justice” Scripture declares.

Jesus brought that justice into the courtroom of the Judge of all. The Son of God was absolutely without guilt. But he assumed the debt of the guilty. So, he became guilty.

He was found guilty. He was given the death sentence. It was carried out on Golgotha.

The debt once owned by humans is now paid for.

How does one become the recipient of the payment, the redemption?

The need for help needs to be recognized. Sorrow for sin needs to be felt. The Holy Spirit seeks to enable that. It is called repentance.

Thus, the word is given that Zion will be redeemed with justice, and it is explained, “her penitent ones with righteousness.”

The righteousness of the Holy One of God now covers the former guilty ones who place their trust in the Savior God. So, the apostle can announce, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

That’s it! Zion has peace with God. Zion is redeemed.

And we are Zion.



Prayer:
Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit, we lift our eyes in wonder to hear that our guilt has been paid for. Our trust in Jesus as our Savior has placed us among the redeemed of God. For this, we thank you. For this, we praise you. Because of this, we are forever blessed. Amen.



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

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


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A gory God – March 18, 2022

A gory God – March 18, 2022


In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22




Military Devotion -March 18, 2022

Devotion based on Hebrews 9:22

See series: Military Devotions

She said, “You have a gory God!”

There was the sound of contempt in her voice mixed with a twinge of sadness. She said she believed in peace and love. She wondered how I could worship someone who is reported as having killed countless civilians when Israel left Egypt. Then, she pointed to the more than a thousand Assyrian soldiers under Sennacherib who were found lifeless outside of Jerusalem one morning.

She asked, “Wasn’t this the same God who claimed credit for each carnage?”

Had she known her Bible better, she might have listed more instances of when an encounter with the Lord God resulted in the death of humans.

And then, what about all the animals killed as offerings to the God of Israel?

As we gather in our clean and tidy church buildings, it’s difficult to envision what it was like for the Old Testament people as they brought offerings to be slaughtered as an act of worship.

Wasn’t this woman right in declaring, “You have a gory God!”?

There’s even more evidence, is there not? What about when the Lord God commanded Abraham to use a knife to kill his own son?

What are we to make of that?

In the end, Abraham’s son was spared. An animal substituted for him. But the mere threat can make us wonder if the almighty God might actually carry through with such a command at some point in time.

No need to wonder. History shows he did just that. The Bible covers this dreadful event in great detail. It is not a pretty picture.

It reveals the Father sacrificing his own Son. There is blood aplenty. A wreath made of thorns was jammed down onto his skull. Head wounds seem to bleed a lot.

He was whipped by soldiers. More blood.

Nails were pounded into hands and feet. Finally, a spear was stabbed into his side. Out came blood and water.

A gory sight!

This happened not by chance. It was premeditated. Not by Jewish leaders. Not by Roman soldiers.

It was planned and implemented by the Lord of creation.

Seven hundred years years before the horror took place, Isaiah described the victim in his prophecy, “His appearance,” he wrote, “was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).

If the Lord God caused this, is he not a gory God?

It seems so. Yet, the Bible makes something very clear. The Holy One did not cause the blood and gore. That’s on the humans. They are the ones who defied holy laws. They brought death and damnation upon themselves. Sin comes with a death penalty.

If they were to be spared, if they were to be rescued, someone innocent of sin would need to take their place. That someone would be punished by the holy God. That substitute someone would need to suffer a bloody, agonizing death.

That someone was Jesus, the Son of God.

The fist of divine judgment struck him instead of us. He bled and died because he was guilty of crimes deserving abandonment to the depths of hell. You see, our guilt had been piled onto his shoulders. That’s what the sacrifices of innocent birds and animals in the temple pointed to. That’s what the bleeding and dying were all about.

So, with what words would we describe the judge of heaven and earth, of life and death?

How about, “merciful”? How about, “loving”? How about, “my Savior?”

For generations, his worshipers have pictured him hanging on the cross as they sang, “O sacred head, now wounded.” The hymn continues, “Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call you mine.”

So what would we say to that woman asking how we could worship such a one?

Don’t we need to answer, don’t we want to answer, “A gory God? Yes, he was!”?

Thank God, he was.

For us, he was made gory.

For her too!



Prayer:
What language shall I borrow to thank you dearest Friend,
For this, your dying sorrow, your pity without end?
Oh, make me yours forever, and keep me strong and true;
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for you. Amen.
Christian Worship 429:5



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

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


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Ace of Spades – March 11, 2022

Ace of Spades – March 11, 2022


The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8




Military Devotion -March 11, 2022

Devotion based on1 John 3:8

See series: Military Devotions

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, America went to war. The result was a devastating defeat for the invaders.

A few years later, American leaders responded to the reports of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and evidence that its leader authorized the slaughter of countless men, women, and children who were Kurds.

America returned to war in Iraq—this time determined to eliminate the regime’s leadership that caused so much death and destruction.

To enable our troops to identify the leaders, their pictures were put onto what looked like playing cards. Troops didn’t need to learn the Arabic names. They could just refer to “The 10 of Diamonds” and everyone knew who that person was and what he looked like. The top target was the president of the country.

He was pictured on the Ace of Spades.

When the Son of God was sent to earth to destroy the powers of darkness, he knew their leader carried the name Satan.

Thus, we can say, during the mission of Jesus on this earth, his chief target was the prince of darkness. His card, if there were one, would be the Ace of Spades.

The one known in Nazareth as the carpenter’s son spent some 30 years preparing for the showdown. When the time was right, it was the Holy Spirit who led him onto that battlefield in the desert for the opening round. Satan came carrying the primary weapons of satanic forces: deceit and intimidation.

He began the attack with the words, “If you are the Son of God…” followed by commands to “tell these stones to become bread” and “throw yourself down” from the high point of the temple.

It was a trap. If Jesus had done these things, as he easily could have, he would have appeared to have accepted Satan as his commander.

He did not.

The last attack in the desert by Satan revealed his true objective. After showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor, he said, “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9).

Much earlier, while yet in heaven, Satan and his followers had challenged the authority of the Lord God to rule over them. Now on earth, Satan renewed the challenge. Jesus didn’t flinch. Instead, he issued his own command, “Away from me, Satan!”

Satan yielded. He had to. Satan left. Angels rushed to the side of the victor.

During his ministry here, Jesus won battle after battle against his adversaries. Repeatedly, they retreated to fight another day.

Until.

Until there was no chance of retreat. Until the day that the Lord of life crushed the powers of darkness by sacrificing himself for mankind. He defeated sin, death, and the devil by dying. He proved his victory by rising from the dead.

The hymnist called Jesus, “Death of death and hell’s destruction.”

The leader of the satanic state was taken down. He is now detained with limited freedom. The holy, almighty God controls the length of the chain he is tied to.

He still boasts as if he is unstoppable. But he is faking it. He knows the gates of hell will slam shut on him at the time of God’s choosing. Those who follow him will share his misery.

He is running for his life, but his path leads only to a pit—the pit of hell.

Rightly we sing, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none.
He’s judged, the deed is done! One little word can fell him.” (Christian Worship 863:3)

That word is “Jesus.”



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, if you had not come to rescue us, if you had not been willing to take on our deadly enemy, if you had just watched from afar, the powers of darkness would have robbed us of life and salvation. We hail you as our conquering King. Amen.



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

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


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Surrounded – March 4, 2022

Surrounded – March 4, 2022


When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
2 Kings 6:15,16




Military Devotion -March 4, 2022

Devotion based on 2 Kings 6:15,16

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes what we see by dawn’s early light is surprising. It may even be alarming. That’s the way it was for the servant of the prophet Elisha.

One morning he saw that an enemy force had surrounded him and his master.

The king of Aram had declared war on the king of Israel. He became frustrated when, time after time, his attempts to ambush the Israelites failed. He thought he knew the reason why.

He called his officers together and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

The answer came back: “None of us… but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” Somehow, Elisha had a way of knowing things.

Thus, Elisha became a target.

The order went out, “Go find where he is so I can send men and capture him.”

They found him. “He is in Dothan.”

Next, “The king sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.”

What chance does one or two have against an army? Elisha’s servant believed the answer was, “None!”

When the servant got up that next morning, the sight of the hostile forces terrified him. “Oh, my lord,” he asked Elisha, “what shall we do?”

In effect, Elisha told him, “Nothing! We need do nothing!”

Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”

The result? “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

The servant was not to despair. Elisha’s words were true. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

The king of Aram had brought his human army to Dothan. The Lord of armies sent angels.

Children of the heavenly Father should not be surprised to learn of enemies gathering around them. They should remember that the most dangerous enemy is the one that cannot be seen. The greatest danger is always not to the body, but to the soul.

“I walk in danger all the way…” the hymnist wrote. We still sing those words because they still apply.

We need to realize that we live our lives surrounded by enemies. But there’s more that the Lord wants us to know.

We also live our lives surrounded by angels.

This army of angels has never tasted defeat. Never left anyone behind. Never will. Their mission is always accomplished. Their primary mission is rescue—sometimes in a surprising way.

No Aram soldiers died on that frightful day at Dothan. Instead, the Lord struck them, not with a sword, but with blindness. He showed them mercy. He gave them another chance to do right.

Elisha met the blinded soldiers with the words, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.”

He led them to Samaria. It was a trap. They could have been slaughtered there. Instead, Elisha ordered a feast to be prepared for them. When they finished eating and drinking, they returned home.

Scripture records, “So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”

Mission accomplished.

What have we learned?

The King of angels and the Redeemer of mankind is always in control. He allows evil to exist, but his will prevails in the end.

He never abandons his people. They are ever guarded by some of the angelic troops that drove Satan and his rebel followers out of heaven.

Thus, when facing enemies, God’s people can always say, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

We just don’t see those angels.

Yet.



Prayer:
Lord God, all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works come from you. Give to us, your servants, that peace that the world cannot give. Defend us also from the fear of our enemies. Let your holy angels be with us, that the evil foes may have no power over us. Amen.



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

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


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A glimpse of our glory – February 25, 2022

A glimpse of our glory – February 25, 2022


Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Matthew 13:43




Military Devotion – February 25, 2022

Devotion based on Matthew 13:43

See series: Military Devotions

Those who expect to take a trip to a new land, whether in peace or war, appreciate seeing some pictures of where they are heading. As their eyes gaze upon the unknown spaces, their minds try to place themselves into the picture.

Jungle or desert? Mountains or ocean? What are the people like in that place? What will it be like to be there?

The future is unknown, but a picture may make one say, “I think I’m going to like it there!” Of course, it may also lead one to conclude, “I’m going to hate it!”

They who realize that they are strangers here on earth naturally wonder what it will be like to live in the place that Jesus is preparing for them. They pay special attention to the verses of the Bible that offer descriptions of life in heaven.

The closer their departure date seems, the more closely they may look at the pictures Scripture provides.

There is no video of heaven, not even a snapshot. Yet, a fellow named Stephen got a preview. He said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). But he was quickly killed and had no chance to describe in greater detail what he saw.

The apostle Paul reported that he once was caught up to paradise but told us he heard “inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”

So, we are left with other words of Scripture to tell us about heaven. We learn what is not there: no sin, no sorrow, no pain, or death. Instead, joy, peace, and glory will be enjoyed by us forever.

The transfiguration of Jesus gives us a glimpse of that glory.

Regarding Jesus, Matthew tells us, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light (17:2). Moses and Elijah, who left this world long before, showed up. Then, a bright cloud surrounded them. From the cloud, a voice declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Visitors from heaven had arrived. It was exciting. It was terrifying. It was a glimpse of heavenly glory.

A blaze of light had pierced the darkness. The apostle Peter later wrote that he was an eyewitness of divine majesty. He surely was!

But there was more. The Holy Spirit inspired Saint Matthew to show the connection between the transfiguration of Jesus and the followers of Jesus.

Matthew reports that Jesus had just described what will happen to those who reject him and follow Satan. On judgement day, his angels “will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

And what about those who follow Jesus?

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Jesus had shone like the sun. In eternity, so will we.

That’s worth remembering during the dark and cloudy days in our lives. We are going to share in the glory of the Son of God.

Exactly what will that be like?

Wait and see.



Until then, we live in the brightness of his blessing:
The Lord bless and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.



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

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


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Precious blood – February 18, 2022

Precious blood – February 18, 2022


But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
Genesis 4:15




Military Devotion – February 18, 2022

Devotion based on Genesis 4:15

See series: Military Devotions

His blood seeped into the pristine soil. It was worse than a tragedy. It was murder. It was evidence of paradise lost.

The victim’s name was Abel, beloved son of Adam and Eve. The one who ended his life was Cain, also a beloved son of the first humans placed into God’s creation.

To Cain, the Lord of life and death said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Thus, we sing, “Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies.”

We ask, “What hope is there for such as Cain and us, who transgress the code of divine law in any part—not just murder?

From the future, a voice would tell Cain, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5). The Lord of life is the only hope.

Murder stands out as one of the worst crimes. Stolen property can be replaced. A ruined reputation can be restored. Not so a snuffed-out life. Death leaves loving survivors feeling helpless, hopeless, and hurting.

Worse, when one brother kills the other brother! That’s fratricide. The anguish that seared the hearts of the first parents must have been beyond description.

How their tears must have flowed! How bitterly they must have recalled living in a world without death! How guilty they must have felt for bringing sin into Paradise!

“Unto dust shalt thou return.” They had heard this with their own ears. Little did they realize that the first one to return to dust would be their son. Bitter was the realization that Cain was not the promised one who would crush the head of the serpent. Instead, he had served as the hand of the serpent—the hand of Satan.

Both brothers had placed offerings to the one who had blessed their labors. Cain brought fruits of the soil. His brother sacrificed the firstborn of his flock. One offering was accepted. The other was rejected.

We ask, “Why?”

The answer is not found in the difference of the offerings. It lies in the contrast of the hearts.

We learn: “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4).

Loving trust in the Lord over life and death always spells the difference between receiving divine favor or disapproval.

We are warned: “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12).

What hope was there for Cain? There would be consequences of his sin: “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Yet, the word of the psalmist, “Put your hope in God!” still applied to this murderer—as it does to all who transgress the commands of the Holy One. The mark of Cain was for his protection. He was given more time to repent and return to the Lord who offers life.

Significantly, Scripture points to another beloved son whose dying blood dripped onto hungry soil at the feet of those who murdered him. This one was the beloved of the heavenly Father. His blood calls out a message different from that of Abel’s.

“Father, forgive them!”

It is true that “Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies.”

Yet, it is just as certain, “But the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries.”

The one we call my Savior, my God, listens to that cry. He grants that pardon.

We now only await the door opening for us to paradise regained.



Thus, we call out to one another: “Lift we, then, our voices, swell the mighty flood; louder still and louder, Praise the precious blood!” Amen.



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

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


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Isaiah’s Desert Storm – February 11, 2022

Isaiah’s Desert Storm – February 11, 2022


“Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: ‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!’”
Isaiah 21:9




Military Devotion – February 11, 2022

Devotion based on Isaiah 21:9

See series: Military Devotions

The prophet Isaiah begins the 21st chapter of his book with these words: “An oracle concerning the Desert by the Sea: Like whirlwinds sweeping through the south land, an invader comes from the desert, from a land of terror.”

This was Isaiah’s famous Desert Storm.

Just a little bit north of Baghdad was the city of Babylon, the heart of the Babylonian Empire, which spread terror far and wide.

The Southern Kingdom of Israel had barely escaped extinction by the Assyrians only to face invasion by Babylon. The walls of Jerusalem were breached. The magnificent temple of Solomon was first stripped of its precious pieces and then leveled to the ground.

Uncounted numbers of Israelites were slaughtered. Long lines of prisoners plodded over desert paths to head for lifelong captivity. There was no escaping the death-grip.

The Lord God promised they would be released after 70 years. But how could that be?

Through the mouth of his prophet, the Lord God tells them how.

“Like whirlwinds sweeping through the south land, an invader comes from the desert, from a land of terror.”

It will be like a desert storm.

Americans who have spent time in that desert can see the picture in their mind’s eye. They have seen the brown clouds of sand that blow with stinging force. A desert storm can quickly destroy most everything in its path.

That’s what happened to Babylon in its self-satisfied and comfortable arrogance.

Coming up from the south like a desert storm, the Persians blew through the Babylonian outposts and smashed its defenses. The news spread throughout the desert regions.

“Babylon has fallen, has fallen!”

Unbelievable! But true.

Israel’s rebellion against its gracious God brought his decree of captivity. Now, he proclaims the fall of her captor. He decrees Israel will be free again.

The Lord God keeps his promises—always.

He announced the judgment against rebellious humans with the words: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).

This was a death sentence. Humans were now captive to sin, death, and the devil.

But not forever.

Satan was warned that his death grip would be broken. The Lord spoke of One who would come to set his people free. “He will crush your head…” (Genesis 3:15).

Isaiah foretold Israel’s freedom with the words, “Babylon has fallen, has fallen!”

Jesus announced our escape from death’s grip with the words, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). He told the disciples returning from spreading the news about him, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

Jesus died that we might live.

Not Babylon, but Satan, had held us captive. Like Babylon, Satan was overthrown.

He had been warned, but he had no escape.

The Son of God came upon him like a desert storm.

We are free.



Prayer: Lord God of the nations, let the word of your victory over sin, death, and the devil banish fear from the hearts of your people. Keep us forever safe. Amen.



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

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


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No “If” – February 4, 2022

No If – February 4, 2022


A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Mark 1:41-42




Military Devotion – February 4, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 1:41-42

See series: Military Devotions

Our hearts must go out to this man. Leprosy was a hideous and painful disease. There was no cure. Lepers were forced to quarantine themselves from the rest of the population out of fear of being contagious. That means his family suffered too.

It took courage for the man to approach Jesus. He was desperate but determined.

He was absolutely certain of the power that Jesus possessed. He had faith.

To Jesus, he said: “You can make me clean.”

There is another man that our heart must go out to. He told Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not” (Mark 9:17-18).

Jesus responded with anger. “‘O unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’”

“So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.”

When Jesus asked how long this had been going on, the father said, “From childhood—It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

How sad! How horrible! Surely, Jesus will respond with tenderness, won’t he?

Not exactly.

“If you can?” Jesus retorted. Then he added, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

The father should not have said, “If.” Not when he was speaking about the ability of Jesus to do something.

The “if” showed something was lacking in the father’s faith. “If you can do anything…” infers Jesus might not have enough power to take control of this vicious demon.

The man admitted his mistake. He accurately identified his problem. Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

The difference between this man and the leprous man was the quality of their faith.

The leper said to Jesus, “You can make me clean.”

The distraught father said, “If you can….”

This was not just a slip of the tongue. He had already seen the disciples fail. He thought maybe there was no way to overcome the power of this demon.

Jesus rebuked his disciples as much as he did the father. Lack of faith is not uncommon among us humans.

Jesus could have said, “No!” to the leper’s request. The man knew that. “If you are willing,” he told Jesus, “You can make me clean.” He left the decision up to Jesus.

That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? In the end, it is the will of God, not the power of God, that determines what he will and will not do.

Faith has confidence that his will is good for us. Faith declares, “Not my will, but Thine!”

Come to think of it, that’s the kind of confidence Jesus showed on the eve of his execution.

In Gethsemane, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

We pray that too, do we not?

“Our Father, who art in heaven…thy will be done.”

No “if.”



Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need you to overpower the control that evil in all its forms has over us. We will not presume to tell you how to do this. We place this into your hands. Thy will be done! Amen.



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

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


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Quiet miracles – January 28, 2022

Quiet miracles – January 28, 2022


Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
John 2:7-9




Military Devotion – January 28, 2022

Devotion based on John 2:7-9

See series: Military Devotions

Some might say that Jesus must have failed the course in showmanship. If a person wants to put on a show, there should be a drumroll, or bugle call, or maybe fireworks. If you are going to do something earth-shaking, you need to get people’s attention, or they might not be impressed.

When the Son of God performed his first miracle after some thirty years of preparation, none of this happened. There was no roaring applause, not even a “Hallelujah!” or a “Thank you.” Yet, he had done the impossible.

He converted H2O into C6H14OS.

He changed water into wine.

He did it without any experimentation, without any mixing of chemicals, without any magical words, and without anyone seeing it happen. There was no fanfare.

He worked a quiet miracle.

So complete was the discreetness that neither the master of the banquet nor the bridegroom knew the miracle had happened.

Just as surprising is the reason for the miracle, he did it to avoid embarrassment—not for himself, but for a bride and groom whose names are not even known to us “They have no more wine.” Mary quietly told her son.

When we think of miracles, pictures come to our mind of the Red Sea parting, the blind seeing, and the dead rising to life. Those were critical needs answered by heavenly powers.

Escaping embarrassment doesn’t seem to qualify as a critical need.

But that’s all right. Our Savior Lord knows all of our needs and comes to care for them.

He continues to work his quiet miracles.

We might thank him for sparing our life in a vehicle wreck or a firefight. But he also was there to heal our skinned knee when we fell from our bike as a child.

Of the car wreck or firefight, we might say, “It’s a miracle anyone came out alive.” But is it any less of a miracle that muscle wasn’t cut, that infection didn’t set in, and that our skin seemingly healed itself when we tumbled from that bicycle?

We don’t consider a scab forming over a skinned knee to be a miracle because it happens all the time—until it doesn’t, and infection results in septic shock.

We don’t think about all that must happen for a sound to be passed through an eardrum and then processed by our brain—until it doesn’t, and we find ourselves deaf.

We don’t marvel at breathing even when we are sleeping—until we need a respirator.

When a humanly impossible action occurs repeatedly, we say it happens naturally. We don’t call it a miracle. Maybe we should.

We know as little about everything our Lord is tending to in our life as that wedding couple once knew about their miraculous wine.

Jesus once pointed to birds of the air and lilies of the field to remind us of the Father’s tender care.

Of that Father, Scripture tells us, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

“All things!” That includes the ones we don’t even know about.

Thank God for his quiet miracles!



Prayer: Heavenly Father, we live under your gracious and mighty care. Without you, we would have no blessings in life. Without you, we would have no life. Send the Holy Spirit to open our eyes as your holy Word reveals your loving care for our body, mind, and soul. Thank you for the miracle of life—and the miracles in our lives. Amen.



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

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


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A stranger here – January 21, 2022

A stranger here – January 21, 2022


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




Military Devotion – January 21, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 1:35

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s good advice because it is true.

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

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

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

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

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

We will be home.



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



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

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


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Dreading demons – January 14, 2022

Dreading demons – January 14, 2022


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




Military Devotion – January 14, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 1:23-26

See series: Military Devotions

Demons are to be dreaded because they are dreadful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That word is, “Jesus!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One day, we will need fear demons nevermore.



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



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

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


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Pain on the path – January 7, 2022

Pain on the path – January 7, 2022


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




Military Devotion – January 7, 2022

Devotion based on Luke 2:35

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She delighted in that blessed assurance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His people need to know this.

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

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

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

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

Yes, we do.

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



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



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

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


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In your hands – December 31, 2021

In your hands – December 31, 2021


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




Military Devotion – December 31, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 31:15

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we will remain in his hands.



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



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

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


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Hopes and fears – December 24, 2021

Hopes and fears – December 24, 2021


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




Military Devotion – December 24, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 2:10

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

They were sore afraid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will not be sore afraid.



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



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

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


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The casket under the Christmas tree – December 23, 2021

The casket under the Christmas tree – December 23, 2021


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




Military Devotion – December 23, 2021

Devotion based on John 10:10

See series: Military Devotions

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

Death doesn’t take a holiday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It fits well under the Christmas tree.



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



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

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


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An empty Christmas – December 17, 2021

An empty Christmas – December 17, 2021


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




Military Devotion – December 17, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 2:11

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overlooking Christ in Christmas is to have an empty Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That news is worth more than a thousand diamond rings.

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

Will it?



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



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

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


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The Branch – December 10, 2021

The Branch – December 10, 2021


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




Military Devotion – December 10, 2021

Devotion based on Jeremiah 33:15

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except.

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

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

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

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

And we are among those that he rescued!

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

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

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

This line will live forever.

So will we.



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



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

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


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Ten hut! – December 3, 2021

Ten hut! – December 3, 2021


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




Military Devotion – December 3, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 3:4-6

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we think God does not notice that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ten hut!”



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



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

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


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Advent prayer answered – November 26, 2021

Advent prayer answered – November 22, 2021


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




Military Devotion – November 26, 2021

Devotion based on Revelation 22:20

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

One of the sophomore girls had died in her sleep.

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, it was the fulfillment of Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Christmas like in heaven? Wait and see.

He tells us, “I am coming soon.”



Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.



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

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


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King of kings – November 19, 2021

King of kings – November 19, 2021


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




Military Devotion – November 19, 2021

Devotion based on John 19:15

See series: Military Devotions

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

“We have no king but Caesar!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed assurance!

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Whispering hope – November 12, 2021

Whispering hope – November 12, 2021


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




Military Devotion – November 12, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:11-13

See series: Military Devotions

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

“I don’t have any hope of heaven.”

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking she was without Christ, she was without hope.

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

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

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

That is a lie fed to us by Satan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I know this?

I married her.



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



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

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


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Cursed no more – November 5, 2021

Cursed no more – November 5, 2021


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




Military Devotion – November 5, 2021

Devotion based on Malachi 4:5

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He did.

It must happen before judgment day.

It did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He announced, “Joy to the World.”

We are cursed no more.



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



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

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


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Repent – October 29, 2021

Repent – October 29, 2021


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




Military Devotion – October 29, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 4:17

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

Repentance is critical to spiritual life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denying sin has hellish consequences. Repentance brings heavenly peace.

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

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

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

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

We must say that too.

Repentance leads to that.



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



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

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


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