I don’t know – August 20, 2017

I don’t know – August 20, 2017


And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
2 Corinthians 12:3,4




Military Devotion – August 20, 2017

Devotion based on 2 Corinthians 12:3,4

See series: Military Devotions

The soldier was wounded. But he didn’t think he was dying until the chaplain told him to prepare to meet God. He reports that shortly afterward, “A wall of light like a silvery screen appeared against the jet black background. A kaleidoscope as well as a multi-colored projection of my entire life cycle, from my very birth and babyhood up to that moment when I received the news.”

The vision continued. He saw himself flying through the universe, past planets, stars, and galaxies, but then his whirlwind path through the cosmos bends and he returns to earth. There he saw himself pass through a narrow little window into the hospital ward, and back into his own waiting body.

What was that? Hallucination? Dream? A near-death experience? The soldier said, “I don’t know.”

The Apostle Paul had a similar experience. His trip was not through the solar system, but up into heaven. There he heard things he could not express.

As to if this was an out-of-body experience or not, the Apostle wrote: “I do not know.”

What he did know was that God allowed him to have an in-heaven experience.

At times, we too may experience things that we cannot explain. People have seen things, and felt they have done things, that are humanly impossible. Sometimes this greatly bothers them. Sometimes it scares them.

Many times, it occurs in connection with a traumatic event. But not always.

Maybe this has already happened to you. If not, maybe it will. Or, maybe it will happen to a loved one.

What are we to do when we do not know what is happening? What are we to think when what we see doesn’t make sense? What should we believe when it seems that we have come face-to-face with the life beyond?

The same thing we have been doing all of our Christian life. We fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

What should we be afraid of when this life does end? The smiling face of Jesus? Surely not! And certainly, not the place in heaven that the Savior has prepared for the one he loves!

Many are the times in life we may need to say, “I do not know.” But not regarding the love of God or his plans for us.

Concerning whatever he reveals to us we must always say: “This is most certainly true.”



We can join in the words of Job:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)



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

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




Not by might – August 13, 2017

Not by might – August 13, 2017


“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty.
Zechariah 4:6




Military Devotion – August 13, 2017

Devotion based on Zechariah 4:6

See series: Military Devotions

It was America’s first bomber response to the threat of Nazi Germany. Deployed from Savannah, Georgia to England, this air group gained fame and respect from its repeated daylight raids over heavily protected enemy sites. Its casualty count was high. But so was its effectiveness. It earned the label, The Mighty Eighth.

There are those who feel that we do not need to train for war or maintain standing armed forces. They advise, in words from the sixties, “Make love, not war!” They see no need for military might.

If history does not teach clearly enough that unopposed evil will attack and destroy those who are unprepared or unwilling to fight against it, the Bible leaves no doubt about the need, at times, to take up the sword.

But feeble resistance is of little value. Force must be met with greater force. America prefers overwhelming force against its enemies, be they domestic or foreign. Thus, the call is to keep our nation strong.

We may understand that, and we may agree with it. But we are reminded by the words of God that might and means, especially just human ones, are not enough to overcome evil and secure peace.

The prime enemy is a spirit, and the spirit of a person is a soul—and that’s the battleground. That which cannot be seen cannot be overcome by external strength. Devils do not bleed. Demons do not die. Satanic forces wage war with lust and greed and hatred as their weapons. Point to any evil that one can name, and an enemy of God is behind it.

Name anything that is good, and know that the Spirit of God is active there. Apart from God, there is no goodness. Apart from God is only what the poet called, “all valiant dust that builds on dust.”

Might and power are gifts from God. They are to be used to serve and protect. In the hands of his people, used according to his will, they are blessings. But they are not the ultimate power and the greatest of blessings.

God, the Holy Spirit, can overpower anything that resists him. God, the Holy Spirit, is the answer to every need. What the Holy Spirit builds, no one and nothing can tear down.

Our lives, our nation, and our future lie in the hands of the Lord Almighty.

It’s a good place to be.



In the words of the famous hymn we confess:

With might of ours can naught be done; soon were our loss effected.
But for us fights the valiant one whom God himself elected.
You ask, “Who is this?” Jesus Christ it is, the almighty Lord.
And there’s no other God. He holds the field forever. Amen.
(Christian Worship 200:2)



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

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




Gimme tomorrow – August 6, 2017

Gimme tomorrow – August 6, 2017


I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
Psalm 3:5,6




Military Devotion – August 6, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 3:5,6

See series: Military Devotions

It was December 1950. General MacArthur had told the press that he expected his troops in frozen, windswept Korea would be home by Christmas. A photographer for LIFE magazine asked an embattled Marine on the front line, “If I were God, and I could give you anything you wanted (for Christmas), what would you ask for?”

“Gimme tomorrow,” he said.

When we think of the thousands upon thousands of times the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” has been asked, this answer must be among the most unusual.

“I want to spend Christmas with my family.” “I want this war to end.” “I want to survive Korea.” Any of these would be understandable and expected replies.

But this Marine was not aiming that high. He had seen the fresh Chinese troops flooding across the border. He only wanted to survive through the night.

“Gimme tomorrow!”

Those who have never been in desperate life or death situations may be surprised at those words. Many who have stepped into harm’s way for their country know exactly how he felt.

So would the psalm writer, David. Like that Marine, David was also now surrounded by an enemy. Like that Marine, he wasn’t thinking about the far future. He just wanted to make it to the next day.

Unlike the Marine, his enemy forces were not foreigners with a strange uniform and language. He was being attacked by fellow Israelites. Their commander was none else than David’s own son: Absalom.

These were some of the darkest days of David’s life. The warrior king, the killer of Goliath, had to slink away from his throne like a weak coward. Gone was the glory. Gone was the power. Shame, misery, and death marked the trail of retreat.

It appeared he had lost everything that counted in life. But that was not true. He still had his faith in the Savior God.

And the Savior God still had him.

MacArthur’s boast, “They’ll be home by Christmas!” rang hollow in the end. David’s declaration was rock solid. “I lie down and sleep; I wake again.”

He knew that with the God who promised there would one day be a Christmas, he would always wake up alive—on earth or in heaven. He didn’t have to ask, “Gimme tomorrow!”

Neither do we.



Prayer: God of our fathers and Lord of our life, we do not know what the future holds, and sometimes we fear that we will not make it through our day of trouble. We thank you for sustaining us in the past. We trust you for all our tomorrows. Amen.



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

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




Visitors – July 30, 2017

Visitors – July 30, 2017


Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Matthew 17:3




Military Devotion – July 30, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 17:3

See series: Military Devotions

Our planet has been visited by beings from beyond our universe—not by creatures from outer space, but by saints and angels.

One time, the visitors came with along with bright lights in a night sky. That was over the fields of Bethlehem. Once, one of them came bringing death to every household in a nation. That was in Egypt. Those were angels. They have visited our planet countless times. Most often they are not seen. Thousands upon thousands are here with us today.

People of God (saints) coming back from the dead to appear on earth are not as common. We know only of two who did this. When Moses appeared at the transfiguration of Jesus, he had been dead for thousands of years. Elijah is a different story. He also left our planet long before Jesus walked the earth. But he skipped the dying part and was transported to heaven by what appeared to be a chariot and horses on fire.

Saint Matthew now reports that these two heroes of faith once stopped in to talk with Jesus in plain sight of three disciples.

Science fiction cannot match the amazing realities that the Word of God reveals. We are not alone on this planet. We have been visited by people who have passed on from this life. We continue to be visited by beings much more advanced than we, who come from a place no telescope can see and no spacecraft can reach. It’s called heaven. They are called saints and angels.

Our tiny minds grasp neither the greatness of God nor the wonders of his creation. Even though modern technology allows us to see things our forefathers never imagined; even though we are startled by the size and power and complexity of the universe we live in; many still believe that life is finite. Humans still want to think that if our minds cannot comprehend it, it cannot be. We still tend to fear that physical death ends life.

How silly! How the angels must laugh at our foolish conclusions! How sad they must be to see people refuse to admit to the presence and power of the Creator God! How tragic the rejection of his plans!

He is there, and he is not silent! He calls out to us in his Word! He reveals himself in the wonders of his creation. He has sent his ambassadors to warn us of dangers, and offer hope and life.

He has sent his Son to rescue us. That’s what Moses and Elijah came to that hilltop to talk about with Jesus.

We look in at the scene in wonder. That says something about us and our future. One day we will join those saints and angels in their homeland.

We will come there to stay. We will not be mere visitors.



Prayer:
I’m but a stranger here; Heav’n is my home.
Earth is a desert drear; Heav’n is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand  Round me on every hand.
Heav’n is my fatherland; Heav’n is my home.

There at my Savior’s side—Heav’n is my home
I shall be glorified; Heav’n is my home.
There are the good and blest, Those I love most and best.
And there I, too, shall rest; Heav’n is my home. Amen.
(Christian Worship 417:1,3)



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

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




Worthless – July 23, 2017

Worthless – July 23, 2017


They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.
2 Kings 17:15




Military Devotion – July 23, 2017

Devotion based on 2 Kings 17:15

See series: Military Devotions

If someone asks how much we are worth, our thoughts might jump to the balance in our bank accounts. Yet, real worth is not measured in dollar bills. We weigh human value on a different scale.

Honesty, dependability, and skill mean more than wealth. We know that. But there is more to the picture. There is the view from heaven.

“They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” That’s God speaking.

Is he referring to us? The first thought might be, absolutely not! This applies to those who follow idols. That’s not us. We don’t worship the sun or sacrifice to a stone god. We’re not idolaters!

But then, our conscience might remind us that there have been times when we have placed something higher in our lives than the Lord our God. There may have been occasions when we did depend upon the dollar in our pocket more than the Creator in the heavens. Maybe sometimes we did feel safer because of that good luck charm we carried. Maybe we have, once in a while, placed our silly wants higher than God’s glorious will.

It seems we must admit that we have not always feared, loved, and trusted God above all things. Maybe we are not keeping the 1st Commandment even now. Does that make us worthless?

The big question is, how valuable are we to God? Does he need us? No. Have we faithfully carried out the assignments he has given us? No. Can we honestly assure him that from now on we will do exactly what he says? That we cannot do.

To those worried about not having enough to meet earthly needs, Jesus once said, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

Is that all? Only more valuable than some birds?

Have we inflated our value in our own minds like we inflate air into a tire? Is our self-worth only hot air?

Are we worth nothing?

Value is determined by someone else. The boss pays his worker a high salary because he values the skill and hard work. Good evaluation reports put us in good standing with superiors.

How much are we valued by the Lord of the heavens? He has not just told us; he has shown us.

From a center cross on Golgotha, the Son of God said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and died—for us. We are forgiven.

The value is not in us. The value has been placed upon us. We have been bought with the lifeblood of the Son of God.

Worthless we are not.



Prayer: Holy and loving God, it is awesome to think that we are precious in your sight. Keep reminding us of that. Send the Holy Spirit to us in rich measure so that we might be empowered to more and more live a life that reflects the value you have placed upon us. Amen.



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

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




When joy is gone – July 16, 2017

When joy is gone – July 16, 2017


Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Psalm 51:8




Military Devotion – July 16, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 51:8

See series: Military Devotions

On one day, we may feel that we can soar like an eagle. On another, it feels like we have crashed and burned. Life is like that. Disappointment can deflate us. So can failure. Fear can grip us. But nothing can crush us as badly as the fist of our Maker who slams us with a guilty conscience.

King David learned this by personal experience. The Psalm 51 is a cry for mercy, a call for help. He was not bleeding from a battle wound. He was sound of mind and body. The pain leaked from his soul.

The great warrior-king, the famous giant-killer, had stumbled into adultery and murder. He lived for a year safe from discovery and punishment. No one knew of his crimes. No one except his God.

Denial of the evil is a common approach to living with guilt. Strong denial seems to block pain and avert punishment. The wish is to move on in life as if the bad never happened. But the cover-up of sin, like the denial of a cancer, doesn’t remove it. It only allows it to fester. There will be consequences.

The Lord God sent his messenger to point a finger at the black mass growing in the soul of David. An MRI would not have detected it, but he who knows the thoughts and intents of the heart had already seen the spiritual cancer when it was only a lust and temptation.

With a story about a man who took a pet lamb from a family so he could feed a special guest, David was led to see a picture of his sin. In righteous anger David declared “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die” (2 Samuel 12:5).

“You are the man!” the prophet replied. The lamb represented Bathsheba, whom David took as his own; then had her husband, Uriah, killed to cover up his adultery.

David’s sins were exposed. Denial was no longer possible. He had pronounced his own death sentence. He had to admit, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

In reply, he was told, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”

David was forgiven. The blood of the Lamb of God washed away his crimes. But in this psalm, David reveals the anguish the sin had caused his soul. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion.”

When joy is gone, life is empty. Like a repentant David, we know where to then turn for hope.

When joy is gone, only God can bring it back.



Prayer: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen.



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

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




The God factor – July 9, 2017

The God factor – July 9, 2017


I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7




Military Devotion – July 9, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 45:7

See series: Military Devotions

It’s not just skill and hard work. It’s not just perseverance and determination. It’s not a matter of luck. When considering success or failure, good times or bad times, prosperity or disaster— don’t ignore the God factor.

He is there even if we do not see him. He is there even if we do not feel him. He is there to bring about the fulfillment of his plans.

Who is going to stop him?

“I form the light and create darkness.” he says. Who else can do that?

Because we can light a match or flip a switch does not mean that we form light. Our actions only activate that which God has already provided. And darkness? We say that it is nothing—only the absence of light. God says darkness is something he creates. We have a lot to learn.

Some people claim they don’t recognize the existence of a supreme being, such as the Lord God. Others admit that the universe we live in shouts out that it has been designed by someone greater than any human. But they envision creation to be like a clock that God has wound up and then walked away from. Now, it winds down in his absence.

Not so! “I bring prosperity and create disaster.” God is an active factor in life.

We like the idea of prosperity. Humans are willing to pay him to make us prosperous. They might place bribes into a collection plate, sing out empty songs to praise him, and hollow prayers to stay on his good side.

But we find out that he cannot be bought. He tells us that all efforts to buy his good will are like filthy rags in his sight.

So, what can we do to keep him from creating disaster for us?

Nothing!

He has already done it. He offers his good will to us as a gift. His Son has already paid for it.

He tells us, “I’ve got your six!”

If the one who has our back can create light and darkness, we have no reason to fear what might appear in front of us.

We thank God for the God factor.



Prayer: God of hope, power, and mercy, too often we forget that you play an important role in our lives. Too often we feel that we are all alone as we face the challenges of life. Too often we turn to false hope and superstition. Too often we try to live as though you are not with us. Open our eyes. Renew our faith. Refresh our souls. Bless us. Amen.



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

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




Freedom – July 2, 2017

Freedom – July 2, 2017


So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36




Military Devotion – July 2, 2017

Devotion based on John 8:36

See series: Military Devotions

Not all freedom is good. To pick out the good from the bad, ask the question: “Freedom from what?”

Freedom from law? Freedom from duty? Freedom from God? Not good!

Freedom from tyranny? Freedom from repression? All good!

How about total freedom from disease, and accident, and heartache? Not possible!

Let it be stated clearly: the freedoms that we Americans enjoy are precious. People have sacrificed their lives to protect them. We do not want to lose them.

But they are limited. They do not extend beyond the grave. They do not free our souls.

What good is freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms when we are facing death and the judgment seat of God?

The people of Jesus’ day resented his words that called them slaves. They snapped back: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:33)

They could not see the chains that bound their souls. They could not see that Satan ruled their hearts and minds. They needed to look into the mirror of God’s law. When they did, they would see their sin—and their chains.
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” said Jesus in John 8:34.

Slavery is the opposite of freedom. The slave who thinks he is free is kidding himself.

How foolish to think that sin is an expression of freedom! At the time of the Judges in the Old Testament it is reported, “And everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

The result was horrible. There was no justice. There was no freedom. Humans are not God.

The reality is clear. Those who reject the rule of the Holy One are rebels. Such rebellion is always futile; always ends badly. Even if they do not realize it, those rebels are chained to a demonic leader who has already been judged and condemned. Their end will be the same.

But there is still hope for those locked in spiritual chains. There is someone who can break the grip and smash the lock that binds the captive. It happened to us.

The Son of God snapped our chains. He died that we might live. We are free.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”



Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the freedoms that you have given to us to enjoy in America.  We thank you for calling forth those who have defended those freedoms. We thank you for the perfect freedom that you have given us in Christ. We thank you for being our Savior God.  Keep us free. Amen.



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

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




A matter of honor – June 25, 2017

A matter of honor – June 25, 2017


He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
Psalm 91:15




Military Devotion – June 25, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 91:15

See series: Military Devotions

The preschooler is honored for learning to tie her shoes. The athlete is honored for winning a game. And then, there is the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

The significance of an honor is based not just upon what a person has done, but also upon the one bestowing the honor.

This verse of Psalm 91 begins with truths that we have heard before, and promises that we treasure. The Holy One is standing by to deliver us from evil.

Elsewhere King David has written, “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

Coming from someone who spent much of his life at war, the words should mean a lot to warriors.

But the ending words of our text may shock us: “I will…honor him.”

God is going to honor us? Isn’t it only the other way around? Don’t we rightly sing, “All glory, laud, and honor to you Redeemer King”?

Since when can we expect God to honor us? Ever since he said so.

There is a reason why Olympic medal winners stand on elevated platforms. Being honored elevates a person in the eyes of others. Honest honor proclaims: “This person is special!”

The Redeemer God is not thanking us when he honors us, he is elevating us.
When we call to him in trouble, he does not just lend us a hand. He jumps into the swirling waters to be with us. Then he lifts us up, and out.

When it seems that we are weak and failing, he empowers and propels us. He shows that he is our strength and deliverer. With the Apostle Paul, we can say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Those are the words of heroes—heroes of faith.

The Lord of the heavens has adopted us as his own, given us his name, ransomed us from death, and called us to service in his kingdom.

If that’s not being honored, nothing is.



Prayer: Lord God, when we call to you in trouble, we know that you will hear and answer us. Remind us that you will do more. Assure us that you will be with us. Enable us to live our lives in faith and joy. Amen.



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

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




Where is he? – June 18, 2017

Where is he? – June 18, 2017


Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
Psalm 115:2,3




Military Devotion – June 18, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 115:2,3

See series: Military Devotions

The title of the book is, “god is not here.” The lack of capitalization is on purpose. It was written by a soldier who had gone through horrendous circumstances Iraq. He was torn between what he thought was right and decent, and what he saw himself doing. It is not an uplifting book.

But the question about the presence of God in war is not an uncommon one. Faced with what can be the mayhem and atrocity of warfare, many a person has asked, “Where is God? Why doesn’t he stop this? Why didn’t he prevent this?”

Some shake their heads in confusion. Others decide that he must be M.I.A. At COP Restrepo, someone wrote on the wall: “God hates us all forever!”

It isn’t just the professed atheist or the unchurched who wonders, “Where is God?” Sometimes the child of God also finds that question flooding into his mind.

We understand that there is evil in this world. We have come to expect a certain level of cruelty and viciousness. But sometimes we run into something that pegs the needle of unacceptable to the limit. We start to wonder about the justice of God, the love of God—even the very existence of God.

In short, with the devil’s encouragement, we have begun to play God.

We look at situations, and we make decisions about what a loving, just God should do. Then we fault him for not doing what we think we would do.

But he does not exist to please us, nor he does he act to do so. We are not his boss. We are not his inspector. We are not his teacher. He is not subject to our acceptance; and he does not need our vote.

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”

This would be scary if we did not know for certain what it is that pleases him.
We don’t have to guess about that. The Good Shepherd assures his followers, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

He is not subject to mood changes. He cannot be bribed. He will not go back on his word.

It pleases him to treat us as members of his family and heirs of his kingdom. It pleases him to rule the world for our benefit. It pleases him to remove all cause of fear from our lives.

We do not need to see him with our eyes. Our souls recognize him as Lord and King. He is there for us. He is ever-present. He is our faithful Father.

A good thing to remember on a Father’s Day.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, doubt and confusion sometimes enter our mind. We are so used to living by the phrase of “seeing is believing” that we forget that you operate above and beyond all senses. We forget that we see only a small piece of the picture of our lives. We sometimes forget that you are our Father who is in heaven. Point us to your Word. Let us again hear the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Then convince our doubting hearts that we are, indeed, watched over and blessed—now and forever. Amen.



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

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




Stupid – June 11, 2017

Stupid – June 11, 2017


Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8




Military Devotion – June 11, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 34:8

See series: Military Devotions

Stupid, stupid, stupid! We can imagine David saying this to himself as he wrote this psalm. And we agree. How dumb could he be?

We understand that he was in danger. King Saul had grown jealous, and planned to kill him. So, David ran for his life. That we can comprehend. But when we hear that he ran to the hometown of Goliath, we raise our eyebrows. When we are told that he was carrying with him the dead giant’s sword, we shake our heads in amazement.

Why does he think the Philistines will not recognize him? Why does he believe that Israel’s enemy will protect him? Why is he not turning to Israel’s God for protection?

The only answer we can come up with is, he panicked. He decided that he would have to get himself out of this mess. After all, he had killed bears and lions. He had killed Goliath. Maybe his own strength and cunning will save him again.

Bad idea!

He was quickly recognized and captured. His next move was to fake insanity. He clawed like an animal at the gate that held him in. He let spit run down his beard. That worked! “Look at the man! He is insane!” bellowed the king of the Philistines. So, his enemy threw him out.

Young David learned an old lesson: Not trusting the Lord God is a bad idea. Thinking that one can rescue himself is stupid. Faking insanity worked. But David now knew how foolish he was.

David wrote this psalm to admit his foolishness, and to warn others not to follow the path he had taken. “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” Is the apple rotten? Is it sour? The proof is in the eating.

The same is true of the goodness of God. The only way that you can learn that God’s will and God’s way are good, is to put your trust in him.

What else could David have done when running from Saul? We don’t know. But we are certain that he should never have abandoned his hope and trust in the Savior God.

“…blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” A much better idea than running to your enemy for protection, even if your enemy is an enemy of the one threatening you!

“Taste and see…” We sing those words in one of our liturgies. Many who sing them may not know the background upon which they were written. But this should be clear to all:

Those who run to the good and gracious Lord for help, such ones, are certainly not stupid.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive our foolishness when we are tempted to run from you to find an answer to what is troubling or threatening us. Keep us from adding to our trouble by thinking that we can take care of ourselves without you. Keep us from turning to dangerous and foolish answers to our problems in life. Keep us in your close care as we experience your goodness by learning to fear, love, and trust in you above all things. Amen.



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

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




The Valley of Elah – June 4, 2017

The Valley of Elah – June 4, 2017


Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.
I Samuel 17:2




Military Devotion – June 4, 2017

Devotion based on I Samuel 17:2

See series: Military Devotions

Some places are known by name for the danger that our troops faced there. Tarawa is one. So is Pork Chop Hill. The Sunni Triangle is another. For the army of Israel, it was the Valley of Elah.

In the days before guns and bombs, most battles were fought face-to-face. The victory usually went to the biggest and the strongest. That’s the way it was when Saul was king of Israel.

If he had known in advance what his army would face, he never would have entered the Valley of Elah.

There, his troops came within shouting distance of something that terrified them. They were challenged by a giant. He was the famous Goliath.

Since we know how the story turns out, it is hard for us to relate to the fear that paralyzed Israel’s army. But when they heard the taunting challenge of Goliath, they saw no escape. They knew they were no match for him. They knew that surrender to the Philistines meant the slaughter of many, and miserable life as slaves for all the rest. No wonder Samuel wrote: “Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.”

We probably have never had to face a killer giant. But we may have been in fearful situations where we saw no way out. We may have wished we had never gotten into those situations. We may walk into such situations in the future. The threat may be physical, or emotional, or spiritual. It makes no difference.

It becomes our very own Valley of Elah.

Saul had no idea that the way out of this valley would be provided by a shepherd boy. We may not be able to think of any way out of the situation we find ourselves in. But God is not limited to the options that we can think of. Where we might be able to consider two possibilities, he probably can envision two thousand.

He can make things happen.

He prompted a shepherd boy to come to the valley. He guided the stone that hit the giant. He allowed the once-terrified soldiers to walk out of that valley.

The boy went on to write the famous words, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Valley of Elah? Valley of the shadow of death? Makes no difference.

David’s God is our God.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, at times we cannot see our way out of situations that frighten us. Sometimes we lose hope. Sometimes we doubt. Sometimes we fear. Remind us of your presence. Remind us of your power. Then lead us out of our fearful valleys. Amen.



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

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




Say Hi to Carl… – May 28, 2017

Say Hi to Carl… – May 28, 2017


“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
Revelation 14:13




Military Devotion – May 28, 2017

Devotion based on Revelation 14:13

See series: Military Devotions

Now I understand Memorial Day. Now I comprehend why warriors past and present want to visit gravesites and memorial markers, and even former battlefields.

They come not to offer another goodbye—but to say, “Hello, again.”

Life moves on after someone close to us dies. Sometimes there is only a brief memorial service in the field before the Hero’s Flight whisks the remains to a place far from where he fell. Sometimes we can later find the stone, or the wall, on which his name is written. Sometimes only in our mind’s eye can we see his memorial marker.

Markers are important. There we will meet the memory of our time together. We will say “Hello, again” to the memory of who that person was, and what that person did for us.

We may never have even met the individual while he was alive. We might not know his name now. The stone may only carry the label, “Known but to God.” But since he wore the uniform, we know that we have benefited from his service to our country.

We understand what he did. We share a history. We remember.

“…their deeds will follow them.” wrote the Apostle John about those who died in saving faith.

Not all who have worn the uniform had that faith. We lament that. But even then, we recognize that it is the Lord who provided our nation with warriors to defend its shores. He is the one who brought those special people into our lives. We worked with them, fought alongside them, and when they received their final salute, they left a hole in our hearts.

Memorial Day is about remembering. We remember the fallen. We remember the past. But most of all, we remember the Lord our God who enabled us to be blessed by others who are no longer with us.

My brother’s body lies under a stone in Minnesota. He served his nation, not with a gun, but with the Word. He shares responsibility for developing the WELS ministry to the military of today.

I told a dear friend that I planned to visit his grave this summer. In reply, he wrote: “Say hi to Carl.”

I know what he meant. I appreciate the thought.

Time has passed since we two brothers sat together, worked together, and laughed. I look forward to seeing him again—alive again, healthy again. But not yet.

For now, I will remember. I will observe Memorial Day along with you and millions more.

It is a time for us with holes in our hearts to say to the memory of those who are now missing from our lives, “Hello, again.”

I will say hi to Carl.



Prayer: Lord of our nation, and guardian of our souls. The memory of those who have faithfully served our country brings us heavy hearts. The reminder of the blessings that you have given to our nation brings us thankful hearts. Jesus told us, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We know that. As we observe Memorial Day, we also thank our friend, Jesus, for laying down his life for us. Amen.



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

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




To rule and to be ruled – May 21, 2017

To rule and to be ruled – May 21, 2017


When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.
2 Samuel 23:3,4




Military Devotion – May 21, 2017

Devotion based on 2 Samuel 23:3,4

See series: Military Devotions

Ancient Greek warriors prided themselves on being able, “To rule, and to be ruled.” That remains a desirable trait today—especially for a Christian warrior.

The words quoted above are some of the last words of the warrior king, David. He is described as “the hero of Israel’s songs.” Indeed, he was a hero. His victories were celebrated. And his last words resonate with us.

Kings and presidents are not the only rulers in the world. Generals rule, too. So do sergeants and everyone else in the Armed Forces who has authority over others.

Authority means power. Power brings responsibility.

One doesn’t need to wear the uniform for very long before he notes the difference between the good rulers and those who are not. David describes the good ones as “ruling over people in righteousness.” Then he explains what he means by this when he adds the phrase, “when he rules in the fear of God.”

The superior officer may command the respect and obedience of many under him. But, there is always someone over him. Go high enough up the chain of command, and it reaches the level of just one. No, not the President. Even the President must answer to One Higher.

No matter how many stripes or stars the uniform may bear, it is outranked by the one who placed the stars into the sky and bore the stripes of a whip on a hill far away.

He who places the rules of God before his own eyes, rules correctly—rules righteously.

Righteous ruling brings good things to those under him. David describes that type of ruler to be, “like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning” and, “like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.”

If you have had the privilege of serving under such an officer, you know what David is talking about.

If you are carrying out your authority in such a manner, David is talking about you.

The 1st Commandment orders us to have no other gods. This means that we are to fear, love, and trust in the Lord God above all things.

We know what he expects of us when he places us into a position of authority. We know what he expects of us when we are under authority. We know that no matter what position we hold in life, he is always our top Commander.

We know that when he calls us to rule others, he is still calling us to be ruled by him.

“To rule and to be ruled.”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords, we acknowledge that you rule over everyone and everything. We are honored to serve under you. We pray that we might serve you faithfully by serving our country. We pray that we might be a blessing to others. Amen.



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

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




A bloody book – May 14, 2017

A bloody book – May 14, 2017


So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelek. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.
Judges 9:49




Military Devotion – May 14, 2017

Devotion based on Judges 9:49

See series: Military Devotions

The Bible is a bloody book! That’s the accusation of some who reject it. That’s the admission of those who accept it as the inspired Word of God. The Bible is a bloody book.

How else could it be? In this book, the holy God relates some of the history of the human race. Humans are a bloody people.

The first child born into the world murdered his brother. Generations of murderers followed.

Humans are a bloody people.

It’s not that they don’t realize murder is wrong. The command of the Creator, “You shall not murder.” is written into the conscience. The problem is that this divine order is countermanded by someone else posing as a commander. Satan not only permits murder, he encourages it—in fact, he incites it.

Jesus told the people who wanted to murder him, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

So, what are the People of God to do in the face of such facts? Should they not stand up to this falsehood? The devil advises, “Murder is only natural. Let nature take its course. You aren’t going to save the world!” He goes further. His command is, “Stand down!”

In Navy-talk, the response must be, “Belay that order!” We reject his commands. We reject his authority. We serve a different Commander. The real one orders us to preserve life. The Lord of life and death calls us to defend those who would be hurt or harmed or killed by others. Sometimes the 5th Commandment demands that we take a life to save a life.

The Bible is a bloody book. Some of the bloodshed is by the Lord’s directions. Think of all those animal sacrifices. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah. Think of the Moabites and Ammonites being cleared out of the Promised Land by divine command.

But most of all, think of Golgotha.

That was holy blood. That bloodshed was caused by our sin, and offered to cover our sin.

The saying of the bumper stickers is true: Freedom is not free. It is bought with blood.

The Bible shows that freedom from sin, death, and the devil was bought with holy blood.

The Bible must be a bloody book. Anything else would be a lie.



Prayer: Lord of mercy and truth, we thank you for telling us the truth about ourselves, the world we live in, and the bloody way that we were rescued. Keep us in your truth. Your Word is truth.  Amen.



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

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




Quo Vadis – May 7, 2017

Quo Vadis – May 7, 2017


Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
John 13:36




Military Devotion – May 7, 2017

Devotion based on John 13:36

See series: Military Devotions

Only two words in Latin. That language grabs the thought better than English does. It has become a famous phrase. Books have been written about it. A movie has been made with this as the title. “Quo vadis?” “Where are you going?”

The words come from the Latin translation of the Bible. Latin was the official language of the Roman empire. Jesus of Nazareth was sentenced to death by a Roman governor, and nailed to the cross by Roman soldiers. Roman sentries guarded his tomb.

Tradition tells a story of Saint Peter, late in life, trying to escape from Rome where he is in great danger. As he is running away, he supposedly encounters Jesus walking into the city carrying a cross. Surprised, Peter asks him, “Quo vadis?” Jesus answers, “I’m going to Rome to be crucified again.” Ashamed, the story has Peter returning to Rome, where he is arrested as follower of Jesus—and crucified, at his own request, upside down.

That story may not be true, but Peter did once ask Jesus, “Where are you going? Saint John was there when Peter asked the question (probably in Hebrew) in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had just told the disciples, “I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.”

So, Peter’s question was perfectly natural: “Lord, where are you going? “Quo vadis?”

Jesus’ answer was mysterious: “Where am I going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

What did he mean?

Was he talking about his upcoming suffering and death? Was he talking about going back to heaven? Could he have been referring to both?

We don’t know if Peter was crucified upside down. But Jesus did say that Peter would be killed because of this faith. The once-coward Peter had become brave once more. He would die brave in the faith. He would not just follow Jesus to execution. He would follow him also into glory.

As followers of this same Jesus, it is not out of line for us to ask him, “Quo vadis?” “Where are you going?” We would like to know what is ahead in our life as we follow him.

As with Peter, he does not give us details. He has warned us, however, that we have a dangerous enemy, and we should expect trouble and sorrow on our path of life.

But we already know where he will finally lead us, don’t we? Don’t we sing, “Heaven is my home?”

So, the next time someone asks us, “Quo vadis?” “Where are you going?” we can answer: “Home, with Jesus.”

“I’m going home!”



We pray the words of the hymn:

I’m but a stranger here; Heaven is my home.
Earth is a desert drear; Heaven is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand  Round me on every hand.
Heaven is my fatherland; Heaven is my home.

There at my Savior’s side—Heaven is my home—
I shall be glorified; Heaven is my home.
There are the good and blest, Those I love most and best,
And there I, too, shall rest; Heaven is my home.  Amen.
(Christian Worship 417: 1,3)



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

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




Shell-shocked – April 30, 2017

Shell-shocked – April 30, 2017


Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Mark 16:8




Military Devotion – April 30, 2017

Devotion based on Mark 16:8

See series: Military Devotions

They had lived with three days of trauma. They had traveled with friends and family for a celebration. The Passover was a religious holiday celebrated with as much emotion as our Christmas. They had been looking forward to it.

They never expected this.

They never expected to hear that Jesus of Nazareth was arrested. Never expected that he would be tortured. And absolutely never expected to watch him die.

But it all happened. It was as if they were now shell-shocked.

They may not have been able to sleep that Friday night. Saturday was supposed to be a day of rest—it was the Sabbath. Doubtful that this Saturday brought rest!

Jesus was dead. They had watched the men place him into the tomb. They had tried to give him a proper burial by adding spices to the burial shroud. But they ran out of time.

Now, as they entered the tomb early on Sunday morning, they were shocked again. The body was missing!

How many hits could their emotions take? Bad was being followed by worse—and still worse.

We are tempted to smile at these women. Didn’t they know this is Easter morning? Didn’t they realize that Jesus has conquered death? Didn’t they hear the voice of the angel, “He is not here. He is risen!” Why weren’t they celebrating?

They didn’t because they couldn’t. Their minds could not process the new information. They could not see the wonderful because they were still focused on the dreadful.

They needed time. They needed reassurance. They needed God to make it plain to them.

We understand. We, too, have sometimes been so struck by the dreadful or the fearful that we failed to see the wonderful. We easily forget what God has already told us. We blot out what he continues to tell us. We permit fear to replace faith.

Yet, as with these women, so with us, God has been merciful and patient. He has continued to gently remind us that his love never fails and his plans are always good.

Even though at times we cannot get our mind to wrap around what is happening in our life, his arms are always wrapped around us.

The reality still stands. The tomb was empty. He did rise from the dead.

Let fear flee as fast as the women fled. Let faith stay as steady as that angel at his post.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, it was a shock for your loved ones to learn of your arrest, and a greater shock for some of them to watch you die. We can understand the reaction of these women who first walked into your burial place on Easter morning. But we pray that we don’t join them in that reaction when you do things in our lives for which we are not prepared. Let us see through the eyes of faith. Let us understand with the guidance of your Word. Let us live in the joy of your resurrection. Amen.



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

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




Turn off the alarm – April 23, 2017

Turn off the alarm – April 23, 2017


As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
Mark 16:5,6




Military Devotion – April 23, 2017

Devotion based on Mark 16:5,6

See series: Military Devotions

A blaring alarm causes irritation at best, and panic at worst. Those who have endured safety drills know the relief that comes when that noise finally goes quiet. Those who have heard the words “This is not a drill!” know how this makes hearts race.

Alarms are good because they can warn us of danger. They prepare us to take defensive action. However, a false alarm is counter-productive. Too many false alarms can lead us to ignore the real thing. An unnecessary alarm is in a class by itself. Maybe there was a time when that alarm was vital to our survival. But with the danger over, it may keep us in an unnecessary state of stress.

While the Christian needs alarms to dangers in life, because of Easter, we can turn off the alarm warning about death.

The thought of death can be alarming. The sight of death, even more so. Those who sing: “I walk in danger all the way…” may not always feel that danger. But some who place themselves in harm’s way to protect others may sometimes live day and night with that feeling. They may also find difficulty in determining what is dangerous, and what is not. Is that soda can on the side of the road dangerous? Is that woman in a burka dangerous? What about that empty car?

Alarms go off in our heads when we see hints of possible danger. And they should.

But for us, there is no danger in death. It is not merely like a poisonous snake with its fangs pulled out. It is like that snake with its head crushed.

Jesus of Nazareth has crushed the power of sin, death, and the devil. It’s not empty bravado that causes us to sing: “Satan, I defy thee; death I now decry thee; Fear, I bid thee cease.”

Why, then, does the thought of death sometimes still alarm us? The answer is simple. We tend to forget about Easter. We overlook the words of the Lord of life and death who proclaimed to us: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).

Satan is an expert at producing false news. He projects for us a mental video that shows everything we love, gone. Everything beautiful, ruined. All joy faded, and all hope killed. Only a gravestone marks that we once were alive.

For a true picture, look into the Easter tomb. See there, death defeated. See there, life triumphant. See there your own grave, vacant. One day angels can point to where your body was placed, and say about you, “He is not there. He has risen!”

God’s promise is clear—and he does not lie: “Because he lives, we will live also.”

For heaven’s sake, when it comes to dying, Turn off the alarm!



Prayer: Lord Jesus, who died so that we may live forever, keep pointing us to your empty tomb. Keep repeating the words of the angel who tells us to turn off the alarm that the thought of death might trigger. Allow us to live in the peace and joy of Easter. Amen.



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

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




No blanket was needed – April 16, 2017

No blanket was needed- April 16, 2017


Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
John 20:6-8




Military Devotion – April 16, 2017

Devotion based on John 20:6-8

See series: Military Devotions

It was a cold day for North Carolina. Three people braced against the wind as they walked along a path. One was a Marine, just returned from Vietnam. Another was his wife. The last was the undertaker.

The wife carried a blue baby blanket. She said she didn’t want her baby to be cold. She insisted on wrapping the blanket around the tiny casket that soon would be lowered into the ground. No one had the heart to object.

They had planned a trip to show off their new baby to loved ones waiting in the Midwest. Now, instead of celebrating a birth, they were going home to grieve a death. The car was already packed. Baby rattles, baby bottles, and baby clothes had been given away to friends at Lejeune. They were too painful to look at. Only the blue blanket was kept.

On a winter’s night in Bethlehem the baby Jesus was also wrapped in cloth. We call it swaddling clothes.

Some 33 years later the bleeding body of this Jesus was again wrapped in cloth. We call that a shroud.

What a difference! The distinction between life and death is marked by the name of a cloth.

A mother wept over that grave near Jerusalem. A mother wept over the grave near Camp Lejeune. The blue blanket wrapping the tiny baby was prompted by the same tearful love that wanted to properly wrap the body of Jesus.

The two graves have much in common. “Tragic” is a word to describe both deaths. “Unexpected” is another. So is the word “heartbreaking.”

But the most important word is “empty.”

Death could not hold the body in the Palestinian spoil. Death will not hold the body in the Carolina clay.

The hymn writer breaks forth with the words: “Christian, dry your flowing tears; Chase your unbelieving fears. Look on his deserted grave; Doubt no more his power to save” (Christian Worship: 159:3).

Burial cloths serve no purpose for bodies that will be raised alive and glorious.

The wife of that Marine probably has gray hair by now. We hope that some of the pain has faded from her heart. We know for sure that one day it will all be gone.

One day her son will meet her with smiles of joy. On that day he will be able to tell her, “Mom, thanks for the thought.”

“But you see, no blanket was needed.”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your empty grave takes away the sting of death. Your resurrection declares that those who die trusting you will rise to live forever. Dry all the tears of those who mourn the loss of a child of God. Renew their hearts to again know the joy of your salvation. Amen.



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

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




Brave no more – April 9, 2017

Brave no more- April 9, 2017


“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”
John 18:17




Military Devotion – April 9, 2017

Devotion based on John 18:17

See series: Military Devotions

Brain experts tell us that when confronted with a traumatic situation, a person will either fight, flee, or freeze. This is something we have no control over, and should not feel guilty about.

Those are the initial automatic reactions. What we do after we have a chance to think about our options—that’s something else.

The Apostle Peter had just experienced trauma. With startled eyes, he had seen an armed squad arrive to arrest Jesus. Automatic reaction kicked in. He did not freeze or flee. He fought. Out came his sword. Off came the high priest servant’s ear.

He had said he would do this. He had told Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” All the disciples said the same—including Judas.

Jesus saved Peter’s life in the Garden of Gethsemane. He commanded Peter to put away his sword. He turned himself over to his captors.

Brave Peter! Not afraid to face an armed force against overwhelming odds. But what happened next was not bravery in action but cowardice by denial.

Not a soldier, but a servant girl brought him down. The question was simple: was he a disciple of Jesus? Surely the one who was willing to die for him would find it easy to answer the question.

It was not. It was terrifying. His faith buckled. His mouth lied. “I am not!”

The denial wasn’t one of those knee-jerk reactions. He had time to think about this before he denied knowing Jesus. He did it a second time. Then the third time he did this: “He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about’” (Mark 14:71).

How could this have happened? Who would have guessed this?

Jesus! Jesus knew. Jesus had warned him: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31,32).

The prayer was answered. Peter’s faith did survive. He became a staunch leader of the faithful.

The warning is there for us. We can turn into a spiritual coward just as easily as Peter did.

The assurance is also there. We have the same Jesus watching over us. He can lift us up when we fall. He can restore us to spiritual health and return us to duty.

Jesus made Peter brave again. He became a coward no more.

Neither are we.

True?



We pray the words of an old hymn:

Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways to keep his statutes still!
Oh, that my God would grant me grace to know and do his will.

Assist my soul, too apt to stray, a stricter watch to keep;
And should I e’er forget your way, restore your wandering sheep.

Make me to walk in your commands—‘tis a delightful road—
Nor let my head or heart or hands offend against my God! Amen.

(Christian Worship 462:1,3,4)



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

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




Traitor – April 2, 2017

Traitor- April 2, 2017


The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.
John 13:2




Military Devotion – April 2, 2017

Devotion based on John 13:2

See series: Military Devotions

In Hebrew, he was known as the “man from Kerioth,” Thus, the label “Iscariot” after the name “Judas.”

He became famous as one of the twelve chosen disciples of the Son of God on earth. Now, he is infamous. He turned traitor.

We can speculate about the cause of the fall of Judas. We know that he lived a life of deception. He was respected and trusted as the holder of the disciples’ treasury. But he was a thief.

What other deceptions did he live under? Had he only pretended to accept Jesus as leader and Savior all along? Or did the bright bloom of faith finally fade in the shadows of growing doubt?

We can only guess. We are given one clue, however. We are told the devil was the one prompting him to commit both physical and spiritual suicide.

That makes us nervous.

We are familiar with this devil. We know his record. We have seen the wrecks he has made of human lives. Judas is just one among a long list of his victims. But worst of all, we have detected his presence in our own lives.

We are willing to submit to medical tests because we know that if a disease is detected early, there is a much better chance it will not kill us. Prompt treatment is critical. We will cut out cancer cells, or kill them off with radiation or chemicals. We will not tolerate their presence. If they return, we will attack them again.

Satan is a greater danger. We dare not allow his influence to grow within us. His alliance with our sinful nature is deadly. He must be stopped. How can we do this?

The Bible says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

As Jesus once said, we cannot serve two masters. Submitting to God enables us to resist Satan—and that causes him to run from us.

Judas should have remembered that. So should we. Our Christian Baptism stands as our special reminder. Some might recall the words memorized as youngsters: “Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance….”

Sorrow over sin. Turning away from sin to godliness. This stunts demonic growth. The threat to our soul demands repeated attention and ongoing spiritual treatment.

At one’s Baptism the question is sometimes asked: “Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?”
There is only one answer for the child of God.

“I do!”



We affirm our faith with the words of the hymn:

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free, lasting to eternity.

Death you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized onto Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes, faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.  Amen.
(Christian Worship: Supplement 737)



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

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




Faceoff – March 26, 2017

Faceoff – March 26, 2017


When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
Mark 9:25




Military Devotion – March 26, 2017

Devotion based on Mark 9:25

See series: Military Devotions

Satan and his followers did not abandon the field of battle just because the Son of God had come to earth to challenge them. They fought him at every step, challenged his every claim.

Saint Mark tells of a boy possessed by an evil spirit that caused the lad to be unable to talk. It flung him to the ground in convulsions. His father reported, “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.”

The disciples could not help, so the father turned to Jesus: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

The response of Jesus was blunt: “If you can?” “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Was that true? Is that true? The powers of darkness were ready to face off with the Lord of light. It was as if the boy was being held hostage. The demon had already shown the control he had over the youngster. If he wanted to throw him into convulsions, foaming at the mouth and gnashing his teeth as he rolled on the ground, who was going to stop him? The presence of Jesus only made him more dangerous.

If Jesus challenged him, what would keep him from killing the boy?

The command of Jesus.

“You deaf and mute spirit,” Jesus said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked. The boy convulsed violently. Then everything became quiet. Some feared the youngster was dead.

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”

Had we been in that crowd, we might have cheered. Maybe angels did.

But this is certain: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, does not flinch and does not falter when it comes to a faceoff with evil.

That’s something worth remembering.

We are no stranger to evil. We have seen the results of satanic forces in this world and within ourselves. Satan may not have thrown us to the ground in convulsions, but he sometimes has thrown us for a loop in our spiritual life.

We need help from heaven. We have it.

Demons remain deadly. But they whimper and run in the face of Jesus.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, source and defender of our life, keep reminding us that we do not have to cave in to the threats of the devil. The powers of darkness cannot touch one hair on our body without your permission. We remember the words of King David, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil—for thou art with me.” Now enable us to live those words. Amen.



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

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




OPSEC – March 19, 2017

OPSEC – March 19, 2017


As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Matthew 17:9




Military Devotion – March 19, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 17:9

See series: Military Devotions

We don’t usually think of Jesus’ stay on earth as a military operation. But in many ways, it was.

Allies and enemies were part of the picture. So were powerful weapons and a life or death struggle. It should not surprise us, then, to learn that operations security (OPSEC) was also a concern.

Still, it may strike us as strange to hear Jesus command people to not tell others what they saw him do. After all, we now live under orders to tell the whole world about him.

But for a while, Peter, James and John had to keep silent about seeing Jesus transfigured in glory. We learn the rule also applied to devils: “He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was” (Mark 1:34). He gave the same command to some of the people that he worked miracles for.

Why the secrecy?

It wasn’t because he wanted to escape being captured by his enemies. His mission was to place himself into their hands and be killed by them. Yet, it wasn’t a suicide mission. It was a rescue mission. He would triumph over death and rescue the human race from eternal devastation.

But timing was critical. He needed to accomplish every last task he was assigned on this mission. He knew that fury and frenzy would continue to grow among those who had determined he should not live. He understood what would stoke those flames of hatred.

He would control the buildup of the murderous rage. He initiated OPSEC.

This gives us a glimpse of how difficult his mission was. It also shows his superior wisdom and power.

Anyone who has been asked to win the hearts and minds of potential enemies realizes how fragile the situation can be—how easily the crowd can turn against a person.

Jesus did not need to be schooled in military strategy or trained in human psychology in order to be successful. He did not need to call for heavenly firepower to have divisions of angels hold back the threatening mobs.

He needed no help. He asked for none.

His mission would be a success because he was the Lord of Life and Glory—and he wanted to share his life and his glory with people like us.



Prayer: Savior of the Nations, Lord of lords and King of kings—we look in with wonder as we watch you march toward Golgotha. We marvel at your wisdom. We learn from your example. But most of all, we thank you for pursuing your goal of providing rescue for us from sin, Satan, and death. We are glad to now have permission to tell your story. Amen.



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

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




The assigned grave – March 12, 2017

The assigned grave – March 12, 2017


He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was deceit found in his mouth.
Isaiah 53:9




Military Devotion – March 12, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 53:9

See series: Military Devotions

Military people understand assignments. Seldom does a person have a voice in what or where he is assigned. Even if he did, it’s the authority of the superior that makes it happen.

Jesus also understood assignments. He was assigned a mission. He was assigned a set of parents, and the place where he was to be born. He was assigned where he would live, and where he would die.

He was even assigned a certain grave.

Like everything else in his life, that gravesite was remarkable. Although he had never broken a law of earth or heaven, he was executed as a criminal, and buried in the earth that held the bodies of generations of sinful, guilty, breakers of law.

When holy angels saw what would happen, we wonder if they gasped in surprise: the Holy One would lie among the guilty.

And yet, the surprise of angels is matched by the surprise of humans: the One who possessed no great wealth, who, as he said, had no place to lay his head—he would end up buried among the rich.

It wasn’t by chance that he was labeled a criminal, and it wasn’t by accident that he was buried with the wealthy—in the grave owned by Joseph of Arimathea.

This all happened according to an eternal, loving plan. All this followed God’s Plan of Salvation.

The same loving God has a plan for us, also. He assures us that he does not plan to harm or punish us, but to give us hope, and a future. His plan deposits us in heaven.

It is not by chance or accident that has brought us to where we are at today. Nor, will that happen tomorrow. No matter if the sun is shining on our life’s path or we are walking under dark clouds and pouring rain.

We are not drones. We are not robots. He uses our decision-making. But he leads us.

Just like with Jesus, the Savior God has a plan for us. A good plan. If it involves danger or loss, if it brings pain or anguish—it is still a good plan. It is God’s plan.

The Apostle asks, “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)

Our God makes assignments with love and care. Does that mean that he has even picked out the place where we will be buried—where our body will rest until he returns to raise it to glory?

The answer in the affirmative brings comfort and assurance.



Prayer: Lord of our life and guardian of our soul, we place our lives into your hands.  Not only are you more wise than we, more powerful, but also more loving. Guide and direct our lives as you see fit. This, we know, will allow blessings to come while on earth, and glory to share in heaven. Amen.



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

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




No gods at all – March 5, 2017

No gods at all – March 5, 2017


And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all.
Acts 19:26




Military Devotion – March 5, 2017

Devotion based on Acts 19:26

See series: Military Devotions

Rome was a dominate world power during the days that Jesus walked on this earth. With its iron grip and powerful fist, it had brought a time of rare peace among nations. Commerce thrived along with the economy. Life had seldom been so good for so many people. But seldom had so many lives in the Roman Empire been empty of hope and meaning.

On the tombstone of a child in those days the words were written: “To the unjust gods who robed me of life” and that of a girl of twenty: “I lift my hands against the god who took me away, innocent as I am.”

Faith in the gods of Rome had evaporated. Once Jupiter and Venus and Mars, and other gods were looked to in faith and hope. Now, many found only emptiness in religion.

Yet, some still clung in desperation to the old gods. This was especially true in Ephesus, where the primary source of income came from manufacturing silver images of the goddess, Diana.

When the Apostle Paul began teaching that Diana, and all the other Roman idols were fake, he stirred up the proverbial hornets’ nest. Protesters filled the streets. Their chants filled the air. “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” they shouted.
Saint Paul’s words held a double threat: loss of income, and loss of faith in Diana. Something had to happen. And it did. The Apostle and his companions were thrown before a violent crowd. Anything could happen.

What did happen was surprising. A clerk of the court addressed the crowd, settled them down, and the Christians safely went on their way.

We might have expected to see a miracle. At other times, Apostles had been arrested under such circumstances. Angels had been sent to open prison doors and overcome prison guards.

Not this time. This time the only true God, with unlimited options, chose to deliver his people through everyday means. The tempers were lowered, the danger receded, by words of reason.

Probably, this is the option he most often uses in our cases of danger. We walk away unaware of his controlling hand or his vigilant angels. Because we fail to see what he has done, we fail to thank him for it—until we remember that he is with us even when we see him not.

Our hearts go out to those who cry out in anguish against the gods who are not. We are compelled to increase our efforts to share the wonderful gospel with them.

After all, “gods made by human hands are no gods at all.”



Prayer: Lord of life and death, without whom we have no hope, we thank you for your saving grace that brought us to saving faith in you. On our own, we would have trusted in worthless gods and faced life and death without you. Use our feeble efforts to share the good news with others that there is a merciful God in the heavens, and he is not made by human hands. Amen.



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

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