Mercy! – November 25, 2022

Mercy! – November 25, 2022


O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.
1 Chronicles 16:34 (KJV)




Military Devotion – November 25, 2022

Devotion based on 1 Chronicles 16:34 (KJV)

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes, what we want is not what we need—and what we need is not what we want. That’s the way it is with us humans.

Good thing our loving God knows that! He knows what we want, and he sees what we need. Ask a three-year-old what she wants for breakfast, and she might say “ice cream.” Because her mother loves her, oatmeal is what she gets. This does not bring about a happy face.

Years later, she may be thankful for her mother’s action—as she lovingly prepares oatmeal for her own child.

We might relate to that. Perhaps, we have also learned that what we once desperately wanted would not have been good for us. Maybe, we are now thankful that we did not get it. As we make our list of what we are thankful for today, we may want to include some prayers that were answered with a “No!”

Because God is good, he will not give us things that are not good. Our frown will not cause him to change his mind.

The psalmist encourages us to “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1).

Some benefits quickly come to mind: good food, good friends, and good health. Thus, we might say, “Thank you, Lord, for my warm house, my loving family, and my secure job.” That’s a good list.

We may think of dangers and hardships that have been overcome. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing me home safely from deployment, for my parents surviving the hurricane, and for protecting me from Covid.” That’s a good prayer.

Yet, the Bible leads us to look more closely at the background in the picture of our life. It shows the face of God is there. He was always there.

He is the LORD. He answers to no one. What if he were evil instead of good or stingy instead of generous? Even more reason to heed the words, “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.”

Many who have deployed to faraway places have come away with the realization that many Americans live an abundant life compared to others.

We complain about rising prices while others face empty shelves. We worry about weight gain while others watch their children grow gaunt and weak. We murmur over the price of gasoline while some others watch the skies for deadly incoming rounds.

Much of what we want are things we do not need—or do not truly need more of.

There is one thing, however, that we need most desperately, even if we do not realize it. There is something we cannot survive without.

We, who can sing of America, “My country ‘tis of thee,” must include the words, “God shed his grace on thee.” The Bible says, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22).

“Not consumed?” Suddenly we realize we have more at stake than food, shelter, and life’s trinkets.

Our very life is on the line. The door to eternity is only a few steps away. Our only hope lies in the mercy of the omnipotent Lord God.

The grace of God is the undeserved love of God. Because that love is undeserved, it is rightfully called his mercy. About that, we are told, “For his mercy endures forever!”

For how long will he forgive our crimes against his holy law? Forever.

For how long will he love us? Forever.

For how long will we live in the happy home Jesus is preparing for us? Forever and ever.

How does this make us feel? Happy? Thankful?” It should.

But are we happy enough? Thankful enough?

Probably not? Certainly not!

Will we be booted from the kingdom of God for this failure?

Absolutely not!

We should be, but we won’t be.

The Lord we love and serve has also covered this shortcoming with the perfection of Christ. We are the recipients of his mercy.

Mercy is what we need, and mercy is what we want. Mercy is what we get.

Thank God!



Prayer: We give heartfelt thanks to you, O Lord, for you are good, and your mercy does endure forever. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why do we quickly think of material blessings rather than spiritual ones?
  • When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” are we asking for the last return of Jesus?
  • How would we explain the concept of forever to a child?


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 Far Side of Forever – November 18, 2022

The Far Side of Forever – November 18, 2022


After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:17,18




Military Devotion – November 18, 2022

Devotion based on 1 Thessalonians 4:17,18

See series: Military Devotions

PCS may stand for “permanent change of station,” but military families know it means starting over. It means packing up life as you know it and venturing out into the unknown.

A degree of apprehension is often involved. Questions arise in people’s minds.

“What is the weather like at that new place? What will the housing be like? What will our life be like over there? But first of all, where in the world is it located?”

It turns out that not just military people face a permanent change of station. Everyone does, or more accurately, everyone will. This time, the word permanent will carry much more weight. You cannot get any more permanent than forever.

If we wonder, “Where is this place?” we find no GPS coordinates are available.

If we ask, “How will we get there?” we are informed, “Transportation will be provided.”

If we inquire, “What will life be like there?” We are told, “It all depends.”

For those who serve in the army of the Lord, “Life will be better than you could ever imagine—and it will be like that forever.”

For those found in the uniform of the Lord God’s enemy, “Your life will be so miserable that you will wish you had never been born—and it will be like that forever.”

“Are these the only possible destinations? “You better believe it. It is God’s truth.”

Who issues these PCS orders? The King of kings and Lord of lords.

When and where will these orders take place? It begins at the time that life here on earth ends. But then, time and space will no longer exist.

Speaking for the family of God, we will find ourselves “on the far side of forever.”

Our attempts to peer into the future are feeble. We can make our guesses about what lies over the great divide, but certainty is out of reach.

There have been a few people who have come back from the far side of forever. Enoch and Elijah showed up at the transfiguration of Jesus—but said nothing to the disciples there that we know of.

We hear of some children who came back from death. There was a young boy at Nain and a young daughter of Jairus. Another youngster returned to life at the time of Elisha. And then, there was Lazarus, who walked out of his tomb after three days days dead still wearing burial clothing.

None of them described heaven for us.

Saint Paul was given a vision of the place, but he said he could not tell us what he saw.

The Bible lists some bad things that will not be there, such as pain, sorrow, and death. The list of good things includes perfect peace and joy.

Our inability to see the sharp details should not surprise us. Saint Paul explains, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

We have been told all we need to know now about that wonderful faraway life. That includes who else will be there. We are told, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The faithful who are still alive will be lifted into the air to gather with those whose souls had already entered glory.

And we are told, “And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

This is a picture of bliss. This is enough to encourage us during the dark and dreary days we stumble through on this side of the divide.

“I go to prepare a place for you,” Jesus said. We look forward to that place.

Where will that be? When will that be? God knows. We will find out.

But we already delight to know; we will live in glory on the far side of forever.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you tell us that you will return to this planet in bodily form. You state that everyone will see you. You promise that those who love and trust you will be able to be with you. Praise be to your name forever and ever. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • What reasons might God have for not giving us more details about life after this one?
  • When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” are we asking for the last return of Jesus?
  • How would we explain the concept of forever to a child?


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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To End All Wars – November 11, 2022

To End All Wars – November 11, 2022


You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Matthew 24:6




Military Devotion – November 11, 2022

Devotion based on Matthew 24:6

See series: Military Devotions

They thought it would be the war to end all wars.

It wasn’t.

They hoped it would make the world safe for democracy.

It did not.

It did cost the lives of over 16 million people in uniform. The total number of military and civilian casualties (dead and wounded) is normally estimated at around 37 million.

WWI never officially ended. It paused. An armistice was signed in 1918 on November 11th at 11:00 AM. The guns went silent until the next generation of combatants opened up with their weapons. Authorities estimate some 68 million casualties fell before that second war ended after two atomic bombs killed as many as 210,000 just a few days apart.

America did not enter WWI when it began in 1914. Nor did it jump into WWII when the first Nazi tanks crossed the border into Poland in 1939. But eventually, it felt compelled to join both wars, sending combat troops across both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Afterward, Americans were called to arms in faraway places such as Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.

Today, our troops are standing at the ready once again across both oceans.

People are frustrated. People are afraid. And some of them are angry.

“Why must there be war?” they ask. “When is it going to stop?”

Those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth, those who look to the Lord of nations for answers, find the future of warfare is not left in doubt.

“Such things must happen.”

The question, “But why?” is answered for us already in Genesis. There is something wrong with mankind. Evil exists in this world and within every person. There has been only one exception, and he was executed by his countrymen who feared the wrath of a foreign nation too powerful for them to defeat.

Jesus of Nazareth carried no weapon. He issued no call to arms against the Roman soldiers deployed in Judea or Galilee. Instead, he announced, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

He had been named the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). But his peace does not come at the end of a weapon. As he explained to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

The Bible tells us about this “another place.” It is the place where the holy God dwells in his magnificent glory with his holy angels. It is the place where no sin, no sorrow, and no fear reside.

This is the place of perfect peace that he will bring his people to at the end of their stay on earth. The final transfer will take place on the day that this creation comes to an end.

Until then, his people will have to endure the days of evil when desires for wealth, power, or glory ignite into firestorms of war.

We are not to panic when we see that happen. We are not to think that evil has gotten out of control. We are not to believe that evil will win. Not in the end.

Even while wars are raging, the Holy Spirit is winning—winning hearts. He brings the peace that surpasses all understanding.

His people share that peace with others. The promise of God is, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

When Jesus comes on clouds of glory, that will be the forever end of all wars.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we thank you for watching over America as she faced wars and rumors of wars. We pray you will remain her strength and stay. We request this, not because it is deserved, but because your mercy is great. Lead our nation back to you, the only source of true and lasting peace. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why would people think that prosperity brings peace?
  • Does God allow wars in order to demonstrate just how sinful human nature is?
  • Can war ever be a blessing?


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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What Hath God Wrought – November 4, 2022

What Hath God Wrought – November 4, 2022


The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
Ezra 7:6




Military Devotion – November 4, 2022

Devotion based on Ezra 7:6

See series: Military Devotions

When it comes to miracles, perhaps our field of vision is a bit too narrow.

We think of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. We remember the times when at a touch of the hand, the blind received sight, and at a spoken word, the dead came to life.

The people who saw that happen witnessed laws of nature being set aside.

Yet, sometimes the miracle was unseen, as when water turned to wine, and none of the wedding guests knew it.

In fact, it appears that one of the greatest miracles of all is not detected by human eyes—even though it continues to be repeated in our lifetimes.

This miracle occurs in human hearts.

We look in at an amazing event in the history of the nation of Israel. The invasion by Babylon left Israel stripped of its leading citizens and much of its wealth. Especially grievous was the theft of the precious riches in the temple dedicated by Solomon.

“Lost forever!” it would seem. Why would a powerful heathen ruler ever be willing to give that back?

The answer is: The Lord God would bring about a change of heart within him!

In the words of Samuel Morse, when the first long-distance telegraph message went through from Baltimore to Washington D.C., “What hath God wrought!”

The world was stunned in 1844 to learn that a message could be sent through a wire. Samuel Morse correctly pointed to the hand of God that enabled such a breakthrough.

In today’s wording, he was saying, “Look at what God has done!”

He was right. Human ingenuity is a wonderful thing. But it is nothing unless God enables it to succeed. It is always God who must first be credited for anything good that is accomplished. Humans are the instruments through which he works.

This is illustrated clearly in the return of the treasures from Babylon to Israel.

Imagine, if we can, the circumstances. Not only have seventy years passed since the heathen army ransacked the temple, but a new foreign power ruled Babylon. Persia now claimed possession of the riches of its former enemy. This included the Israelite captives who lived there and anything else that was valuable.

Who would have expected the Persian powers to give up such treasures freely?

Those who remembered the promise the Lord God had made to his people!

In prophecy, the Lord had set the time limit of the captivity and named the Persian king (Cyrus), who would issue the decree releasing the captives and sending them home with their treasures.

But the transition did not go smoothly. The foreigners who had moved into Israel had no use for the Lord God and resented the returning Jews. They complained to the king of Persia that the returning exiles were illegally rebuilding the temple and restoring the “dangerous” city of Jerusalem.

By now, a new Persian king was in place. He knew nothing about the order to restore Jerusalem and the temple. The accusers were his kind of people. The Jews were not. Why should he even take the time and trouble to check if the exiles’ claims were valid?

Scripture answers. “The hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

Here are the words of King Artaxerxes to the Jewish leaders, “Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:15).

Furthermore, we learn, “In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold, and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:11).

A miracle? Of course! It was a miracle worked in a heathen heart. Truly amazing!

But then, was the miracle he worked in our hearts any less impressive?

We, too, were born with a heathen heart. We, too, would have been content to continue living our lives looking out only for ourselves and not caring about what was right or what the Lord God had said.

But then, the miracle occurred. Our inner heart was remade. The Lord God took first place in our lives. His Word gave us directions. His Son released us from captivity to sin and death and handed to us the timeless treasures of peace and glory.

What else can we say?

What else than, “What hath God wrought!”



Prayer: All glory, laud, and honor to you, Redeemer King! Amen. (Christian Worship 412:1)



Points to ponder:

  • Why do we easily overlook the astounding miracle that we have a heart with saving faith?
  • When the Bible says of the Persian king “the Lord his God,” does it show he was a believer?
  • What causes us to often overlook the timeless treasures the Lord has given us?


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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Crediting the Account – October 28, 2022

Crediting the Account – October 28, 2022


What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4:3




Military Devotion – October 28, 2022

Devotion based on Romans 4:3

See series: Military Devotions

We began life with a minus balance in our spiritual checkbook.

It got worse.

When we threw that tiny tantrum; when we refused to eat our carrots; when we screamed in defiance as our mother tried to give us a bath, the negative numbers increased.

Grownups may have considered our rebellious acts to be cute because we were so small. But that’s like calling the spot of melanoma on our skin a beauty mark. These were deadly signs.

When we grew older, our ability to disobey and strike out in anger or jealousy also grew.

So did the debit column in our spiritual account.

The Bible reveals that those debits are sins. The debt we owe is to the ruler of life and death. He demands payment in full by the time our life on earth is ended.

Sinfulness needs to be covered by the payment of righteousness.

There is no time-payment plan. We cannot work off our debt. We are warned that the penalty for failure to pay is terror-filled imprisonment in hell for time without end.

How can we get out of this mess? There is no bribing this judge. He accepts no excuses. What will we use to pay him off? We are spiritually bankrupt.
When we pull out receipts from our memory to show we did some things right during our life, he rejects our claims. What we accomplished was worthless—worse than worthless!

Isaiah, the inspired prophet, explains it to us. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

If the best that we can do, if our so-called righteous deeds stink to high heaven, what hope do we have?

Maybe—just maybe—someone else can pay off our debt. But who and how?

Money won’t do it. The demand is for payment by righteousness. Who has enough righteousness to spare?

Our grandfather, who never missed a church service in his life, can’t do it for us. His best still falls far short.

Then who and how?

Abraham learned the answer when the Savior-God ordered him to kill his own son, Isaac.

It was a test. Did aged Abraham love his son more than he loved his Creator-God?

The Lord had promised Abraham that among his countless descendants would be the One who would pay the price to cover the debt of everyone. But how could that happen if the heir of the promise would be killed while a youth? Would Abraham trust the Lord God enough to kill Isaac, his beloved son?

The answer is “Yes!”

We learn, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice…even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’”

Scripture explains, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

That’s faith! That’s saving faith. That grabs a glimpse of Easter morning.

He passed the test.

The boy’s life was spared. God provided a substitute, a ram caught in a thicket.

Now we understand the significance of the words “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Now we see that God was willing to accept a substitute payment for our debt.

Now we know that God the Father had his own Son die so we could live.

Our account is stamped PAID IN FULL!

It is signed with blood. Holy blood.

We better believe it.



Prayer: Lord, give us such a faith as this, and then, whate’er may come, we’ll taste e’en now the hallowed bliss of an eternal home. Amen. (Christian Worship 93 405:6)



Points to ponder:

  • Why is it so hard to believe that our debt to God is so great?
  • Why is it so hard to believe that our debt to God is paid in full?
  • Why don’t our hearts daily overflow with joy, knowing that death will not defeat us?


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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Take Five – October 21, 2022

Take Five – October 21, 2022


“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
Mark 6:31,32




Military Devotion – October 21, 2022

Devotion based on Mark 6:31,32

See series: Military Devotions

General George Patton is quoted as the source of the phrase. But then, so is Vince Lombardi. Both were convinced it is true that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

We don’t know that Jesus ever expressed that thought in those words, but he certainly put that message into practice. As sometimes happens in the lives of the followers of Jesus, the disciples found themselves caught in a vortex of emotions. They were buffeted by the alternating waves of heated excitement and mind-numbing shock. Wondrous victory had been followed by deadly retaliation.

Jesus had sent the Twelve on a preaching, teaching, and healing mission. They returned to report success. Demons were driven out. The sick were healed. And the call to repentance was accepted. They could report back: Mission accomplished!

Then came the shocking news: John the Baptist had been beheaded!

Saint Matthew gives details: “His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus” (Matthew 14:11).

What were the disciples of Jesus to think? Besides, so many people were coming and going around them that they didn’t even have time to eat, much less collect their thoughts.

Physically drained and emotionally shocked, what should they do now?

They were not to quit. They were not to quiver in fear. They were to “Take five!”

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

There’s a reason why troops are rotated in and out of combat zones. The best trained, best equipped, and most experienced warriors will wear down under the constant strain of battle.

So will those who fight under the banner of Christ against foes seen and unseen.

When Jesus called his disciples aside to take a break, it was to refresh both bodies and souls.

The powerful Creator had set the example. The Bible tells us, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Genesis 2:2,3).

It should be no surprise to learn that he also carefully provided rest for his creation.

Nightfall and changing seasons provide times to refresh and renew. Plants and animals need that. Human minds and bodies begin to break down without it. Human souls are desperate for it.

But souls need more than a short nap or a vacation getaway.

Souls need to find rest in the arms of their Savior God.

The Lord provided his Old Testament people one day of rest each week. He called it the Sabbath. Both animals and humans were commanded to do no labor on that day. It was to be a day of rest for bodies—but also for souls.

Souls are refreshed only by the Holy Spirit as he works through God’s Word and sacraments.

Though the command to cease from labor on a certain day of the week no longer remains, the invitation for the soul to find rest in this often chaotic and threatening world still stands.

There is no shame in admitting the need for a break. Our Commander already knows it.

He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has seen our past. He observes our present. He knows our future. He knows all our needs.

He sacrificed himself for us before we saw any need for rescue.

As he did with those first disciples, so he would tell us not to try to carry the load all by ourselves. He invites: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

When stressed and tired, when weighed down by regret and doubt, Jesus invites us to draw near to him and take a break from all the pressures in life. He bids us to “Take five!”

We will.

Won’t we?



Prayer: Jesus, Rock of Ages, let me hide myself in thee. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • It has been said, “I want to burn myself out for Christ.” Good idea, or not?
  • John’s disciples took the first step to overcome their grief. What was it and why?
  • What’s wrong with the approach “Driven to succeed”?


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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Me Against the World – October 14, 2022

Me Against the World – October 14, 2022


“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 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 3:17-19




Military Devotion – October 14, 2022

Devotion based on Genesis 3:17-19

See series: Military Devotions

At times, it feels like my life is a battle of me against the world.

If I kept track of how many times I struck out in life, I suspect my batting average would be in the low digits. And home runs? Very rare.

I relate to the hymn verse that says, “When all things seem against us to lead us to despair.”

Often, it seems whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

My car battery tends to die just when I need to get somewhere fast. What I think is a good plan sputters on the launchpad. Even my body fights against me. It gets sick. It gets frail. It gets old.

And every year, weeds grow in my garden.

Why is this? Why is life such a struggle? It sometimes feels that the world is out to get me.

I have found out, “It is!”

The Bible says that a state of hostility, or enmity, exists between me and the world.

I can see that. But where did this hostility come from? I don’t remember doing anything to anger my garden. Why does it retaliate by growing weeds? Who is responsible for this state of hostility?

God.

That may not seem right, but that’s what the Holy One himself says. He first announced this state of hostility to Satan with the words, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

He went on to show that hostility would also exist between humans and the world in which they live. To Eve, he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing.” To Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:16,17).

Painful is the operative word. Life in this world has become painful for humans.

Sin is part of the picture behind my life’s struggles. The entrance of sin into the world ruined the scene of joy and perfection. Sin has deadly consequences. The words to Adam were, “for you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Life is a battle from the day we were born and will be until the day we die.

But there is much more to the story than punishment for sin. This is also an account of amazing love and redemption.

The state of hostility between us and the world is for our protection. It is a blessing.

If the Creator had in his heart to punish the humans for their rebellion, he would have sentenced them to hell as quickly as he did the rebellious angels.

Instead, he wanted to rescue us from what we deserved. He would provide another paradise for humans. This world was not to be their home. They are not to become comfortable here. Hostility between them and the world will make them long for a place of joy and peace in the company of their Savior. That place is called heaven.

He would smother the human hostility against him with his love. It is this love, this marvelous love, that prompted him to sacrifice his Son to achieve the state of peace with us.

The Bethlehem angels announced it. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward mankind” (Luke 2:14 EHV).

Demons might object, “That’s not fair! Where’s the savior for us?”

The answer is, “You have none.”

Why not? “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3).

It has pleased him to rescue fallen humans—but not fallen angels.

Reason enough to thank him every day! Reason enough to trust him when he says he intends our struggles in life to be for our good.

Let every setback, every misfortune, and every failure be a reminder that this world is not our friend.

We are in a state of war against a world that is at war against the Lord God.



Prayer: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, we lift our hearts and eyes in thanksgiving and praise as we consider your mercy and love. Guide and protect us as we walk the path of our life on earth. Give us victory over sin, death, and the devil. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why do we think we should be able to live without troubles in life?
  • How do we feel about God not treating the rebellious angels with mercy and love?
  • Why do some people seem to have less trouble in life than others?


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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Called by Name – October 7, 2022

Called by Name – October 7, 2022


“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
John 20:15,16




Military Devotion – October 7, 2022

Devotion based on John 20:15,16

See series: Military Devotions

Walk up to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces in uniform, and you will see their name and rank on display. They’re easy to identify.

Watch the faces of family members when deployed troops come down the ramp to the meet-and-greet area. They don’t look for nametags or ranks. They look for faces. Loved ones are easy to recognize.

There’s a big difference between being identified and being recognized.

Identification is rational. Recognition is emotional. Recognizing a loved one brings a blip of joy. So does being recognized by a loved one. Sometimes it takes our breath away.

It did so on an Easter morning to a woman named Mary, who was from Magdala, a city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. She became a follower of Jesus after he had cleansed her of seven evil spirits. She had been at the foot of his cross. She had watched his burial.

She came back to the empty tomb early Easter morning. She saw Jesus but did not recognize him at first. Then she did.

When he called her by name.

What has been called the greatest recognition scene in all literature is painted with only two words.

“Mary!” “Rabboni!”

The hymnist wrote, “Oh, sorrow dread! God’s Son is dead!” That sorrow had seeped into the very bones of those who held Jesus dear. That hymn begins, “Oh darkest woe! O tears forth flow!” (Christian Worship 427).

Mary from Magdala was sobbing as she stood near the grave of Jesus. The pain that had pierced her soul while she watched him bleed and die throbbed anew when she discovered his tomb was now empty.

Confused and distraught, she didn’t know what to think. She had seen two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been. But that made no sense, either. When they asked, “Why are you crying?” she blurted out, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

It took Jesus to put her at ease with one word. “Mary.”

He called her by name.

He wasn’t a stranger. He was her teacher. He was her Savior.

He had not left her. He never would. He knew her before she was born. He knew her before demons tormented her. He knew she was at the foot of the cross.

He knew her. She was not a stranger to him.

“I am the good shepherd;” he had said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).

To be a member of the family of God is to be known by the Almighty One. To those who call upon him as God and Lord, he says, “Do not be afraid, because I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1 EHV).

Few words pack a punch as powerful as these.

At times, it may seem we are all alone. We may think that in the middle of the billions of people who live here, we are just nameless faces in an indifferent crowd.

We may not see Jesus or his angels in our lives; we may not think they are watching over us.

We may become confused, discouraged, or dismayed. But we are not alone. We are not on our own.

He calls us by name. He did that when we were baptized into his name. He did that as we awoke to each new day in our life.

He calls us by our name. We call him by the name the angel announced. “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

And one day, he will call us by name and say with a smile, “It’s time to come home.”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we call you “Savior.” You call us “Friend.” We delight to sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” It astounds us that you can call us by the name our parents gave us. Remind us that you have redeemed us. Remind us that we belong to you. Assure us that we need nothing more. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why was the sight of the angels not enough to calm Mary’s fears?
  • Why was it so important to her that she find his body?
  • Why do you think Jesus did not immediately identify himself?


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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Of Kings and Such – September 30, 2022

Of Kings and Such – September 30, 2022


“Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’S anointed.’”
1 Samuel 24:10




Military Devotion – September 30, 2022

Devotion based on 1 Samuel 24:10

See series: Military Devotions

The reminder is, “You salute the uniform, not the person wearing it.”

That principle is in line with God’s directive to respect and honor those whom God has placed over us. We learn, “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). As such, they are his representatives.

The apostle Peter put it this way. “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

David, the former shepherd boy, knew this when he lived under the rule of King Saul. He gives us an example of doing this under trying circumstances.

Following his defeat of Goliath, David joined his older brothers in Saul’s army. Saul’s jealousy of the young soldier began as he heard women singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

But Saul’s son, Jonathan, became close friends with David. Besides that, the Lord enabled David to become an accomplished warrior. Soon, he was in command of a thousand troops.

The king’s jealousy raged higher with every success the young warrior achieved. He decided to have David killed. But the murder dared not be obvious. David was much too popular.

Saul chose combat as his weapon. He set a trap by telling David he could marry his daughter if he came back with proof that he and his men had killed 100 Philistines. Saul expected that if he were foolish enough to try this, he would be mourned as a K.I.A.

David came back with proof of 200 enemy dead.

Scripture then records, “When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days” (1 Samuel 18:28,29).

Desperate, Saul simply ordered his troops to kill the warrior hero whenever they could.

Jonathan talked his father out of this plan. However, the spell of safety did not last long. Shortly after, in a fit of rage, Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his spear. David escaped. Saul sent men after him. But David’s wife tricked the men. David escaped again.

Saul kept hunting for David, and David kept eluding him. When Saul learned that some priests of the Lord had helped David, he killed 85 of them. Then, “He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (1 Samuel 22:19).

Who could have blamed David if he had killed Saul when he had a chance?

Who but David himself?

Once, he caught Saul in a cave with his guard down. The king didn’t know David was there. Instead of killing him, David crept up and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe without being seen.

Once outside the cave, David called out, “My lord the king!” and bowed down before Saul.

At this, Saul wept. He now knew David would take his place. He begged David not to kill off his family once he came to power.

This David promised. It was a promise he kept.

Saul became a scoundrel, a murderer, and a threat. But he held the office of king.

It was the office that David respected. His words to Saul catch our attention. He said, “Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’S anointed.’”

It gives us something to think about as we live our lives under people with authority. It doesn’t mean that we must do everything an authority figure orders. The apostle Peter made that clear in his day when he told an official who demanded he not speak of Jesus, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

Yet, this directive still stands, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7).

We honor the Lord our God when we honor those whom he has placed over us.

David, the God-serving warrior, has set an example worth following.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the King of kings. You are our commander in chief. You are also the one who died that we might live. Give us good leaders and caring commanders. Give us the will to honor you by respecting the office they hold. Then give us the strength to follow through with that will. After all, what we pray is, “Thy will be done.” Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why is it so difficult to respect the office when we don’t respect the person who holds it?
  • Wasn’t David unnecessarily risking the lives of his men by allowing Saul to live?
  • Was David grandstanding by showing Saul the piece of the cloak he had cut off?


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 Angels Cry – September 23, 2022

If Angels Cry – September 23, 2022


“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 18:10




Military Devotion – September 23, 2022

Devotion based on Matthew 18:10

See series: Military Devotions

Everyone said he was the cutest little tyke. His face lit up the room. Grownups couldn’t help but smile at him. His parents glowed with happiness.

Then, one night, his mother found him tucked in bed holding his stuffed bunny. But he was cold. He was dead.

Someone said, “The angels must be crying.”

Maybe they were.

We don’t know enough about angels to know for certain if they do cry. We see that they express emotions. At times, they give severe warnings. At other times, they bring glad tidings of great joy. Perhaps they do cry.

After all, their Master did.

Perhaps they did shed some tears as they saw the parents sobbing, but no tears for the little one. For him, this was better than a birthday and Christmas put together. This day was heavenly.

So then, why might the angels have cried?

Could it have been for the same reason Jesus cried at times?

We think of the Savior weeping at the grave of Lazarus. It’s not unusual for people to feel sad at funerals and cemeteries. But this was an unusual situation. Jesus knew Lazarus would walk out of that tomb in a few moments. Then, joy would overflow.

Yet, his eyes filled with tears. What caused his grief?

It was seeing the dreadful consequences of sin.

This was not what the Creator had intended. He gave humans life so they could live joyfully in a happy world.

Death was not part of the plan. Death stops life on earth. Death kills joy.

It’s the sense of tragedy that wrenched the heart of the Lord of life with sadness!

Remember when Jesus wept over Jerusalem? Listen to his pain. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34).

His sorrow was real because Israel’s rejection of him was real. So also, his warning to those who would lead others to join in the rejection—especially warning those guiding children.

Listen to his words. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Jesus is fierce in his condemnation of those who would harm children. To abuse them is despicable. To kill them—unthinkable! The degree of horror that awaits such culprits—is beyond description. The Lord God says those who reject him will end up “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Angels know this. They perceive the terror that grips the hearts of those who fall into the pit of punishment prepared for the devil and his angels.

They realize, “How tragic! How unnecessary! So avoidable!”

After all, sin has already been paid for. Death has been conquered. Redemption is free.

Jesus calls out, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

When humans turn their back on him, when they teach children to do the same, all is lost.

When the waters of Baptism are unused, when the words of the Good Shepherd are unread, when little ones are never taught “Jesus loves me, this I know,” life is empty. Hope is lost.

The Savior who once bled for them still loves them; still looks for them; would still hug them. If only they knew! If only they would accept his invitation.

And if they don’t?

It makes us wonder if, then, their angels cry.



Prayer: Lord of all, we can sing, “Jesus, shepherd of the sheep, who your Father’s flock does keep, Safe we wake and safe we sleep, guarded still by you.” Lead countless thousands of little ones to join us in those words of blessed assurance. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • What’s wrong with waiting for a child to grow up to pick a religion?
  • What warning is given when we realize that children have angels watching them?
  • What comfort does this offer?


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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My Hometown – September 16, 2022

My Hometown – September 16, 2022


He has set his foundation on the holy mountain; the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, O city of God: Selah
Psalm 87:1-3




Military Devotion – September 16, 2022

Devotion based on Psalm 87:1-3

See series: Military Devotions

“Where ya from?” That’s a common question when we come to a new place and new people.

We might name our most recent duty station, or we might give the name of our hometown. When asked about the hometown, we might say we’re glad to be out of there, or we might go on to talk about how wonderful it is. It seems some people can’t keep from telling us about the climate, the places to eat, and the amazing views of their hometown. It appears they cannot wait to get back there.

The writer of this psalm was clearly enthused about the place where he called home. The strange thing is that it is not where he came from but where he is going to.

After thinking about that, we realize that as strange as it may seem at first, we are looking to go to the same place. His hometown is our hometown.

We need to look at this more closely.

Zion was the ancient name for one of the hills Jerusalem was built upon. Then, it was selected as the site of the temple that the Lord God commanded to be built. It was on Zion that the blood of all those animal sacrifices was spilled. It was on Zion that the Lord made his presence known in the temple’s Holy of Holies. Zion is where God dwelt.

Sometimes, in the Bible, the Holy Spirit refers to Zion as the place where the people of God dwell. We read, “I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people’” (Isaiah 51:16).

So sometimes, Zion stands for the Church of God on earth.

And sometimes, Zion refers to the Church of God in heaven.

Note these words: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (Hebrews 12:22).

What are we to make of this? What does this mean for us living in America in the 21st century?

It tells us that the Christian hymn-writer was on target when he wrote, “I’m but a stranger here; heaven is my home.”

It makes us ponder the words of another hymn that echoes this psalm. “Glorious things of thee are spoken; Zion, city of our God.”

We spend our days on planet earth. We see what is happening around us. We hear what is happening in faraway places. We often are not happy about those things.

Danger lurks in the corners of this life. Disappointment easily sprouts up. When we lift our eyes to try to see what lies on the road far beyond, we observe through the lives of others that no one escapes old age with its frailty and futility.

Honestly, what is there to look forward to? Even the best of times will pass quickly, and the worst of times will be waiting.

Then will come the end, won’t it?

Not for the people of God. Not for those who have Zion as their hometown. Each day that passes for them brings them one day closer to home.

“Glorious things of thee are spoken; Zion, city of our God.”

What will it be like to live without fear, without sin, without regret, without sorrow? What will it be like to know perfect joy, perfect peace, perfect love? What will it be like to be reunited with our loved ones who, like us, loved the Savior? What will it be like to live with the holy God who loves us and has rescued us?

It will be glorious.

Our hometown is glorious.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you shared our lives on this sin-draped planet. You saw the misery that sometimes enters our lives. You felt the pain. Never could we thank you enough for rescuing us from this deathtrap. Never can we yet imagine what it will be like to live in glory. But you have told us you are preparing a place for us there. We pray, when the time is right, bring us home! Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why is it so easy to forget that we are only strangers here on earth?
  • Why do we easily see storm clouds on the near horizon but miss the rainbow at the end?
  • How can we begin to imagine just how glorious it will be to finally be home?


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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Don’t Gloat- September 9, 2022

Don’t Gloat – September 9, 2022


But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.
Micah 7:7




Military Devotion – September 9, 2022

Devotion based on Micah 7:7

See series: Military Devotions

The saying is, “It’s not over ‘til it’s over.” It’s a phrase Christians may want to keep in mind.

On any given day, the picture of the Christian and the entire Holy Christian Church might look quite bleak. We hear the number of Christians in the world is a shrinking minority. The credibility of some Christian leaders has taken a hit. Sometimes the headlines about a specific group of Christians make us shudder.

We are struck by the apparent success of religious groups that reject the living God and worship something of their own making. A follower of Islam recently belittled Christian churches for shamelessly advertising to attract people to their place of worship. “They join businesses in competing for customers who will bring in money.”

Islamic mosques don’t advertise. They don’t compete with one another. Yet, worshipers seem to flock in.

“Christian churches with their worship of a Jewish god cannot compare to those who kneel before Allah,” they assert.

The professed atheist raises a similar charge against Christians. “Why do you deny science?” we are asked. “Science has proven there is no need for a divine being. Nature has evolved to the high level we see today without any outside help. Morality is whatever becomes acceptable or unacceptable to the influential group the person is part of.”

The scoreboard appears to show: “Christians-1; non-Christians-99.”

It appears to be a blowout.

But on the battleground of life, “It’s not over ‘til it’s over!”

The people of God have appeared to be on the losing side of life since the beginning. Their story is one of tragedy, from the murder of faithful Abel to heart-sick Abraham, to executed Jesus, to the Christian who is losing the battle for his life today.

“Losers!” the world says.

“Winners!” decrees the one who holds life and death in his hands.

About Abel? “By faith he was commended as a righteous man….” “And by faith he still speaks even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4).

About Abraham? “From this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Hebrews 11:12).

About Jesus? The angel reported, “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).

And what about the Christian taking his last breath today? The words of Jesus to the thief on the cross will be repeated. “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The Holy Spirit says of those who are destitute, persecuted, and mistreated because of their faith in the Lord God, “The world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:38).

When it is all over, the King will say to those who serve him, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 26:34).

So, how will it go for us? What will we say when the darkness of failure engulfs us? When an unbelieving world mocks us?

The prophet Micah has taught us the words. “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”

To our spiritual adversaries, we say, “It’s not over ‘til it’s over. And, when it’s over, you will envy me.”

“So, don’t gloat.”



Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes the picture we see on earth is one of weakness and failure on the part of your church and its people. Remind us that not everything is as it seems. Open our eyes of faith to see your power and glory at work in us and around us. In days of darkness, O Lord, you are our light. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • What is an example of society determining what is right and wrong?
  • Why do we find it difficult to pray for those who treat us unfairly?
  • If we become irritated by their opinion of us, are we in danger of gloating over those who will meet an unpleasant end?


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 Promise Kept- September 2, 2022

A Promise Kept – September 2, 2022


“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Genesis 8:21,22




Military Devotion – September 2, 2022

Devotion based on Genesis 8:21,22

See series: Military Devotions

We are beginning to pay more attention to the weather. Farmers have always done that. But now, even city-dwellers are looking to the skies with worried eyes.

People have begun to refer to some weather-related events as of biblical proportions.

Indeed, the Bible does report devastating droughts and cataclysmic flooding. Hail once defeated a mighty army. Burning sulfur once fell from the sky to wipe out cities. There have been times when it seemed nature was out of control.

However, that was never true. Every raindrop and snowflake was under the control of an unseen hand.

The more we learn about our planet and the universe it resides in, the more we must realize how complicated weather is. We have learned that if the distance between us and the sun changed just a smidgen, life here would either burn up or be frozen to death.

An old saying is, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”

Indeed, the weather is out of our hands. Good thing! We tend to make a mess of anything we can control. We would never agree upon how warm a particular place should be, and we would constantly argue about how much water should come down from the sky at a specific time and place.

Good thing governments cannot control the weather! They would quickly add it to their weapons arsenal to attack those they saw as enemies.

History has shown that weather has defeated mighty armies attacking Russia on two different occasions. Napoleon was smacked by it as he attacked, and later, so was Hitler.

The Lord of creation has recorded a message for planet Earth’s inhabitants. It was given in pieces over thousands of years by his representatives. In that message, he gives warnings and he makes promises. On some occasions, he announced the coming weather.

Most humans just ignore his words. Some openly scoff at them. But history has shown they are backed by facts. Events considered impossible and unbelievable have taken place just as he predicted.

One of the most astounding was his warning of a flood that would wipe out almost all non-aquatic life on the planet.

His countdown to that disaster lasted 120 years. When the clock ran out, “all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” “The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet” (Genesis 7:11,20).

It makes us realize that he who controls the weather controls life.

There is reason to fear that one. But he shows there is also reason to love and trust him.

He made a promise to humans at the very start of their history. He said he would send someone who would crush the power of the evil that had invaded his creation. He further promised that he would provide a new place for humans to dwell—a place where disaster and death would never enter.

For those who wonder if this can really be true, the record of his faithfulness should erase any doubt.

After that catastrophic, universal flood, he said this: “And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

He promised this.

The history of this planet reveals: Promise kept.

He promised us rescue from the domination of sin and death.

Jesus came.

Again: Promise kept.



Prayer: Ruler over heaven and earth, our only hope of survival rests in your hands. Let the wind and the waves remind us of your protecting power. He who once commanded them to be still on the Sea of Galilee is the same one we ask to rule over our lives. In him, we trust. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why are fossils of fish found on mountain tops?
  • What is meant by “day and night never cease”?
  • Why is the story of Noah’s flood comforting?


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 Greater America – August 26, 2022

A Greater America – August 26, 2022


Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 14:34




Military Devotion – August 26, 2022

Devotion based on Proverbs 14:34

See series: Military Devotions

If we ask the question “What makes America great?” we would receive a variety of answers. Some would contradict others.

It makes us wonder what we might answer. A flurry of possibilities quickly comes to mind.

Surely its natural resources make this nation great. Our Great Plains have been called the breadbasket of the world. Beneath our soil lies a treasure chest of minerals.

A strong economy has often been pointed to as an indicator of greatness.

The list of good answers for greatness could get quite long. But we certainly would want to place a superior military force near the top of the list.

Clearly, history shows that America has been great in the past. Her beacon of freedom has shown forth to light up the path for other nations. Time and again her mighty arm has reached out to protect others from deadly threats.

The phrase “God shed his grace on thee.” has been richly demonstrated.

Yet today many are not so sure.

Their uncertainty is not just about America’s greatness. Increasing numbers are uncertain about the whole idea of God.

That is reflected in the lives of Americans. What do foreigners see when they look at our country? What does God see?

Decency? Respect for others? Honorable thoughts and actions?

Hard to find.

Crime on the streets. Violence in the homes. Vulgarity spewing from the mouths of young and old.

Easy to find.

It has been said, “In war, life is cheap.” Now, protestors demand not even the womb should be safe.

King David’s son, Solomon, was a king in his own right. David’s reign was a time of bloodshed. Solomon’s was a span of peace.

As he knew and confessed, his famed wisdom, his unsurpassed wealth, and the greatness of his nation were undeserved gifts from the Lord of creation, whom he served.

The words that he recorded in the book of Proverbs were not just his own musings. They were truths that the Holy Spirit led him to record.

As we consider the condition of our own nation, it would be most wise to consider what the Lord of nations has to say.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

The statement is as simple as it is true.

The sins of our people, of any people, of our own person, are a disgrace.

A nation that showcases sin should be ashamed—and pitied. Unless changed, its future is destined for devastating judgment.

The only hope rests with the source of righteousness—found nowhere else but in the holy Lord God whose holiness stands ready to cover all unrighteousness.

Nothing is greater than to be approved by God. Without him, there is no greatness. Without him, any claim to greatness is empty—and will be exposed as such.

The psalmist was right. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

The lesson is clear.

The more America turns to the righteous God, the greater America will be.



Prayer: Bring your healing hand to our land, holy God. Turn our hearts to you. By declaring “How great thou art!” we acknowledge your greatness and pray for your forgiveness and blessing. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why is sin not only excused by many but even bragged about?
  • Why is prayer more important than politics?
  • What has brought America closer to God in the past?


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 Black Dog – August 19, 2022

The Black Dog – August 19, 2022


Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:11




Military Devotion – August 19, 2022

Devotion based on Psalm 42:11

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes it’s called “having the blues.” Sometimes, “down in the dumps.” And sometimes, it is called “depression.”

Winston Churchill called it “the black dog.”

He is famous for inspiring Britain during the dark days of World War II. He is remembered for his stirring speeches urging his countrymen to “Never, never, never give in.”

If he had not told us himself, we might never have guessed that, at times, he lived under a cloud of gloom and near-despair. He called them the days “when the black dog returned.”

He is not the only person who has had such days. He is not the only one who struggled to overcome them.

Some people assume that this will never happen to those who put their trust in the Lord. Thus, they infer that having to struggle must mean weak faith.

The Bible does not support that judgment any more than it says a strong faith will keep a person from getting the flu.

The feeling of hopelessness, the feeling of being useless and defeated, is just that—a feeling.

Saving faith is not a feeling. It is a creation of God that grabs hold of his promises as true and lasting. Those promises assure that sin has been paid for by Jesus, the sinless Son of God.

The gospel is the good news of rescue and protection by the Lord Almighty, leading to a future of endless joy and glory.

To a man sick of the palsy, Jesus said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2 KJV).

Knowing that one’s sin is forgiven is bound to cheer a person up. It removes the greatest threat one can face. There is no more reason to fear even death.

Yet, we note that at this time, the man’s paralysis remained. He possessed saving faith, but he still lived with an affliction. Only when Jesus was accused of blasphemy for claiming to forgive sins did Jesus free him of the affliction to show that he was, indeed, the Son of God.

So it is with all the followers of Jesus on this side of eternity.

Their solid, saving faith does not exempt them from living in a sin-cursed world. Weeds grow up in their gardens, winds blow down their trees, their eyesight may fail them, and their emotions may turn against them.

It is a special gift of God if emotions are not put through a wringer, just as it is a special gift if they never come down with cancer or get into a car wreck.

Emotional adversity is not a sign of weak faith or God’s judgment. It can happen to any believer.

It happened to the writer of this psalm. He was disturbed. He felt depressed. But he was not overcome by these things.

The devil would quickly point to his despondency and claim it as proof that God did not care or that faith in him was useless.

He knew better. He knew things like this happen in the vale of tears.

“Put your hope in God!” he tells himself. The Lord God is his Savior.

Our sinful human nature is often doubting the Lord God’s promises. It may not be able to throw out saving faith, but it surely can put a dent in our ability to live a cheerful life.

If we lose the confidence that God is with us in days of trouble and doubt, the powers of hell have robbed us of some of the joyful blessings the Lord intends for us.

Killing our saving faith is hell’s next objective.

That we dare not allow!

The psalmist is right. “Put your hope in God!”

The hymnist is right. “Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end” (Christian Worship 847:1).

The black dog may visit us as we walk along the path of life, but it cannot and will not follow us home.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, restore unto us the joy of your salvation and uphold us with your free Spirit. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • How can dark and troubled days end up being a blessing for us?
  • Why is feeling depressed so painful at times?
  • Why can the advice “Look on the bright side!” lead to resentment?


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 What and Why – August 12, 2022

The What and Why – August 12, 2022


Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Ruth 4:16




Military Devotion – August 12, 2022

Devotion based on Ruth 4:16

See series: Military Devotions

We usually are more concerned with the “What?” questions in life than with the “Why?”

We concentrate on what we are doing now and what we will do next. We look back at what we did in the past.

We usually don’t ask the “Why?” unless things seem to have gone wrong.

Then the question is often, “Why did this happen to me?”

We ask that when we try to make sense of some misfortune. We might blame ourselves for the trouble we are in or blame someone or something else.

We might even blame God.

Is he not ultimately responsible for what happens in our life? Is he not Lord of all?

An Old Testament woman named Naomi thought so.

She had lived in Bethlehem with her husband and two sons. Famine drove them to the heathen land of Moab. Her sons married Moabite women. Then both sons died—after her husband died.

She returned to Bethlehem with a daughter-in-law, Ruth. Both were widows now. Both were poor.

Upon her return, she told the people, “Don’t call me Naomi.”

“Naomi” means “pleasantness.” Her life was no longer pleasant.

“Call me Mara,” she said, “because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”

“Mara” is the Hebrew word for bitter.

The “What?” question seems to have been answered for her. What she experienced was a bitter loss.

The “Why?” question awaited an answer. It must have been a painful wait.

Probably, no less painful for Ruth.

Ruth was now a widow in a foreign land. She was cut off from family and friends in Moab. What had happened to her did not seem good.

What was she doing there? She was accompanying her mother-in-law.

Why? The wife of Naomi’s other son stayed in Moab. Why would Ruth leave her family to live in Israel?

She had answered Naomi before they left. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

The heathen Moabitess had learned that the God of Israel was the God who loved her, too.

Could this be why God led Naomi and her family to seek safety in Moab? Was this part of God’s plan to bring this heathen woman into the family of God?

It surely was.

What wondrous love the Lord has in his heart for people like Ruth!

But then, is it any less amazing that he reached out to us? Don’t each of us have an extraordinary story lying in our past even though we know only pieces of it?

How far back goes the thread of our rescue from death and hell? What has all taken place that we can now stand among the family of God?

Our story of salvation began in Eden with God’s promise of a Savior. It continues on to include what happened to Naomi and her daughter-in-law.

Ruth married a God-fearing man from Bethlehem. As a result, she gave Naomi a grandchild named Obed. We don’t know much about him or his son Jesse. But we do know a great deal about his grandson, David, the giant killer, David, the king.

A thousand years later, in that same Bethlehem, from the bloodline of Ruth, Jesus the Savior was born.

Without him, we would have no hope.

What happened to Naomi in Moab made her life bitter.

Why it happened makes our life blessed.

The psalmist wrote, “Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:15).

The “What?” in the lives of God’s people is explained with the “Why?”

Why?

Because he loves us.



Prayer: Heavenly Lord Jesus, you once said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The story of our salvation begins with your undeserved love. What you allow to happen in our lives flows from the wonderful reason why it happened: to make us your own. For that, we will praise you forever. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • How does the knowledge that people outside of the nation of Israel are in the Savior’s bloodline bring us assurance?
  • Do you think Naomi’s faith was weak when she said God had made her life bitter?
  • The book of Ruth does not mention the way of salvation. Why do you think it is in the Bible?


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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How Can This Be? – August 5, 2022

How Can This Be? – August 5, 2022


You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
John 3:7,8




Military Devotion – August 5, 2022

Devotion based on John 3:7,8

See series: Military Devotions

His name was Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s Supreme Court. He was curious about this Jesus of Nazareth and impressed with his miracles. But he was not a follower of Jesus.

Yet.

He first approached Jesus at night to hide his interest. The day would come, however, when he would step forward in public. While the famous disciples were cowering in fear, Nicodemus, along with another non-disciple, would claim the body of Jesus for burial.

When Jesus told him that no one can be in the kingdom of God unless they are born again, Nicodemus responded with the question, “How can this be?”

It was a good question. It has been asked in reference to God many, many times.

No doubt we have asked it, too.

“How can there be only one God but three persons?” How can the water of Baptism wash away sins, or the bread and wine of Communion offer the body and blood of Christ?” “How can absolutely everything work out for the good of God’s people?”

It’s not that we are doubting this. We will not call our Savior God a liar.

But we do wonder, “How can this be?”

Satan knows this. Satan wonders if the door to doubt and unbelief has cracked open a bit.

Maybe he can slip through that crack to fling the door wide open from the inside.

That’s the way he succeeded in Eden. It was a simple question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The implied question was, “How can this be?”

The implied answer was, “This cannot be!”

However, the actual answer was, “This must be since it is God who said it.”

There need be no further explanation. The holy Creator God simply stated the truth.

Jesus used the same approach when Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” He did not try to explain how Baptism works saving faith. He did not go into detail about the workings of the Holy Spirit.

He told this learned man, “You cannot understand it. That should not surprise you for there is much you do not understand.”

Jesus pointed to the wind. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”

We can see what direction the wind is blowing, but we do not know the source of the wind nor its destination. That knowledge is beyond us.

Surprisingly, Jesus goes on to say, “So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

He’s talking about believers. He is talking about us.

We are living examples of the mysterious and miraculous working of the living God.

Some of us experienced that rebirth when we were baptized as an infant. Others were brought into the kingdom of God later in life. God the Holy Spirit brought this about.

How can this be? With him, all things are possible.

The Holy Spirit does this by means of Baptism and the Word of God.

We can now call the Lord of all “Our Father.” He hears us. He blesses us. He has adopted us as his own.

We have a new life.

With him.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Son, Jesus, paid the price of our membership in your kingdom. Show us the wonder of this. Keep a good grip on us lest we wander away. May the Holy Spirit restore unto us the joy of our salvation. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why do we feel we must understand God’s ways before we will believe him?
  • How can we be certain we have been born into his kingdom?
  • What comfort is ours by knowing the holy God has made us his own?


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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Desertion! – July 29, 2022

Desertion! – July 29, 2022


Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.
2 Timothy 4:9,10




Military Devotion – July 29, 2022

Devotion based on 2 Timothy 4:9,10

See series: Military Devotions

Desertion brings shame. In times of war, it may bring death by a firing squad. But before one can desert, one must first belong.

On the opening day of the First Battle of Bull Run, citizens of Washington, D.C., came out to Manassas to enjoy the event as spectators. When troops of the South overran the Northern forces, the civilians quickly turned their horses and buggies around and scrambled back home with the battle following them.

They did not desert. They evacuated.

When the bugle sounded to call the army of the Confederacy back to a more secure position for the night, they did not desert. They withdrew.

When the Union soldier panicked at the sight of the Rebels pouring over defensive lines, threw his rifle down, left others to deal with the threat, and ran back to D.C., this was not a retreat.

This was desertion.

He belonged at the front. He belonged at his post. He belonged at the edge of the creek called Bull Run to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades.

His desertion was despicable.

So was the desertion of an early Christian named Demas.

The apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.”

The apostle was in prison at Rome, awaiting a trial that would order his execution. In this letter, he begs Timothy to hurry to his side.

Timothy may have read and reread this last letter with tears blurring his eyes, but every line braced him with the power to make him bold in the battle against the old evil foe and his forces of darkness. He was encouraged to fight to the death so that he might receive the crown of life waiting for him.

He would rush in where Demas did not want to stay.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” He calls Demas a fellow worker in his letter to Philemon. We wonder how someone who had served so well in the work of the Lord could turn his back on it.

The apostle provides the answer with the words, “because he loved this world.”

Desertions at Bull Run may have been caused by fear. The desertion at Rome was driven by love—love of the world.

We can understand that. There is much in this world that appeals to us. Much of that is not wrong. The good things in life are God’s gifts to us.

The bad things of the world do not spring from God though this world seems saturated with them. Yet, this also appeals to us. Sin, in many forms, calls out its invitation to taste the forbidden fruit. Our sinful nature wants to run to it. But to do so is to run away from God.

The apostle John issues the warning. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

But what if we have already fallen in love with the world? What if we have quietly slipped away from the fight against evil? What if we have abandoned the path of righteousness and crossed over to the “dark side”?

Saint John answers: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

There is hope for those who have abandoned their post in the army of the Holy Christian Church. As the parable of the prodigal son shows, our heavenly Father waits with open arms for his beloved child to return.

Jesus, the Son of God, speaks up for us. He has wiped away our failures.

The Holy Spirit reminds us that we have renounced the devil with all his works and all his ways.

The Lord of all calls us to duty and honor.

Our soul has heard that call. It answers in renewed and determined faith. By the power of God, we shall win the victory and receive that crown of life.

For us, desertion is not an option.



Prayer:
What is the world to me with all its vaunted pleasure
When you and you, alone, Lord Jesus, are my treasure!
You only, dearest Lord, my soul’s delight shall be;
You are my peace, my rest. What is the world to me! Amen.
(Christian Worship 717:1)



Points to ponder:

  • In your opinion, what is the most successful temptation the world offers now?
  • How does our baptism help us to overcome temptation?
  • How would you respond to the person who says, “I have lost my faith in God”?


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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Lord of All – July 22, 2022

Lord of All – July 22, 2022


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 22, 2022

Devotion based on Isaiah 45:7

See series: Military Devotions

He, who claims the title, the Lord God Almighty, does not easily fit into a slot designed by humans.

We tend to view him from the human perspective. We realize he has attributes such as omnipotence and omniscience, but we often ignore the implication of such things since we cannot comprehend them.

We can say the words, but we cannot wrap our heads around how that works out in real life. Humans have asked, “If God is all-powerful, can he make something so heavy that he cannot lift it?”

There doesn’t seem to be an answer to that question. “It doesn’t compute” might be our best response. It defies understanding.

We expect some questions to have an either/or answer. We question answers that reply with a both/and.

The prophet Isaiah relayed Jehovah’s message to an Israel about to be invaded by a fierce enemy that would carry away many families to bondage in a heathen land.

This terrified the people because they had seen this happen to their fellow Israelites, who were carted off by merciless Assyrians. Those ten tribes never came back. To this day, they have not been found.

So then, what chance of survival did the people of Judah and Benjamin have?

The Lord God gave them the answer. After 70 years, they would be free to return to their homeland. They would not need to fight their way back. They would be invited to return. They would be set free to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. They would come back carrying treasures.

Hard to believe? It must have been. To give further assurance, the Lord names the Persian king who will set them free. Names him even before he is born.

With boldness, the sacred text declares: “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor” (Isaiah 45:1).

History reveals it was Cyrus who overthrew the Babylon Empire and declared the Israelites to be free to return home.

How could this be? How could the God of Israel do this? The answer is simple.

He is the Lord of all.

Was he not the one who brought light into being simply by saying, “Let there be light”?

He was. He did that.

We think darkness is merely the absence of light. He says there is more to it. Darkness is something he creates.

Does he bring prosperity? Indeed, he does.

But he also creates disaster.

Death and destruction are under his power. He uses them as he wishes. He will use them for the benefit of those who are called by his name.

The Lord of all used death and destruction to rescue his people from Babylon. He did it again to rescue humanity from bondage to Satan.

This time, it was the death of his Son. This time, destruction came to the power of death. Jesus rose from death, and so will those who follow him.

He said he would do it, and he did it.

What, then, should his people fear?

Surely not disaster. Surely not destruction. Surely not death.

He is the Lord of all!

And we?

We are his beloved children.



Prayer: Eternal, almighty, ever-faithful Lord God, we are amazed at your power and overwhelmed by your mercy and love. We thank you for delivering us from the death and destruction we deserve. We dedicate ourselves to your service. We bow in spirit before the loving Lord of all. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why should it not frighten us to hear that the Lord creates disaster?
  • How would we explain the hymn verse: “Death of death and hell’s destruction”?
  • Is there significance to the fact that ancient Babylon is the site of modern Iraq?


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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Stay in Step! – July 15, 2022

Stay in Step! – July 15, 2022


Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25




Military Devotion – July 15, 2022

Devotion based on Galatians 5:25

See series: Military Devotions

If there is one thing the branches of our armed forces do well, it is training people how to stay in step.

This is drilled into recruits, then repeatedly reinforced.

Some might think this is only done to look sharp in parades. However, instructors know there is much more to it. Staying in step with the rest not only demonstrates unity but also fosters unity.

Unity flows from singular leadership.

Only one voice sets the cadence. Only one person determines the route. Only one sets the start and stop points.

We can easily envision the chaos if each person decided when to start, when to turn, and how fast to march.

The solution to chaos is clear: Stay in step!

The same directive is issued to those who serve in the kingdom of God as part of the church militant.

Jesus called out to those who would do battle against the forces of evil: “Follow me!”

We don’t need to be able to see him to follow him. God, the Holy Spirit, is in perfect unity with God the Son and God the Father. Using the sacred written Word, the Holy Spirit directs our steps in life to stay in unity with him—and thus with them.

He will not lead us astray. In the words of King David, “He guides me in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3).

David knew where his march through life would end. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

Our path in life seems clear enough. We listen to the voice of the Savior God to lead us on.

It seems easy enough.

Except, it isn’t. It’s a life and death battle.

For there is another voice that calls out to us. This one wants us to march in a different direction to a different destination. The promised prize is happiness and peace. It sounds so good. It is so tempting.

It is so deadly.

This is the voice of the one who wants only to lead us to pain, regret, and destruction.

It is the disguised voice of our worst enemy.

It is the voice of Satan calling us onto the path that his rebellious angels followed him down.

His path appeals to our sinful flesh even though that path is littered with the pitfalls of immorality, hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, and the like.

Follow his lead, stay in step with him, and our last breath will lead to the gate that says, “Abandon hope all you who enter here.” It is the gate to hell.

By contrast, the path of the Holy Spirit is marked by wonderful things like joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and the like.

The Holy Spirit brings all the good things that the death of Jesus won for us.

King David was right. This is the path of righteousness. This leads to our forever home in heaven.

We will stay in step with the Holy Spirit as we march forward from grace to glory.

Won’t we?

God grant it.



Prayer: God of grace and glory, keep calling out to us that we might clearly see the path we are to walk as citizens of your kingdom and heirs of your righteousness. Keep us on the path to glory. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • What causes us to listen to the voice that would lead us astray?
  • Why does sinning usually give us more pleasure than following the path of righteousness?
  • How can we turn down the volume of Satan’s call to sin?


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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Collateral damage – July 8, 2022

Collateral damage – July 8, 2022


At daylight, there was a great commotion among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. After Herod had searched and did not find him, he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution.
Acts 12:18,19




Military Devotion – July 8, 2022

Devotion based on Acts 12:18,19

See series: Military Devotions

People in the pew with Sunday shoes may walk right past these verses. Others, who have worn the boots of combat, may stop to stare at them for a long time. They may find themselves thinking: “I know how Peter must have felt.”

James, the brother of John, the fisherman, had been executed at Herod’s command. Now Peter was arrested. He had to expect the same fate.

Miraculously, Peter escaped, but innocent people died as a result. They might be labeled as collateral damage. Peter had not planned their death. He had not wished their death. But, in a way, he caused their death. If he had not escaped, they would have still been alive. We can only wonder how often Peter thought of this as he went on with his life.

More than one person who has worn the United States Armed Forces uniform carries a picture of collateral damage in their memory. They are glad they survived the incident but regret the price that others paid as a result. Over time, that regret can grow. It can eat away at peace and joy. It can transform into guilt. God’s report on Peter’s escape shows this would be empty guilt.

Peter’s rescue was God’s doing. It was God’s plan. The responsibility lies with the Almighty. He makes no mistakes.

The night before his trial, Peter was chained between two guards. Two more guards were posted outside of the prison. None of this deterred the angel. With a bright light, he entered the cell and commanded, “Quick, get up!”

The chains fell off. “Get dressed!” “Follow me!” And, out they went, right past the guards—who saw nothing and heard nothing. The angel dropped Peter off on the street and disappeared.

Only when the sun came up did the soldiers discover their prisoner was gone. They knew they were doomed. The rule was: “Lose a prisoner, and you lose your life.”

Why did it have to happen this way? Why the collateral, the unintended, damage? Surely the God powerful enough to rescue Peter in this manner could have protected the lives of those who were only unfortunate enough to pull guard duty that night.

We wonder if Peter lamented these deaths and thought about those men in later years. He did not hate these guards! His message of the risen Savior was meant for them, too. Military people would one day make up a sizable portion of the Christian Church. Sadly, these soldiers would not be among them.

Maybe, in Peter’s mind, this was collateral damage. He surely did not intend it. But the one who planned and controlled the mission did.

The Lord God anticipated everything that took place in this operation. This includes the death of the guards. Only he knows why they were to die on that day, in this way, and not in another.

One does not need to be in a war to cause unintended affliction or death for others. It could be caused by an accident. It could be a business decision. It might simply be the wrong choice of words.

We might never know the damage we caused. Or the memory of it may burn in our hearts for years afterward.

Only God can release us from the pain of regret.

We remember Jesus teaching us to pray, “Thy will be done.”

We want his will to always be carried out. His plan is always perfect even when it doesn’t seem that way to us. Wasn’t that the case when his innocent Son was executed so guilty humans could live forever? Surely, we do not want him to change that.

That death erases any guilt we might have.

This lesson from Peter’s life has been retaught to God’s people down through the ages. We might have sin on our record. We may have regrets—but they should not be for what we are not responsible. If it is out of our hands, it is in God’s hands. One day we will see all the details and understand.

With God, there is no such thing as collateral damage!



Prayer: Heavenly Father, our faith is sometimes weak, and our understanding dim. Forgive the sins that we are not even aware of but keep us from feeling guilty when we are not. May we never find fault with what you have done. May we never regret being part of your plan! Enable us to learn the lesson taught to Peter so that we might ever walk in faith and know the blessing of your peace. In the name of Jesus, we pray this. 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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Brothers – July 1, 2022

Brothers – July 1, 2022


A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17




Military Devotion – July 1, 2022

Devotion based on Proverbs 17:17

See series: Military Devotions

They are brothers—though they come from different families. By ties weaved together under conditions of stress and danger, a group of people can become so tightly connected that they regard each other as true brothers, even if they are not related by blood—unless one counts spilled blood.

Civilians have heard about the Band of Brothers and have been entertained by Hollywood’s depiction. But those who have had their lives tied to a group like this know there is more to it than can be seen on the screen or explained to families.

Typically, this type of brotherhood (which can include women) is formed by former strangers undergoing such trying and dangerous times that their lives have become fused together.

For them, “I’ve got your six!” is not merely a nice phrase, but a promise that will be backed up with action.

That’s a special setting.

The Bible shows there is even more to the picture.

A brother such as this, was born for just such a time as this. The Lord God, in infinite wisdom, knew what his servants were going to run into down the path of life. He knew the time would come when they would need someone to battle alongside them.

The Lord of life controlled when these people would be born. He enabled them to have the necessary training and skills. He saw to it that these very people would be put together at this time in history. He is the one who forms the band of brothers.

We think in terms of coincidence and luck. He works by design.

It’s humbling to think that, with no input from us, we were born into a certain family, at a certain time, in a certain place on this globe. He did the same to others so they could be part of his plan for our lives.

The God who promised: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) was preparing to keep that promise even before we were born. He arranged for the help to be there when adversity arose.

Of course, this applies to more than military persons and to situations apart from war. People of all ages and circumstances are under the watchful eye of their loving Savior. He sends the friend indeed in times of need.

More than normal helpers or caregivers, these friends are extraordinary. They are tied to us in a special way. They become like family. Of them, we might say, “Blessed be the tie that binds!”

We are indeed blessed when our heavenly Father sends special people into our lives just when we need them most!

This is a part of a larger plan and an even superior band of brothers. It includes one our eyes have not yet seen. He is the brother sent from heaven.

He was there when we were born. He was there as we traveled the winding roads of life. He will stay with us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He will be there to welcome us to the other side.

As we celebrate Independence Day, we remember those special people the Lord has sent into our lives at times of adversity. We think of the Son of God who took on human flesh to fight for us in the battle for our souls.

We pause on this day to salute our brother from heaven.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we walk our path in life, you have brought in others to travel part of the way with us. We especially thank you for those who have helped us through adversity. Continue to provide such people when we need them. Enable us to be there for others in their hours of need. This we ask in the name of Jesus, the best brother of all. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why does God sometimes use a non-Christian to be a friend and brother?
  • Why might a band of brothers be resented by family members?
  • How does Jesus fit the role of being a brother?


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 Sun Waited – June 24, 2022

The Sun Waited – June 24, 2022


“Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.
Joshua 10:12,13




Military Devotion – June 24, 2022

Devotion based on Joshua 10:12,13

See series: Military Devotions

Those who expect the Word of God to contain only pious stories may be shocked to discover that it opens doors to reveal what is beyond human comprehension. It challenges the reader to admit that there is much one needs to learn.

Foolish is the person not willing to learn from his Creator. Our Bible passage allows us to consider something that transcends the boundaries of human science. Here we learn that at one time in history, the sun stood still—and so did the moon.

Five Amorite kings banded together to stop the Israelites from their conquest of the Promised Land. Following an all-night march, the Israelite army surprised the Amorites and began to push them back.

The Lord stepped in with large hailstones that pounded the enemy. When Joshua saw that survivors could escape when night fell, he called for God to take unprecedented action: “Stop the sun in its path so that we can finish the battle!”

The Sacred Record reads: “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man” (Joshua 10:13,14).

The sun waited for God’s people to gain the victory.

How could this happen? Did the earth stop its rotation? Were the sun and moon made to synchronize with the world’s rotation and not move across the sky?

We don’t know. As citizens of the 21st century, how do we explain this?

The same way that God’s people of the Old Testament did. A prophet who lived long after this event declares: “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations” (Habakkuk 3:2,11,12).

This was the work of El Shaddai—God Almighty! It shows his power over all things and protection for his people. With him, nothing is impossible!

We hear the citizens of heaven proclaim the same truth: “Great and awe-inspiring are Your works, Lord God, the Almighty” (Revelation 15:3).

We can only stand in awe of the almighty God. We do so with respect and appreciation. It astounds us that he would use his power on behalf of those who sometimes doubt his power and love.

Yet, the Bible contains many accounts of divine intervention. We think of the crossing of the Red Sea, the angels sent to a fiery furnace and to a lions’ den in what is now Iraq—and then the opening of prison doors in Jerusalem.

But Golgotha is where his most incredible rescue took place.

Under that dark sky, Jesus announced, “It is finished.” The war against sin, death, and the devil was won.

We can live forever. Our souls will fly to glory. Our bodies will rise from our graves.

If ever we begin to doubt it, we merely need to remember Joshua.

And the day that the sun waited.



Prayer: Eternal Lord God, Ruler of heaven and earth, your works are truly awesome. Forgive us for doubting your power and your love. Teach us that while we live on this side of heaven, there is much for us to learn. Remind us that human wisdom cannot fathom the works and ways of the divine. Keep us under the shadow of your mighty hand. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why doesn’t God intervene every time we face danger?
  • Are the “laws of science” actually God’s laws?
  • Have you glimpsed the hand of God’s intervention in your life?

A portion of this devotion was previously published.



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 Excuse – June 17, 2022

No Excuse – June 17, 2022


But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.”
Exodus 3:11,12




Military Devotion – June 17, 2022

Devotion based on Exodus 3:11,12

See series: Military Devotions

The Lord God has a plan for each one of his people. His plan includes missions to carry out and responsibilities to fill. He does not have the exact same plan for everyone. When God issues marching orders, they correspond to the gifts he has given to the individual, and the work that he wants to accomplish through that person.

To the question, “Who am I?” the answer must be given: “A creation of the holy God, assigned to this place and time to carry out his work and bring glory to his name.”

Any other answer is presumptuous—and wrong. We are only kidding ourselves if we think we exist apart from the will of God and are on earth to do only what we choose. Sooner or later that illusion will fade like fog before the bright sun.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have choices. The Lord gives us a great degree of freedom. We might pick a career preference. We may choose to become married—or not.

What we cannot do is choose to ignore his orders. A summary of them is in the Ten Commandments. In addition, specific orders also come to specific people.

Moses was ordered to personally go to Pharaoh to announce that the Israelites would leave Egypt. Moses was assigned the task of being the leader of the exodus. His response was, “Who am I?” He was saying he was not equal to the task. He was offering an excuse.

God countered the excuse with the words: “I certainly will be with you.” He backed up the words of assurance by giving Moses a glimpse of the future. After the successful exodus, Moses would return to this very spot to worship his Lord and God. Moses had no excuse. Neither do we.

One of the greatest missions we can receive is to be a parent, and thus responsible for the protection, nurture, and development of someone’s early life. Both parents, whether their children are naturally born to them or adopted, are charged with the task of being faithful to their assignment. It is not an easy job. It is tempting to say, “Who am I?” and at times offer the excuse that this is beyond our ability. That excuse will not be accepted.

On Father’s Day we especially think of the grave responsibility that is assigned to fathers as head of the family. If our grandfathers thought it was difficult to carry out that assignment years ago, how much more difficult is it in the world of today?

But difficulty is no excuse. Neither are personal inadequacies. As he said to Moses, so our God says to us: “I will certainly be with you.”

We have no excuse. What we do have is a promise!

That promise is backed by blood—holy blood. The Son of God left the glory of heaven to be with us mortals. He did not abandon us to the fate we deserved or the satanic powers of darkness. He will not abandon us when we take on tasks he has assigned to us—as difficult as they may be.

“I will certainly be with you.” he says.

He is not against us. He is not away from us. He is with us.

He is there to bless us—and to bless others through us.



Prayer:
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart—it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee. Amen.
(Christian Worship 695:1,5,6)



Points to ponder:

  • How might the father’s role be different from the mother’s?
  • How might one be a blessing to a child without being its parent?
  • How has the Lord blessed me in special ways by people he provided for me?


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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My Hope – June 10, 2022

My Hope – June 10, 2022


Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:4,5




Military Devotion – June 10, 2022

Devotion based on Psalm 25:4,5

See series: Military Devotions

Life without hope would be a miserable existence.

Yet, there may be times when we feel exactly like that. One day, we may feel optimistic. But that feeling doesn’t last. The very next day, the seesaw of emotions may put us down instead of up.

The encouragement to “Cheer up!” contains no power to make it so.

We cannot flip a mental switch to force us to see that the glass is half-full instead of half-empty. If we could, we would. We resent being told we have that ability. It only makes our hopelessness more hopeless.

Scripture talks about a sure, firm hope. Does that mean if we don’t feel that way something is wrong with us? Is it perhaps weak faith?

David, the shepherd-king, shows his struggle with emotions in the words of the psalms he was led to write. Fear often stalks confidence. Doubt is mixed with conviction. Desperation sometimes sits right next to hope.

Yet, Scripture shows that God-based hope is more than a feeling. It is the anchor to our life that is safely held in place by the Eternal Almighty.

The validity of hope is determined by what the hope is anchored in.

“My hope,” declared David to his Savior God, “is in you all day long.”

That makes all the difference in the world. He wasn’t counting on his reputation—not even after he became famous for killing Goliath.

He did not place his hope in himself, which is a common mistake.

No matter how good he was, he would never have been good enough to expect that he could overcome the challenges in life unscathed.

He knew his life was not his own. It was given to him by his Creator and guided by his hand.

David would not have sung, “I did it my way!”

“Show me your ways, O Lord!” was his prayer. “Teach me your paths.”

Of all the things we might hope for—and that list is long—none compares to the hope that the path we walk in this life will lead us to a life filled only with good things.

Considering it from another perspective, we hope against hope that death will not deposit us into the pit of torment the Lord God has prepared for those who defy him.

It’s tempting to lay out our own path in life. Usually, that one twists and turns as it tries to bring us to places that satisfy our desire for pleasure and avoids facing the reality of what God expects of us.

The path to victory over death and endless joy has no twists nor turns. It leads in a straight line to Jesus.

“I have come that they may have life” the Redeemer declared.

Ancient Job knew this long before Jesus was born. “I know that my Redeemer lives,” he wrote. “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”

His reaction? “How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:26,27).

Hope built upon the Lord who redeemed us with his holy blood is a solid, never-changing, never-failing hope.

This is my hope.

I hope it is your hope.



Prayer:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare to make no other claim but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand. Amen.
(Christian Worship 563:1)



Points to ponder:

  • How is faith more than a feeling?
  • How might my self-confidence synchronize with my faith in God?
  • How does Satan keep pointing me away from Jesus as the sure hope in life and death?


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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Things Change – June 3, 2022

Things Change – June 3, 2022


Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
Exodus 1:8




Military Devotion – June 3, 2022

Devotion based on Exodus 1:8

See series: Military Devotions

Of course, things change. Spring converts into summer. Software is updated. We expect such changes. We adjust to them and move on. We often welcome change. It prevents boredom.

But sometimes, change is not wanted.

The onset of an illness, an accident, or the death of someone close to us, are unwelcome changes.

We know we must expect them. But they are not so easy to accept.

Then, there are the changes that we do not expect, do not want, and regret after they happen. Sometimes, they involve relationships.

Ancient Israel faced just such a change with the governing powers of Egypt.

An Israelite by the name of Joseph had once saved the nation of Egypt from starvation. So vital was his role that Pharoah elevated Joseph to one of the highest seats of power—and welcomed his family with appreciation.

The seventy family members from the land of Canaan were invited to stay as guests in Egypt. They were honored out of respect for what Joseph had done.

It was a warm relationship—until it changed.

We might fault the new king for not knowing Joseph’s vital role in Egypt’s past. But then, we know how easy it is to forget the roles foreigners played in our past.

How many remember the young Frenchman who played a critical role in our War for Independence? He was highly honored by us when he was alive. One hundred fifty years later, he still was highly regarded.

“Layfette, we are here!” American doughboys announced upon landing in France in World War One.

But today, few Americans even know that the cities called Fayetteville were named in honor of the young French soldier, Marquis de Lafayette.

Why, then, should we be surprised to learn that the Egyptian government didn’t know about a Joseph who had helped them out 400 years earlier?

From a favored position, the Israelites had fallen to become despised and feared in Egypt.

Things changed.

The same can happen to us. People that we once counted on, organizations that once appreciated us, and relationships that we once treasured can fade away. Friends can become enemies. Our sense of security can be shattered.

“Change and decay in all around, I see,” the hymnist laments.

The line of pharaohs had changed. Egypt had changed. The status of Israel had changed.

The God of Israel had not.

His promise was the same as always. His love was the same. So was his guarding presence.

The miraculous life-saving exodus from Egypt was proof of that.

The miraculous life-saving arrival of his Son into this world was greater proof.

The death and resurrection of his Son is the greatest proof.

It shows that we are free from the deadly grip of evil. We can scoff at its threat.

Jesus said it best, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).



Prayer:
“O you who changes not, abide with me.” Amen.



Ponder Points:

  • What changes concern us most?
  • Has any dreaded change turned out to be a blessing?
  • How did the disciples adjust to the changes that Good Friday brought?


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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Where Duty Calls – May 27, 2022

Where Duty Calls – May 27, 2022


Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13




Military Devotion – May 27, 2022

Devotion based on Ephesians 6:13

See series: Military Devotions

A famous hymn bids us, “Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there” (CW 474:3).

Most Americans understand the idea of danger. Sadly, it comes in too many forms and is far too common.

Duty is a different matter. To many, that is a hazy concept. Rights, wants, and demands are discussed regularly. Duty? Not so much.

Scripture, however, speaks plainly about duty. Duty is something that is expected to be carried out no matter how difficult, no matter the cost, no matter the location.

Location can be a major factor. Often, it is the location that brings the danger.

Those who wear, or have worn, the uniform of the U.S. Armed Forces, have the meaning of the word “duty” ingrained in them. The oath taken by our Army officers declares: “I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

The lowered flags on a Memorial Day remind us that there have been Americans who have lost their lives while doing their duty.

The soil in faraway places like Tarawa, Flanders, the Chosen Reservoir, and the Michelin rubber plantations of Vietnam have soaked up the blood of Americans who carried out their duty to our nation.

They had sworn to do their duty to defend our nation “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Many of them had taken another oath that they were fulfilling at the same time. On a special Sunday, they had knelt before an altar and promised to be faithful to the Lord, their Savior God, and would be willing to lose everything, including their earthly life, rather than desert him.

Their induction or commissioning into the service of their nation ended with the words, “So help me God.”

Their confirmation vows ended much the same way.

For the Christian, the enemies domestic or foreign included forces of darkness with supernatural powers. These demonic powers are quick to attack any sign of faithfulness to the Lord of glory or hope of rescue by him.

The prize of battle is not some piece of land for a little while. This fight is over immortal souls for time and eternity.

The enemy is evil. The danger is deadly—and constant.

The command is: “Stand your ground!”

The weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Those who lose their earthly lives fighting this battle with this weapon need to be remembered by no lowered flag.

Mark their grave with the flag of victory. They wear the crown of life.



Prayer:
Lord of glory, we remember that a price has been paid for the freedoms we enjoy. That memory brings sadness. We look to you for comfort and assurance. We thank you for freeing us from the tyranny of evil men and fallen angels. Give us the courage to take a stand against evil. Bestow upon us the honor of standing up for 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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Did we forget? – May 20, 2022

Did we forget? – May 20, 2022


When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Luke 24:50,51




Military Devotion – May 20, 2022

Devotion based on Luke 24:50,51

See series: Military Devotions

We might wonder if angels wonder about us.

We eagerly and joyfully celebrate the entrance of Jesus of Nazareth into our world at Bethlehem. Special music sounds from our airwaves as early as November 1. Special trees are placed into homes. Special sales are advertised to shoppers hungry to buy. Special gifts are given. Special worship services are held.

The Christian world, and much of the secular, pause and hush to hear the music of “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.

And the victorious departure of Jesus of Nazareth to his heavenly home?

No Ascension Day sales, no decorating of houses, no special foods—should we say, no notice?

Surely, no song labeled “O Little Town of Bethany.”

We can understand the non-Christian world ignoring a holiday that does not offer special food or entertainment. It’s the expected response to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

But how do we explain the silence and inaction of those who claim this Jesus as their rescuer and ruler?

Surely the angels must wonder about this.

If we imagine that Christmas is celebrated with songs of joy by the heavenly host, if we expect that Easter rings with shouts of “Hallelujah!” by saints and angels, what do we envision the remembrance of the Ascension to be like?

Would heaven forget the day Jesus returned to his throne on high from his victorious mission to rescue mankind?

Hardly.

Through a prophetic vision, the psalmist declared, “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets” (Psalm 47:5).

In the Bible, we hear, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9).

In the Easter hymn, we sing, “He lives eternally to save. He lives all-glorious in the sky; He lives exalted there on high.” (CW 152:2)

The return of Jesus to his throne of glory in heaven is wonderful news. But it is also critical news.

We need him to claim his throne. We need him to rule over all things on heaven and earth for us.

He said he would return to heaven to his father when his mission was accomplished. He declared he was going to prepare a place for us in his father’s house.

He backed that up with a promise.

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

His ascension to heaven is our blessed assurance that he will, indeed, enable us to ascend to heaven as well.

How could we forget Ascension Day?

We should not.

We dare not.

We will not.



Prayer:
Mighty, reascended Lord, the blessing that you gave to your disciples as they watched you begin your trip home has descended upon us through your Word. We thank you for that. We commit ourselves to pass the blessing on to others as we tell them of the marvels of your love. Remind us often of your ascension—lest we forget. 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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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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