Breath of life – September 22, 2019

Breath of life – September 22, 2019


Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7




Military Devotion – September 22, 2019

Devotion based on Genesis 2:7

See series: Military Devotions

It is called the human spirit. But the same Old Testament word is also translated as soul. The first time it is used in Scripture it is called, the breath of life.

It’s different from our body. It has been said, “The soul is the bearer of all that is life in man.” It is more than the ability to produce abstract thought, but that is part of it.

It was added to Adam’s lifeless body. God breathed this into him. When it leaves, the body is dead. But it is not. The soul, the breath of life, will never die.

But it can be lost.

A lost soul is one that has been separated from its Creator. The Bible calls that spiritual death. If its body dies while in this condition, body and soul will be separated from its God forever. That is the essence of hell, the place prepared for the devil and his angels.

Thus, there are two types of death: separation of the soul from the body; and separation of both the soul and body from God.

There are two types of life: the union of the soul with the body; and the one where the soul and body are united with God.

Jesus has this warning: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Those who put on a uniform to defend a country must realize that they may be killed as a result. History records that WWII claimed 27,600 lives every day. The tombstones litter the battlegrounds where they fell. Others were carried back home in caskets by the trainload.

The breath of life is no longer in them. The soul has separated from the body. We count them among the dead. We lower flags in their memory. We call their deaths tragic.

But then we ask, where are the people who survived that war? How many still breathe the air? And twenty years from now, how many then? Would the answer not be, “None”?

That could depress us—unless we remember that many of these actually still live. And we can live with them!

There is something called fatalism. It is the belief that everything is predetermined in life, and since everything dies or decays, the future is bleak.

But that was not the Creator’s plan for humans, and it is not the way it must be. He breathed life into Adam’s body so that Adam and his descendants might share with him the wonders of his glory.

That plan still stands. That life is still possible. Though forfeited, it has been reoffered as a gift.

Jesus came to earth to declare, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). To do that, he needed to give up his own life. And he did.

He finished his mission on earth with the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” We are told, “When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).

So what if someday our soul will leave its body? What difference does it make if our bones someday rest under a tombstone?

We stand with Job who announced that he knew that his Redeemer lives, and therefore, “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God…” (Job 19:26)

We have been given the breath of life—for time and eternity.



Prayer: Holy God, you have made us different from everything else on earth. You gave us the breath of life. You created a living soul. Preserve us, body and soul, as we continue our walk through life. When this earthly life is over, “take us to heaven to be with you there.” 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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Hold on – September 15, 2019

Hold on – September 15, 2019


I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
Revelation 3:11




Military Devotion – September 15, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 3:11

See series: Military Devotions

On old saying tells us, “You don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it.” There’s some truth in that.

Our health seems to fall into that category. So do friendships and jobs, along with love and hope. Surprisingly, Jesus bypasses these valuables to draw our attention to something else: our crown.

What crown? Since when do we have a crown?

Ever since Jesus won it for us. Saint James, the brother of Jesus, had this in mind when he wrote: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

This is not just some figure of speech. It’s a real crown. It’s spoken of often in Scripture. It is called, “a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25) and “a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8).

The apostle Peter tells Christians, “you are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) Crowns are common among royalty.

Royalty? Is that what we are? Don’t we confess that we are by nature sinful and deserve only punishment? How, then, can the holy God place us among the royals? How can we have a crown that is the symbol of righteousness? How can we be seen as holders of a position of glory and power that lasts forever?

The answer is found in another crown. A bloody crown. A crown of thorns.

A king once wore that crown. It was a symbol of disgrace, of weakness, and failure. But that was only to sinful eyes. The sign above his head read, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.”

The words Pilate wrote were true. He had heard Jesus say that he was, indeed, a king whose kingdom was not of this world. He had heard Jesus say that the reason he was born was to testify to the truth.

Pilate’s scornful reply “What is truth?” has become famous. It has also become common.

In our age of fake news and deceptive advertising, at a time when we are told via the internet that we have a million dollars waiting to be picked up, we have become a skeptical people. We want to see it before we will believe it. We repeat Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

Jesus answers that question for us with the words: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Simply put, Jesus does not lie. Never did; never will.

We might say, “Seeing is believing.” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Jesus promises: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we will remain faithful to him, won’t we?

We will hold on.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your words remind us of what you have won for us. It cost your lifeblood to gain for us the crown of life. Keep us from trading away our inheritance for junk. Give us the strength to hold on. We cannot see you now, but in boldness of faith we can already tell you, “See you in glory, 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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Everything new – September 8, 2019

Everything new – September 8, 2019


He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Revelation 21:5




Military Devotion – September 8, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 21:5

See series: Military Devotions

A past best-seller carries the title, All Quiet on the Western Front. It tells of a group of young German Soldiers at the start of WWI. The English title gives the impression that this was a time of safety, maybe relaxation. It was not.

The German title uses the words for, “Nothing New” instead of “All Quiet.” It better fits the story of the seemingly never-ending terror and carnage these young troops endured. For them, day after day brought nothing new. The bayonet attacks, the stench, the rats in the trenches, and the killing continued on. It would do so for four more years.

The word, “new,” resonates with us. That’s why advertisers use the word. It fits well into the phrase, “new and improved.” We expect what is new will always be better than what is old. This is especially true if the old is worn out or faulty. It can be true of a set of clothes, or a computer—or life in general.

We live in a world that idolizes what is new. Sometimes new replaces old at such speed that it almost makes us dizzy. Yet, with all the changes, we learn that improved is not necessarily tied to new. Sometimes it seems, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The reason for this is that all change is incidental, not essential, unless God makes the change.

His creation of the world—that was an essential change of nothing into something. His curse upon the world after the fall of humans into sin—that surely made an essential difference.

All of our attempts to improve the world affect only the externals. We can counter some diseases; we can improve communications; and we can eliminate some of the threats to our nation. But we cannot change the world into a safe haven for all its inhabitants.

Something basic must first happen. And it must first happen in us if we are going to be part of the change.

We think of the time when God wiped the planet clean with a flood. We might imagine that Noah stepped out of the ark into a brand-new world. It wasn’t.

Weeds sprang up again, mosquitoes bit again, and humans resumed lives of depravity. Fear did not disappear, nor did theft, neither did war.

It was the same old world with the same old problems because it was contaminated by the same old sin—and under the same old curse. A drastic, essential change needed to take place.

That change happened on the day we call Good Friday.

The death of the Son of God sparked new life for the human race. The curse was removed because the sin was removed. That’s an essential change.

The sin of humans was replaced by the holiness of God. New life was given. News of this was to be shared with the whole world.

When the apostle Peter was arrested for doing this, an angel broke him out of jail and said: “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life” (Acts 5:20).

Now we have been told. This new life is ours. True, we still live in this old world, but that’s going to change too. We hear Jesus say from heaven, “I’m going to make everything new.”

Hard to imagine what that will be like, isn’t it?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you broke the curse of sin so that we might have a new life with you. Help us now as we still struggle with sin and its consequences. Keep pointing us to the time and place when and where everything will be new. 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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Against the grain – September 1, 2019

Against the grain – September 1, 2019


For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Romans 14:7,8




Military Devotion – September 1, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 14:7,8

See series: Military Devotions

The universal question, “Who am I?” is quickly followed by the one that asks, “What am I doing here?”

The flimsy answers we may come up with are swept away with the declaration of the Lord,
“I gave you life so that you could be my servant.”

That tends to take the wind out of our self-inflated sails.

We are not as powerful as we might think, nor as important as we might hope. We may protest that we have rights. We might boast of our freedoms. But that does not change the reality pointed to with the words: “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall…” (1 Peter 1:24).

We are nothing without our Creator. Our lives mean nothing without our Redeemer. Our lives will accomplish nothing without our Sanctifier—the one who works the good within us.

Yet, this seems to go against the grain of our lives.

The picture comes from woodworking. The grain is the natural flow of the wood fibers. Someone who rubs his hand against the grain on a piece of lumber will get splinters. Going against our natural inclination to rule instead of to serve might be just as unpleasant.

That’s why God needs to reprogram the flow of our thoughts. We have been fed a fake picture of the way our life should go. With satanic reformatting, he has convinced us that separation from God makes for a smooth and pleasant life. “Think of all the fun you can have, all the money you can make, and all the freedom you can enjoy if you follow the natural path—the path you were born onto.”

It’s true! We were born into this world walking on a path away from God—a direction that leads only to misery. Apart from God there is only slavery—slavery to sin, death, and the devil.

But Christians have been reborn. Now we can see the undoctored picture of life. We see we came to life according to a divine power for a divine purpose. We live to serve the Holy One.

There is no higher status, no greater honor, and no more wonderful purpose than to be in service to the Lord of lords and King of kings.

Those who are in service to their country might understand this better than others.

There is no shame in taking orders. It is something good to stand up for what is good. It is a privilege to serve.

The path of our life has been laid out by the Son of God who came, “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). He became the suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:11) so that we might become heirs of glory.

We live, not just for ourselves. We live for him.

We die, not alone. We belong to him.

He points out the path of life. He leads us on it.

The flow of our life heads in the direction of heaven.

We will not go against the grain.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have made it clear that it is better to serve than to be served. You have enlisted us in your kingdom. You have set the direction of our lives toward joy and glory. Keep us from going against that heavenly grain. 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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He wept – August 25, 2019

He wept – August 25, 2019


So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.
1 Samuel 30:4




Military Devotion – August 25, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Samuel 30:4

See series: Military Devotions

Near a tee on an obscure golf course in northern Wisconsin, there is a plaque that says, “Ike wept here.”

The reason for the famous general’s crying is not listed. It’s simply noteworthy enough for history to know that it happened.

When we see pictures of Eisenhower chatting with the troops he was sending off to storm the beaches of Normandy, it’s hard to imagine him weeping. Somber? Yes. Determined? Absolutely! He knew many of these people would not survive the landing. But he was a soldier. He understood the cost of victory. Since he was not weak, we might not expect him to weep.

But he did. So did warrior David.

Neither of them whimpered over body wounds. Wounds within the heart were something else. The pain of others losing their lives can exceed even the pain of losing our own limbs The pain of knowing others are suffering—even though still alive—is enough to make the safe one suffer. Enough to make one weep.

David and his band of warriors had been operating in Philistine territory since Saul was hunting for him in Israel. They sheltered their families at a place called Ziklag while they hunted for their enemies. They returned from one mission to find that the Amalekites had attacked Ziklag, burned it, and taken the wives and children as captives.

It was enough to make hardened warriors weep. And they did.

Yet, these were not tears of despair. The captives were still alive. They would soon be rescued. The account ends with these words, “Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back” (1 Samuel 30:19).

These were tears of love. The pain was in the heart. Years later, David would weep again saying, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)

It reminds us of the shortest verse in the English Bible: “Jesus wept.”

As with David, these were not tears of despair. Though others were weeping over the death of Lazarus, Jesus knew his friend would walk out of that grave alive in just a few minutes.

These were tears of love. It pained Jesus to know what Lazarus had gone through. This was not what the Creator intended for the crown of his creation. Life was to be lived in joy, not pain. Not with death.

It was enough to make the Son of God weep. And he did.

It was a sign that he would take on the enemies of those he loved and make things right.

And he did.

Eisenhower had reason to cry. So did David. So did Jesus. At times, so do we.

A warrior wounded in body during battle is given a Purple Heart. It’s a medal that can be displayed with a degree of pride.

Wounds within the heart earn no medal. They often are hidden, as if in shame.

But those who respect a General Eisenhower, and understand a King David, and worship a Lord Jesus—they know shame is not in such tears.

For them, the plaque can say of their tour of duty on earth: “Because they loved here, they wept here.”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we remember how you lived on this earth. We remember how your love for us pained you. We remember how you took the battle to our enemy to overcome our greatest cause of pain. We thank you for your tears. 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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When strong men stoop – August 18, 2019

When strong men stoop – August 18, 2019


When the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop….
Ecclesiastes 12:3




Military Devotion – August 18, 2019

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 12:3

See series: Military Devotions

It wasn’t just their haircuts that marked them as military when they came into Walmart. Backs straight, stomachs flat, muscles taut—they were standing tall and strong.

He wasn’t. Shoulders slumped a little. Hands shook a little. And his feet shuffled.

He smiled to see them. Once, he had been like them. He still felt a kinship. Once, he too had worn the uniform. At one time he had rappelled with ease. Once upon a time, he had jumped out of airplanes.

Now, he sits on a stool and says, “Hello!” as people enter the store.

Now he is only an elderly greeter.

Thirty years ago, he was in control of his life—so he thought. Thirty-five years ago, his strength and skill could overcome any trouble—so he thought. Forty years ago, he knew he needed no one’s help. He knew he needed no God.

That was not smart.

By divine inspiration, the smartest man ever was prompted to write the words, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Such wise words demand our attention.

We might not be able to predict future world events, but we surely can foresee a certainty in our life. Unless we die young, we will grow old. We will grow feeble. And then we will die.

The 12th chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes is worth reading at any age, but especially when we are young and healthy. It forces us to put our life into perspective.

With dramatic wording, Solomon describes how it is to grow old: when life is no longer bright; when chewing is difficult; when eyesight fades and sounds grow faint; and when one drags himself through the day.

His words, “when the strong man stoops” make us think of that former paratrooper now sitting on a stool in Walmart.
And then what? “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

A depressing picture. No wonder Solomon laments, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” “Everything is meaningless!”

Our skills and strength, our health and vitality, our whole life is, indeed, meaningless—but only if it is lived without God.
It’s true, we are only dust. But that is not the whole story.

“Remember your Creator!” We are not just some organism brought to life by a fluke. We are the handiwork of the eternal God. He gave us the gift of life for a purpose. From him come our strengths and skills. To him should be given our lives filled with thanks and faithfulness.

Old age is not our master. Frailty is not our endgame. The One who said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19) also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” (John 11:25).

But he does not condemn his servants to a miserable existence until they finally deploy to heaven. The body may weaken and fail, but the soul, the “real us,” can grow stronger. Our spirits can soar, even if our shoulders sag.

This is his promise: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Let the young remember their Creator. He alone is their strength and their life. Let the old remember their Creator. He alone is their strength and their life.

The time will surely come when strong men stoop.

But we will overcome.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, show us the picture of our lives. Point out the bleakness of our inherent frailty. But show us, as well, the brightness of your glory that lifts us above and beyond the strains of life to soar on high. 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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