Tag Archive for: military-devotion

Driving Out Demons – February 3, 2023

Driving Out Demons – February 3, 2023


Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Mark 1:38,39




Military Devotion – February 3, 2023

Devotion based on Mark 1:38,39

See series: Military Devotions

To some, the idea of demon possession is hilarious—to others, horrific.

It depends upon whether you believe there are such things as demons and if they have any control over humans.

People of the Bible have an advantage. No need to search the internet for answers. Not dependent upon society’s changing views, they can turn to the Source of truth.

And they should.

The holy God reveals there indeed are demons, also called devils. The name of their leader is Satan. They are, in fact, angels. They possess angelic powers.

Scripture explains. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).

In the original language, the word dragon means a giant serpent. It is a fitting name for Satan since he took the form of a snake to lead humans into the rebellion that damned them, too.

The centerpiece of human history is the intervention of their Creator to rescue them from this hellish state of affairs. That he was willing to sacrifice his Son to accomplish this stands out as the greatest event since the creation of the universe.

The story of this rescue is the main theme of the Bible. Every one of the inspired books somehow reveals something we need to know about the Lord of life and his plans for us.

More than just interesting reading, the words of Scripture speak to our hearts to warn us and to reassure us. Accordingly, they introduce us to angels—both the holy ones and the demonic.

The first angel we meet in Scripture is an evil one. We are shown the deadly weapon in his arsenal. The Holy Spirit pulls back the camouflage cover of his friendliness and reveals the killing power of temptation.

Though they have the powers of angels, demons cannot force us to turn our backs on the Lord of life. Our souls are not at their mercy. Their threats are empty—unless we give in to them.

Therein lies the problem. Since the Garden of Eden, humans have been born as citizens of the kingdom of darkness. Even after they have been reborn as citizens of the kingdom of light, they remain attracted to evil. Only when they step into their heavenly home will they finally be completely free from it.

Demons aim for the soul. A soul lost to God is their claim of victory.

But there have been times when demons took control of bodies. We call that demon possession. Some of the symptoms are similar to mental illness in that the person is not in control of what is said or done—and is not responsible for these things. It does not mean this soul is definitely lost, just that demons can make a person’s life miserable.

The Bible shows us a number of sad cases of demon possession. But it also shows the superior power of the Messiah.

While he came to save souls, Jesus also came to heal bodies stricken with disease and handicaps—and to drive out demons.

All this showed he certainly was the Promised One from heaven. His power is over all things—including the powers of darkness.

Lest we think demons can pick and choose victims for possession at will, Scripture reminds us that Satan and his followers are defeated. Their Creator rules them. He limits their reach. He watches over his people.

There is a good reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.”

That’s why we end that famous prayer with the words, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.”

No wonder we sing:

“This world’s prince may still
scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He’s judged; the deed is done!
One little word can fell him.”
(from Christian Worship 863:3)

That word is Jesus.



Prayer: Gracious and powerful Lord God, we sometimes forget that enemies strive to rob us of salvation by leading us to discard our faith in you. Protect us, body and soul, from the powers of darkness. Deliver us from evil. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • What lies has Satan been telling us lately?
  • Does the thought of demons threatening our bodies concern us more than the thought of them fighting for control of our souls? Why or why not?
  • What do diseases and demon possession have in common?


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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Taking a Stand – January 27, 2023

Taking a Stand – January 27, 2023


Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.
Ephesians 6:14




Military Devotion – January 27, 2023

Devotion based on Ephesians 6:14

See series: Military Devotions

In 1858, the sleeve of Pastor Tyng’s gown was caught in a machine for shelling corn being pulled by his mule. His arm was mangled, then amputated. He died the next week. As he was dying, he was asked what message he wanted to give to his people.

“Tell them,” he said, “let us all stand up for Jesus.”

Neighboring pastor, George Duffield, was struck by these words. A week later, he ended his sermon with a hymn he had just written. The new hymn began with the now famous line, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross!”

We know that hymn. We can mightily sing its words, even though we may often carry them out rather meekly.

The hymn does not encourage us to be undercover Christians. Nor does it invite us to become foxhole Christians. “Stand up!” is the command.

But as soon as we stand up, are we not a target?

We are.

We, Christians, need to face that. We gladly and boldly sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus!” It would be good for us to remember the saying, “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.” Jesus has enemies.

Those who have been in war zones understand this. The American flag stakes a claim. It shouts out, “This stands for the United States of America.” The uniform announces, “The one who wears this takes a stand for the United States of America. This person will stand up against all its enemies.”

The uniform of the Christian is the lifestyle others see. When God is an important person in our life, when the worship of him is an essential part of our life, this is recognized. It should not surprise us if those who take a stand against God are not pleased with us.

Those who served in Vietnam expected to be vilified by the Viet Cong. The same was true of the enemy in every other theater of war.

The war against the powers of darkness is no different. In fact, the insulting, reviling attacks may even be worse.

Those who find themselves on the front line, at the point of the spear, in the fight against all that is ungodly should take the backlash as evidence of being effective.

But they also should receive encouragement from fellow warriors.

Pastor Duffield aimed his words at those who take a stand against the deadliest enemies known to humankind, namely, the satanic forces from hell, their human allies who surround the Christian’s life, and the rebellious nature within each person.

“Soldiers of the cross,” he called them. We are called the same.

To those who say it is far-fetched to compare the spiritual struggle of the Christian with the real-life combat of the warrior, we say, “But that’s exactly the comparison that God makes!”

Ephesians 6 tells us to “be strong in the Lord.” It goes on to warn us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Then Scripture names the pieces of the battle gear the spiritual warrior is to use. The first to be mentioned is “the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”

Every piece of our spiritual uniform is essential. But if we did not have the truth, if we did not stand for truth, nothing else would much matter.

That’s why we must stand up for Jesus today. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

That’s what counts.

It matters little what our spiritual enemies throw at us. It makes no difference if standing up for our Savior brings retaliation.

In another famous hymn, the old words are, “And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” (TLH 262:4)

These words were also written by a member of the clergy. He was serious about the possibility of losing everything, including his life, for standing up for Jesus and his truth.

The year was 1521. The place was Germany. The defender of the faith was a monk named Martin Luther. When the great powers demanded that he renounce truths of his Savior God, he replied with famous words.

“Here I stand,” he said. “I can do no other. So help me, God.”

No wonder we sing out the words, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” We have inspiring examples to follow.

More than that, we have orders.

Jesus has told us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:14).

We have no choice. We want no choice. We echo the words of another Christian soldier who fought in service to the King. He wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

With the apostle Paul and all the other heroes of faith, we take our stand.

Don’t we?



Prayer: Holy Spirit, remind us of those who faithfully fought in the army of God in years gone by. Encourage us in days of doubt or danger with the assurance of victory in Christ. Permit us to stand in spirit next to the heroes of faith as we sing:

“And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again and arms are strong.
Alleluia!” Amen.
(Christian Worship 880:5)



Points to ponder:

  • Today, in our country, it is unlikely that we will lose our life for standing up for Jesus. So, what are we afraid of that keeps us from always doing that?
  • Have there been some people in our lives who stirred our hearts to serve our Lord more faithfully? What are their names?
  • Do you feel there is more risk for a Christian to show his faith today than it was 20 years ago? 50 years ago? Why or why not?


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

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


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Not Yet Like Him – January 20, 2023

Not Yet Like Him – January 20, 2023


When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
Jonah 3:10, 4:1




Military Devotion – January 20, 2023

Devotion based on Jonah 3:10, 4:1

See series: Military Devotions

The only God, the holy God, likes us. But we are not like him.

The play on words is to draw attention to a critical truth revealed in Scripture.

The Old Testament prophecy named the Messiah “Immanuel,” that is, “God with us.” The message is that the one who is divine would become human to rescue humans from the deadly consequences of their rebellion against him. We celebrate this good news at Christmas.

During the Epiphany season, we look at the evidence that the prophecy was fulfilled. He looked like a human, talked and acted like a human. He ate food, he grew tired, and he cried tears.

As final evidence of his humanity, we are told that he bled, and he died.

But clearly, he was more than human. The Roman soldier who watched him die was convinced. “Surely this was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:19).

He did work many amazing miracles. Yet, the miracles, of themselves, do not show the primary way he is different from us. After all, humans have done some amazing things, too. Remember Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea? Recall the time Peter walked on water—for a while?

In the book of Acts, Saint Luke tells us: “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12).

Some humans have worked miracles because God worked through them. Those humans were not divine—and did not claim to be.

But Jesus was God and clearly claimed the same. Though he was human, he was not exactly like us. Beyond divine power and wisdom lies an essential difference between him and humankind.

God is love. We are not. Not yet.

Jonah gives evidence of the difference.

Commanded to warn the citizens of the great city, Nineveh, Jonah defied the order by running away from the mission and—foolish as it was to try—away from the Lord God.

We might assume he was afraid of the failure this mission might bring. To bring these people to a state of repentance seemed like a mission impossible.

But that’s not why Jonah tried to run away! He wasn’t afraid they would reject the warning; he was afraid they would accept it—and God would spare them!

When that did happen, Jonah complained, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:2,3).

Almost unbelievable, isn’t it? He actually wanted those people to be crushed by the mighty arm of God. Would he have jumped up and down in glee to see the burning sulfur fall down upon Sodom? Would he have laughed at the prisoners being led away to Babylon?

Why would Jonah delight to see people being punished by God?

Could it be because he had a sinful human nature? Could it be that we are inclined the same way? Don’t we get some satisfaction out of being able to say at times, “Well, he got what he deserved!”

Do we not want justice? We do. So does the Judge of all.

But his justice is always tempered with mercy. It gives him no joy to see people get what they deserve. We read of his warning call: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Only when we realize our name is on the list of the wicked, only when we understand that we deserve no punishment less than that given to Satan, then we begin to understand how merciful the Lord has been to us.

Then we begin to grasp the wonder of the words, “God so loved the world…”

Could it be that he loved someone like me? The amazing answer is, “Yes!”

But there is even more to the story. We are told, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Not only does God like us so much that his Son died for us—one day, we will be like him!



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your Word clearly reveals how guilty we are and how severely we should be punished. So, we must be astounded to learn that we are pardoned. May we never lose this astonishment. May we strive to be more like you until the day comes when we shall truly be like you. Grant that for your name’s sake. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Is it wrong to rejoice to see justice being served? Why or why not?
  • How do we keep ourselves from feeling, “I’m better than them!”?
  • How can we become more merciful—like 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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Two Score and Fifteen – January 13, 2023

Two Score and Fifteen – January 13, 2023


We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Psalm 90:9,10 (KJV)




Military Devotion – January 13, 2023

Devotion based on Psalm 90:9,10 (KJV)

See series: Military Devotions

Even if we grew up with the King James Bible, we still don’t usually count years according to scores. Decades are more like it.

The words of Psalm 90 are often read at funerals or near the start of a new year. That seems fitting because the psalm points us back over the quick-passing of time. Thus, using the old wording also seems fitting.

Abraham Lincoln used the same method of counting time when he stood before the fresh graves of those who had fallen in battle near a Lutheran college at Gettysburg. He began: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Lincoln’s time reference equals 87 years. The counts given by Moses add up to 70, and 80. Both quotes are significant. Both give food for thought. Counting years by scores instead of decades makes an impression on us. Maybe we should add another score to our list of times that could impress us: Two score and fifteen.

Two score and fifteen years ago, it was 1968—fifty-five years ago.

That summer was memorable for many who lived through it. Maybe many of us were too young to remember it. Maybe, some not even born yet. But some of us graduated from school that year. Some of us became married in ‘68. And some went to Vietnam.

It was a summer of protests and raised fists. National Guard troops deployed to city streets with automatic weapons. National political conventions became almost war zones. Hippies advocated free love. College professors were telling students to: “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

And some who had been drafted to go to war returned to face disdain and spit.

Who can forget a summer like that?

If the whole world didn’t seem to be coming apart, our nation surely did.

Some might ask, “How did you survive it? How did our nation survive?”

“By the grace of God.”

The survivors can now look back on that year as history, or in Moses’ words, as a tale that is told.

Stories of the individuals take different twists and turns. They are stories of strength and hope, stories containing joy and love. But they also reveal labor and sorrow.

But perhaps most of all, they show how quickly the scores of years fly by. Some of us look at the old pictures with the young faces and ask, “Was that really me? Was life really like that?”

Well, it was. It was really horrible at times, and at times it was really wonderful. And the years really did fly by.

To those who ask us to explain and describe the ‘60s, we might only say, “You had to be there.”

It turns out that only God knew what lay ahead for us as we lived our life in 1968. Only God could make sense of it. Only God could preserve our nation and enable us to survive—and accomplish something of value in our lives.

This he has done. This he will continue to do. Those who are young now will one day, by the grace of God, be able to look back to see his faithfulness at work in their lives.

The prayer of Moses ends with the words:

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
Establish the work of our hands for us—yes
Establish the work of our hands.”

Two score and fifteen years ago, it was 1968 A.D. The A.D. means, “in the year of our Lord.” 2023 is also in the year of our Lord.

So it will be every year of our lives—until we leave this earth behind, and in the words of Moses: We fly away.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, you rule over time and eternity. We thank you for shielding your people from the danger that would surround them. Hold your powerful hand over us and those we love as we watch the years unfold. Enable our lives to be a blessing to others. Establish the work of our hands. Establish the work of our hands. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Is it scary or comforting to know that time passes so quickly that it seems to fly? Why?
  • Is it scary or comforting to hear Moses describe death with the words: We fly away?
  • Why does Moses call labor and sorrow the strength of our years?

*A portion of this devotion was published earlier.



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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Happy Now? – January 6, 2023

Happy Now? – January 6, 2023


When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13




Military Devotion – January 6, 2023

Devotion based on Matthew 2:13

See series: Military Devotions

The words can be a rebuke when spoken with bitterness. “Happy now?” The message is, “Now you are miserable because you did not heed my warning.”

But the words can also reflect caring concern or a simple request for information. A few days ago, people wished us a “Happy New Year!” Now that we have moved into that new year, a natural question is, “Are you happy now?”

The question carries additional weight when a major change is involved. “Are you happy in your new job?” “Are you happy about the orders to move you to a new location?” Those with young children know that travel and change can provide major challenges. Moms, especially, may not look forward to the experience—may not be happy about the prospect.

It makes us wonder how Mary and Joseph reacted to the orders to move to Egypt.

Hadn’t they already gone through enough bewildering events? Consider the shock of learning about the virgin birth? How did the people of Nazareth react to the pregnancy?

Now they were new parents living in a new place, still adjusting to the miraculous events. Then, an amazing development. Scholars from the East, claiming that a star had led them, arrived at their door bringing gifts for the child born as King of the Jews.

What next?

How about the warning that King Herod had given orders to have Jesus killed?

What were these parents to think? Was this not a special baby now placed into their hands? Wasn’t this situation the work of God? When first told about this, Mary had responded with, “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 2:48).

Did she still feel blessed? Was she happy now? Was Joseph happy now?

They were now “on the run.” Even though they escaped from Bethlehem, they may well have heard the report of the babies slaughtered there after they had left.

Dismay and dread may have crushed any idea of happiness.

Traveling with a baby. Trying to make a home in a foreign country. Struggling to set up a carpentry business among strangers. This was not fun!

Where was God when people needed him?

Thank God, those wise men from the East had given them valuables they could cash in!

Was this by coincidence, or was this by divine plan? Might it be that although the danger was great and the stress was real, the angels who had told Mary and Joseph of the coming birth of the child and then announced it to shepherds kept watch over this family day and night?

We are not told how Mary and Joseph reacted to the stress that came into their lives. We know they were only human, like us. Maybe they did have some doubts and fears. But those would have been groundless.

Their Father in heaven had a plan in place. He knew what Herod would do at Bethlehem.

We read, “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:17,18).

Rachel, Jacob’s wife, had been buried at Bethlehem long ago. Jeremiah’s prophecy was also written long ago. The slaughter of the babies under two was foreseen.

The escape to Egypt was planned. We hear, “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matthew 2:15).

Mary and Joseph wanted to return to Bethlehem to live. The Lord God had a different plan. We learn, “But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:22,23).

So, it was all planned out. So, God was always in control. So, any hardship was to bring a blessing, and fear was not necessary.

Not for them. Not for us.

Through Jeremiah of old, he speaks to us yet today. This is what he says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Happy now?

We should be.



Prayer: I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day from all harm and danger; and I pray you to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen. (Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer)



Points to ponder:

  • Why do we evaluate situations according to our feelings instead of God’s promises?
  • Since God does not promise that we will always be able to escape danger or calamity, why is it still good to know that he is in control?
  • We are not robots programmed to carry out God’s plans. How might our decisions interface with his plans?


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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One Day – December 30, 2022

One Day – December 30, 2022


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. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12,13




Military Devotion – December 30, 2022

Devotion based on 1 Corinthians 13:12,13

See series: Military Devotions

“One day, we will understand. Sleep on, darling. Your loving wife and sons.”

So reads a headstone near the WWII battleground at Anzio.

Those sober words may clash with the joyous toasts of “Happy New Year!” But the fallen won’t protest, and their loved ones will understand.

The rotation of one year into another one invites one to pause for a bit to review the past and wonder about the future. We can now write down what has taken place so far in our lives. But that does not mean we understand why it happened. The future lies in clouds of fog. We can only wonder what lies on our path—and later wonder why some of that was there.

Especially those things that cause pain.

Some might question why we celebrate the beginning of a new year. Are we so happy we survived the old one? Are we so confident that good things await us in the new one?

Or are we just trying to forget the hurts the past brought us and faking confidence in the future?

We may not really know.

But those who know in whose hands the future lies have something good to look forward to. Those who know whose hands have carried them in the past have something to be thankful for.

Thus, those who call upon a Father in heaven have a double reason to celebrate.

When things go well for us, when happy things happen, we don’t usually search for the answer to the question, “Why?”

We might assume we just made the right decisions or possessed the right skills. Or, maybe we simply pass it off as being lucky.

A person who operates with high confidence may take success for granted. Failure is not expected. When it does show itself, the confidence is shaken. This is unfamiliar territory.

“I do not understand!” may become the pervading thought. A search for answers may ensue. Not finding an answer may shake that person to the core.

“Why?” “Why?” “Why?” are questions that lead to doubt, even despair, if no answer is found.

The Lord of heaven and earth knows this. Through the apostle Paul, he tells us we should not expect to find answers to all questions on this side of eternity. Now we can see only a poor reflection of life, and as in a mirror, the picture may even be reversed.

Why torment ourselves by seeking the unreachable? Why not turn to that which is certain, enlightening, and comforting? Why not grab onto the lifeline the Savior offers?

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

These three will not fade, will not disappear, will not change.

This faith, this hope, and this love are anchored in the eternal Lord God—who changes not.

But we shall change. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52,53).

Then, “we shall see face to face.” Then, “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

When will that be? Jesus tells us, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

She wrote, “One day we will understand. Sleep on, darling.”

Many new years have come and gone since those touching words were written. We wish the battles and the dying were gone, as well. We wonder if her sons saw combat in Vietnam. We wonder if she had to write on their headstones. We wonder if her grandchildren fought in the sandbox of the Middle East. We surely hope not.

The new year we face will no doubt bring changes into our lives. Some, we will rejoice over. We may weep over some others. Only God knows.

But this we hold dear. This we claim as our own. This awaits us as we step into the future. “Faith, hope and love.”

Now we see life as it is reflected in a mirror. Then, we shall see clearly.

Then we shall understand.

Until then, we bid our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus, “Sleep on.”

“Sleep in heavenly peace.”



Prayer:
Then, gracious God, in years to come, whatever may betide us,
Right onward through our journey home, O, stay at hand to guide us,
Nor leave us till, at close of life, safe from all peril, toil, and strife,
Heaven shall enfold and hide us. Amen.
(Christian Worship 367:4)



Points to ponder:

  • Jesus once told his disciples that his friend, Lazarus, was sleeping before he raised him from the dead. (John 11:1) Why is that comforting?
  • Do you agree with the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” Why or why not?
  • Do you think most Americans greet the new year with hope or with fear? Explain.


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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Special Mission – December 23, 2022

Special Mission – December 23, 2022


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Luke 2:8-10




Military Devotion – December 23, 2022

Devotion based on Luke 2:8-10

See series: Military Devotions

We always knew the stars were beyond counting. We came to learn there were entire galaxies far, far away. But when we put telescopes into space, we were amazed to learn there is much more out there than we imagined and at distances that defy measurements.

Some astronomers believe there are about two trillion galaxies, each averaging some 100 million stars. Altogether, they estimate there are some 400 billion planets out there.

The little blue planet we live on appears as a mere speck in the celestial array. Lifeforms walking around on two legs cannot be detected even from the closest space object, the moon. We must join the psalmist in asking the Creator of all this, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). Surely, we must be insignificant, perhaps irrelevant.

It turns out, we are not. Humans are very much the focus of the Lord God. He knows what they are like. They are defiant. They shake their puny fists at the Ruler of the universe and act as if their opinions mattered. As if he needed their approval.

His response? “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:4).

With a flip of his little finger, he could send this planet and everything on it into oblivion. Far worse, he could punish us in his righteous wrath, as he did the rebellious angels.

Instead, he developed a plan to rescue humans from the consequences of their rebellion. It is an astonishing plan. It entails an almost unbelievable sacrifice on his part.

He will send his Son to be punished in place of those despicable ingrates. For this to happen, the Son of God must take on a human nature. He must be born of a woman.

A special force of angels was deployed to ensure mankind would know when and where this happened. The exact place was chosen long before. We do not know how angels travel. We are aware that they are based in a place called heaven. We recognize that trillions of galaxies and billions of planets lie between their home base and earth. No matter how they traveled or how fast they could get here, they still needed to know the location of their LZ, their landing zone.

We mark it at latitude 31.705791 and longitude 35.200657.

That spot is called Bethlehem in ancient Judea.

Suddenly, the night lit up with a column of light that could appear as fire in the sky. It was shock and awe. The targets, who were shepherds bivouacked in a field, were terrified. Then the voice of the lead angel thundered a message. They were not to fear. They would not be harmed. This was not an attack by a superior force.

This was a declaration of peace!

The basis of the peace was explained. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

His identity could be verified. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11,12).

Then the scene broke wide open! “Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude from the heavenly army, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward mankind’” (Luke 2:13,14 EHV).

Over the ages, angels have been sent on many different missions. Sometimes they brought severe judgment, as did the angel of death to the firstborn in Egypt, or when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were killed overnight.

But most often, we learn of angels protecting and rescuing. The mission to Bethlehem on that holy night must have been one of the happiest ones.

The only one better was when some were sent to an empty grave to tell mourners, “He is not here. He has risen. Come see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6).

We remember all this as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of the King of kings that we now can call our brother.

This is the season for remembering. Some of our Christmas joy springs from the past. There have been special people and special times in our lives that we do not want to forget. We recognize they were special gifts from the Savior God.

Best of all, is the memory of the first Christmas. Our feet may not have carried us to Bethlehem on that night, but our hearts have done so. Our eyes may not have peeked into the stable to see the one in in the manger, but our souls have.

We may not have heard the angel voices with our own ears, but the Holy Spirit has carried their words over the expanse of time and space to place them before us.

What was the special message proclaimed by angels on a special mission?

“A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Our reply? “Message received. Glory be to God on high!”



Prayer:
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with you there. Amen.
(Christian Worship 341:3)



Points to ponder:

  • Our planet is only a speck in space. What does that tell us?
  • Bethlehem was only a dot on a map compared to Jerusalem. What does that tell us?
  • In the eyes of high society, shepherds were low class. What does that tell 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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Heads Up! – December 16, 2022

Heads Up! – December 16, 2022


At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Luke 21:27,28




Military Devotion – December 16, 2022

Devotion based on Luke 21:27,28

See series: Military Devotions

Some had their eyes focused only on their breakfast that morning. Some were looking at the magnificent rolling surf. A few glanced up at the sound of low-flying aircraft. Some eyes were still closed in sleep. No one panicked.

Until.

Until they heard the explosions. Until they saw the red circles on the aircraft wings. Until it was too late.

The place was Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday morning in December of 1941. President Roosevelt labeled it “A Day of Infamy.”

No one expected to see death and disaster coming from that bright sky. No one had given them a “Heads up!”

They had been told to prepare for a time like this. But they didn’t think it would be on this day and at this place. They assumed life would just continue on much as it had before. Hawaii was a great place to be stationed. Christmas was coming. Who would have thought the rolling surf would turn black with oil and red with blood before this day ended?

For the survivors, life changed forever. From now on, eyes would feverishly scan those skies. Now they lived in fear that inbound terror would descend from above.

The meaning of that Christmas changed. No more “Peace and Joy!” Now the message was, “Prepare to meet your God!”

Yet hasn’t that always been the Christmas message? The presence of the holy God has always carried a threat, hasn’t it? Think of Israel trembling at the foot of Mount Sinai. Remember Isaiah’s warning to his readers, “Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty” (Isaiah 13:6).

Is the holy God to be feared? Absolutely!

The New Testament declares: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

The Christ child was Immanuel—God with us. Shouldn’t sinners be terrified at his arrival?

Yet the coming of Christ into the world is announced as good news.

Scripture warns that we are to fear him. But we also are to love and trust him. How so?

We should be afraid to defy him but very happy that he came.

The good news is that he came not to destroy but to rescue. The angel told Joseph to name him Jesus “Because he shall save his people from their sins.”

That mission was completed under the dark skies of Golgotha. When he comes again, the skies will light up as he comes to finally bring his people home, body and soul.

In another December, three years later, Americans faced another deadly attack. This time they were in the Ardennes of Belgium. Surrounded, cold, and almost out of ammunition, they fixed their eyes upon cloud-laden skies that kept rescue from coming.

This time, they wanted to see planes fill the skies. They prayed to see the planes. They sent out a cheer when the first one was spotted. Desperately needed supplies were dropped. Rescue was at hand! We call that the “Battle of the Bulge.” It brought victory.

So, it will be when those in service to the King of kings spot the cloud in the sky that brings in Jesus with a display of power and great glory.

We call that the end of the world. We await that day with excited joy, not fear. This will be the breakout day of the final rescue.

An old song carries the words, “And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas Day.”

When we were very young, we may have been asked, “And what would you like for Christmas?” Maybe we answered with a long list of toys. But there was probably one item at the top of the list. That’s the one our heart was set upon.

Today, we would answer with a different list, but maybe as long of a list as back then. After all, there are so many things that we need—and many more that we would like.

But at the top of today’s list, would we not want to place “The peace that surpasses all understanding”? This is the peace between our God and us. This is the peace that Jesus bought and paid for.

This is the peace the angels sang about. The peace we need for ourselves and we want for our loved ones.

This is the peace we have looked for—this is the one only the Prince of Peace can bring.

That’s why we can close the Christmas carol with the words, “Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.”

One day angels will wake us with, “Heads up! Jesus, the Savior, has come!”

We watch for that day.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came as the Prince of Peace to reconcile us to the holy almighty God. Thank you for the “heads up” to watch for when you will come again. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • In what way can we compare the Last Day to Pearl Harbor?
  • What has changed in our lives that makes us now treasure perfect peace?
  • In what ways can we compare the Last Day to the Battle of the Bulge?


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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Those Empty Stockings – December 9, 2022

Those Empty Stockings – December 9, 2022


Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11




Military Devotion – December 9, 2022

Devotion based on Luke 2:11

See series: Military Devotions

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care….” So begins the famous Christmas poem.

Those stockings were filled only with hope until they would be filled with joy. They were not expected to be found empty when Christmas morning dawned. It would have been better not to hang the stockings at all than to have eager expectations pitifully dashed.

The vision of stockings found empty on Christmas tears at our hearts. It is a sad scene that we would strive to prevent. But it does happen. Hopes are not always turned into joy.

That’s why a certain sadness can come to even the people of God at this time of year.

This sadness comes not from missing loved ones who once celebrated Christmas with us. That happens, but this is a different form of sorrow.

Nor does this one grow from a lack of wrapped gifts to be shared.

Instead, this sadness is the painful realization that so many around us are missing out on Christmas.

As the Christmas music begins to fill the airways following Halloween, as the Christmas sales are announced, and the television brings feel-good stories of people at Christmastime, it begins to dawn on us: “Many don’t know!”

They don’t know what Christmas means. They don’t know the Christ of Christmas. They don’t know he is their Savior. They don’t know he is Christ, the Lord. They just don’t know.

Their spiritual Christmas stocking is empty.

Many eagerly search for the reputed joy of Christmas. They hope they can find it in decorations that “make the spirit bright.” They turn to the joy of getting and giving. Some rely upon the stimulants of food or drink.

They are determined to have a merry Christmas. They sincerely wish this for others.

They just do not know that, without Christ, there can be no Christmas joy.

The sad evidence is there. Check the police logs for Christmas Eve. Domestic disputes? Alcohol-caused car wrecks? Suicides? Far too many!

Without Christ, there can be no true Christmas joy.

Yet, many do not know they are missing it. They even resent our idea that their Christmas lacks something.

That puts the Christian in an uncomfortable position.

Do we just tell them their Christmas is empty of anything lasting and meaningful? Will they believe us? Will that prompt them to seek the Christ of Christmas?

Or will they just shake their heads at our apparent arrogance? After all, who are we to tell someone else that they are not as happy as they should be?

Does that mean we should just go on our merry way and not care about those with a Christmas empty of heavenly hope and joy?

Really?

The poem gives the reason for hanging those stockings. “In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” How sad if this is the best that can be hoped for!

Can’t we do something about that? Can’t we ask the Holy Spirit to enter their homes and hearts? Can’t we somehow share the hope that is within us? Can’t we show the peace and joy that Christ brought to us?

Think of how many Christmas carols are actually Christmas hymns. Do they not proclaim the true message of the season? Does not “Joy to the world the Lord has come!” say what needs to be said?

Can we not invite others to our worship services where these words are sung, explained, and believed?

If it pains us to think of a child with no present in a stocking, what about one with no Christ in Christmas?

Our hearts know where true joy can be found. We know this is a joy to be shared.

But if we find our joy is tinged with sadness when the Christ of Christmas is rejected, we may recall Jesus weeping over a Jerusalem that also closed its heart to him.

On this side of heaven, sorrow often intrudes upon joy. This Christmas will again reveal lives empty of God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love. That pains us.

Thus, we work, and we pray that this year Jesus will enter where he is unknown.

Then, they will know true Christmas joy.

To have a merry Christmas is more than a wish. It is a gift from heaven.

It more than fills those empty stockings.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, bring joy to the lives of people everywhere by filling their hearts with a child-like faith centered upon the Christ of Christmas. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Would we better celebrate Christmas if we stripped away all the trimmings? Or not?
  • Why do children often have a better grasp of Christmas than adults?
  • Which Christmas celebration was the most memorable for you? Why?


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 Trees Are Wrong – December 2, 2022

The Trees Are Wrong – December 2, 2022


Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5




Military Devotion – December 2, 2022

Devotion based on Proverbs 3:5

See series: Military Devotions

We are a society that banks on feelings. Be it a happy event or a sad one, the reporter with the microphone is apt to ask, “How are you feeling?” The question is asked often because readers and viewers feel that’s important.

It’s as if feelings define us. “How does the quarterback feel after this loss?” “How does your family feel about the upcoming transfer?” “How does the squad feel after the counterattack?”

The impact of feelings reverberates to the far corners of our lives. They are difficult to ignore—even when we know that we should.

There’s the saying, “If it feels good, do it!” That puts feelings into the command position of life. When faced with judgment calls, we sometimes go with our instincts.

That’s not necessarily bad. Instinct is often formed by lessons learned from the past. It grows from our understanding of situations. But our understanding is limited and sometimes dead wrong. Our understanding of life is not good enough to build a life upon.

Wise and inspired King Solomon clues us in. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Solomon was right, of course. But sometimes, it is hard to do that.

There is an American who grew up in Africa. When his family returned to the U.S., he faced a cultural shock. So many differences!

Some of them he liked immediately. Some took a while to get used to. But one difference was very hard to accept.

He puts it this way: “The trees are wrong!”

As he traveled around, this continued to bother him. He could feel it in his bones. He could not shake the feeling. “The trees are wrong!”

Those tall pine trees, those majestic oaks—that’s not what trees are supposed to look like! Not one tree in the upper Midwest looked right. It was all wrong—and it continued to bother him.

Then, things changed. He writes, “Recently, on a trip to Texas, I felt at home. My eyes and mind saw that the trees grew right!”

He explains that the woodland where he grew up in Zambia consists of low, isolated trees surrounded by shrubs and grasses. The area is dry most of the year. “Thus,” he says, “it has many similarities to dry Texas shrub.”

What a good feeling for him!

But that doesn’t make the rest of America’s trees wrong.

“And lean not on your own understanding,” Scripture reminds us.

We are entering the portion of the year that might be labeled “The Season of Feelings.” We have been reminded to feel thankful. Now, we are encouraged to feel joyful. But what if we don’t feel like it?

What if this season doesn’t look like the Christmas we grew up with? What if the scenery is wrong? What if people vital to our picture of Christmas are missing?

What if we begin to wonder if our understanding of Christmas has been shaped by the spirit of make-believe?

Wasn’t our early excitement over Christmas influenced by stories of reindeer and a magic sleigh? If we have outgrown Santa Claus, have we also outgrown the story of a virgin birth and a baby that is both human and divine?

What sense does that make to our grownup mind? Is that why we cannot recapture the old feelings? Have we just lost the Christmas spirit? Or have we wandered away from the Spirit of Christmas?

Maybe it’s time we take our own “trip to Texas.” We will not be carried by car or plane. This trip is courtesy of the Holy Spirit, who brings back the familiar sights of wonder and grace before our eyes.

On the pages of Holy Writ, we see the things that refresh our souls. Once again, we catch sight of angels announcing the glad tidings of great joy that shall be to all people. Once more, in spirit, we walk with the shepherds to see the newborn King.

We come again to the realization: “This is real!” “This is my Savior!” “I can rejoice with the angels.” “One day, I shall live with them.”

This is too marvelous to comprehend and too amazing to understand, but I trust my Creator and Redeemer. I can now relax and feel good about what I see. Now I feel at home with this Christmas scene. I can be at peace once again.

And even if I am where the trees look wrong, Christ in Christmas makes them right.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, lift up my eyes to see again the reason why the angels sang for joy over the fields of Bethlehem. Show me the Savior who makes everything right. Amen.



Points to ponder:

  • Why does much of our joy seem to be influenced by the trimmings of Christmas?
  • What would we say to the person who feels he has outgrown Christmas?
  • Why are we inclined to trust our own understanding instead of the Lord our 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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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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