Military Devotions

For he is good – December 1, 2019

For he is good – December 1, 2019


O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures forever.
Psalm 107:1




Military Devotion – December 1, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 107:1

See series: Military Devotions

Doesn’t everyone know that God is good? They should. Yet, some refuse to believe it. Sometimes even we might be tempted to doubt it.

How can that be? How could a child of God be tempted to doubt the goodness of God?

Easily!

Satan is very powerful. Sinful flesh is very weak. And we were born as enemies of the Lord God.

Some might ask how God can be good if he allows unborn babies to be killed by the hundreds of thousands. How can he let thousands of people starve to death?

Isn’t all of that bad?

A Special Forces captain wrote a book called “God is not here!” to vent his confusion and frustration over a tour in Iraq.

Sometimes God might seem to be M.I.A. in the battle against what is bad. Sometimes he seems to be a deserter.

That is not good.

It raises questions. It makes us wonder: “Maybe he never is there. Never was there! Maybe he’s nothing more than a Santa Claus figure.”

Maybe, Satan is spinning out disinformation!

The problem is not with the Creator and Redeemer. It is with us humans. We like to pretend we are God. We prefer to determine good and bad the same way we like to decide upon right and wrong. We tend to decide according to what makes sense to us—and what is to our advantage. We want to make the final call.

Our attempts to play God are dismal and deadly failures.

We are not all-knowing. We are not all-powerful. We are not holy. We are not good.

He is.

Better than that: “his mercy endures forever.”

Without his mercy, we would have to face the consequences of the bad we do. Without his mercy, we would never have any good thing happen in our life.

The enemy wants to blind us to this.

Without the mercy of God, humans would have no life, no food, no shelter—and surely, no fun.

We tend to forget that. Instead, we view these gifts as entitlements—even as inalienable rights.

We are so wrong.

We do not deserve any good thing. We deserve only the bad. The very bad.

We have rebelled against him. We deserve what the rebellious angels got. We deserve abandonment by God. We deserve the dungeons of hell.

Demons must admit in anguish, “No, God definitely is not here!”

The apostle Paul wrote: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:5).

He promised a Savior. He came. He brought us to faith.

God is merciful to us.

God is good.



We pray the words we have sung before:
Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, In whom his world rejoices,
Who from our mother’s arms Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love And still is ours today. Amen.
(Christian Worship 610:1)



Written by Pastor 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 last jump – November 24, 2019

The last jump – November 24, 2019


In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:2,3




Military Devotion – November 24, 2019

Devotion based on John 14:2,3

See series: Military Devotions

“The Lord willing and Jesus tarries, I hope to see you all at the next reunion. If not, I’ll see you at the last jump. I know you will not freeze at the door.”

These are the words of Sgt. Skinny Sisk, veteran of Easy Company, to his Band of Brothers. Years after WWII, the thoughts of these warriors sometimes went back to parachuting into danger. But as their numbers decreased, they thought more about what they called, The Last Jump.

We understand why they would use that phrase to describe dying. Like jumping out of an airplane into the dark night, those at the door of death cannot see what is out there. The leap from earthly life can be frightening. If it were an option, many would refuse. It isn’t.

The old rule was, “Put your hands outside the doorframe before you jump!” A frightened soldier bracing himself against the inside of the doorframe was not easily removed. With hands outside, only a nudge would send him on his way.

A paratrooper’s refusal to jump brought shame and often dismissal. The Band of Brothers shouted encouragement to one another before each jump. Sgt. Sisk was now doing it before their “last jump.”

We understand why. After the war, he went through a hard transition to civilian life. He told his former commanding officer that his new career became an attempt to drink away the truckload of the enemy that he killed in Holland.

The drinking did not succeed. But his little niece did. “She told me Jesus loved me and she loved me. God would forgive me for all the men I kept trying to kill all over again.”

Four years after the war, the soldier became an ordained minister. His new career was to offer to others the forgiveness that Jesus paid for; and to remove the fear of that last jump.

By faith in Jesus as his Savior, this member of the Band of Brothers became our brother. His words, “I’ll see you at the last jump. I know you will not freeze at the door” mean something to us.

We expect to see him in heaven. We know we need not fear death.

Our departure from this life is not a jump into the dark unknown. Jesus has already described the landing zone. Peace, safety, and joy—all of that is waiting for us.

Sorrow, pain, and fear—none of that will be there.

“I am going there to prepare a place for you.” he announced before he left this earth. Who better to prepare an LZ?

We note that when Jesus left this earth he did not jump down and out but was lifted up and away. So will we. From earth to glory!

Yet, the thought of that jump may still frighten. Much remains unknown. We might wonder how we will react.

Let the fear be gone! Jesus is not just going to command us to jump. He is not telling us, “I’ll see you on the other side.” He says, “I will come back to take you with me…”

When the door opens for us to leave this life, we will see the smiling face of Jesus—our Brother. And we will smile.

“I know that you will not freeze at the door.”

Thanks for your encouragement, Sgt. Sisk.



Prayer: Jesus, the idea of dying tends to frighten us. We have been trained in your Word and disciplined in life. But we must admit that at times we wish we did not need to leave the universe we have become familiar with. Keep reminding us that heaven is our home. Keep inviting us to follow you. Keep assuring us that you will always be with us—especially at the door of death. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Feet of clay – November 17, 2019

Feet of clay – November 17, 2019


“You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.”
Daniel 2:31-33




Military Devotion – November 17, 2019

Devotion based on Daniel 2:31-33

See series: Military Devotions

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that made his spiritual advisors quiver in fear. He demanded they interpret it. But first, they needed to tell him what the dream was about.

“Impossible!” they said.

He said: “If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”

Since it would be a Babylonian king that would throw a Daniel into a lions’ den and his friends into a fiery furnace, the threat of this Babylonian monarch was not empty.

The advisors relaxed when young Daniel stepped forward to say he could give the answers. The Lord, the God of Israel, had revealed this to him.

He described the statue in the dream: enormous, dazzling, and awesome. The head was of gold; below that was silver; below that, bronze; legs of iron; and then, feet: “partly of iron and partly of baked clay.”

It had feet of clay.

Daniel explained what it meant. These were the kingdoms that would follow the Babylonians—each one a little less impressive than its predecessor. The clay in its feet could crumble and cause the entire structure to collapse. But it was not erosion that would take down these kingdoms. It would be a rock.

The dream went on: “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:44).

What kingdom is this? What kingdom would be so powerful that it could smash the power structures of the Babylonians and Persians and Greeks and Romans? What kingdom would spread out over the whole world?

The answer is: “Our kingdom! The one we are members of.”

Daniel was in this kingdom. So were Jacob and David and Peter. This is the kingdom of God. Today we can call it the Christian Church.

Often under attack, often dismissed as insignificant, it still stands. It has gathered people from all nations. It challenges every form of evil. It conquers, not with a sword, but a Word.

It overthrows the claims of Satan and death. It rescues souls from their hands.

Its king is the Son of God and the kingdom is built upon his sacrifice on Golgotha. It will stand beyond the end of time into all eternity.

“My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus reported to a representative of the mighty Roman empire. But his kingdom made an impact upon this world. It held ultimate control of this world.

It still does. It always will.

The kingdom of God does not have feet of clay.



We sing:
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride.
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

The Church shall never perish, her dear Lord, to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end.
Though there be those that hate her and strive to see her fail
Against both foe and traitor she ever will prevail.” Amen.
Christian Worship 538:1,3



Written by Pastor 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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Homecoming – November 10, 2019

Homecoming – November 10, 2019


But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
2 Peter 3:13




Military Devotion – November 10, 2019

Devotion based on 2 Peter 3:13

See series: Military Devotions

The mental picture of homecoming has changed over the years. There was a time when the word triggered memories of fallen leaves, crisp air, and football. The phrase was: “Celebrate Homecoming.”

“Homecoming” changed to “Coming home!” as a promise to parents who kept asking about Thanksgiving plans.

Then there was the, “Going home….” Home to bury a mother amid fallen leaves and crisp air.

Different pictures, but each one a homecoming.

No matter the changes in life and the mix-up of emotions, home was always the place to come to. It provided a base. A place to leave from and a place to go back to.

We might have called many places home as we moved around. But most likely, there is one place and time that stands out as best. When we picture “home” in our mind, this is it. We would always like to be able to come home there.

The apostle Peter reminds us that not all homecomings are in the past. He points us to a new place to come home to—one that’s better than all the rest.

He calls it “a new heaven and a new earth.” We have always lived on this planet and in this universe. It’s hard to imagine anything else. But the new home will be something else.

It’s going to be wonderfully different. It’s called “The home of righteousness.”

We’ve never lived in a place like that. Sin has always found a place to stay in some corner of our earthly home. Sometimes it took over the place. Then, joy, peace, and contentment were swept out as if garbage. Sin is a homewrecker.

Not in this new home!

“Looking forward to it!” Peter said. But first, he warned, we will need to continue on in our old dwelling until the date set by our heavenly Father.

He tells us the day will come when the old creation, the first home of all humans, will come to an end. “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).

Hard to imagine what that will be like! It seems frightening.

It need not be. When troops see their own artillery rounds destroying enemy positions, they don’t cringe in fear. They celebrate.

So will the Christians who will be watching the end of this sin-stained creation. Jesus tells us, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

But the apostle Peter will not be standing on earth to see this happen. Neither will all of the other people of God who have already moved on to heaven.

Maybe we will already be there too.

But we all will celebrate.

It will be like cheering at a homecoming game victory.

Can’t beat that!



Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the creation we live in. You made it beautiful. You made it perfect. We can still see the beauty. But we also see how it has been ruined by sin. Enable us to see the danger that lurks around us. Keep us safe until we can celebrate our heavenly homecoming with you. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Terrible terror – November 3, 2019

Terrible terror – November 3, 2019


We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror.
Jeremiah 8:15




Military Devotion – November 3, 2019

Devotion based on Jeremiah 8:15

See series: Military Devotions

The Great Generation did not hear the word “terrorist” very often. They did, however, become acquainted with terror. Every generation has.

Even during the times when a nation was at peace, such as Israel during the reign of Solomon, individual people still faced terror.

Terror has many faces. It can show itself in many places. It may threaten with a bomb or a cancer cell. However, when we use the word “terrorist” today, we are most likely thinking of a person who intends to do grave harm to others. Whatever form terror takes, living with it is terrible.

But no terror is as terrible as the terror that the omnipotent God brings upon a people.

Jeremiah is labeled “The Weeping Prophet.” A book of the Bible is called “The Lamentations of Jeremiah.” He had much to lament. The Lord revealed to him the terrible times he would bring to his people, Israel.

The Lord warned many would fall before an invading enemy: “They will not be gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground.” There would be survivors, but many would be taken as prisoners to a foreign land: “Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life, declares the LORD Almighty” (Jeremiah 8:2).

When people wish they were dead, their lives are terrible.

Thus, the lament: “We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror.”

No hope for peace. No time to heal. Only terror. A terrible time.

We need to understand why this happened. We need to ask if this could happen to our nation, to us. It could.

Let’s look in at ancient Israel. The Lord had showered his blessings upon those people. With abundance of crops and strength in defense, other nations looked upon Israel with envy. The greatest blessing was the presence of the Word of God in its midst.

His Law mirrored his will. His promises brightened their future. The history of Israel was a record of his powerful faithfulness. They were living in the land “flowing with milk and honey.”

What went wrong?

The people. The people went wrong.

They turned away from his paths; discarded his Word; and came up with their own answers for the meaning of life, and their own sources of joy in life.

They rejected the Lord—and then, he rejected them.

Terrible!

But there was hope. Through the same prophet, Jeremiah, the Lord God told them, “‘I am with you and will save you,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:11).

Then he added: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

Almost unbelievable, isn’t it? Did he really do this for Israel of old? He did.

Would he make such forgiveness possible for us? Jesus did.

The Lord God—the answer to all that is terrible.



Prayer: Holy and merciful God, you are our guard and our friend. We know the times are perilous. We admit our failures, our sin. But with Israel of old, we look to you for forgiveness. Keep us from all things terrible. Deliver us from evil. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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 good that I would – October 27, 2019

The good that I would – October 27, 2019


For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Romans 7:19




Military Devotion – October 27, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 7:19

See series: Military Devotions

An old saying declares, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That might infer that following through on those good intentions could lead a person to heaven. In 1517, it surely did mean that to most people.

The idea that someone could earn the way to heaven by doing good works was firmly entrenched in the minds of most people at that time. It is the natural religion of mankind.

The Reformation brought back the good news that salvation is a free gift from God, paid for with the blood of Jesus. That’s what the apostle Paul had preached and believed. But that did not mean he was not bothered by good intentions gone astray.

Sin is obvious to the person who compares his life to what God expects. The child of God laments the black marks against his record. He knows the sin is paid for, but he is also aware that it is dangerous. It can lead him away from his Savior. And sin is shameful. To be a follower of the Savior is to reject the works of Satan.

Sin is something to fight against.

But the battle is not only against the powers of darkness and the pressure of a sinful world. The enemy is not just out there; it is in here—inside the perimeter of our personal life.

The enemy is inside the wire!

No wonder the apostle Paul was concerned.

He was disgusted with himself. He knew what the right thing, the good thing, was. He wanted to do it. But time and again, he had to admit, “The good that I would (do), I don’t do.”

That’s only half of the sad story. Not only was good left undone, but evil was carried out: “The evil I don’t want to do is what I end up doing.”

In anguish, he called out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

Wretched, indeed!

How else does one describe the person who knows that his loving God paid such a high price to free him from slavery to sin—and yet he keeps going back to it?

Does he not know the danger? Does he not appreciate the rescue? Does he not want to remain a child of the heavenly Father?

He does know. He does appreciate. He does love his Savior God. But the enemy inside the wire is smart and strong.
“Who can deliver me?” the apostle asked. Then he went on to say: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

There’s the answer! Jesus is the answer! Satan may tempt. Sin may control. But only for a while. And not in the end.
Looking at the final verdict, Saint Paul could say: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).

We join him. We, too, confess: “The good that I would, I do not…” But there is more to say.

“The good that I would but did not—that, Jesus did for me.”

The road to hell is closed to those following Jesus.

The road to heaven is paved with the perfection of the Savior God—and that is the road upon which we are walking.



Prayer: Jesus; you did it all for us. You continue to lead the way to heaven. We know we are weak. We admit we stumble and fall. Give us the courage and strength we need to continue our spiritual fight. Lead us by the hand on the road of life. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Help of the hopeless – October 20, 2019

Help of the hopeless – October 20, 2019


“Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
Isaiah 36:18-20




Military Devotion – October 20, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 36:18-20

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes it seems there is no hope because it seems there is no help.

It might be a violent storm. It might be a vicious disease. Or, as it once was for Israel, it could be an overpowering enemy. Whatever form it may take, desperate situations call for desperate help.

It is then terrifying to realize the help may not be there.

The list of seemingly unstoppable armies that appear on the pages of history is a long one. Napoleon led one of those. So did a fellow by the name of Hannibal, with his elephants. Likewise a Rommel, with his tanks. But the name that struck terror into the hearts of Israelites at the time of King Hezekiah was an Assyrian named Sennacherib.

A later poet described his style of waging war with the words, “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on a fold.” They came down from modern Syria and overran everything. Destruction, pain, and death followed. “Unstoppable” was the word that seemed to fit best.

When they came to the edge of Jerusalem, Sennacherib sent a field commander to demand that the city surrender. He pointed out the situation was hopeless because the Israelites were helpless—just like many cities before them.

It was not an empty boast. City after city had already fallen before this superpower. Jerusalem knew this. The ten northern tribes of Israel had been overpowered, with many casualties. Survivors had been rounded up and marched into captivity. So thorough was the defeat that those ten tribes vanished without a trace. They became the famous lost tribes of Israel.

Only Judah and little Benjamin were left.

Sennacherib knew the Israelites well enough to realize they would not be counting on an ally to deliver them, nor would they boast of the strength of their army. Israel’s final answer would be, “Our help is in the name of the Lord!” It was a matter of faith in their God.

So, he attacked their God.

Karl Marx, the father of Communism, once famously remarked, “Religion is the opium of the people.” He meant it offered people a false sense of security and well-being. Sadly, it can be true.

The religions of the people of Arpad and Hamath offered empty promises. Their destruction was the proof. Would it not be the same for those who placed their hope in the Lord?

Hezekiah did not believe that. History does not reveal that. Instead, we learn: “Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew” (Isaiah 37:36).

The situation of Israel was not hopeless because she was not helpless. She sang out, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.” And it was.

So is ours.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, one of our greatest enemies is doubt. Although we know about you and your promises, we sometimes find ourselves not trusting you. Our eyes look for proof, and our hearts long for evidence. Grab hold of our faith so that it might stand up to attack and overcome unbelief. Without you, we are both helpless and hopeless. Remind us of who you are and what you have done. Point us to Jesus, the help of the hopeless. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Today Haji dies – October 13, 2019

Today Haji dies – October 13, 2019


Do not go out to the fields or walk on the roads, for the enemy has a sword, and there is terror on every side.
Jeremiah 6:25




Military Devotion – October 13, 2019

Devotion based on Jeremiah 6:25

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes it is dangerous to go out.

He said he wasn’t afraid, though I had not asked if he was. He was young. But he was a soldier. He was determined. But his eyes showed worry. He was rolling out to be part of a convoy heading “up north.” He was just a stone’s throw from Iraq. But he said he wasn’t afraid. With a wave and a smile, he shouted:

“Today, Haji dies!”

That same Monday morning there were mothers sending little ones off to school, and commuters fighting traffic backups. They had tasks to perform and expectations to meet. They probably hoped the day would go well.

They did not expect that on this day, they might need to take the life of another person. He did.

If someone was to die on that day, the young soldier was determined it would not be him.

He knew he needed to be able to kill without hesitation. Hesitation could get himself and others killed. So, he dehumanized the enemy. “Today, Haji dies!”

Dehumanizing names for enemy combatants have been used before. In other wars, they used Hun, or Kraut, or Gook, or Charlie. Haji was chosen as the name for the enemy in the Middle East. There are others.

For the every-day citizens to ask others to kill for them is asking a lot. Yet, it’s often done without much thought. Most civilians simply expect that someone will step forward to defend their country. Few recognize the burden that this places onto the warrior’s shoulders. Losing a battle is not the same as losing a football game. Lives may be lost if lives are not taken.

The thrill of triumph over enemies killed may turn into regret in later life. The question that comes to the mind of the Christian warrior is, “What does God think about all of this?”

Fortunately, God tells us what he thinks. He commands us to protect lives. He entrusts governing authorities with the responsibility of using force, even lethal weapons, to deal with those who would do harm. To such ones, he says, “Be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing” (Romans 13:4).

Few stateside Americans know what it is like to live at a time such as Jeremiah writes about. Most have only heard about terror. We are not afraid to walk in a field lest we be ambushed. We do not fear that IEDs are planted on our roadways. We pray those days never come.

We do, however, know that terror exists. Some is homegrown. Some thrive in foreign fields. It seems no matter how often it is rooted out, back it grows again. For the seed of terror is evil—and that sprouts everywhere.

In a hymn, we sing, “I walk in danger all the way…” We have little idea of how true that is.

There is an enemy behind every enemy we face. His name is not Haji. It is Satan. He once took on the Son of Righteousness—and lost. It’s important that we remember that: he lost!

There is a saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This is true. The enemy of all that would do me harm is my friend Jesus. With a King David, I will say to him, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

With him, I can go out into danger without fear.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes we forget how dangerous the world is that we live in. And sometimes we know very well that we are walking into danger. Be with us so that we need not ever fear. Not even death can defeat us. We will live with you forever. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Peace and quiet – October 6, 2019

Peace and quiet – October 6, 2019


But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.
1 Chronicles 22:9




Military Devotion – October 6, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Chronicles 22:9

See series: Military Devotions

Peace and quiet! That’s what a busy mom looks forward to when those little ones finally are in bed. That’s what her husband enjoys when he sits in his boat with a line in the water.

There’s a time for excitement and action—but not all the time. A person needs a break from stress and uncertainty. So does a nation.

Beginning with its first king, the nation of Israel moved from one crisis to another. David, the second king, fought so many battles that God said he had too much blood on his hands to be the builder of the great temple.

King David usually didn’t look for trouble. It did often find him, however. He spent hours deep into the night pondering how to face them. He must have longed for sleep on some of those nights. Sometimes, however, even in sleep, there is no rest.

An officer in the Mighty 8th, which took such a pounding when making raids against Axis targets in WWII, made this report: “The men lived the battles in their sleep, with considerable mental disturbances. The other night the men went into the barracks and found Captain Fenton flying an apparently tough mission. Apparently, his ship was hit, and he exclaimed: ‘Co-pilot, feather number four!’ The lieutenant, sound asleep answered him. Both of them, sound asleep, piloted the severely damaged Fort back home…”

Sleep doesn’t always bring peace. Some dreams refight battles of years long ago. Some of those sleepers yell out or strike out. They may find little rest.

And nations? What candidate for President would be so foolish as to promise that if he were elected, the country would never go to war? Some things are out of our control.

Not so for the Lord of the nations.

Solomon was not elected to be the leader of Israel. The Lord placed him into that position of power and responsibility. He then decreed that this king and his nation would have peace and quiet during Solomon’s lifetime.

Those who might have said: “I have to see it first!” saw it. History records it.

In war zones, it is not uncommon for a group planning a mission to hear the warning, “Remember, the enemy has a vote.”

The best of plans might need to be adjusted because the enemy does something unexpected. We cannot change his plans. We can only try to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

The Lord God does not need to resort to that approach. He can control the plans and actions of nations and their leaders as easily as he controls storm clouds. War is a consequence of sin. Wars and rumors of wars, according to Jesus, will continue to the end of time. But the Lord of glory will determine how often, how long, and where he will permit wars to take place.

The same is true of any consequence of sin that can threaten the welfare of his people.

We remember that Jesus descended from the line of David and Solomon. He is called the Prince of Peace. Of him, it is said, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

We trust in him! He is the Savior God who fought to overcome the power of the Evil One.

We can set aside every fear and worry when we walk with him.

Midst a loud and sometimes chaotic world, he offers our soul peace and quiet.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, we place ourselves into your hands. You guide us. You keep us. You give us times of peace. And quiet. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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 joy robber – September 29, 2019

The joy robber – September 29, 2019


And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
Luke 2:10




Military Devotion – September 29, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 2:10

See series: Military Devotions

A rich inheritance of joy has been transferred into my spiritual account. I have seen the paperwork. It has been verified by the highest authority. Yet, fairly often, when I go to draw from that account, I find little there. Why not? Have I been robbed?

Maybe I need to track down the joy robber.

It may help to look closely at the circumstances surrounding a loss. I recall a time when some people complimented me on a job well done. Instead of walking away happy, I went off discouraged because someone mentioned that in one area, I might have done a little better.

Joy wiped out.

Another time, the smile in my heart faded when I learned the new gadget I was so happy to have was just replaced by a newer model.

Joy gone.

The times when I expected a new assignment, a new house, or cancer in remission would make me forever happy?

They did not.

What memories come in the middle of the night? The many happy days? No, the regrets!

I plod along in life, hoping for the best but often expecting the worst. If I remember the song, Home on the Range, I might doubt the words, “Where never is heard a discouraging word.”

What happened to the joy? What robbed me of it?

There are suspects. Envy seems to do it. Rather than being happy for someone else’s happiness, envy is irritated.

Materialism could be a culprit. It tends to look for joy in all the wrong places.

Fear must not be forgotten. Instead of enjoying the pile of blessings in life, it frets that someday I might lose some of them.

Thus, worry must be added to the list of suspects.

Can’t forget rank foolishness, either!

I know enough not to run up a credit card bill if I won’t have the funds to pay it off. Yet, I am tempted to try to buy joy on credit. Satan is always happy to lend me some. He says my record of sinning qualifies me for the loan. But the interest rate is very high, and at the end, the payment due will be horrendous. I dare not be that foolish.

The question remains, which suspect robbed me of my joy? I don’t have a clue.

But my heavenly Bookkeeper does. He pulls up the tape in my memory to show the culprit in action. It reveals the person behind the envy and materialism and worry and fear and foolishness. I see it now.

I am the robber of my joy.

There is no one else; there is nothing else to blame. In fact, it is a fake robbery. The stockpile of joy is still there, waiting for me to use.

The joy has been bought and paid for with holy blood. It is still mine.

The angel was right. The tidings of great joy are for all people. That joy was given to me.

And to you.

Let’s not rob ourselves of it.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, at Christmas we sing, “Oh, where can joy be found? Where but on heavenly ground?” We know that is true. We believe the angel’s words about the good tidings of great joy. Please restore unto us the joy of our salvation. Give us Christmas joy each day of our life. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Breath of life – September 22, 2019

Breath of life – September 22, 2019


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




Military Devotion – September 22, 2019

Devotion based on Genesis 2:7

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

But it can be lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Hold on – September 15, 2019

Hold on – September 15, 2019


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




Military Devotion – September 15, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 3:11

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

What crown? Since when do we have a crown?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will hold on.



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



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

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


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Everything new – September 8, 2019

Everything new – September 8, 2019


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




Military Devotion – September 8, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 21:5

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That change happened on the day we call Good Friday.

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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Against the grain – September 1, 2019

Against the grain – September 1, 2019


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




Military Devotion – September 1, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 14:7,8

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We die, not alone. We belong to him.

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

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

We will not go against the grain.



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



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

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


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He wept – August 25, 2019

He wept – August 25, 2019


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




Military Devotion – August 25, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Samuel 30:4

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

But he did. So did warrior David.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he did.

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

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

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

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

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



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we remember how you lived on this earth. We remember how your love for us pained you. We remember how you took the battle to our enemy to overcome our greatest cause of pain. We thank you for your tears. Amen.



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

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


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When strong men stoop – August 18, 2019

When strong men stoop – August 18, 2019


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




Military Devotion – August 18, 2019

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 12:3

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

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

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

Now he is only an elderly greeter.

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

That was not smart.

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

Such wise words demand our attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The time will surely come when strong men stoop.

But we will overcome.



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



Written by Pastor 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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Prairie fire – August 11, 2019

Prairie fire – August 11, 2019


I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you.
Psalm 141:1




Military Devotion – August 11, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 141:1

See series: Military Devotions

First of all, and most of all, David was a warrior. His sword and shield did not go into storage when he became king. He claimed many victories and killed many enemies. He also found himself in extreme danger more than once.

His desperate cries for help are recorded on the pages of Holy Writ. More than once, we hear him call out, “Lord, come quickly!”

Had he been caught in danger in Southeast Asia during what is called The Vietnam War, his call to “Come quickly!” might have been expressed with the words, “Prairie fire!”

This was the code-phrase Green Beret reconnaissance teams used when they found themselves about to be overrun by the enemy. The call, “Prairie fire!” brought in all available assets to suppress enemy fire while the team was extracted by helicopter.

In January of 1971, Recon Team Colorado’s eight men were attacked by about forty North Vietnamese. We can still listen to the frantic call, “Prairie fire! Prairie fire!” from a tape of the radio transmissions that a crew in a Huey recorded on that day.

A calm voice replied, “This is Delta Papa-Three.” The coordinator announced that help was on the way.

But almost immediately, another cry of “Prairie fire! Prairie fire!” came over the radio. This was from a team ten miles away. The rescuers were needed at two places at once.

An impossible situation. Lives were lost.

Maybe we have desperately called for help when our life was at risk. Perhaps we will need to do so in the future. But it doesn’t need to be a life or death situation to make us desperate.

Desperation comes when we see no way out of a place in life where we do not want to be. Desperation does not want to be put on hold. It isn’t satisfied with, “You’ll need to wait your turn.”

When we come into a busy ER with pain and bleeding, we don’t want the doctor in charge to say, “Put him over there until we can work him in.” We want to hear the word: “STAT!”

We never want to hear the word “Impossible!”

Yet, sometimes that is precisely the case. We cannot expect miracles. Or can we?

David did.

His enemies may have counted him as already dead. He wrote, “They will say…our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

They may say that, he thought: “But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death” (Psalm 141: 7,8).

The LORD did not.

We think of those surrounded soldiers calling out for help to come quickly. We picture them staring into the sky and fixing their eyes on the approaching helo. They knew it would need to come in hot. We expect they were praying it would not be shot down. They probably had no idea that another team needed to be rescued at the same time.

They just knew the trouble they were in.

We think of the LORD, our God who hears cries for immediate help from countless voices all over the world at the same time. We think of the angels he sends out to guard and keep his people in need. We remember, sometimes their mission is to carry a soul to glory.

We need not worry about how busy the prayer traffic might be. The LORD can be at two places at one time. He is at every place at all times.

He has told us, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

We will remember that the next time we need to call out, “Prairie fire!”



Prayer: Sovereign LORD, we cannot comprehend what it means that you are God. We only know that you can do all things. You have assured us that you watch over us. You promise to help us in our time of need. Help us to understand that this will happen—even if we do not see the angels hovering. Amen.



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

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


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When God says no – August 4, 2019

When God says no – August 4, 2019


Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia….
Acts 16:6,7




Military Devotion – August 4, 2019

Devotion based on Acts 16:6,7

See series: Military Devotions

God says, “No!” more often than we probably realize.

We quickly think of his commands that say no to lying, stealing, cursing, and the rest of his laws. We accept that these are given for our good, as well as to glorify him.

Seldom, however, do we give thought to the way the Lord controls the flow of our lives by other means. Yet, sometimes it can be downright disturbing to realize how little control we actually have over what happens in our lives.

So what if we decide never to have cancer, and never to be in an auto accident, and always to be successful? What power do we have over such things? Very little.

The best plans and efforts are often overridden by forces we cannot control.

This doesn’t mean we have no say in how our life unfolds. We can make all sorts of decisions—and we should. We can even decide to defy God’s laws—and we should not.

Still, despite all the freedom in our decision-making, it remains clear that someone much greater can step in at any time to change our plans and override our decisions.

That someone is the Savior who loves us. As children of the heavenly Father, we even invite this interference when we pray: “Deliver us from evil” and “Thy will be done.”

These petitions are granted even when we are planning to do good. Even then, the answer may be, “No!” We learn this from the life of the apostle Paul.

The command of Jesus to his followers was: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….” Thus, it may strike us as strange that he prevented his faithful apostle from trying to do just that on some occasions, in some places.

The apostle Paul was in modern Turkey, where he had established congregations at places like Galatia and the city of Ephesus. It was only natural for him to expand the work in the nearby places of Asia and Bithynia near the Black Sea. He planned to do that.

But God said, “No!”

Why would that be? We can only guess.

But soon afterward, he used a vision to instead call this missionary across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, where he founded the famous congregations at Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea Athens, and Corinth.

Jesus wasn’t forbidding mission work. He just had a different plan for the spread of the gospel.

That’s the way it is in our lives. Often God has a different plan. Our plans may not be bad ones, but his are always better.

Always.

By looking back over our lives, we probably are able to see how an unexpected turn of events accomplished something good. At the time, we might have felt frustrated or frightened. Only from a distance can we better see how good it was to be guided by heavenly hands.

After all, we must admit that his plan of salvation was perfect, and exactly what we needed. So are all of his plans for us.

Even when he says, “No!”



Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes we pray, “Lead thou on.” It is good for us to do that. It is good for you to lead us. When the things of our lives seem out of our hands, remind us that they are still in yours. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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 by chance – July 28, 2019

Not by chance – July 28, 2019


But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died.
1 Kings 22:34,35




Military Devotion – July 28, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Kings 22:34,35

See series: Military Devotions

The old song laments, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” While the words may cause us to smile, we can relate to them. At times, it seems that luck rules our lives. Survivors from battlefields have observed that there seldom was reasoning behind why one person was wounded, another killed, and still another untouched.

The phrase was, “If the bullet has your name on it ….” Living or dying happens by chance.

It might seem that much of life goes that way. The car accident that didn’t happen because we came five seconds late; the tornado that demolished one house and left the nearby one untouched; the lotteries, won or lost.

If we do not have absolute control over what is going to happen, must we not agree that much of life is left up to chance?

If Ahab, once king of Israel, was still alive, he would be violently shaking his head, “No!”

One of the most wicked kings in Israel’s history, he planned with the king of Judah to attack the king of Aram—a land now called Syria. Judah’s king said they should first check to see if this would have the Lord’s blessing. A group of prophets quickly told the kings what they wanted to hear: “Go, for the Lord will give it into your hand!”

Uncertain, the king of Judah asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”

There was one. His name was Micaiah. Ahab’s reaction was, “But I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”

So Ahab was dismayed, but not surprised, when the faithful prophet of the Lord announced the attack would end in disaster. Then the order was given: “This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.”

Micaiah replied, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.”

This gave Ahab pause, but not enough to stop him. He improvised in an attempt to overcome. He told the king of Judah to ride into the battle wearing his royal robes. He, instead, would enter the battle disguised, figuring he could not be targeted if he was not recognized.

Those on the ground might have been fooled, but not those in heaven. An arrow targeted him as well as any modern guided missile ever could. We are told, “But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor.”

It was a random shot, but not a lucky one. The king was killed not by chance, but by the direct, all-knowing will of his Creator and Judge.

So the will of God rules also over our lives. He will not force us to obey him or to be blessed by him. He gives us the freedom to ignore and despise him. We can turn our back on his offer of love and guidance. We can scoff at his invitation to accept the payment that his Son made for our sin.

But in the end, his will will be done.

He taught us to pray for that. In faith, we entrust our lives into his good and gracious hands.

We do not live by chance.



Prayer: How many times, good and gracious Lord, have you heard us think that life happens by chance? How many times will you need to correct us? How often will we need to be reassured that your rule is over all, and your will for us is that we receive the good that we need? Give us the certainty that the Holy Spirit alone can work. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Saying nothing – July 21, 2019

Saying nothing – July 21, 2019


So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
1 Kings 18:20




Military Devotion – July 21, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Kings 18:20

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes our great mistake is not in saying the wrong thing. It’s in saying nothing.

This was the case when Israelites were asked to say if they would follow the LORD or Baal.

To their shame, they said nothing.

It was a sad state of affairs when Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of Israel, officially sanctioned the heathen god, Baal. Worship of that idol involved ritualistic prostitution and the sacrifice of babies. Strangely, it was appealing to Israel. Defiance of the Lord always is.

It wasn’t a subtle temptation. It was a clear-cut, in-your-face challenge to the worship of the Holy One of Israel. As the prophet Elijah made clear, it presented an either-or decision. Peaceful coexistence of the two was not an option.

Yet, on this day, the people were not willing to immediately make that choice. They weren’t sure which one they should acknowledge as master.

They knew that the priests of Baal were many and powerful. To speak against Baal was to place one’s life at risk. Besides, Baal worship had become commonplace in Israel.

And yet, they knew about the Lord God. The writings of Moses had told them about his power in creation; his judgments against sin; his forbidding the worship of false gods; and his promised blessing for those who loved and served him.

But face-to-face with the forces of Baal, they wilted.

They said nothing.

It pains us to hear of this because we understand them. We know what it is like to be put on the spot by those who flaunt the power of the Lord God. We may not join in their defiance of the Lord of glory, but sometimes we aren’t brave enough to admit we follow him.

It is easier, it is safer, then, to say nothing.

In his mercy, the Lord may allow us to get away with it. He may not strike us dead on the spot. He may give us another chance to show our faith, as he did to these people.

Elijah demanded a showdown. Two bulls were to be killed and placed upon a pile of wood on an altar. To the priests of Baal, he said, “You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

This time the people did say something. They told Elijah, “What you say is good.”

It was good, but not for the Baal worshipers. All day those priests prayed, then cut themselves to demand the idol’s attention. Nothing.

Elijah taunted, “Shout louder! Maybe he is sleeping.” Still nothing.

When evening came, Elijah built an altar for a sacrifice to the Lord, put slaughtered bulls upon it, and poured water over everything—again and again. Then he called upon the Lord to answer his prayer.

The result? “Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”

Now the people were willing to say something more: “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39)

Finally!

We have seen an even greater demonstration of his power, have we not? The Holy Spirit has shown us the Son of God dying for us, rising from the dead, then rising into heaven.

So, what will we do when asked to say if we stand with him or against him?

Surely, we will not say nothing.

Surely we will not say nothing.



Prayer: Great and gracious God, we blush to think of the times when we failed to speak up for you. We know that you do not need us to defend you. Rather, we have the need to admit that we follow you. We need to confess, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” Because it is true. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Hate – July 14, 2019

Hate – July 14, 2019


But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:6




Military Devotion – July 14, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 2:6

See series: Military Devotions

Admiral William F. Halsey told his troops: “Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs.”

Two thousand years earlier, someone else said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43,44).

It may appear that the two commands contrast hate with love. If so, we know that if we must choose, we better side with the One at the highest level in the chain-of-command.

However, a closer look shows that any contradiction is of our own making.

There is a place for hate in the life of a Christian. Jesus hates. He commends some who hate. But he alone “paints the target” for hatred. The crosshairs are to be on the sin. Not the sinner.

We might say it is only natural to hate someone who hates us. Such hatred is energized when that someone is trying to kill us. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” is easier to say than to do. Actually, it is impossible without the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord God both gives the command and provides the example.

We cherish the words, “God so loved the world….” We easily overlook that those who made up the world were his enemies who embraced sin.

We grimace at the thought of sinless Jesus being tortured and executed. Yet his response was, “Father, forgive them!”

So we gladly quote the famous saying, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”

We know that love and forgiveness are characteristic marks of the holy God. But we admit these traits are not natural to us.

Thus, we need forgiveness for the forgiveness we do not offer to others. This we understand. But how does hate fit into all of this?

We note that Jesus commended the Christians at Ephesus for hating—not the Nicolaitans—but what they were doing. That’s a critical difference.

We don’t know much about those Nicolaitans. We assume they were teaching and living contrary to the Word of God. Thus, they were a threat to God’s people.

We understand threats. We know sometimes the threat is to one’s very life, physical or spiritual. We realize such threats must either be avoided or neutralized.

Sometimes, threats must be eliminated by force. Sometimes, the force must be deadly.

Warriors know that. They must train for that. They must plan for that. Emotions become involved. But the emotions must be controlled. That’s part of the training.

Non-combatants may be surprised to learn some veterans of battles-past have returned to meet with former enemies—whom they now respect. Whom they even treat now as friends.

They ask, “You once tried to kill each other, and now you’re shaking hands? How can that be?”

The answer is, the threat is gone. Only the person is left.

Love what God loves, and hate what God hates!

The psalmist said it best: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

It’s as simple as that.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, Jesus said you would guide us into all truth. We surely need that guidance. You are the power from on high. We surely need that power. Enable us to recognize evil of every kind, and fight against it fiercely. Help us to reflect your love even to those who are against us. We pray that our enemies may become our allies in the fight against evil. We pray for peace. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Hidden in my heart – July 7, 2019

Hidden in my heart – July 7, 2019


I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11




Military Devotion – July 7, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 119:11

See series: Military Devotions

Wake up an old Veteran in the middle of the night and ask for his military service number—and don’t be surprised if he rattles it off without hesitation.

If we ask how he can do this, he might reply, “I once learned it by heart.”

He would be right, but he would not be alone. Most people have learned important information by heart. This means that they have stored the information so deeply into their memory bank that it is not flushed out by the flood of all newer information.

We might say it is hidden in their heart.

That’s what this psalmist says about words from the Lord his God. This is something we should be able to say.

The human body is an astounding creation. The best medical minds have still not unraveled all of its mysteries. Each new discovery opens the door to greater wonders. We agree with the psalmist who wrote: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

One of the wonderful features provided for humans is our ability to absorb and store things. We absorb oxygen into our bloodstream from the air we breathe into our lungs. We absorb Vitamin D into our bones from the rays of the sun. And we absorb thoughts from the sights and sounds presented to us.

Some of what we absorb stays with us. If it is something bad, it will hurt us. If good, it will help.

We want to stay away from toxic sources. Some of them will damage our bodies; some, our minds; and still others, our souls.

The psalmist is most concerned about his soul. He knows how easily he can be led astray by the sinful world around him. He knows how attractive sin is; how misleading temptations can be.

He counters these threats by building up his spiritual defenses. He stores up supplies of the words of God for the day when his soul comes under heavy attack.

To the surprise of the Allies, days of constant artillery fire did not destroy the enemy on islands like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The fact that our troops waded ashore unopposed led to false expectations. In vast networks of interconnecting caves, the enemy waited with vast stores of weapons and ammunition.

We deplore the bloody consequences for our troops, but we must admire the tactics. A safely-stored reserve of weapons makes for a strong defense.

In spiritual warfare, as in physical warfare, preparation is vital. Many are the warriors who explained, “My training kicked in!” as reason for survival.

When threatened, we reach deep down inside for strength and direction. Without hesitation, we pull up what has been placed there earlier.

Satan does not fear our feeble attempts to defend ourselves. He scoffs at our determination to remain faithful to our Lord. He knows he can outsmart and outlast us. “On earth is not his equal…”

He trembles, however, before the words of his maker and judge. He flees when the sword of the Spirit is pulled out.

Now is the time for the words of God to be hidden away in our hearts!

Now is the time.



Prayer: God of greatness and glory, our strength is feeble, and our danger is great. We often do not even see the enemy attacking before we are being overrun. Give us strength from within. Place into our hearts your powerful Word of Life. Keep us safe. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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Shed grace – June 30, 2019

Shed grace – June 30, 2019


Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
John 1:16




Military Devotion – June 30, 2019

Devotion based on John 1:16

See series: Military Devotions

In the song about “America the Beautiful,” the words declare: “God shed his grace on thee….”

Truer words have not been spoken.

But they are sometimes misunderstood. Sometimes overlooked. And sometimes forgotten.

Grace means undeserved love. If we skip over “undeserved,” we fall into the dark hole of presumption and arrogance. We find ourselves thinking that America is great because Americans made it that way.

We forget that America is nothing without God and will return to nothing if it forgets God.

There is a current tendency by some to point to America’s past with accusing eyes. Charges are made about the abuse of slavery, mistreatment of Indians, and other white-dominance issues.

We dare not cover up sin. But we also must guard against slander. When we point accusing fingers at others without knowing either the times in which they lived or the motivations of their hearts, we join in with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

We dare not ignore the magnitude of blessing that the Lord God has granted to this nation. We should not dismiss the efforts of our forefathers who worked and sacrificed to make our life better. We are a richly blessed nation.

The rich blessing is the result of shed grace.

The phrase “God shed his grace on thee …” brings to mind an apple tree shedding its fruit. Those who stand under its branches can see the apples drop and eat from its bounty. If it were a pine tree, if the tree were dead, there would be no apple pies.

If the questions are raised, “Where do apple trees come from, and what causes them to bear fruit?” the answer finally leads back to the benevolent Creator who caused plants to come forth from the ground and bear seeds according to their kind.

A tree shedding fruit today testifies to the love of God towards those who live on this planet.

It is a gift of grace.

But it pales in comparison to God’s great gift of grace. “He shed his grace on thee …” takes us back to the event of holy bloodshed.

There could be no grace for America if the undeserved love of the eternal God had not been purchased with the blood of the Son of God.

During the celebration of Holy Communion, we may have heard the older words, “Given for you …” as the body of Christ was given in, with, and under the consecrated bread. As the blood of Christ was offered in, with, and under the consecrated wine, the words were: “Shed for you for the remission of sins….”

This is the picture of divine grace: blood dropping from hands, from feet and from side, onto Judean soil.

Holy bloodshed.

Sin paid for.

Undeserved love.

The Lord of the nations shed his blood in a far-off land in the Middle East. The blessing it bought flowed out to all nations—even to the undeserving land of America.

Even to us.

Out of the fullness of God’s mercy we have received grace upon grace.

Those who sing the words of “America the Beautiful” today need to join in with those before us who have sung:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.
(Christian Worship: 334)





Written by Pastor 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 tie that binds – June 23, 2019

The tie that binds – June 23, 2019


Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3




Military Devotion – June 23, 2019

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:3

See series: Military Devotions

Basic training, field exercises, and actual combat build unity. Bands of brothers grow from such things. The bond of war is strong.

This is true not only for humans who wage war against each other. It applies, as well, to those who war against God. And of such, there are many.

They may be divided by nationalities and politics, by economic levels and languages. But they quickly unite when they have a chance to challenge the holy One and defy his laws.

How foolish! How tragic.

To those who would fight against him, the warning is given: “Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!” (Isaiah 2:10). The holy God can easily destroy any who oppose him. He has done this to kings, to armies, to nations—and to legions of rebellious angels.

There is no chance of hiding from him. The only hope lies in his mercy.

That’s why the most important news of all time is God’s Christmas declaration to the human race: Your warfare is over!

We are not talking about a negotiated peace; a truce between antagonists; an armistice. This is the unilateral declaration of peace by the only one who can make it happen. This bond of peace has been established by heaven’s Prince of Peace.

The bond of war is strong. The bond of peace is stronger.

God’s bond of peace is woven with strands of red and white—of blood and purity. The holy blood of Jesus bought us this peace. It’s the peace that transcends all understanding.

Through his prophet he invites: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to accept that offer. By Word and sacrament, he creates and sustains the faith that grabs hold of the lifeline thrown to us from heaven.

The Holy Spirit ties us to our Savior God with the blood-bought bond of peace. With the same bond, he ties together those who share that life-giving faith.

The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians of the unity that was theirs. They had, “…one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

That’s some unity! It’s the same unity that we possess.

Satan wants us to forget this. He points at the differences among us. We don’t always think the same. We don’t have the same personalities and backgrounds. We don’t always agree on issues.

The Holy Spirit would remind us that differences are not bad if they are not displeasing to the Lord. He made each one of us different so that we can complement each other. One person is strong in an area where another one is not. This makes a team stronger. It makes a family stronger.

And we are the family of God.

About us, we are told, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

The bond of war is strong. The bond of peace is stronger.

We agree with those who have sung the words before us:

“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.”
(Christian Worship 494:1-3)

We make those words our own.





Written by Pastor 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 strong weakness – June 16, 2019

The strong weakness – June 16, 2019


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10




Military Devotion – June 16, 2019

Devotion based on 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

See series: Military Devotions

Our God has a way of turning our assumptions on their heads. If we assume there are three Gods because we are told of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he corrects us: Only one God.

If we assume the only way to get to heaven is by leading a good life, he corrects us: Not by works, but by faith.

If we assume that weakness and strength are opposites, he educates us: Weakness can be strength.

The apostle Paul learned this to be true in his life. God now uses him to explain it to us with the words, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He wasn’t talking about muscle-building! It’s about faith-building. Much more important!

The account of the ministry of Saint Paul is sprinkled heavily with failures, dangers, and disasters. Already when he was first called into service, the Lord had said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Wouldn’t make for a good recruiting poster, but it was accurate.

In this second letter to the Corinthian congregation, he answered those who considered him second-rate compared to some so-called super pastors. He told about the time when he, somehow, was given a view of heaven. So he would not become conceited over this, he explained, he was then given what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”

Perhaps this thorn was weak eyesight. Maybe it was some disease or a condition like epilepsy. Whatever, it humbled him. It reminded him of how dependent he was upon his Creator and Redeemer. It drove him to his knees.

It led him to his Strength.

The pattern was set by Jesus. Crowds were impressed by the power of his miracles. Who wouldn’t be? But the show of his power was not going to defeat the powers of darkness. Raising some dead bodies to live again for a while on this earth would not bring about the resurrection to life eternal in glory for us.

To accomplish his mission, Jesus would need to submit to weakness.

He had to undergo disrespect and shame. He would have to submit to torture. He would become so weak that someone else would need to finally carry his cross.

He didn’t enjoy that. In feverish prayer he begged his Father for another way to rescue mankind. There was none. Instead, angels were sent to strengthen him to endure the weakness. He didn’t argue. Instead, he said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The apostle Paul responded with the same attitude when his request was denied for that thorn in the flesh to be removed.

So it should be with us.

Life is not going to be without frustration and failure. Pain is going to be part of it. We will not be able to overcome every obstacle. At times we will feel weak—because we are weak.

But our God is not.

He uses our weakness to give us his strength. We will gain every needed victory.

We will overcome death.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is hard for us to admit our weaknesses. We would rather build ourselves up to make ourselves strong. We would rather fix our problems ourselves instead of being dependent upon anyone else—including you. Keep us from such foolishness. Use our weakness to make us strong. Amen.



Written by Pastor 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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