Military Devotions

Just words – July 25, 2021

Just words – July 25, 2021


Father, forgive them.
Luke 23:34




Military Devotion – July 25, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 23:34

See series: Military Devotions

We were taught the words when we were very young. Grownups asked, “What do you say?” We replied, “Please.” Again, they asked, “What do you say?” Then, we answered, “Thank you.” They were teaching us. We also learned when to say, “I’m sorry.”

They were like magic words. “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry” opened the doors to approval and acceptance. Say those words, and life goes smoother.

After a while, we discovered that we did not necessarily need to mean the words. We just had to say them the right way. Not through gritted teeth. Not as a sneer. Not in anger.

But with politeness, as if we were speaking from our hearts, even though they came only from our mouth.

As we grew older, we found this empty-hearted method also worked with the serious words, such as, “I forgive you.” or “I love you.”

At times we meant those powerful words. But sometimes, they became counterfeit words, empty words, lying words. There was no truth behind those words.

They were just words.

Such words are not God-words.

His words may have come from his mouth, but they have always sprung from his heart.

God’s words are not always polite. They may expose our emptiness and selfishness. They may call us “Liar!” or “Hypocrite!” They may hurt our feelings. But they always accurately express his feelings.

His words are always true. His words are backed up with actions.

Of the forbidden tree in Eden, he said, “when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). To murderous Cain, he said, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Genesis 4:11). To an overconfident Peter he said, “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times” (Mark 14:30).

Which of these words did he not mean? Which warning was not carried out?

They were not just words.

To the Israeli slaves in Egypt, he said, “I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob” (Exodus 6:8). To fisherman Peter and his brother, Andrew, he said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). To the hostile crowd, he said, “After three days I will rise again” (Matthew 27:63).

Which of these words did he not mean? Which promise was not carried out?

They were not just words, were they?

They never are.

When the Savior God tells us, “I forgive you,” there is truth behind those words because there is blood behind those words.

Blood was dripping from his hands and feet when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The prayer fits every member of the human race. The ones who were carrying out his execution, those who said, “His blood be upon us and our children,” they had no idea of the depth of the crime against heaven they were committing. So little do we know of the seriousness of our sin—any sin.

“Father, forgive them!” is his continuing prayer for us.

Those words have meaning. They have power. They give forgiveness.

They are more than just words.



Prayer: Lord God, your Bible contains the most important words for our life. In its pages, we learn of the judgment against us. In its pages, we learn of the judgment for us. Lead us to listen to your words. They show us our sin. Then they show us our Savior. They offer salvation. For this, we thank you. Amen.



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

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


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Jesus wasn’t worried – July 18, 2021

Jesus wasn’t worried – July 18, 2021


A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Mark 4:37,38




Military Devotion – July 18, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 4:37,38

See series: Military Devotions

It was a traumatic event. Lives were in peril on the sea—on the Sea of Galilee.

Some in the boat were experienced seamen. They knew when it was time to be afraid. They felt, “That time is now!”

It was a squall, a furious squall. It wasn’t a hurricane. But for the occupants of that boat, it might just as well have been. They were facing death.

Probably, some were straining at oars to keep the prow into the wind. Others were, no doubt, frantically bailing to keep the boat from sinking. It was an “All hands on deck!” time.

But not everyone aboard was fighting to survive. One was sleeping. They woke him up with the rebuke. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Of course, he did. He was in the same boat with them. But there was a major difference.

Jesus wasn’t worried.

That’s the difference between the Lord of life and those who look to him for help.

Jesus never worries.

That doesn’t mean he is never troubled. As a true human, he shared our emotions. As true God, he could see dangers hidden from us. He could read hearts. What he saw there is what often troubled him.

He was troubled when he saw Mary weeping over the death of her brother, Lazarus. (John 11:33)

He was troubled when he told his disciples, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:21).

He was troubled when he poured out his heart to his heavenly Father while in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But he wasn’t worried.

We hear him say, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

He was troubled by seeing the damage that sin was causing his creation—especially the pain that was searing human hearts.

A furious squall was not troubling. Weather posed no threat—not to the son of God.

But what about those in that boat who did not have divine powers? Were they not at the mercy of the storm?

No.

They were at the mercy of God.

Just as we always are.

Like those disciples, usually, we don’t see Jesus doing anything to protect us. We don’t see the angel squads he deploys. We don’t see how often he blocks demonic attacks. We don’t see the holy blood that covers our sins.

We do not see this because we cannot yet see beyond the boundaries of time and space.

Would that storm have stopped if Jesus had remained asleep? It surely could have. His human side might have been sleeping, but he remained the constant Ruler of all things great and small.

The command, “Quiet! Be still!” was for the benefit of the disciples—and us. He showed forth his glory to address human weakness of faith.

Jesus wasn’t worried.

Nor should we be.

Ever.



Prayer:
Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.
(from Christian Worship 415:2)



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

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


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Skipping thanksgiving – July 11, 2021

Skipping thanksgiving – July 11, 2021


Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
Luke 17:17




Military Devotion – July 11, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 17:17

See series: Military Devotions

It appears that America is going to skip thanksgiving.

No, not that day in November which is spelled with a capital “T” and celebrated with turkey and pumpkin pie. But the giving of thanks to the one who has presented a gift.

The gift in question is the rather rapid discovery of vaccines that are effective against Covid-19.

The giver of the gift is God.

Indeed, there have been expressions of appreciation for those who worked on the vaccines. Parades are planned to honor those who risked their health by tending to people who were afflicted.

That is only proper.

But the Ruler of the universe should not be forgotten. He can both bring disease, and he can end it. He once told his people: “I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus15:26).

Infectious diseases have plagued humans for eons. Old Testament Law decreed that a person who broke out with leprosy must leave his family and quarantine himself with other lepers. As the disease progressed, parts of the body, such as fingers and toes, began to drop off. There was no cure. There was only the prospect of a miserable, painful, and lonely life.

One day, as Jesus was walking to a village, a group of lepers called out from a safe distance: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

They must have heard the reports of Jesus performing miraculous healings. They begged for his help.

They did not expect his response. He simply told them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

By Law, that is what a person was to do if the symptoms of leprosy went away. If the priest saw no longer any sign of the disease, he was to pronounce the person free to return to normal life. The quarantine restriction would be lifted.

But these lepers were sent to the priest before they were cured. Their leprosy was still evident as they headed off. They needed to trust that they would be healed before they reached the point of inspection.

They were. We hear: “As they went, they were cleansed.”

We can imagine their joy. We can envision their eagerness to get back to family and friends and a normal life.

In their excitement and relief, we can also understand how some of them neglected to thank the one who had healed them. We understand because we easily do the same.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Those words might make us wince. Sadly, sometimes we are among the “other nine.”

Like them, it isn’t that we don’t trust Jesus. We will go on record to declare that he is our Lord and Savior. We have saving faith.

But sometimes, it is also a forgetful faith, a self-centered faith. Sometimes we act as if we are entitled to special blessings from the Lord God. Sometimes we pout when we don’t get them and become ungrateful when we do.

This is more than a weakness and more serious than a mistake. To forget about thanking him is wrong. That makes it a sin.

Fortunately, he has the remedy for our sin. He has forgiveness.

The warrior king, David, knew this. He invites us to join him in saying, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2,3).

No, we will not skip thanksgiving.



Prayer: Good and gracious are you, O Lord! You have offered us healing. You have shown your mighty hand by enabling not just one vaccine for the virus that has isolated us from others but many of them. Protect us from variants that will survive vaccines. Protect our souls as well as our bodies. Thank you for all your benefits! Amen.



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

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


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Proper pride – July 4, 2021

Proper pride – July 4, 2021


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




Military Devotion – July 4, 2021

Devotion based on Proverbs 14:34

See series: Military Devotions

The 4th of July has often led people to feel, if not to say out loud, “I’m proud to be an American.”

We recognize that many see the day only as an excuse to eat watermelon and watch fireworks. However, those who have worn the uniform, especially those who have worn it in distant and dangerous places, they tend to celebrate Independence Day on a different level. They are more likely to celebrate with pride.

There are people today who question if it is proper to have such pride. They point to the many failures of our nation—both real and imagined. Some seem ashamed of America. Some view its history as a disgrace.

The people of God know that the only accurate picture of America is the one seen through the eyes of God. After all, America is God’s gift to the people who dwell within its borders. The question is, how are Americans using his gift?

The answer is: “It is a mixed report. What is praiseworthy is counter-balanced by the disgraceful.”

King Solomon recognized that to be true for the nation of Israel in his day. His message to us is clear.

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

That would seem too obvious to need mentioning. Yet, many don’t see it that way. Instead, some view sin as a reason for bragging—as something to be proud of.

This is not something new. About those flaunting their sinful lifestyle in his day, Jeremiah asked: “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?”

He answered his own question: “No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15).

But sin is shameful. Pride over sin is simply sinful pride.

America needs to be ashamed of sin. To the extent it is not, it is disgraceful.

Since it is easy to point to sins that stain America’s fabric, one might wonder if there is anything we can be proud of.

Of course, there is! When we point to sin, we focus on what Satan has sponsored. But there is more to the American story. We can focus upon what God has accomplished.

There was a reason why German soldiers tried to reach the western edges of Berlin during the last days of WWII. They wanted to surrender to the Americans, not the Russians. Americans were the good guys. Few POWs survived Russian captivity.

America has done many things right. It has stood on the side of righteousness again and again. History is filled with such reports. It is right to be proud of that.

But we would be mistaken if we decided to be proud of ourselves. When we talk about doing what is right, standing for righteousness, we always are pointing to what God has accomplished.

America may have been his instrument, but the glory belongs to him alone.

To the Christian, this is no surprise. Accomplishing righteousness for sinners is the way God rescued us from slavery to Satan. That’s a freedom we celebrate every day.

On this Independence Day we can declare: “Anything great about America, anything good about America, is reason for us to thank the Lord God and glorify his name. We are proud of what he has done for us and through us.”

This is proper pride.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have kept your protecting arm over our nation for almost 250 years. You have blessed America by making her a blessing to many. Use us in this work. Continue to give us the privilege of serving you by serving our nation. We are proud to be your servants. Amen.



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

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


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No luck – June 27, 2021

No luck – June 27, 2021


I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.
Isaiah 42:8




Military Devotion – June 27, 2021

Devotion based on Isaiah 42:8

See series: Military Devotions

The old song says, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all.”

Hard-faced reality says, “Actually, you do have no luck at all. Never did. Never will. There is no such thing as ‘luck.'”

To put faith in luck is to put faith in an idol.

But before we go around leveling idolatry charges against people, we need to clarify the possible meanings of the word “luck.”

After a hole-in-one, we might say, “That was a lucky shot.” What we mean is, “That was unexpected and not likely to be repeated.” After a fishing trip, a person might ask, “Have any luck?” He probably means, “Have any success?”

But sometimes, luck is being counted on or hoped for as a means to achieve success or prevent bad things from happening.

Trusting in luck is putting faith in a fake god.

It happens easy enough and often enough to make this a common spiritual crime.

We may have fallen into that habit. We surely have seen it happen with people around us.

We could probably come up with a long list of items that have been used as lucky charms. They can range from a rabbit’s foot to a certain coin, to a special rubber band.

It isn’t that we doubt the care and protection of the holy God; it’s just that it makes us feel better to have that “lucky” thing with us.

But when we boil it down to basics, we are telling ourselves that it is not enough to have the power of the Almighty and his angels watching out for us. We need extra protection.

The heathen people who lived around the Old Testament and early Christian believers would have understood this. In fact, that’s what they wanted from the believers. That’s the way they accepted the presence of God.

They trusted in the gods of rivers and trees, the gods of the clouds and the stars. If believers wanted to worship Jehovah as god, they had no problem with that. They would join them.

But to worship Jehovah as God, as the only God—that they would challenge. If there is only one God, that would mean their faith in their idols is wrong, is worthless.

In this, they were correct.

Even idols made of gold and jewels cannot see, cannot speak, and cannot save.

What can a golden calf or a lucky coin do about the guilt of sin? What can any earthly item do to appease the anger of the Holy God? What does luck have to do with escaping from the decree, “The wages of sin is death”?

The holy Lord God does not need a helper to protect us. He accepts no one and no thing to stand next to him in power and glory.

In his Son Jesus, who conquered sin, death, and the devil, there you have the answer. No one else! Nothing else. The Bible declares, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts:4:12).

He who can save us from the wages of sin can save us from the sniper—if that is his will. It comes down to a matter of trusting that he knows what is best for us and will bring that about.

It takes faith to mean it when we say, “Thy will be done.”

The order from on high is: “Fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

There is no need for luck. No place for it in our lives.



Prayer: Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you alone have the power to rescue me from any danger to body or soul. Empower me to boldly believe that as I place my life into your hands. Amen.



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

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


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Only a breath – June 20, 2021

Only a breath – June 20, 2021


Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath.
Job 7:7




Military Devotion – June 20, 2021

Devotion based on Job 7:7

See series: Military Devotions

One would think that we are made of stronger stuff; that our existence is more secure. We are born small and weak. But we grow and become strong. Good food and exercise produce results.

We are more than physical bodies. We have built up our minds. We sat through classes and read books. We have certificates to prove it.

In addition, we have built up relationships. We have family and friends who stand by to support us and pick us up when we fall. We can count on them. They have our back.

On top of all of this, we may have built up some financial strength. Maybe we have some savings. If nothing else, we have those credit cards. They can help in a pinch.

It’s a good feeling to have some certainty in life. We can say, “Life is good!” “Things are finally going my way!”

Until they are not.

Job from the Old Testament can teach us about such things. He was not foolish enough to think his wealth and his family were the results of his own doing. He knew these were blessings from the holy God. He taught this to his children. He would have gladly sung the hymn, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

His stockpile of blessings was great. Then it wasn’t. In a flash, he lost his crops, lost his herds, lost his wealth—and lost his children. Then, he lost his health.

The question is, “Would he lose his faith?”

Satan was counting on that. He had picked Job as a special target. He placed him in the crosshairs.

The apostle Peter reminds us that we are not much different from Job. We might compare Satan to an enemy sniper. We don’t see him. But he is out there, and he is deadly.

Instead of a sniper, Peter uses a picture that people of all times can relate to: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

It may be easy to pray and hope and believe when things are going well. When life turns against us, we tend to turn against the One who has final control over our life. We are tempted to turn against God.

Job was close to doing that when he called out in pain. He went on to say, “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11).

His words, “Remember, O God…” were tinged with the shadow of a rebuke.

Rebuke God? Dare to correct the Holy One? That would make Satan smile. That would put Job into Satan’s kill zone.

Happily, Job pulled back. He told his accusing friends, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15).

Trust in the Almighty was still alive. Doubt might have attacked, but faith fought back. He could go on to declare: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

Job was the loving child of God, pouring out his heart to his Creator and Redeemer. He did not hide his confusion or his questions. He came with trust, though in weakness.

He might have used the words we sometimes sing, “Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” (Christian Worship 397:3)

We understand Job. We agree with Job.



Prayer: Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath. Amen.



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

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


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Changes – June 13, 2021

Changes – June 13, 2021


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8




Military Devotion – June 13, 2021

Devotion based on Hebrews 13:8

See series: Military Devotions

The year was 1970. The place was Norfolk, VA. He was a sailor with a young family. His face brightened as he talked about his plans for retirement.

He would use the training the Navy had given him and return to his hometown to open a TV repair shop.

Years later, the day after his retirement ceremony, he went right back through the same gate he had used for years, to basically the same job as before. But now, as a civilian contractor.

He never did leave Norfolk.

What happened? What about that dream to return to the small town in Wisconsin?

He discovered the hometown had changed. Many friends and family were gone. No one was having TV sets repaired any longer. They just replaced them.

The world had changed. His dream changed with it.

What could he do but shrug his shoulders and say, “That’s the way it goes”?

It does go that way in our lives. Changes are a part of life—and that’s not all bad.

Already at creation, the Lord God built changes into human lives. Days changed to nights. One season followed another. Changes make life interesting. We welcome such changes.

But some changes are not welcome. We want to stay healthy, not become sick. We don’t want to move to a place we dislike. We don’t want accident or disease to radically change our life.

We want to be able to hold onto the good times and the good things. We want those near and dear to us always to stay near—to always stay dear.

But changes come. We move on. We move away. We lose dear ones. Sometimes people we treasured are still near, but sadly, they are no longer dear to us.

They have changed. Or maybe we have changed. Surely, our world has changed.

The words of the hymn come to mind, “Change and decay in all around I see.”

The older we grow, the more unwanted changes we tend to see.

If there is going to be stability in our life, if we are going to make plans for the critical times of our life, we will need to know what will not change.

We need solid ground to stand upon when everything seems to be swirling around us.

We need the Lord God. We need the Rock of our salvation.

We don’t know what will happen by the time we wake up tomorrow. We don’t know if war will break out or if another plague will strike our planet.

But Jesus does.

Better yet, we know that we can count upon him just as the disciples did.

We can count on him to remain the same teacher and protector that he always was. He will always be our friend.

He will always be our Savior. His death guarantees that payment for our sin is completed.

When our years of service here on earth are finished, he will lead us to our heavenly retirement home.

What a retirement!

It’s not too early to plan for that. Not too early to already start thanking him for that.



Prayer: Lord Jesus; we have sung the words, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Keep, then, our faith and our life always centered on you. Amen.



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

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


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D-Days – June 6, 2021

D-Days – June 6, 2021


This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24




Military Devotion – June 6, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 118:24

See series: Military Devotions

June 6 always brings to memory the Allied invasion upon the shores of Normandy in 1944. But there were many D-days in WWII. It was a common designation for a major planned attack—and there were many such attacks.

But the attack on that French coast was of special importance, and we should not diminish its value. It did not end the war, but it signaled the beginning of the end.

Sadly, the day also marked the end of many human lives.

A song that became popular after WWI carried the title, “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But those same people walked into the Great Depression and another World War. It makes the phrase “happy days” seem a bit empty for them.

Sometimes, it may also seem that way to us when we consider the words, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

When do these words apply? At graduations? At weddings? On days of promotions and awards? Maybe at the birth of a child. Perhaps returning from deployment.

Probably so. The Lord has made that day for us. He led us to that day. We thank him for such a day.

But has he not also made the day on which everything went wrong? The day on which we failed to get what we had desperately hoped for? Did not the Lord God make the worst day of our life? Will he not make the day of our death?

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Do those bad and sad days make a mockery of the invitation to “be glad in it”?

Or does the reminder that the Lord has made such days make enduring them possible?

We think of the soldier who looked down at Utah Beach as the sun was setting on that June day. What might he have thought about that day? What might he have felt?

He certainly would have been thankful that he survived, grateful that the landing was a success. But he knew the cost of the success. Medics and corpsmen were still hard at work. Bodies were still floating on the water. The war was not over. Tomorrow would bring more fighting.

Could he agree with the psalmist, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”? Would he join in with those words?

Only if he trusted in the Lord with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind.

One need not have been in a bloody battle to have emotions twisted and torn at times. One need not have endured the worst day to become irritated when someone else says “Cheer up!”

The last thing we need when in misery is for someone to tell us that things aren’t that bad.

“Easy to say!” we think, “But you don’t know what you are talking about!”

But the One talking to us in this psalm does know. This is the Lord God! We cannot imagine the pain and misery he has gone through. Yet he knows exactly what we are going through.

And he has promised to carry us through.

The apostle Paul makes the bold statement: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings…” (Romans 5:3).

The only way that could be is if we knew for certain that everything will turn out well in the end—our D-days will lead to total victory.

They will, of course, because of the victory won on Golgotha. Good Friday was the very greatest D-Day of all time.

And we know how that ended.

Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we know you have overcome the world. We know that you have given us the victory. Be with us in our days of struggles. Keep us from despair. Remind us that you are the Commander of each day that you lead us into. Lead us, we pray, through the worst of them—just as you promised. Amen.



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

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


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Remembering loss – May 31, 2021

Remembering loss – May 31, 2021


Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm.
Deuteronomy 11:2




Military Devotion – May 31, 2021

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 11:2

See series: Military Devotions

It is not a day to celebrate—the one they call Memorial Day.

It is a day for remembering.

It is a day for remembering loss.

Picnics and parks do not fit as well into the day as do gravestones and flags.

It is a day for remembering loss.

The young do not understand the day. We must teach them.

Those who have never trained for war, those who have never fought in war, they do not understand war. Do not understand the cost.

Those who have paid the price of freedom must instruct those who have only enjoyed the pleasure of freedom.

Otherwise, freedom may be lost.

Those who have sweated and fought and killed on foreign shores to protect those who lived in comfort with home-cooked meals need not be reminded to remember loss.

They live with those memories.

Many of them wonder why their body does not lie in a grave marked by an American flag on this Memorial Day.

Some feel guilty that it does not.

The Christian warrior understands the reason for being spared. That warrior knows that survival is not due to superior skill or weapons.

Life and death lie in the hands of God Almighty.

It is something to remember on Memorial Day.

Deliverance came from the good God not from good luck.

That is a sobering thought. It is a somber truth.

It is something to remember. It is something to be shared.

Life itself, much less a life lived in freedom, is not our inalienable right.

It is an undeserved gift from the gracious God.

This is something to remember. Something to teach others.

Ancient Israel was to remember to teach this to its children.

The march to the Promised Land took over forty years to complete. People who were children when crossing the Red Sea became the parents or grandparents of those born in the land of Israel.

Those who survived the plagues and the poisonous snakes, they had experienced the discipline of the Lord. Those who stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, they saw his majesty. Those who first ate the manna, who saw enemy attacks fail, they saw him deliver with his mighty hand, his outstretched arm.”

They remembered how the Lord delivered Israel. They were to teach the next generation.

Those who remember how the Lord delivered America are to teach the next generation.

We do remember loss on this day. But mostly, we remember what America has gained and the final deliverance already won.

To God alone the glory!



Prayer: Lord of the nations and God of our salvation, it pains us to think of those who lost lives and loved ones in defense of our nation. Memorial Day reminds us of the cost of our national freedom. But it also underscores that it is your mighty hand that has been the power behind our human efforts. We beg for your continued presence in our midst and thank you for the victory you have already given us over sin, death, and the devil. Amen.



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

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


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Breakout – May 23, 2021

Breakout – May 23, 2021


“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
Joel 2:28




Military Devotion – May 23, 2021

Devotion based on Joel 2:28

See series: Military Devotions

The day must come when an isolated, embattled, surrounded group of warriors must execute a breakout. It will not survive if it does not.

A breakout requires careful planning, solid leadership, good timing, and sufficient firepower to be successful.

The band of believers that made up the early Christian church had all of these.

The breakout occurred shortly after Jesus transferred to heaven. His followers felt isolated.

They were embattled. Jewish and Roman authorities had killed their leader. The leaders of the Christians fled to hide behind locked doors. They saw enemies in every direction.

Yet, the breakout of the believers had been planned far in advance. Centuries before Jesus appeared on the scene, the prophet Joel foretold how it would happen.

Jesus had trained leaders for some three years. Twelve of them were ready to step forward. Simon Peter took point.

And firepower? There was no equal.

The timing was perfect. The chosen day was a holiday familiar to God’s people. Moses called it Pentecost. From now on, that name would take on a super-charged new meaning.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2-4).

The breakout came with a violent wind. Fire seemed to spread into a flame over each disciple’s head. The barrier of foreign languages was breached. Everyone from everywhere could understand them.

The firepower of God the Holy Spirit blew through the barriers to saving faith.

There had never been a firefight like this. The old guard of traditional Judaism, which had discarded the living energy of the living God in favor of dead formalism, could not stand up to the attack.

The feeble framework of the old Roman paganism built over the grave of Greek mythology melted before the firestorm of the Lord of armies—the Rescuer of the human race.

The point of the spear was aimed at the heart of the enemy’s stronghold position: rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as a fraud and a failure.

The opening salvo carried the charge: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

The missile hit its mark: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v.37)

The follow-up came quickly: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (v.38)

Peace was offered, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (v.39).

Victory was won: “about three thousand were added to their number that day” (v.41).

On that Pentecost Day, peace with God broke out. It marches on even to this day.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, you came with power and blessing upon the early Christian church. You overpowered the enemies of faith and hope. You allow us to be part of the victory march. We thank you. Amen.



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

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


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Eyewitnesses – May 16, 2021

Eyewitnesses – May 16, 2021


After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Acts 1:9




Military Devotion – May 16, 2021

Devotion based on Acts 1:9

See series: Military Devotions

The One who holds the stars in space and watches over fish in the deep does nothing without a purpose.

Sometimes, we wonder why he does some of the things in certain ways. Sometimes, we don’t even notice what he is doing.

Questions come to our mind about the appearances of Jesus after Easter. We might wonder why he did not suddenly appear before the Jewish leaders who had denounced him.

Would it not have been a shock for Pilate to see Jesus appear before him to say, “Why didn’t you listen to your wife?” We wonder how the policies of the Roman government might have changed if their own governor reported that Jesus of Nazareth was able to overcome death?

We do learn that Jesus did appear to many following his resurrection. But he did so only to those who had already believed he had come from God as the Messiah.

We wonder why.

We learn that he had not come to earth merely to impress humans, surely not to entertain them. He was careful where and how he worked his miracles. There was a purpose behind his every action.

The apostle John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“We have seen his glory…”

The apostle Peter makes the same claim. “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

“We were eyewitnesses…”

The very early followers of Jesus did not have the New Testament to refer to. The news of life in Jesus spread by word of mouth.

But some mouths carried false rumors. Purposely misleading stories began when the soldiers were bribed to say that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. He did not rise from the dead.

If Jesus was not there to correct them, enemies could lie about what Jesus said and did.

Eyewitnesses, however, changed things.

These were people who had heard the angels and seen the empty grave. Two others had talked and walked with him on the way to Emmaus. His disciples had watched him eat and drink. They observed Thomas placing his finger into holes in the hands and side of the resurrected Jesus.

They were eyewitnesses of his victory over death.

Then, they watched him as he ascended.

To the question, “Whatever happened to Jesus of Nazareth?” they could answer: “We saw him leave for heaven.”

Jesus did not need to spend time to travel over the distance from the earth to heaven. In a flash, he would be back home.

But he didn’t leave the earth in a blink of an eye. He slowly lifted off from this planet so that everyone present could see him do that with their own eyes. Had a satellite been circling the earth at that time, it could have recorded his ascension until the moment when he shifted into something far greater than warp drive.

He had told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

They promptly began to spread the word. Some of them were inspired by Holy Spirit to write down what they saw. Even now, we can read their words in the book we call the Bible.

Eyewitnesses saw the life, death, resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus.

By the work of the Holy Spirit, we can now see what they saw then.

We do so in great wonder.



Prayer: Ascended Savior, through the inspired words of the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Saint John, we can see you show forth your glory upon the earth. The sight of your ascension lifts our eyes and our thoughts beyond the edge of this universe. Keep us in your sight until we can see you with our own eyes. Amen.



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

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


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A mother’s pain – May 9, 2021

A mother’s pain – May 9, 2021


Through the window peered Sisera’s mother; behind the lattice she cried out, “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?”
Judges 5:28




Military Devotion – May 9, 2021

Devotion based on Judges 5:28

See series: Military Devotions

“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Genesis 2:30). It was a special name for a special person.

Without her, the human race would have consisted of a grand total of one. She was essential to God’s perfect plan of creation.

God knew what he was doing when he made women the bearers of children. He bestowed a special blessing upon the human race when he established a role that set women apart from men.

A father cannot replace a mother, so matter how hard he tries—no matter how much modern thinking tries to blur the lines between the two.

Changes in technology may have changed the opportunities for women to have a productive life outside of the home. But they can never change the special place women have in the home.

A mother sees her children with more than her eyes. She watches with her heart.

Sometimes, that heart breaks with pain.

Some might say that Sisera was a person only his mother could love. We surely would not look upon him favorably, nor did the Israelites of his day.

Sisera was a Canaanite army commander. His 900 iron chariots struck terror into the hearts of God’s people. It was at a time marked by confusion and dismay. The refrain in the book of Judges is: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). No wonder there was confusion and dismay.

It was left to a woman to be the military leader of Israel. Her name was Deborah. She and another woman by the name of Jael caused the pain in the heart of Sisera’s mother.

As thousands of mothers before her must have done, and thousands upon thousands of mothers have done since then, she was anxiously waiting for her son to return from war.

She waited in vain.

The writer of the book of Judges pictures the scene for us as she waited. She looks through the window—but does not see him. She waits to hear the clatter of his returning chariot—but does not hear it.

She never will.

Her son lies lifeless among the enemy. His army was being defeated. He ran for his life. He found a woman who offered to hide him in safety.

Then, she drove a peg through his temple while he was sleeping (Judges 4:17ff).

His mother must have felt the peg was driven through her heart.

The Lord God told rebellious Eve that one consequence of sin would be the pain of childbirth. It remains to this day.

The Lord God told faithful Mary that her son would be the Savior of the world. It was a message of joy that stands to this day.

There has never been a child that did not bring pain to its mother.

There is no person, except Jesus, who does not need to regret a mother’s pain.

There is no person, except Jesus, who does not need to request forgiveness for causing her pain.

There is no person, because of Jesus, the Son of a woman, who does not have those sins paid for.

That should fill any mother’s heart with joy.

Mother’s Day is a prime time to thank our God for mothers—especially our own.

Is it not?



Prayer: Creator of all and Rescuer of mankind, remind me of the blessings you have given to me through my mother. Lead me to honor you by honoring her. Amen.



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

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


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Yesterday’s Shadow – May 2, 2021

Yesterday’s Shadow – May 2, 2021


Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Isaiah 2:5




Military Devotion – May 2, 2021

Devotion based on Isaiah 2:5

See series: Military Devotions

Too often, I find myself walking in yesterday’s shadow.

“God is light,” we are told, “and in him there is no darkness at all.”

Why, then, do I so often find myself living in a shadow?

I know what causes the shadow. The darkness comes when I step off from God’s path. Doubt, dread, and shame dim the brightness that comes from the Holy One.

So does fear.

Sometimes, I find fear when I find myself walking near the valley of the shadow of death. I should fear no evil. But I do.

I find I cannot leave yesterday behind. Its shadow follows me into the night. It is there when I awake to the new day.

I cannot just forget the past and move on. I feel I must fix the past. But I cannot undo what has been done. I cannot go back in time and make things right. I cannot turn darkness into day.

The new day may not dawn as dark as the old. But if even a shadow of it remains, my soul feels the weight.

King David knew what that was like, and he knew who was applying the pressure. He wrote: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:4).

So, God had applied pressure upon David. Is God the one who causes the darkness? Is he the one who removes my joy? Is this how he punishes me?

No.

He comes to scatter the darkness. He comes to heal, not to hurt.

But healing can be painful.

King David had lived for a long time in a misery of his own making. Adultery and murder had cast long shadows. No matter if his people did not know of his crimes, he knew, and he staggered under the weight of the guilt.

Each yesterday handed off the guilt to the next day. Like the darkness at noon on Good Friday, the sunshine of God’s favor was being blotted out.

Until…

Until he admitted his guilt and turned to God for forgiveness. He wrote, “I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD“—and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

He added this prayer: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).

With guilt gone, there is no barrier to joy.

The psalmist declares: “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)

The answer is, No one! Nothing!

The shadow of doubt and fear must fade in the light of God’s presence.

The path of the child of God is clear now. It is written, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Yesterday’s shadows must always give way to the light of the Lord.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, show us the path of light and life. Call us back when we stumble off of your path. Let us live in the light of your presence. Amen.



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

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


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Why the rage? – April 25, 2021

Why the rage? – April 25, 2021


Why do the nations rage? Why do the peoples grumble in vain? The kings of the earth take a stand, and the rulers join together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us tear off their chains and throw their ropes from us.” The one who is seated in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.
Psalm 2:1-4




Military Devotion – April 25, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 2:1-4

See series: Military Devotions

Clenched fists. Broken windows. Screams of defiance. There is much anger in this world. Some would say there is much to protest against in this world since there is much wrong in this world.

The Christian has to agree that there is much wrong in the world because God has already said that. In fact, his report on the world’s condition is worse than ours. He sees and hears everything. His detection of evil is much more sensitive than ours.

We humans sometimes miss that beneath the anger we so easily express is a deeper irritation over what we consider to be the cause of our anger.

We might gripe against a certain authority in our life and stress over something going wrong in our life, but when we peel away the layers, God is found to be at the bottom of the pile. If he is the ultimate authority, if he has the power to do anything, then he must be the cause of whatever is wrong.

So we might think.

It insults the human ego to be told that the fault is actually with us. God even dares to say that we must obey him. He forbids the worship of other, so-called gods: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5).

Harsh words. Ultimately, the punishment would be eternal death.

It strikes us as strange that when their Creator offers life in glory to people dead in sin and destined for destruction, those people not only reject being rescued but become enraged at the Rescuer.

This is so obvious in the account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth upon this earth. He did not cheat anyone. He did not steal from anyone, He never did or said anything wrong to anyone.

So, how do we explain the vicious attacks against him? Wasn’t it enough that they were having him tortured and killed? Why did they feel the need to mock him as he was dying?

Why the rage against the Lord God and the Savior of sinners?

The answer was given already in the Garden of Eden when the holy God issued his judgment against the prince of evil: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

A state of war was declared on that day between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The battle rages to this day. Enmity is the cause of the rage.

There is nothing that evil can do to prevent God from gaining the victory. In reality, the battle has already been won.

The Son of God lived on earth. He died on earth. And he overcame sin, death, and the devil before he returned to heaven.

All the satanic forces can do is vent their anger against him and attempt to foil his plan to bring more people into his kingdom.

In the end, rage is the only response left. If not before, old age and death will bring the end of all hope in the battle against God.

The poet said it clearly:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

To live with rage and to die with rage is a sad life.

God laughs at the threat of puny humans shaking their fists at him.

Yet, God was willing to sacrifice his Son for the sake of such humans.

Instead of asking, “Why the rage?” we may well ask, “Why the love?”

Why would God love such people? Why would he love us?

It surely is love undeserved.

It is grace.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive our sinful reactions to your offer of grace. Heavenly Father, forget our failures, which are covered by the blood of your Son. Fill us with your love. Amen.



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

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


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Babylon is fallen – April 18, 2021

Babylon is fallen – April 18, 2021


And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen…
Revelation 14:8 KJV




Military Devotion – April 18, 2021

Devotion based on Revelation 14:8 KJV

See series: Military Devotions

There is such a thing as an evil empire. History has shown us that despicable kingdoms can exist, that vicious and heartless powers can rule.

Examples quickly come to mind—those who systematically rounded up Jews for extermination qualify for our list of evil. Then we think of the purges in Russia and China that brought death to so many thousands.

We have seen a sinister type of evil that uses its position to torture others. American POWs have been on the receiving end of that.

We don’t forget that.

Neither could the Jews in the first century forget that the Babylonians had once smashed through their defenses, destroyed the Lord’s temple, slaughtered innocent people—and dragged many off to live out their lives as captives in a foreign land.

We hear the bitterness of those captives in their psalm of lament:
“O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—
he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:8,9).

The bitterness seared Israeli hearts.

Babylon was a world power, seemingly invincible, with its capital a little north of Baghdad. For Israel of old, it represented the embodiment of evil.

Yet, far in advance of its downfall, the prophet, Isaiah, announced, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen!”

It was not a false claim. It was merely given before it absolutely would happen. Babylon fell overnight. The new Persian king freed the captives and let them go home if they wanted to.

It’s no wonder that centuries later, “Babylon” came to symbolize all the enemies of God’s people for all time, with Satan as its head.

No surprise then that the great evil empire’s destruction is announced in advance—just as ancient Babylon’s fall was.

The holy, powerful God has spoken. The angel in the book of Revelation can announce: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen!” The kingdom of evil is fallen. Thus, the Lord God has decreed.

But we don’t see that when we look out through our window on the world. The kingdom of evil seems to show itself alive and well—and growing.

Families are falling apart. Children are being raised without a moral compass. Modern technology has speeded up the spread of falsehood and filth.

The number of people that say there is no God or that God is not relevant is increasing.

Murder is on the rise. Rejection of Christian values is mounting.

God is openly disrespected—even in the land that declares, “In God We Trust.”

Each year it only seems to be getting worse.

Thus, we need to hear the true state of affairs. The announcement from heaven is: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen.”

The death knell of evil was sounded when the Son of God called out, “It is finished!”

When Jesus descended into hell after coming back to life, it was not to endure suffering. It was his victory lap in the arena of the damned. The war had been won. Only mopping up remains.

Warriors know about the dangers during mopping-up actions. The defeated can still kill. Likewise, Christians need to watch out lest they be laid low by Satan’s spiritual IEDs and snipers that aim to kill saving faith.

We have not yet left the battlefield. We have not been told to “Stand down!” Not yet. OPSEC must be maintained. We must stay alert.

But there is no doubt about Babylon, that kingdom of evil.

“Babylon is fallen, is fallen.”

It is fallen indeed!



Prayer: Lord of glory and Savior of mankind, the power of the forces of evil sometimes seems overwhelming. Remind us of the true state of affairs. Point out to us that you have already gained the victory for us, and evil will finally fail. Keep us safe until then. Keep us faithful. Amen.



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

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


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Tidings of joy – April 11, 2021

Tidings of joy – April 11, 2021


While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!
Luke 24:4,5




Military Devotion – April 11, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 24:4,5

See series: Military Devotions

In the excitement of Easter, we must not forget about Mary, the one who was engaged to Joseph and became the mother of Jesus.

Words from an angel startled her with the message that she would have a son, “…and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). She pondered those words.

She again heard of words from angels when she gave birth to that Son. Shepherds reported what they had heard from an angel over the fields of Bethlehem: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).

We sing of Bethlehem on that night, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Hopes and fears marked the life of the young woman who told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

She surely hoped that her son would be great. But fear invaded her life when Herod gave orders to hunt her son down and kill him. Fear again arose when she heard that it was not safe to return to Bethlehem even after Herod died.

Hope must have blossomed as she saw her son grow “…in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Hope must have filled her heart as she saw him ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Then, fear struck with the news that he had been arrested. Confusion and dread flooded in with the word that he would be executed.

She must have wondered, “How can this be?” “How can he die now?”

But it happened. She saw him being crucified with her own eyes. She stood at the foot of the cross with the other women who had come from Galilee until Jesus told John to take care of her as if she was his own mother.

She walked away from the cross to face a dark night of sorrow. Women from Galilee stayed to the end. Then, from a distance, they watched as strangers took down the body and carried it into a tomb.

The dawn of the Sabbath brought no relief.

At the dawn of the next day, the third day, some of those women from Galilee returned to the tomb to finish anointing the body for burial.

They were startled to have an angel tell them, “He is not here; he has risen!”

The words came to Mary as if the floodgates of joy had opened up. Fear was replaced by hope—by hope fulfilled.

“Tidings of joy” are what the Christmas angels announced.

“Tidings of joy” are what the Easter angels announced.

Along with Mary of old, those tidings fill us with joy yet today.

We can call to one another, “The Lord has risen. He is risen indeed!!”



Prayer: God of the living, who brought life to mankind by the resurrection of your Son from the dead, remind us that your promises are always true, and your love never fails. Let our hearts not be overcome by fear. Plant into us an everlasting hope. Let us taste again the Easter joy. Amen.



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

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


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But I shall live – April 4, 2021

But I shall live – April 4, 2021


I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
Psalm 118:17




Military Devotion – April 4, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 118:17

See series: Military Devotions

For me, Easter is very personal. For me, it is a matter of life or death.

I realize that millions of people celebrate that day, and over time, there have been billions of them that did so. I admit that I do not personally know any of the people who have a role in the Easter story. Surely, none of the angels.

But I do know the one who rose from the dead on that day.

Frankly, I’m glad I was not there on Easter morning. For the followers of Jesus, the day dawned dreadful. They had spent the last two days in shock and confusion. A week ago, they were filled with excitement and hope. But then, the unthinkable, the seemingly impossible, happened.

Jesus was arrested. Jesus was sentenced. Jesus was dead.

What now? Where did that leave them?

They had placed their hopes upon him as the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. They trusted him. They believed in him. What now?

They had been moved by his words. “No man has spoken like this!” they said. But history has recorded powerful words of others who now lie in their graves.

He did work miracles, did he not? Or were they fake? Or were the Pharisees right? Did he work miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils?

Was this all a fraud? Were his promises empty? He had said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” But he did not stay alive. He died in weakness, just as billions of people before him.

The famous apostle put it plainly: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (1 Corinthians 15:17).

For me, Easter is a matter of life or death.

I’m glad I was not in Jerusalem on that day. I fear I would have been distraught. I might have been tempted to think maybe Judas had the right idea. Why live if hope has been dashed? If faith has been lost?

But I have an advantage over the disciples and the others. I have the whole story before me. It begins with earth formless and empty, with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters.

It ends with the Spirit of God quoting Jesus, the risen Son of God, telling us, “Behold! I am coming soon!”

He rose from the dead, and he will return to take his people home with him.

The Easter sun evaporated doubt and confusion as the day progressed. More reports came from the empty tomb. Angels have been seen. Witnesses repeated their words to others: “He is not here! He is risen!”

He began to appear to some people: a weeping Mary Magdalene and a confused Peter. Towards evening, two disciples returned from Emmaus excitedly reporting that Jesus had walked with them on the road.

Then suddenly, there he was in the room with them, though the doors were locked.

So, it is true! He does live. He has conquered death. Job was right when he had declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

So was the psalmist right who looked forward in time to see the meaning of Easter: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

So am I when I tell you, “I may die, but I shall live!”

But I shall live.

And you can, too.



Prayer: Risen Savior, you offered your life to pay for our crimes against everything holy. With your resurrection, your Father marked our debt, “Paid in full!” Because you live, we shall live. We shall live with you forever. Don’t let us forget that. Amen.



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

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


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If I should die – April 2, 2021

If I should die – April 2, 2021


Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46




Military Devotion – April 2, 2021

Devotion based on Luke 23:46

See series: Military Devotions

My mother taught me that prayer when I was small. I learned it by listening as she stood by my bed to tuck me in at night. At first, she asked me to repeat each line after her. Then, we began saying it together. It wasn’t long before I could say it all by myself.

I wonder what she thought when she heard me say, “If I should die before I wake.”

I don’t think she expected that would happen. But she had already buried two of her children. She surely gave the phrase more thought than I did. To me, those words touched my reality no more than the saying, “Once upon a time…”

I did not know anyone who had died. My greatest loss was a puppy that was run over by a car. Death was not in my field of vision when I was a young child.

Now, it is.

Death has now invaded my life. I find I cannot keep it out. I cannot drive it out. The words, “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” have sealed my fate.

I cannot keep myself alive forever. I cannot keep my loved ones alive.
I no longer think in terms of, “If I die.” Now, it is “When I die.”

The question has become, “How will I die?”

My answer is: “Just like Jesus.”

Not by crucifixion! I hope not by crucifixion. But whenever and however it happens, I want to return my soul to the One who gave it to me—just like Jesus did.

“If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Maybe Jesus will return on clouds of glory before I leave this earth. Yet, I am not counting on that. I expect my soul will one day leave this body—just like the soul of Jesus left his.

I want to place my soul into the hands of my heavenly Father—just like Jesus did.

I want to rise from the dead—just like Jesus did.

I want to die safe and happy—just like Jesus did.

That’s more than a wish. It’s more certain than a hope. It stands on a promise bought and paid for on a cross.

John, the fisherman, was the only one of the 12 disciples not to be killed for following Jesus. He finished out his years isolated on an island. He had grieved as the other disciples left this earth one by one. The first one to go was his brother, James. What pain that must have caused him!

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote five books of the Bible. This one, The Revelation of Saint John, was unlike any other. Jesus appeared to him from heaven. He commanded John to write down what he was about to reveal. John did.

About halfway through the revelation, John reports: “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on'” (Revelation 14:13 EHV).

Another word for “blessed” is “happy.”

The death of Jesus bought happiness for those who believe in him.

With my soul in the loving hands of my Savior God, I can die happy.

So, can you.

I can still pray, “If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

So, can you.



With an eye toward Golgotha, we ask Jesus:

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well. Amen.
(The Lutheran Hymnal 172:10)



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

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


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Behold Your King – March 28, 2021

Behold Your King – March 28, 2021


Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9




Military Devotion – March 28, 2021

Devotion based on Zechariah 9:9

See series: Military Devotions

The Roman troops deployed to Jerusalem in the province of Judea did not know that this day would be called Palm Sunday.

They were, however, very aware that the festival of the Passover was approaching. They could expect big crowds to jam city streets. Jews from near and far would come to celebrate the time when Israel broke free from Egypt. Overnight, they went from slavery to freedom.

The story was told that the firstborn in every Egyptian household was found dead in the middle of that night. Soon afterward, its mighty army perished in the Red Sea. It was whispered that the people of Israel were protected by a mysterious force. Their history was filled with amazing stories of divine intervention.

But that was all in the past. The Assyrians had decimated these same people, and those in Judea had been taken as captives of war to Babylon. Since they returned, they had no standing army and no king.

Yet, the soldiers knew that violence could break out at any time—especially at a time like this. There was a group called the Zealots that vowed to kill as many Roman soldiers as possible. They were a standing threat.

Now, a new threat put them on high alert. Among the crowd expected to pour into Jerusalem was a rabbi known as Jesus of Nazareth. He had drawn crowds numbering into the thousands at times. Reports of his miracles had spread. It was said that he even raised the dead. Some even claimed he called himself the Son of God.

More disturbing was the rumor that he was the Jewish Messiah. Some expected the coming Messiah to set himself up as a king. He would drive the hated Romans out of the Promised Land.

To the deployed soldiers, that seemed an empty threat. But any insurrection could turn ugly and dangerous—and arouse the displeasure of those in power back in Rome. Careers could be ruined. Blame could easily be thrown around. The consequences could be painful.

Rebellion was not tolerated by Rome. Those who failed to quickly suppress it were not tolerated either. The troops were on edge.

Word spread quickly when Jesus began to make his entrance into Jerusalem ahead of the Passover. Reports came in that huge crowds were cheering him. Worse, he was arriving the way the old Jewish kings had traveled. He was on a young donkey—just as the ancient writing had predicted the king would come.

The crowds called out “Hosanna!” which was high praise. They were laying down cloaks and branches in his path. They were calling him the “Son of David.”

David had been a famous Jewish king. Were they saying that this Jesus had now come to rule as an heir to his throne?

A prophet had written long ago that the day would come when Jerusalem would break out in celebration. That would be the day on which her powerful king rode into the city.

Roman soldiers were inclined to write the prophecy off as foolish. “Behold your king?” What a joke! If the one riding the donkey claimed to be the king of the Jews, they would easily overpower him. They would make him a laughingstock before his own people.

They did do that. But it wasn’t so easy. In fact, it became a bit frightening. The sun stopped shining at noon on the day of his execution. The words he spoke while dying were strange. He was heard calling out to his Father. He asked his Father to forgive those who were killing him. He wasn’t as much killed as he died by giving up his life into his Father’s hands. Hard to forget!

The centurion in charge of the execution detail was heard to cry out, “Surely, this was the Son of God!”

And then, this Jesus came back from the dead! Soldiers had been there when it happened. They were bribed to keep quiet and tell a lie. But the word spread.

“Behold your king!” The ancient message wasn’t just meant for the Jews.

It also meant, “Roman soldier, behold your King!” For he was.

It also means, “American soldier, behold your King!” For he is.

It’s the voice of God calling out, calling out still: “World, behold you King!” For he surely is.



Prayer: Surely he is the Son of God—my King and my Savior. Amen.



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

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


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No! – March 21, 2021

No! – March 22, 2021


O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37




Military Devotion – March 21, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 23:37

See series: Military Devotions

Some parents say the first word their sweet child offered to them was “No!”

It might even have been a determined “No!” made with a vigorous shaking of the head. It mattered little if mom used soothing words to encourage the baby to take just one bite of smashed carrots. It made no difference at all if she first tasted it and said, “Yummy!”

The little one did not care if she said it was good for him. The tyke didn’t even understand what she meant by “good.” He did not know if he did not eat, he would not live.

He just knew that he did not want it. He didn’t like the taste. He was not willing to accept it.

His answer was: “No!”

It reminds us of what Jesus had to say about the people to whom he had come to offer life.

Elsewhere, the Bible’s picture of soaring above our troubles “as on eagles’ wings” offers encouragement. Here, Jesus points to a chicken.

“As a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” Jesus said. It’s a striking picture.

A hen is not as strong as an eagle. There is a reason why a person not willing to take a risk is called “chicken.” But if the hen senses that her chicks are in danger, she calls out the alarm. Her chicks come running. She lifts her wings. The chicks tuck in underneath. She lowers her wings like shields. She becomes brave.

The attacker must go through her to get at her chicks.

In humans, we call that “self-sacrifice.” We consider it a demonstration of great love.

The best example of that is Jesus. Saint John wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus, himself, said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

And what is the typical, the natural, response to his offer?

“No!”

The holy Lord God’s will is that every descendant of Adam and Eve spend eternity safely with him in the new paradise.

Why would anyone not be willing to accept this?

The answer lies deep in the human soul. Ever since becoming infected with sin in Eden, humans see God as the enemy. They are instinctively opposed to him and his ways because they belong to God’s enemy, Satan.

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

Satan told Eve that knowing evil would be something good.

He lied.

Satan tells the world that God is not needed, that happiness can be found without him.

He lies.

Satan announces to the disheartened, “This is all there is. There is no hereafter. There is no judgment. There is no God. There is no hope.”

He lies.

Jesus says to those that will listen to him: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

The truth is, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Haven’t we heard that before?

Don’t we know that to be true?

Isn’t God our Father? Isn’t Jesus our Savior?

Isn’t that why we should run to him in every time of need?

The answer is “Yes!”

Never “No!”



Prayer: Jesus, open your arms to embrace us. Open our hearts to trust you. Draw us to your side. Deliver us from evil. May your will be done. Amen.



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

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


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And look at this – March 14, 2021

And look at this – March 14, 2021


The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
Numbers 21:8,9




Military Devotion – March 14, 2021

Devotion based on Numbers 21:8,9

See series: Military Devotions

If you want to get people’s attention, throw a batch of poisonous snakes among them.

It surely caught the attention of the Israelites. They were marching from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. They had seen the Lord work miracle after miracle to protect them. But they were growing tired. They were growing impatient. They were fed up with God and his ways.

We hear: “…they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

The “miserable food” they spoke of could more rightly be called “miraculous food.” Maybe 1.5 million of them were passing through wilderness areas. How could they feed themselves? They couldn’t. They didn’t. Instead, God provided bread (they called it manna) that appeared on the ground in the morning, and he sent in quail in the evening.

It’s a sad story of not appreciating what God has done. It’s a familiar story. And sometimes, it is our story.

It seems it is only human nature to want something different from what God provides. It is sinful human nature to gripe and complain, to feel we deserve more. Even if God is waiting on us, literally hand and foot, we complain about the service. We surely are not ready to leave him a tip or even a thank you.

Do humans think that God is deaf? Do they expect he will just shrug his shoulders, grin and bear it? If so, they do not know God. People living today need to learn from the past. The history of the nation of Israel presents us with vivid lessons.

We hear: “Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”

The wages of sin is death.

The lesson was learned: “The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.”

The prayer was answered, but not in a manner expected.

Moses was told: “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

That didn’t make sense to human minds. What was needed was antivenom. What good would a look do? What good would the figure of a snake lifted up on a pole do?

The answer? “Only believe, and thou shalt see…”

Over a thousand years later, the Son of God would say, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14,15).

That’s as foolish as thinking that the metal snake on a pole would keep people from dying from snakebite. Isn’t it?

Or is it? What about, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)?

Those who believed while in the wilderness, they lived, did they not?

Those who believe in the Son of Man, they will live, will they not?

Indeed! They will live forever.



Prayer:
Christ, the Life of all the living, Christ, the Death of death, our foe,
Who, thyself for me once giving To the darkest depths of woe—
Through thy sufferings, death and merit, I eternal life inherit.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, Dearest Jesus, unto thee. Amen.
(Christian Worship 114:1)



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

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


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Look at this – March 7, 2021

Look at this – March 7, 2021


And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:8




Military Devotion – March 7, 2021

Devotion based on Philippians 2:8

See series: Military Devotions

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But words can paint pictures, too.

Maybe that’s why the Bible uses so many word pictures. Jesus used parables to explain mysteries of the kingdom of God. The gospel writers painted vivid scenes of the life and death of him as the Savior of the nations. Both Old and New Testament writers were led by the Holy Spirit to pen words that show details of the plan of salvation.

The apostle Paul was not at the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. At that time, he was still called Saul. He became a fierce enemy of those who followed the prophet from Nazareth—until he became a follower and a fierce defender of the faith.

In his letter to the Christians at Philippi, he paints a humble Jesus walking the path to Golgotha where the empty cross waits.

“Look at this!” he tells them, even as he tells us. It’s a picture not to be forgotten.

We have repeatedly looked at the pictures the Bible paints of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. This picture shows details that lie in the background.

We see the significance of Christmas. Jesus looked like a man, talked like a man, and acted like a man because he was a man. When he looked at himself in a mirror, he could see his human form.

But all the while, he was the eternal, omnipotent Son of God. His holy power and glory would naturally show through as it did at the burning bush of Moses—as it did on the Mount of Transfiguration.

He took steps to prevent that. He forbad demons to announce who he was. He was careful with his miracles. He allowed them to give only a glimpse of his glory.

He usually walked through doors, not walls. He grew hungry. He grew tired. He slept.

He was the Lord of glory. But he humbled himself.

Otherwise, the ropes would not have held him, and the nails would not have pierced him. He was God.

So, he humbled himself.

He needed to be able to die.

The apostle writes, “he became obedient to death.”

It was not an easy death. He bled. He suffered.

He obeyed the rules of death. He surrendered his life.

“Look at this!” the apostle shouts to us. “Don’t you see what he did for your sake? Don’t you see he did this willingly?”

“Don’t you see that he loves you?”

“Don’t you see what this means? Don’t you see that your sin is paid for? Don’t you see that the greatest honor in life is to be called someone who follows him? Belongs to him? Will spend eternity with him?”

“Look at this!”

“Don’t you see?”

We do.

Don’t we?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep the picture of your willing sacrifice always before us, lest we forget. Lest Satan repaint the picture. Lest we become distracted by the cares and pleasures of this world. Lest we join those who live in darkness. Lest we lose sight of you. Amen.



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

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


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Wages of sin – February 28, 2021

Wages of sin – February 28, 2021


Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them, and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Leviticus 10:1,2




Military Devotion – February 28, 2021

Devotion based on Leviticus 10:1,2

See series: Military Devotions

The day would never be forgotten by any of them. It began with high excitement and ended with shocking sorrow.

It could have been the best day of Aaron’s life. Instead, it was the day that he saw two of his sons killed.

Killed by God.

We know that the Bible says the wages of sin is death. But death does not usually come so quickly after sin—and not so dramatically.

Aaron had been chosen to be the high priest by the Lord himself. Four of his sons were selected to share the honor of officiating at the worship services of Israel.

On this first day of ministry, Aaron had just slaughtered an ox and ram. He sprinkled their blood against the sides of the altar. He placed pieces of the animals onto the altar. The fat was then burned off. He offered the sacrifice for sins exactly as the Lord God had commanded.

Then, the Almighty himself appeared there in the form of the glory of the Lord. They had seen this pillar of fire leading them across the wilderness. It had been a reassuring sight.

Now, fire shot out from it and burned up the offering still on the altar. We hear, “And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Leviticus 9:24).

They had reason to rejoice. The fire, which might have appeared as lightning, showed that the holy Lord God was with them. He had accepted their sin offering. They could sing, “The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.” They need fear nothing in life or death.

They needed to fear nothing else—except God, himself.

This lesson was taught in a most fearful way.

On that grand and glorious day, fire from the Lord killed Nadab and Abihu.

Their bodies were dragged out while still in their priestly clothes and buried outside of the camp.

Moses then explained to his brother, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'”

And the shocked father? “Aaron remained silent” (Leviticus 10:3).

It wasn’t just the shock of seeing his sons killed that silenced him. He was under orders. The rest of the nation could mourn the death of his boys. But not Aaron, nor his two remaining sons.

“Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community” (Leviticus 10:6).

No form of grieving was allowed him. No hint of disagreement with God’s actions was to be shown.

The Lord God is a just God. On this day, justice was served.

But what was the crime? “They offered unauthorized fire before the LORD.” We don’t even know what that was—except it was “contrary to his command.”

They sinned.

It’s enough to frighten us—and frightened we should be. But frightened away from sin, not from God!

It reminds us of another time when a Father kept silent as his Son was being killed. It also was a time when justice was served. On that dark Friday, the greatest sacrifice of all was made—for us.

We were sentenced to live, not die. We can live because he died.

The way we live is to demonstrate that we fear, love, and trust in him above all things.

It’s true: “The wages of sin is death.” But this is also true: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The hymn reminds us:

If you think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great,
Here you see its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate,
Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load—
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
(Christian Worship 127:3)

We do remember.





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

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


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Just do it – February 21, 2021

Just do it – February 21, 2021


Then the LORD’S anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.
Exodus 4:14,15




Military Devotion – February 21, 2021

Devotion based on Exodus 4:14,15

See series: Military Devotions

We know the slogan. We have seen it on shirts and banners. It’s meant to inspire us. It is intended to make us throw away our excuses. It tells us: “Just do it!”

It’s not a new command. The Lord God could have used that phrase when he called up Moses to active duty.

He had just explained to Moses that he was about to activate his plan to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. His command was clear: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

The command was answered with excuses: “Who am I?” “What if they do not believe me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?’” “I am slow of speech and tongue.”

Finally, Moses simply said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 3:11-4:13).

That’s when the omnipotent God could have shouted at him: “Just do it!” and threatened to strike him down with fire from heaven if he did not.

God was angry. But his anger is always under control. He recognized that Moses was tempted to be a “draft dodger.” He had an answer for that temptation. It is written: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God provided Moses a way out. He provided him with his brother, Aaron—and divine help for both of them.

No more excuses.

But what an amazing solution! The brothers had not seen one another for at least 40 years. They had grown up in different worlds. Moses was raised as royalty. Aaron grew up as a slave. Now, an 80-year-old Moses, stripped of his royalty and scratching out a living as a herder of sheep in a desolate place, is called to do the seemingly impossible. “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Quite a promotion! But it seems like a futile, perhaps suicide, mission.

And his second-in-command is a senior-citizen slave?

And we thought God asked us to carry out tough assignments at times!

Maybe we are still facing some of those tough ones.

An old hymn carries the words, “With the Lord begin thy task.” That’s good advice. It was good for Moses. It’s good for us.

We don’t always get to choose the tasks assigned to us. Sometimes, they come down through a chain-of-command. Sometimes they are doctor’s orders. Sometimes they are responsibilities for loved ones.

It isn’t always easy to be an officer or a parent, or a nation’s protector. Most likely, we come across tasks we do not want to do, and at times, tasks that we feel we cannot do. Sometimes, there are expectations we doubt we can measure up to.

One of the most difficult is living our lives the way God wants us to. Just ask Moses.

Then remember the rest of his story as he led Israel for 40 years until they were ready to march into the Promised Land.

Jesus had once said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to be saved. It prompted the disciples to ask, “Who, then, can be saved?”

His answer stands for all time: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

“All things are possible with God.”

Begin the God-given task with God by your side. Then, “Just do it.”



We remember the words of the hymn:
With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise, And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes; Be to him commended. Amen.
(Christian Worship 478:1)



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

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


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The meaning – February 14, 2021

The meaning – February 14, 2021


Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Mark 9:7-10




Military Devotion – February 14, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 9:7-10

See series: Military Devotions

It’s not enough to see something happen. It’s not enough to be part of an event. We also need to know the meaning of what’s happening.

A person transported from the times of the horse and buggy days to today may watch as green and red lights blink at an intersection. But if he is going to drive on our roads, we surely would hope that he knows what those lights mean—especially the red ones.

Three disciples of Jesus were allowed to be present at an event that would have fit well into the old TV series called The Twilight Zone. For a brief time, the gulf separating the eternal heavenly and the temporal earthly was bridged. Moses and Elijah, who had left this earth millennia before, stood before Peter, James, and John to chat with Jesus. Then, someone else joined them, speaking from a bright cloud. He called Jesus his Son. This was God the Father, maker of heaven and earth.

The disciples knew what they saw on the Mount of Transfiguration. But what did it mean? It doesn’t surprise us to learn that they were flabbergasted. It was a “shock and awe” experience. But they were further confused by what Jesus said as they were walking away. He commanded them not to say anything to anyone about what they had seen, “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

“Risen from the dead?” What did that mean? They were familiar with instances of a dead person coming back to life on earth. They knew it had happened in the Old Testament. With their own eyes, they had seen Jesus bring dead ones back to life. Yet, this was different! This referred to Jesus rising from the dead. But it had just been powerfully proven to them that Jesus was the Son of God. To think that he would die was incomprehensible to them—until Good Friday.

Saint Peter says it wasn’t until the work of Jesus was completely over, and he had gone back to heaven, that things became clear.

Jesus was true God! That was the meaning of the transfiguration to the dazzling bright clothes and face of Jesus, and the voice from the cloud.

They learned something else. Jesus was going to die!

That was something they just could not wrap their heads around. He was only in his 30s. He wasn’t sick. They depended upon him. They expected him to rule all things just as he ruled the winds and waves. He ruled over death.

How could he die?

Why would he die?

They would learn. They would learn what his death and resurrection meant.

They would learn to put the lack of understanding aside. They would learn to simply believe what he said.

The transfiguration of Jesus means that the Son of Mary was the Messiah—Immanuel, God with us—who brings us into the fellowship with the holy God and all the armies of heaven. It means we will live forever—just like Moses and Elijah.

The transfiguration of Jesus: it means a lot to us.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are glad that you allowed three of your disciples to see that Moses and Elijah yet live, even though they have left this life. We are glad that the disciples could catch a glimpse of your brilliant glory and hear the voice of your Father. We thank you for enabling the record of this to come down through the ages to us. Now we ask that you use the experience of the disciples to reassure and strengthen our faith. Enable us to see the wonder of our God and to look forward to sharing in his glory. Allow us to understand this means that—no matter what might threaten or disrupt our life—we are safe and secure with our Savior. Amen.



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

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


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Recognized – February 7, 2021

Recognized – February 7, 2021


Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Mark 1:23,24




Military Devotion – February 7, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 1:23,24

See series: Military Devotions

When he was a young boy, people knew him as the son of Joseph and Mary. As a young man, they called him the carpenter from Nazareth. When he turned 30 and began teaching, preaching, and working miracles, they didn’t know what to call him.

They knew him as a rabbi. His disciples called him Master. But as his works increased and his popularity grew, more people began asking, “Who is he?”

To some, he appeared to be the great miracle worker. Some saw him as a prophet. Some asked if he might be Elijah, who had come back from the dead. And some considered him a fake.

Worse yet, some said he was an agent of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. (Luke 11:15)

Even his family didn’t know what to make of him. Surely, his mother knew he was not a typical human. She knew the miracle of his birth. The angel, Gabriel, had told her, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). But she did not know exactly what that would mean.

When he started gathering his disciples and collecting large crowds, his brothers and sisters became very concerned. We are told, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).

“Who is he?”

How could they explain the effect he was having on people? The prophet had explained, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

So why was he drawing the crowds? How was he working those miracles?

“Who is he?”

The wrong answer to that question leads to disaster. The right answer delivers life immortal.

The Jewish leaders chose the wrong answer. They told Pilate, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you” (John 18:30). They explained, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).

That’s at the heart of the rejection of Jesus back then, and it continues to this day. “He is a liar. We do not believe him. He is not the Son of God.”

So say those who reject him. “Who is he?” He is not the Son of God.

Those who accept him answer differently: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). So says Simon Peter.

So say the heavenly angels to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

So say the rebellious angels driven out of heaven: “Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God’” (Mark 3:11).

The first one reported in the Bible to recognize Jesus for who he is called out: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

So say saints and angels and even demons.

“Who is he?”

What do we say?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, we know you as the Christ, the son of the living God, and our Savior. Help us to say that. Help us to live it. Amen.



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

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


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Brothers – January 31, 2021

Brothers – January 31, 2021


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




Military Devotion – January 31, 2021

Devotion based on Proverbs 17:17

See series: Military Devotions

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

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

This type of brotherhood (which can include women) is often formed by former strangers undergoing such trying and dangerous times that they have become dependent upon one another to succeed, or maybe even to survive. “I’ve got your six!” has become, not merely a nice phrase but a promise that will be backed up with action.

The Bible shows that there is much more to the picture.

A brother like this was born for just such a time as this. In infinite wisdom, the Lord God knew what his servants were going to run into down the path of life. He knew that the time would come when those who placed their trust in him would need a friend who would be willing to risk his own life for the sake of his endangered brother.

The Lord of life controlled when these people would be born. He enabled them to have the necessary training and skills. He saw to it that these very people would be gathered together at a specific time in history. He is the one who forms the Band of Brothers.

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

It‘s humbling to think that, with no input from us, we were born to a certain set of parents, and a certain family, at a certain time, in a certain place on this globe. He did the same to place others into our Band of Brothers.

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

It fits in with a larger plan and a greater brotherhood. The Lord sent us a Brother from heaven. He brought us into the family of God. He did it by spilled blood—our Brother’s blood.

We have not seen him with our eyes, but we do have records of what our Brother has done. We have to be impressed. The Epiphany Season shows our Brother doing astounding things. Most would say, “Impossible things.” But we know better. We know his power is without end.

Not only did he walk on water and heal the sick, but he also actually raised people from the dead.

Wouldn’t that have been something to see? We might wish that we had been there when he revealed his glory.

That wish will be granted. He is coming back to pick us up for his return trip to heaven. Until then, he provides us with people who look out for us. He gives us brothers.

Our brothers, including the Son of God, are reasons for us to thank our heavenly Father. They are his gift to us.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we walk our path in life you have brought in other people to walk part of the way with us. We thank you for those who are part of our natural family. You chose each one for this role for a special reason. But we also must thank you for those people who have become our brothers even though we are not related to them. You have used these brothers to uplift and support us. We pray that you will continue to provide such people when we need them in the future. We ask that we be enabled to be a brother to others. We request this in the name of Jesus, our best Brother of all. Amen.



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

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


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Poor Rachel – January 24, 2021

Poor Rachel – January 24, 2021


Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Genesis 29:18




Military Devotion – January 24, 2021

Devotion based on Genesis 29:18

See series: Military Devotions

Poor Rachel! Our heart must go out to her. The story of her life is filled with disappointment and sorrow. Looking back with today’s eyes, it seems like a soap opera.

That’s not to say she wasn’t blessed. After all, she was married to a famous man. She was part of a rich family. Some call it a royal family. Some say that the Savior of the world was one of her direct descendants. But that description could be misleading. It is true only in a general sense. Jesus descended directly from her family, but not directly from her bloodline.

And that is one of the reasons why we feel sorry for her.

There is no doubt that her husband loved her to her dying day. He brought joy into her life. But the joy was mixed with sorrow and disappointment. Some would say her life was a mess. It would be hard to argue with that.

Her husband, Jacob, was the father of at least thirteen children, twelve of them were boys. Famous boys. From them came the 12 tribes of Israel. Israel was another name for their father.

At the same time, Jacob was also the husband of Rachel’s sister, Leah. Six of the boys were born to her. While married to these sisters, Jacob became the father of four other boys by the two servants of the sisters. Both sisters encouraged this.

What a mess!

How could any wife be happy in a situation like that? What’s worse, for a long time while these babies were being born, Rachel was barren. It was years before she became a mother. She named the baby, Joseph.

She gave birth to just one more child, but lost her life in childbirth. Moments before she died, she named this son Ben-Oni, which means “son of my sorrow.”

Her husband renamed the boy, Benjamin—”son of my strength.” Then he buried his beloved wife in a tomb next to a town called Ephrathah. We know it better as Bethlehem.

Poor Rachel! Disappointment in life. Sorrow in death. Centuries later, she became a symbol of great weeping when the boy babies of Bethlehem were slaughtered in the search for the Christ-child.

Not just a sad story! It is a picture of life in a sin-soaked world. It is a picture of God’s grace.

Even the people of God can have messy lives.

There is no excuse for what Jacob did. Nor what Rachel did. Nor what Leah and the servant-girls did. Unlike the people of Sodom or the sons of Korah who received swift judgment, these people lived on. Yet, that does not mean that payment for the sins was never demanded.

The thunderclap of divine judgment was heard centuries later when soldiers drove nails into the flesh of Jacob’s divine descendant. The one called Jesus.

The psalmist had cried out, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3,4).

Jacob and his family knew of this forgiveness. He died as a forgiven one. Of him, it is written, “…he breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33).

We expect that Rachel was one of those forgiven people already in heaven.

Her husband’s love had been far from perfect. Her Savior’s love was absolutely perfect.

She is poor Rachel no longer.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Word shows us the horrors of sin and the wonders of your grace. When we look in at the accounts of the heroes of faith, you show us their failures, too. Bring home the warning to our hearts lest we think that we are too strong to fall. Drive home to heart and soul the assurance of forgiveness in Jesus, lest we fumble our faith. Amen.



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

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


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Healing – January 17, 2021

Healing – January 17, 2021


But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
Malachi 4:2




Military Devotion – January 17, 2021

Devotion based on Malachi 4:2

See series: Military Devotions

He touched a leper, and the man was healed. He touched the eyes of one born blind, and the man was healed. A woman just touched his cloak, and she was healed. He just said the word, and the soldier’s servant was healed.

He was known as the Healer.

That’s why the crowds flocked to him early in his ministry. That’s why many of the voices called out, “Rabbi, have mercy on us!”

That’s why he had come to earth. He was the promised “sun of righteousness with healing in its wings.”

That promise would resonate with the world today. Around the globe, people are looking for healing. If they are not already sick, they fear one day they will be.

They fear one day they will die.

And of course, they will. But unless a person is seriously sick, the thought of death can be pushed off into a far corner of the mind. It does not need to be faced.

Until—until there is no escaping the fact that it will happen. Until the day comes that God needs to be faced. And that day will come: “’Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 4:1).

That sounds like a death sentence. Who could say they have never been arrogant or never did evil?

Who is free from sin? What can we do with a soul that is infected with sin? Is it not rightly called the leprosy of sin?

The picture is of a person who is caught in the darkness of a sin-infected world. In the blackness of hopelessness, a bright light breaks through. It is as brilliant as the rising sun with its dazzling rays. It brings healing.

But not to everyone. Only to certain ones. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”

Today we call those who revere his name “Christians.”

For them, fear is replaced by joy. Hope floods over dread. The feeling can be wonderful: “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

Those who have seen calves run and jump when the gate is opened—they understand the bursting of unrestricted joy.

We never fully realize just how sick we are. A burst of pain can warn us of a heart condition. An episode of confusion may be a sign of a mental condition. A pang of conscience might be the call of guilt.

Only our Creator can see what is happening deep down inside of us. Only the eyes of the Divine can peer into souls. Only God knows how desperately we need healing.

Only the Lord can heal us.

And he does.

We sing:
“Jesus, your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress:
Mid flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.” (Christian Worship 376:1)



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came as the sun of righteousness to bring us healing. We know we need it. We thank you for it. Now help us share it. Amen.



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

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


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Rachel weeping – January 10, 2021

Rachel weeping – January 10, 2021


A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.
Matthew 2:18




Military Devotion – January 10, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 2:18

See series: Military Devotions

Some 1,900 years before the first Christmas Day, a man walked down a road in the land of Canaan, in the general area called Ramah. It was a sad sight. He had just buried his beloved wife near a small town called Bethlehem. His name was Jacob. She had been called Rachel.

We turn the pages of history ahead to shortly after the birth of Jesus. We look in again to the area called Ramah. Once again it is a sad sight.

Had we walked down that road near Rachel’s grave, we would have heard the sound of crying coming out from many houses. The news reaching our ears would have torn at our hearts. We would have heard about soldiers who came looking for babies. When they found one, they ran it through with a sword. Bedrooms, kitchens, and doorsteps were smeared with blood.

King Herod had given the command to kill every baby under two. When screaming mothers asked why, the soldiers probably replied that they were only carrying out orders. But we know the reason for the orders. Herod was afraid. Herod was jealous. He had learned that the King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. Herod wanted Jesus dead.

King Herod was not the first one to have innocent children killed, nor would he be the last. The wail of mothers weeping over murdered children has drifted down the centuries to our own times, and our own nation. The question easily arises: “Why doesn’t God prevent such atrocities?”

He did prevent harm coming to the wise men. An angel warned them to return home without reporting back to Herod. An angel warned Joseph to quickly take his family to Egypt because, “Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Did God not know that other Bethlehem babies would be killed? Of course, he did.

God knew this would happen. God foretold this would happen. But God did not prevent this from happening.

We are not told why it had to happen. This question, and the thousands of other ones we might ask of God are answered with silence. We are told the ways of the all-knowing, all-powerful God are always just, always perfect. He acts only in love for his people. Only those in heaven will understand. Those yet on earth must trust.

The birth of the Son of God into the world is proof that God knows and cares about what is happening on earth. Six hundred years before the Slaughter of the Innocents took place, he had his prophet, Jeremiah, describe the scene. Since this would happen near Rachel’s grave, in poetic language, he presents it as if Rachel were the one crying.

God is in control. Why he planned for those babies to have such short lives, we do not know. But baby Jesus would escape. The guilty would face divine justice. The mission of the Christ-child would not be stopped. The human race would be rescued from its guilt, and shame, and never-ending punishment.

On a dark Friday some 30 years later, the world would again see a sad sight. Women would again weep over the death of an innocent one. This Innocent One would be a direct descendent of Rachel. But unlike her grave, his tomb quickly became empty. He soon went back to his home in heaven. When he comes again it will be to take every last one of his children safely home with him. This is the promise: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Today, Rachel weeps no more. Nor do those who have joined her in heaven.

Nor will we.



Prayer: Lord of life and death, we cannot comprehend your ways. We know that you are just, and that you punish evil. We also know that you blot out our crimes from your book because of your Son, who paid for them with his life. Help us keep our eyes fixed upon your faithfulness when we cannot understand why you allow sad things to take place. Point us to Jesus, who was willing to enter this jungle of hatred, and jealousy, and death. Remind us that you were willing to allow him to be murdered—at the time and place of your choosing—so that we might live forever. Dry, now, the tears of those who weep over loved ones departed. It is in the name of the Babe of Bethlehem that we pray. Amen.



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

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


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