Military Devotions

Nearer my God – February 17, 2019

Nearer my God – February 17, 2019


The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish.”
Exodus 19:20,21




Military Devotion – February 17, 2019

Devotion based on Exodus 19:20,21

See series: Military Devotions

We call it rubbernecking. It irritates us to be in a backup caused, not by an accident, but by people slowing up to look at a wreck on the other side of the median. Yet, when we get there, we find ourselves staring at the same sight.

It’s as if a voice inside of us is begging, “Lemme see!” We can’t seem to help ourselves.

It was the same for the mass of people immigrating from Egypt to the Land of Canaan. But no car wreck could match what they encountered. God, himself, was going to descend from heaven to present himself on a mountain they were passing by. They knew this because he called out for Moses to come up to him.

Talk about an attraction! Here was a chance to actually take a look at the Lord of glory—the creator and ruler of the universe. What would he look like? They wanted to see.

But they dared not. The penalty for even catching a glimpse of him was death.

We are not accustomed to considering the Lord our God in that light. He is this abstract person we read about in the Bible. Some view him as a grandfather smiling at the humans who gather around him.

Moses knew better. So did the Israelites when they heard the command: “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.”

The warning was clear: “Do not come near to God!”

That sounds strange to New Testament ears. Are we not invited to come near to him with the words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)?

Is this the same God who met Israel in the wilderness? Has he changed since then?

He is, and he has not.

From eternity to eternity, he remains the same. His fierce anger still burns against sin and death still awaits the sinner. We dare never become complacent about this.

From eternity to eternity, he remains the same. His free and faithful love still offers forgiveness and life. It should never stop amazing us.

He may be the Savior God, but he remains the holy God.

The only reason we can approach him without perishing is that the blood of his Son has covered our sin. Jesus was not allowed to draw near to his Father on Golgotha when he won for us a free pass into his presence. He took our place on the death list.

So, the Holy One of Israel invites us to draw near in love, faith, and worship.

The best spot in all of earth and heaven is found nearer to God.



We pray with the words of the old hymn:
Nearer my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee.
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, Nearer my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


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My Brother – February 10, 2019

My Brother – February 10, 2019


Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Genesis 45:3




Military Devotion – February 10, 2019

Devotion based on Genesis 45:3

See series: Military Devotions

They were afraid of him when they thought him to be a stranger, terrified when they learned he was their brother. They knew that at his word, thousands bowed and obeyed. Now they were foreigners in his land and helpless before his power. He had kept their older brother as hostage when they faced him before. He demanded they bring him their youngest brother if they ever came back.

And, they had to come back. There was a famine, and their families would starve without his help. They had no choice but to do what he said and hope he would treat them with kindness.

But they were already afraid of him—this strange ruler in a strange land.

The words, “I am Joseph!” scared them speechless.

They expected he was dead. They had sold him into slavery when he was hardly more than a boy. They watched him being led away in bonds. That sight was burned into their memory. They had told their father a wild animal had killed him. They would never forget their dad’s cry of anguish. They would never outlive their guilt and regret.

Now they were face to face with him again. The tables had turned. They were at his mercy—no wonder they were terrified.

But it was good news that he was Joseph. He loved them in spite of their crime. He forgave them. And he would use his power to protect them.

In that foreign land, they would be able to point to the one with such great power and say: “That’s my brother!”

Would that we had a brother like that! Think of how good that would be! Think of what a blessing it would be to have someone like that watching out for us.

Good thing we already have someone like that! Jesus is greater than any pharaoh, any king—greater than anyone. And, he is indeed our brother.

We learn it had been planned this way already from eternity. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

We have a brother who is the all-powerful Son of God. That can be a scary thought.

Like those Judean brothers, we have treated our blood-relative rather shabbily. At times, we have turned our back on him; put our envy and greed above his desires; and with words and actions showed we cared little for him. We were willing to leave him behind if it was to our advantage. When challenged to acknowledge our relationship to him, at times we joined a Peter in saying, “I know not the man!”

We should be ashamed. He should be ashamed of us. But like Joseph of old, he forgives. He offers the hand of fellowship and brotherhood. Listen to the words: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Hebrews 2:11).

Like Isaac and Rueben and the rest, we sometimes are afraid of our brother. We fear he will treat us the way we deserve. We worry about that. We worry in the end he will turn on us.

Think of the times when the disciples were filled with terror at the glimpse of the power of Jesus. When he calmed the raging storm, or drove out demons, or raised the dead, or shone forth in his glory, they asked themselves, “Who is this?”
But they need not have feared when they were struck by their failure and his power. Nor should we.

With them, we can say, “This is Jesus.”

This is my brother.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, King of glory and righteous Judge of all the living, like Joseph’s brothers, we too carry guilty consciences and memories of betrayal. We, too, deserve only rejection and punishment. But you who are greater than a Joseph, you have not only forgiven us, you have given your holiness to cover our crimes against you. You were rejected, you were despised, you were killed that we might live with you as children of the heavenly Father. For this, we thank you always and forever. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Burned into memory – February 3, 2019

Burned into memory – February 3, 2019


There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.
Jeremiah 39:6,7




Military Devotion – February 3, 2019

Devotion based on Jeremiah 39:6,7

See series: Military Devotions

Some scenes cannot be unseen. Those who have seen the horrible often cannot get that sight out of their minds. It is burned into their memory.

For some, the unforgettable happened with a car crash, or a fire, or maybe, war. For King Zedekiah, it occurred as he was stripped of his power by the Babylonians. The last thing his eyes saw was the slaughter of his sons. His enemy could have killed him, too. But worse than death was making him live on with that memory.

We shudder at the thought. But much of the record of the descendants of Abraham causes us to shudder. Reading through that history is like watching a horror film. As one scene after another unfolds, we know that something awful is coming. The Assyrians are going to decimate the ten northern tribes. The Babylonians will invade the remaining two. Jerusalem will fall. The temple will be demolished. Then, untold thousands will be carried off to modern-day Iraq as captives—including the traumatized and now-blind King Zedekiah.

Horrible to look at, yet those are the very scenes that should be burned into memory. They teach a lesson: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

We dare never forget it.

Another picture teaches another lesson: It is a fearful thing for the living God to fall into the hands of sinners.

The Scripture screen shows a picture of ultimate horror. A bloodied man is being executed by torture. The weight of his body pulls at the nails driven through the hands. Blood trickles down from thorns pressed into the scalp. Witnesses mock. Hours pass. A mouth screams: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This scene must be burned into memory.

If the slaughter of Zedekiah’s sons was horrible, the slaughter of God’s Son is beyond horror.

This is the cold killing that we cannot explain without admitting that we are in the picture. We are the cause. We are to blame. It teaches a lesson we dare never forget:

“You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”

Then, we learn that this is actually a picture of mercy! After all, we are not the ones withering under the fierce anger of justice. The bloodied One is our substitute. He was found guilty of our crimes. He was punished. We are set free.

It teaches a lesson:

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!”

We dare never forget it.

On its center screen Holy Writ then projects the breath-taking picture of an empty tomb with an angel saying, “He is not here, he is risen.” He is:

“Christ, the Life of all the living, Christ the Death of death, our foe.”

It teaches a lesson: We will survive death. How could we forget it?

Let that picture of Easter morning be forever burned into our memory!

The Bible paints many such pictures of our salvation’s story. Some even show the future: “Look!” we are told, “ God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘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 21:3,4).

There, the eyes of Zedekiah can see again. There, his sons can stand alive and well. There, the captive is free, and the dead live. So do we.

Burn that vision into memory!



We pray to the Lord of life:
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” Amen.
(Christian Worship 588:7)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Authority – January 27, 2019

Authority – January 27, 2019


“For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Luke 7:8




Military Devotion – January 27, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:8

See series: Military Devotions

First, it is drilled into them. Then, it becomes part of everyday life. Within the ranks of the military, authority counts!

It makes no difference if the command is issued by someone two feet away or two thousand miles. Legitimate authority produces results. That’s true in the U.S. Armed Forces of today, and it was true in the Roman legions two millennia ago.

Jesus was a witness to it.

The soldier was a centurion. He commanded about 100 troops. That he was a Roman centurion, tells us he was part of an effective and polished military power. That he was in the land of Jesus, means he was deployed to one of the troubled backwaters of the Roman Empire.

Here he would pay a warrior’s tribute to his Superior Officer. Here, he showed the world what it means that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord.

His servant was on the verge of death. He sent local religious leaders to beg help from the well-known Jewish miracle worker in his AO, area of operations. Yet, when Jesus set off to provide that help, the centurion stopped him with the surprising words, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself….”

It’s not that he changed his mind. It’s not that he doubted Jesus could help. Actually, this soldier was so convinced that Jesus did have authority over life and death, that he knew Jesus would not have to be physically present to save the servant’s life.

His message was: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself…for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” He explained how authority worked when he told a soldier, “Go” or “Come” or “Do this.”

Astonishing!

There must be more to the story, and there is. The people the centurion had sent to Jesus told him: “This man deserves to have you do this….” They explained why: “…because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

Amazing! He was a Gentile, not a Jew. At this time in history, Romans worshiped heathen gods—if they recognized any god at all. Moreover, Roman troops generally had little regard for the people who lived under their military fist.

This soldier was different!

This soldier loved these people and built a synagogue for them.

He knew about Jesus! He addressed him with the respectful title, “Lord.”

Since Jesus was using Capernaum as his home base after the citizens of Nazareth tried to kill him, it does not surprise us that this Roman officer knew about the one who stirred the crowds with his teaching and miracles. What does surprise us is what Jesus said about him: “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

This soldier had placed his faith in Jesus. It was proven valid. We hear, “Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well” (Luke 7:9,10).

The prophets had said that even Gentiles would come to bow down before the Messiah. What was often scoffed at was fulfilled, not only by the Wise Men, but by this soldier.

Not only by this soldier, but by us.

We believe him when he tells us our salvation is completed with the words from the cross, “It is finished.” We do not need to see him do it to believe it.

His words have the authority to make it so.



Prayer: Savior Jesus, too often we doubt your power and your love. Too often we want to see you act with our own eyes. We easily forget the words you spoke to doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Holy Spirit, give us the faith of that Roman soldier. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Faulty faith – January 20, 2019

Faulty faith – January 20, 2019


I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13




Military Devotion – January 20, 2019

Devotion based on 1 John 5:13

See series: Military Devotions

“I’ve lost my faith in religion.” the Navy wife said. With her two children, she had been living in Florida and now moved back to her hometown. She added that she did not think she would let her children go to Sunday School. “Why bring them up to believe in something I no longer believe myself?”

She used to have faith in religion. She used to have a wonderful life. Then her wonderful husband became a KIA (killed in action). That’s when her world fell apart. So, she thought, did her faith.

Our hearts must go out to such a person. Only those who have suffered such loss can appreciate the agony this mother was going through. The situation called for a response with compassion, tact—and the truth.

The truth is that she had been making a grave mistake by placing her faith in religion.

Not that religion is a bad thing, especially if the religion is tied to the Word of God. But religion is only a system of beliefs. Never do we want to say, “I believe in Christianity”, or, “I believe in Lutheranism.” That would be a faulty faith. Religion, itself, dare never become the object of faith. Only the Savior God can hold that position.

The new widow felt that religion had betrayed her. She was saying, “What good is religion if it cannot keep you safe?”

She needed to understand that religion is not a way of getting God on your side so that you can escape the heartaches of life.

Jesus has laid out what his followers should expect: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The lives of some of his famous followers illustrate this. These are the words the Apostle Paul used to describe his life: “Frequently imprisoned; severely flogged; beaten with stones and left for dead; shipwrecked; knowing hunger and thirst” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Finally, he was executed.

So, what good did his religion do for him? Everything good!

His religion consisted in placing his faith in the Savior God who sent his Son to rescue him. That faith placed him into heaven’s royal family. He became the adopted child of the holy, eternal God. The Good Shepherd counted him as one of his own.

The Son of God included him in the announcement: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Thus, the apostle could say: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He rejected the idea that hardship or suffering is a sign that God has failed his people.

“No,” he wrote, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:28,37).

Faith in Jesus as the Savior is not a good-luck charm. It is the laying hold of the victory won on Golgotha. It is the receiving of power and protection from on high. It is the expecting that life in this world will be turbulent and painful at times.

It is the firm conviction that the Lord of earth and heaven is on our side; he will never leave us; he will carry us through the storms of life. He will land us on heaven’s shore.

If that faith is ours, we know we have eternal life.

Such faith is never faulty.



We pray the prayer of the hymnist:
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink of poverty or woe,
That will not murmur nor complain beneath the chast’ning rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain can lean upon its God. Amen.
(Christian Worship 405:1,2)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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 Tet – January 13, 2019

Remembering Tet – January 13, 2019


Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
Isaiah 53:1




Military Devotion – January 13, 2019

Devotion based on Isaiah 53:1

See series: Military Devotions

In January of 1968, more than a quarter million North Vietnamese soldiers and 100,000 Viet Cong irregulars launched a massive attack on South Vietnam.

It was a sneak attack that came under the deception of a truce of peace during the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year. Hanoi expected it would trigger a popular uprising leading to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. It did not.

After the initial shock, and the capture of a number of cities, the attack was beaten back. It became a major military defeat for North Vietnam.

But that’s not what many Americans believed. In the minds of some, including influential newscaster Walter Cronkite, this was proof that America was losing the war.

In the aftermath, many a person has asked, “Why was the report of an American victory not believed?

Perhaps it is because the typical human is inclined to believe what he wants to believe—regardless of the facts.

The significance of the Tet Offensive and America’s role in that war continues to be debated. But the refusal to accept an accurate report because of a bias goes back far before that attack.

The prophet Isaiah addressed that same question in 700 B.C. Saint John repeated it when he wrote about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (John 12:38). And Saint Paul repeated it again when he wrote to the Christians in Rome (Romans 10:16).

The Christian Church of today raises the same question: “Who has believed our message?”

Isaiah had told the people of Israel that the coming Messiah would be accepted as King by Gentile nations:

“The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).

“Just as there were many who were appalled at him…so he will sprinkle many nations and kings will shut their mouths because of him (Isaiah 52:14,15).

There are the facts! History has confirmed them. We are living proof. Most of the people who accept the Messiah as their Lord, Savior, and King are Gentiles—not the physical descendants of Abraham or the people to whom God first revealed this message.

Sadly, a bias still appears in our day when the glory of the Messiah and his victory over sin, death and the devil is announced.

Once again, “Who believes our message?”

We do. To Isaiah’s question, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” we answer, “To us!” “To me!”

By the work of the Holy Spirit we have seen the glory of Jesus, the Messiah. We have witnessed his power through his Word. With our own eyes we have seen people of all races come to love him as their Savior.

To that question of Isaiah, “Who believes our message?” we joyfully and gratefully answer: “By the grace of God—I do!”



Prayer: Jesus, King of glory, and only Savior of mankind, it is purely by your power and mercy that we are not among the crowds that do not believe the report of the victory over sin and death that you won for us. Keep us safely within your grasp so that the sinful world, our sinful flesh, and princes of hell do not mislead us into unbelief. Help us point you out to the rest of the world with the words of the prophet: “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Motivation – January 6, 2019

Motivation – January 6, 2019


Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1




Military Devotion – January 6, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 12:1

See series: Military Devotions

Fear can be a great motivator. Fear of failure, fear of disease, or the fear of a drill instructor can inspire a person to do things never before attempted.

Some people even use fear as motivation to serve God. That’s understandable, but sad.

Fear does, indeed, enter into our relationship with the Lord of life and death. Our conscience quickly tells us that we have violated his laws—and there will be consequences.

His Word tells us that our violations are greater than we imagined, and the penalties are so severe that they go beyond our imagination.

So, who is not going to be driven by fear to try to do that which God commands?

The child of God.

A small child may help put away some groceries lest his mother becomes angry. The mature child will help put them away out of love for her. The Christian is that loving child.

As the new year begins, we give thought to what we want to do in the days ahead. We will be considering how we want to live the rest of our life. Maybe we want to make some lifestyle changes: lose weight, exercise more, pay all of our bills on time.

All this might be good, but it is not as important as deciding how we want to live our lives in relation to God’s expectations.

The apostle Paul told those Christians in the capital city of the Roman Empire: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Whoa!

This goes beyond deciding to curse less, go to church more, and be kind to others. This involves giving up our lives. The word is, “sacrifice.”

We know what it means to sacrifice a life for our nation. Are we also supposed to sacrifice our life for our God? Isn’t that a bit extreme?

But didn’t the Son of God sacrifice his life for us? Isn’t every good thing we have in life a gift from him?

What enables us to keep breathing? Who provides the food and air that we cannot live without? If he would withdraw his support, we would be like a brain deprived of oxygen. We could only whimper and die.

So, why did the holy God give us life and salvation? We recall the famous words, “God so loved the world….”

Why should we freely want to live our life—not for ourselves, but for him?

Because, “God so loved the world….”

We love him because he first loved us.

We enter the new year thus motivated.



In the Second Article of the famous Apostles’ Creed we admit that we believe, “in Jesus Christ.” We acknowledge that he is our Lord who bought us with his “holy, precious blood….” Then, we make our commitment: “That I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” We reaffirm that loving commitment for yet another year with the words: “This is most certainly true.” Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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 thousand years – December 30, 2018

A thousand years – December 30, 2018


A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:4




Military Devotion – December 30, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 90:4

See series: Military Devotions

1,000 years ago Sweyn Forkbeard was crowned King of England. He didn’t last long. Few remember him now.

1,000 years ago the Holy Roman Empire was the superpower. Not many care about that now.

1,000 years ago it was believed that if a ship sailed too far west, it would drop off the edge of the world. Does anyone believe that now?

To us, 1,000 years is a long, long time. To the Lord God it’s like yesterday, or last night.

That helps us keep things in perspective as we turn the calendar to a new year. To some, the last 12 months might have sped by; to others, they may have dragged. It all depends upon what was happening in life. Happy days go fast. Hard days don’t.

We wonder what the next 12 months will bring. We hope it will be a happy new year. It’s hard for us to imagine what our life will be like 10 years from now. We give no thought to what it will be like on earth in 1,000 years. Who cares?

God does. He knows exactly what life on planet earth will be like every day in the future—and the exact day and minute it will end.

We set our clocks and turn our calendars, but we do not control our time. Thank God, he does!

We may wonder with worry. He doesn’t. Neither should we.

Moses wrote the words of Psalm 90 some 1,500 years before Jesus was born. They were true then, they are true now, 2,000 years after that birth.

Moses pleaded, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (v.14).

The only way that prayer could be granted is if the eternal God would send his Son into the realm of time and space to rescue prisoners held captive by the Prince of Darkness and doomed to forever death.

When the message of his coming went out, those who clung to the hope waited and waited. The years appeared to drag on. Finally, the day for the Desire of nations to appear arrived—and the new calendar, labeled, “In the year of our Lord”, turned its first page.

In heaven, the time between the birth of Moses and the birth of Jesus was like a watch in the night. The time between the return of Jesus to heaven and the crowning of King Forkbeard—like a watch in the night.

Between this New Year’s Eve and the end of the world will be to him like a watch in the night—or like yesterday when it is passed.

The Lord is greater than time. He is the creator and controller of time.

The new year is in good hands. So are we.



Prayer: Eternal God, we come before you with limited understanding and often limited faith. We know that our life on this earth is also limited, but you entered into the dominion of time so that we might spend a timeless life with you in glory. For the blessings of the past year, we thank you.  For your blessing upon us in the new year, we pray with confidence in the name of Jesus, the ever-newborn King.  Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Hopes and fears – December 23, 2018

Hopes and fears – December 23, 2018


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14




Military Devotion – December 23, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 7:14

See series: Military Devotions

The speck of a planet called earth experienced a series of breakthroughs on the night we call Christmas Eve.

A squad of angels broke through the atmosphere to reveal their presence with blinding light and an earth-shaking message: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

The eternal God broke through the barrier of the wall between the human and the divine—to become the God-man.

The salvation of mankind broke through the curse of the law.

But not everyone celebrated. The great King Herod shuddered at the news that a king had been born. He responded with a death sentence for babies.

Demons were terrified. At the sight of him, one 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 1:24).

And the people he came to rescue? After Jesus drove the money-makers out of the Temple, we are told: “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching” (Mark 11:18).

Those refusing to celebrate the coming of the Savior held one emotion in common: fear!

The writer of the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem, pictured the situation with his words, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Hopes and fears…

A strange combination, but an accurate report. The decree delivered to Satan told of one who would free the human race from his death grip: “He will crush your head…” The added thought: “and you will strike his heel” told of that special one only being wounded, not defeated.

From the time of the rebellion in heaven, a state of war existed between the holy Creator God and those who fought against him. From the time humans first joined that rebellion, the descendants of Adam and Eve came into this world to champion sin and revile all that is holy.

The battle lines had been drawn. Yet the outcome never was in doubt. The pits of hell awaited those who defied God.

The breakthrough came with Christmas. Demons had been rejected without mercy. But humans—for some reason—the humans were pardoned. God became man in order to win their freedom. Humans received mercy—at the cost of the life of the Holy One.

It should not surprise us to learn that demons fear Jesus of Nazareth. They know what’s coming to them.

But humans? How do we explain humans rejecting the mercy of God and joining with demons in spitting out defiance and choosing to stay condemned?

We come to better understand the power of sin and the blindness of unbelief. We come to better heed the warning against all that is evil.

This Christmas we will see once again the evidence of the breakthrough of God’s love for us.

We can live in a sure and certain hope. We have no reason to fear.



Prayer: To earth you came, Jesus, to be our brother. We do not know how that was possible, so we call it a miracle. Now, allow the miracle of Christmas to fill our hearts and minds with hope—and banish fear from our lives. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Counting down – December 16, 2018

Counting down – December 16, 2018


But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Galatians 4:4




Military Devotion – December 16, 2018

Devotion based on Galatians 4:4

See series: Military Devotions

We are in the season of counting down to Christmas. Merchants are counting down the shopping days. Youngsters are counting down until presents are opened. And some troops are counting down to when holiday leave begins.

Advent is an entire season of counting down. It reminds us that the first Christmas was waited for with great anticipation by those who longed for the coming of their Savior. It tells us that we are now counting down the days for him to come again.

This can be a disturbing thought. We are talking about our death, here. Or, we are speaking of the end of the world. The words of Moses might come to mind: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

An old song speaks of a clock that was bought on the day a baby was born and stayed with him throughout life. With the tick-tock, tick-tock of the clock in mind, the song goes on to state: “his life seconds numbering.”

It makes us wonder if our timepieces might be counting down the days, minutes, and seconds left in our life. They are!

This can be a frightening thought. A pilot watches his fuel gauges carefully because when fuel runs out, the flight will come to a disturbing end. Is it not the same when time runs out on a life?

Not for the Christian! Not for the one who was created to live forever, has been redeemed with holy blood, and has been promised a forever of bliss.

Those Old Testament believers were not counting down to a day of dread when the Messiah would appear. Neither should we.

Their eyes were not watching for the occasion when hope and joy drained down to empty. They looked for the time when their lives would overflow with joy. So should we.

God calls it, the fullness of time.

Many events needed to take place before it was the perfect time for the Son of God to arrive as a human. The plan began to unroll already in the Garden of Eden. An Abraham and a Joseph, a Moses and a Daniel had to appear to fulfill their roles. The captives needed to come back from the land of the Tigris and Euphrates. The temple needed to be rebuilt. Rome needed to come to power and deploy its troops in Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate needed to be installed as governor. Herod the Great needed to be established on his throne.

And a common language needed to be understood by people of many nations.

When all of this—and much more—was accomplished, the world was set to receive the King of kings, and his gospel was ready to reach to the ends of the earth.

Like a cup filled to the brim, the fullness of time had come.

So will it be when the Babe of Bethlehem returns. He will come on clouds of glory in the sight of everyone—when the time is perfect.

Before then, he will come to individual believers to take them to heaven—when the time is perfect.

We continue to count down till that perfect time for the return of Jesus. Not in dread! Rather, much the same way that little ones eagerly count down to Christmas.

We look for a sequel. We are waiting for Christmas II.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, eternal God, you brought us to life when you called us to become children of the heavenly Father. You allowed us to see Jesus as the Son of God who paid for our way into heaven. Stay with us now as we walk our path in life. Remind us of eternal truths, guide us with your loving hand. Lift up our eyes so that we might catch a glimpse of the wonders waiting for us when Jesus returns at the fullness of time. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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I swear – December 9, 2018

I swear – December 9, 2018


Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Deuteronomy 6:13




Military Devotion – December 9, 2018

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 6:13

See series: Military Devotions

Their words showed their distress. Articles written by faculty members of the WELS seminary warned pastors about the disturbing development. They had received word that Lutheran pastors in Germany would not be allowed to continue their ministry unless they took a new oath.

The oath began: “Ich schwöre bei Gott…” In English, it read: “I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient I will be loyal and obedient to the Führer of the German Reich and nation, Adolf Hitler, observe the laws and faithfully perform my official duties, so help me God.”

Lutheran pastors in Saxony, the home of Martin Luther, accepted that oath on April 20, 1938, the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary was near Milwaukee, far away from Nazi Germany. We might wonder why the professors were so disturbed at this news. But most of the members of our church body had relatives in Germany at that time. Many of our pastors and professors had come from there. They were concerned about the Christians now in the hands of the Nazis.

The question was, “Could the day come when such an oath be demanded of the pastors in America?”

This was not a pledge of allegiance to a nation. It was a surrender of the Christian Church to the whims of a man, and partnership with those who would kill millions of innocents. It was an attempt by the Nazis to highjack the Christian faith by having pastors swear loyalty to their leader with God as a witness. Faithfulness to Hitler was to be tied to faithfulness to God.

As WWII progressed, the threat looked more real. The Wehrmacht rolled up victory after victory. With the entire British army cornered at Dunkirk, it looked like Hitler would rule Europe and England. Germany and Japan were planning for the United States to be the next victim.

Today we look back on those years in the comfort of knowing how the war turned out. Germany was defeated. Hitler killed himself. Atomic bombs brought Japan to its knees. The threat to American pastors evaporated.

But it could have easily ended differently. The victory of the Allies over Germany and Japan was often in doubt. History shows that if just a few things had taken a different turn, we might be speaking German today—and our pastors might be forced to take an oath of loyalty to a modern Nazi leader.

Many of those developing the atomic bomb came from Germany. What if they had been loyal to the Führer? Other new weapons—rockets, jet engines—were coming into German production. What if they had arrived earlier? Numerous battles in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific ended up being Allied victories by apparent flukes.

Codes were cracked without the enemies realizing it. A pilot spotted the Japanese fleet heading toward Midway only minutes before he had to turn back or run out of fuel and ditch in the ocean. A storm ended just in time for the D-Day landing. Clouds cleared just in time for airpower to turn the tide in the Battle of the Bulge. More examples could be listed. How lucky could we get?

But it was not luck. Nor was it superior planning, equipment, or manpower that won the war for the Allies. It was the grace of God at work. And he worked through sinful, frail, mistake-prone humans.

“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:31). Good to remember that. We might add, “Let him who would serve his country loyally, first serve his Lord faithfully.”

May our pastors continue to swear faithfulness to the Good Shepherd alone.

“So help me God!”



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we praise, thank and glorify you for preserving our nation from those who would have taken away our freedom to worship you in spirit and in truth. We know that such enemies still threaten. We know that efforts without your help will fail. Thank you for the veterans of the past and provide us with warriors and leaders who will serve faithfully in the future. To you alone the glory! Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Deadly shepherd – December 2, 2018

Deadly shepherd – December 2, 2018


They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd.
Psalm 49:14




Military Devotion – December 2, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 49:14

See series: Military Devotions

When we think about the word shepherd in the Bible, our thoughts might quickly go to the phrase, the Lord is my shepherd. Those words have comforted God’s people ever since the shepherd-boy David wrote them some thousand years before Jesus proclaimed himself as the Good Shepherd.

How strange then, to hear death called a shepherd! We must look at this more closely.

The psalm calls out a warning to those who boast of their riches and trust in their wealth. Those who think themselves so smart that they do not need God, need to learn the lesson of their frailty: “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7,8).

What makes a person think that wisdom or wealth is insurance against death? Yet, how common it is to trust these things and strive to get these things as if life or death depended upon them!

Something leads such people. They surely follow something in the hope for happiness. They cannot see that they are being led to destruction in the same way that sheep follow a shepherd. They are being led by Death to death.

At this time of year, thoughts return to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1944, and the destruction and death that followed on some islands in the Pacific. War is always horrible, but seldom has the world seen the willingness of soldiers to die by the thousands instead of surrendering.

Some 18,000 Japanese soldiers fought in the battle for Iwo Jima. Only 216 survived. The rest fought till they were killed or died by their own hand. On island after island, U.S. forces had to kill their enemy until almost none were left. Swarms of kamikaze pilots flung themselves against American ships.

What can account for this? They were like sheep being led to the slaughter. They were willing to die for their Emperor and the ambitions of their military leaders.

Their bravery is without question. Their fanaticism, however, is without merit. Death was their shepherd.

The bloody battles in the Pacific taught a lesson: Honor, zeal, and faithfulness become deadly when attached to lethal leadership.

Japanese leaders began the campaign of conquests to acquire land, power, and wealth. The Japanese people followed.

That thought makes us ask what we are following after in life?

We know that pursuing crime leads to a bad end. What about chasing after success, or popularity, or just plain fun?

The world is filled with candidates for leadership. Many are the ideas that want to lead us. Some potential leaders are feelings. Some are people. And some are deadly.

But not the Good Shepherd. Listen to Jesus: “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10,11).

There’s our answer!

When following Jesus, it is not death, but Life is our shepherd.



Prayer: Lord of Glory, who has bought us with your lifeblood as the price, we hear the warning against following after that which is deadly. Teach us your ways. Show us your will. Keep us in your fold. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Horrid days – November 25, 2018

Horrid days – November 25, 2018


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15




Military Devotion – November 25, 2018

Devotion based on Romans 12:15

See series: Military Devotions

We call them holidays. They span from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We look forward to them. We celebrate them.

But not all of us.

For some, the holidays are actually horrid days. Troops deployed in distant and dangerous places can feel that way. So can those can those who are struggling with something like PTSD. The holiday season can be a miserable time.

Perhaps it is easier to understand why a Memorial Day may cause a person to be troubled, but why feel down and disturbed at a time of so many incentives to feel love, peace, and joy?

Those incentives are precisely the problem! The happy sights and sounds only underscore the pain and loss of the suffering one. We have seen that it is not uncommon for a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one to have a hard time with the holidays. Instead of a source of joy, the days remind such people that someone special is missing.

PTSD patients may grieve the loss of their former life. If we are not aware of this, if we urge the victim to join in the celebrations, we are increasing their pain. It is like encouraging the one with the broken leg to join in on a dance.

The person far from home during a holiday may feel more misery than joy. Some volunteer for extra duty during those days. Some do whatever they can to keep themselves from thinking about what they are missing.

Ken Gire sums it up in his book, The North Face of God: “There are times in our lives when it is hard being a Christian. Christmases when it’s hard to be joyful. Thanksgivings when it’s hard to be grateful. New Year’s when it’s hard to be hopeful. Times when we feel disappointed with life, maybe even despairing of life. Times when we feel abandoned by God.”

When everyone else is celebrating, the one downcast and miserable doesn’t fit in. He feels he does not belong.

What a shame! He is believing a lie. He is a member of the family of God. Everyone in that family is precious. Each one is special. Each one is the beloved of God and guarded by angels.

Strangely enough, the miserable one may know this to be true—but that does not change how he feels.

King Solomon wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

Saint Paul wrote that we should take note of what our brother or sister is going through—and share in their feelings. We will find that their sorrow does not lessen our joy, but their joy can surely diminish our sorrow. “I know how you feel!” become words of truth.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

If this holiday season does not fill you with the emotions of joy, know that you are not alone.

If you see another one struggling with the holidays, do not let that one be alone.

Feelings are often beyond our control. Our mind is blown back and forth by the winds of many thoughts. Our soul is different. It rests on a Rock.

Our soul knows, even if our feelings don’t: the holidays are actually holy days. They exist, not to make us happy, but to focus our attention beyond ourselves, to the very heights of heaven.

We find that when we look toward the face of God, we can see that we live under the benediction of the source of all joy and comfort.

For the Christian, every day is a holiday.



We live our lives in the sunlight of these words:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Then came thanksgiving – November 18, 2018

Then came thanksgiving – November 18, 2018


O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34




Military Devotion – November 18, 2018

Devotion based on 1 Chronicles 16:34

See series: Military Devotions

He was tired of it. Tired of the sand, tired of the smell—tired of the whole mess.

He was sick of it. Sick of the heat, sick of the people, sick of looking at sick-looking houses and wondering if someone inside was waiting to kill him.

It reminded him of the movie Groundhog Day. This deployment was hours of boredom, broken ever-so-often by moments of terror. Life had become one miserable day after another.

Then came Thanksgiving.

At first the thought depressed him. He thought of Thanksgivings past. He remembered the food, the fun, and football games watched with family.

None of that now. He didn’t want to think of Thanksgiving. It only made him think of what he was missing.

Then the phrase struck him: “What he was missing!”

It reminded him of what his grandmother had said years ago: “Don’t just be thankful for what you have, be also thankful for what you don’t have—for what is missing from your life.”

The words confused him then, but now he began to understand. He started to look at his life with fresh eyes. What was he missing?

Well, cancer, for one thing! He had no cancer. That’s what had taken his grandma away. He missed her, but was that something to be thankful for? Maybe he could give thanks that she did not have to suffer and now was in the glory of heaven.

What else was he missing? The list began to grow as he looked around. He was missing desolation and hunger. He was missing a life lived in the stench and poverty that these people had to endure. His life was lived without worry that a death squad would break into his family’s house.

He lived without the fear that Allah would punish him if he did not bow toward Mecca.

He remembered learning about the “Four Freedoms” speech that President Roosevelt gave when America was on the trailing edge of the Depression and moving toward the brink of war:

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear.

Loss of these freedoms was missing from his life.

Thank God for that!

But he knew his grandmother would be sure to point out other things missing from his life:

Fear of hopelessness. Fear of godlessness. Fear of meaninglessness. Fear of death.

Thank God for grandma! Thank God for all those who loved him; taught him; and prayed for him! Thank God for Jesus, for forgiveness, and salvation!

Life looked different now. The irritations remained, but so did the faith that God was with him.

He had been miserable, forgetful, and unthankful.

Then came thanksgiving—not just the day, but the words of thanksgiving flowing from his heart: O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.



We join in the words of the Thanksgiving hymn of our forefathers:

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices,
Who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever-joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his grace and guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills in this world and the next. Amen.
(Christian Worship 610:1-2)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Remember – November 11, 2018

Remember – November 11, 2018


Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.
Deuteronomy 32:7




Military Devotion – November 11, 2018

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 32:7

See series: Military Devotions

It might be argued that we no longer know how to properly observe Veterans Day because we have forgotten Armistice Day.

There may be something to that. The generation that stopped in silence as church bells rang for two minutes each year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—that generation has faded away. The armistice went into effect exactly 100 years ago.

We might find some of their names etched into old gravestones. We might recall the words of their poem, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row…” In a history book we might read that on one day, July 1, 1916, British forces suffered 57,470 casualties—including 19,240 fatalities (in one day!)—and gained three miles of blood-soaked soil.

Armistice Day was always observed, never celebrated. It was much too painful of a memory marker. Total World War I fatalities were over 20 million, with 21 million wounded. Over 116,000 American troops died in that war. Nothing to celebrate.

We don’t feel that pain. Our generation has been spared that anguish.

60 million lost their lives in World War Two. Over 400,00 were Americans. Add 34,000 Americans in Korea; over 58,000 in Vietnam; include the Gulf Wars, and the numbers become painful.

But many Americans don’t feel that pain. Some are too young. Some don’t care.

We do. We should. The name may now be Veterans Day, but the cause of the observance remains the same: We need to remember. There are lessons to be learned. Appreciations to be offered.

“Thank you for your service!” has replaced the “Baby killers!” that some Vietnam veterans heard. We thank God for that.

We thank him for those in the past who left behind factory jobs and college classrooms; those who left behind carpenter tools and horse-drawn plows; those who left behind high school sweethearts, weeping mothers, and moist-eyed fathers—because their country called.

We remember them.

We remember those who never fired a shot in anger, whose job was to load trucks; fill out forms; or prepare food. We needed them.

We remember those who had to make decisions that others would receive as orders. We remember those who tended to the wounded; and those who prayed with the dying.

We remember them all.

We remember them as gifts provided to our nation by a gracious God.

We remember him most of all. Without him, all valiant efforts would fail.

Without him, there would be no heaven for any of the fallen.

We remember that it was no armistice that his Bethlehem angels announced. Heaven’s declaration of peace between the Holy One and mankind stands through the end of time into forever.

We will not forget that.



We pray words from a generation long past:

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget! Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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None missing – November 4, 2018

None missing – November 4, 2018


Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.
Numbers 31:48




Military Devotion – November 4, 2018

Devotion based on Numbers 31:48

See series: Military Devotions

The Missing Man flyover never fails to lift eyes to the skies. It prompts sobering thoughts. Reminders of missing warriors often do that.

The historian reports: “Even in World War I the lesson was learned that any unit could endure severe losses if the vacant seats in the mess were occupied by the following morning. This was the “full-breakfast-table” policy, and it was one that the Royal Air Force pursued with religious intensity. But the American stations did not fill up so quickly. The VIII Bomber Command in those days simply didn’t have the men to bring in.”

Empty seats can disturb us. It was a major concern for America’s Mighty 8th that flew daylight bombing runs over Germany in WWII. In August of 1943, that command lost 88 heavy bombers and 900 men over a three-day period.

Then came Black Thursday, on which 60 planes and 600 men failed to return.

They had been attacking ball-bearing factories. Though seemingly insignificant, the German military depended upon ball-bearings for almost all of its war machinery. The attacks on places like Schweinfurt were critical. The question was, were they worth the cost?

The empty seats at the breakfast tables and the empty cots in the barracks were blows to the morale of the airmen who would take to the skies next. Bomber Command was not able to send replacements fast enough to eliminate the disturbing signs of losses.

But empty spots are the price of any war. They make us count the cost in human lives.

Reminders of the missing bring pain to those who fought alongside them. Civilians may wonder how it can be that the loss of someone the warrior knew for only a relatively short time can hurt so much. To grieve over a family member is understandable. But to mourn the death of someone known only briefly—and still do so 30 years later—is mystifying to them.

To feel sad over the death of someone the warrior never met, whose only connection was the uniform both wore—that’s even more puzzling!

But those who have donned the uniform to protect a nation know that the bond between warriors may be different from that of family members—but it may be even stronger.

Reminders of the missing—be that by names on a wall, pictures in an album, or the flash of memories old—reopen wounds. The sunlight of happiness dims. In come the dark clouds of loss.

Defenders of ancient Israel also knew how it felt to see signs of missing warriors. But in the last days of Moses, they were reminded that the Lord their God was in complete control of the body count. If it was his will, a major battle could be fought without the loss of even one of their lives.

The Midianites had been a threat to Israel ever since the march to the Promised Land. When the showdown came, the Lord called up 1,000 from each tribe of Israel—12,000 in all—to take on this dangerous enemy of impressive size.

The victory by Israel was more impressive, as was the plunder. But most impressive was this: not one Israelite soldier was missing afterward.

The Lord God had loved each of them. Each one would be ransomed by his Son. The mighty God would win the war against sin and death for each of them—and for all of us.

All those who trust in him will find themselves celebrating the victory in heaven.

And, as it was following Midian’s defeat, not one of his own—not even one—will be missing.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have said that you would always be with us, be with us as we think of those special to us but who are now missing from earth. Let the thought of the missing man formation remind us that you once ascended into those skies to return to heaven. Comfort us with the assurance that none who put their faith in you here will there be missing there. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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 die – October 28, 2018

If I die – October 28, 2018


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




Military Devotion – October 28, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 37:4

See series: Military Devotions

A famous children’s prayer begins with the words, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” It continues, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

That’s a prayer for all ages. If I don’t die tonight in my sleep, I will surely die sometime—unless Jesus first returns to close out our universe. It is important then, to know what to expect if I die.

It’s not as if there is a scarcity of theories. Some would say, “If I die I will become an angel.” Others think they will become nothing more than some molecules mixed into the dirt. At this time of year, we might see people in costumes pretending to be the walking dead. Sadly, some believe this could actually happen.

Jesus, the Lord of life and death sets us straight. The day of the death of a Christian is the day Jesus comes to take that one home to heaven. Only the outer shell, the body, is left behind.

It’s as simple and as wonderful as that.

The first of November was named as All Saints Day in the Roman Catholic Church. October 31 was then called a hallowed evening, now called Halloween. In that religion, a saint is said to be someone who lived such a high level of spiritual life that death led directly to heaven—and purgatory was skipped.

Purgatory is supposed to be half-way between hell and heaven where a person serves time to pay for sins. The idea is based on the teaching that a person earns heaven by doing good works. In this plan, every sin needs to be made up for with a good work of at least as great a value. Theoretically, if, as a child, you lied to your mother about your homework, you could make up for it by taking out the garbage without being asked. If you stole a car, a much greater good work is required. Sin not paid for is a debt before God.

But there is no way of knowing exactly how many sins a person has committed, and no way of being sure of what one must do to make up for a certain sin. The result is frightening uncertainty. “The greater the debt at death, the greater the punishment in purgatory.”

So, unless a person led an exceptionally holy life, purgatory was expected to follow death. Heaven came only after pain.

Thus, the words, “If I die…” brought dread.

Ironically, the hallowed evening was also said to be a time when the powers of evil ran free. The American celebration of Halloween does not speak of evil powers unleashed, but it does reflect that history. Costumes of witches and goblins have frightening stories in their background.

For the Christian who dedicates every day and every night to the holy Lord God, Halloween can be a true holy evening.

It can be a reminder that the death of the Son of God paid for every last human sin. Everyone who believes this is truly a saint in God’s eyes.

The words, “If I die before I wake…” do not frighten us. The request, “I pray the Lord my soul to take.” will be answered. The Lord will come to take that soul immediately to heaven. There is no purgatory.

Jesus has spoken. Jesus has promised. Jesus will do it.

We can sleep in peace.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, Savior of the world and caretaker of our souls, we have been declared holy because your holiness now covers our guilt. Remind us that we are saints in the eyes of the holy God. Teach us to fear our grave as little as our bed. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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God hears – October 21, 2018

God hears – October 21, 2018


It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard.
Isaiah 37:4




Military Devotion – October 21, 2018

Devotion based on Isaiah 37:4

See series: Military Devotions

Gathering intelligence is important for any military operation. The more one learns about the enemy with its strength and plans, the better. This is especially true if the enemy force outnumbers and out powers the defenders.

That’s the situation King Hezekiah was in when the massive army of the Assyrians assembled before the walls of Jerusalem. They came with high confidence and massive strength. They had invaded Israel from the north and already wiped out all the ten northern tribes. Then they crossed the border into Judah and quickly demolished the fortified cities in their path. Now their field commander was demanding the unconditional surrender of Jerusalem.

He relayed the words of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib: “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’” He named off the string of his army’s victories and then asked: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”

The demand ended with the boast, “How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

Hezekiah responded by going to the temple and sending some of his officials to deliver the news to the prophet Isaiah and ask for his prayers.

Hopeless against all odds, Hezekiah turned to the God of hope.

There was no need for God’s people to gather intelligence about the strength and movements of this enemy. The swaggering troops were encamped in plain and frightening view. They had announced the plans to kill those who resisted and take everyone else away as prisoners of war.

Hezekiah needed to know nothing more for himself. He had heard enough. He only hoped that the Lord God had also heard.

He had. He would teach Sennacherib and his army a lesson that the whole world could learn: No one, no power, and no army can defy the holy God without suffering severe consequences! He will deliver his people at the time and in the manner of his choosing.

Through his prophet, the Lord told Sennacherib, “But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came” (Isaiah 37:28,29).

Not an empty threat.

Isaiah reports, “Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there” (Isaiah 37:36,37).

The Assyrian threat was over. Sennacherib never ventured out of his capital again—and then it got worse. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his idol, his sons murdered him.

God hears. He hears those bragging of their own power. He hears the plans against his people. In war or peace, our intelligence gathering may be limited. His is not. He hears every whisper.

This does not mean that he will work a miracle to stop every threat. Later on, he allowed another heathen force to overrun this same city and lead many away as captives.

The lesson is that he is in control. One of his angels on our side is better than hundreds of thousands against us.

Believe it, we must. It is true.



Prayer: All-knowing Lord God, we are happy to learn that you hear the boasts of our enemies. Frustrate their plans. Send your angels to keep us safe—everywhere and always. In Jesus’ name, amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


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What hath God wrought – October 14, 2018

What hath God wrought – October 14, 2018


It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, “See what God has done!”
Numbers 23:23




Military Devotion – October 14, 2018

Devotion based on Numbers 23:23

See series: Military Devotions

We tend to want credit for things we did not do. We do that as individuals and we do that collectively, as a human race. Earlier Americans were more likely to give credit to God.

Communication has always been vital in our lives. We want to tell others the news they should know. We want to hear what others have to say.

When people are far apart, they must communicate with something beyond the human voice. Writing was a common tool. Pony Express riders galloped to connect the East to the West by means of letters in the early days of our country. This was faster than most methods, but it still could be agonizingly slow.

Friendly letters and business advertisements might survive with that pace. Military forces might not. May 24, 1844 marked a milestone event in the history of communication speed. The U.S. Military quickly moved to take advantage of the new speed. It proved indispensable in some future wars.

Samuel F.B. Morse had come up with a way of communicating through a metal wire. Clicks from one side of the wire could instantly be heard on the other. An ingenious system of these clicks (which were called dots and dashes) was set forth as a code. It was called Morse Code.

In a dramatic demonstration, a wire was stretched from the U.S. Capitol to a railroad station in Baltimore. Witnesses, including members of Congress, marveled at the sound that came over that long wire. The message was also striking.

It read: “What hath God wrought.”

Samuel Morse would become famous, but he knew he was only an instrument in the hand of his God. He had turned to the Bible for the famous words he would send.

We don’t use the word, wrought, very much today. So, we quote from the Book of Numbers with the words, “It will now be said of Jacob and Israel, “See what God has done!”

“See what God has done!” Not the man named, Morse. Not the human race. “See what God has done!”

We appreciate and praise the people who found out how to safely conduct electricity, or those who discovered how to use x-rays, or realized that penicillin could be made from mold.

Troops who had been preparing to invade mainland Japan after the bloodbath on Okinawa told us how much they appreciated the people who developed the Atomic Bomb.

But the source of all these things is not found in the ingenuity of humans or in the materials they used. The source was, and always is, God.

The words found in Numbers were spoken in a most unusual situation. A man who claimed to see the future had been hired by an enemy of Israel to curse God’s people. But every time he opened his mouth to curse, a blessing on Israel came out, instead. He finally submitted to God’s will and told his disappointed client, “It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’”

Escaping from Egypt, passing through dangerous countries, with women and children in their midst, the Israelites were headed toward a wondrous future. From the former slaves would come a nation that would be the envy of many, including the Queen of Sheba.

Great leaders would arise. Power and glory would be enjoyed. But a King David and Solomon could not, and did not, claim that they were the cause of all this.

They had to quickly point heavenward and declare, “See what God has done!”

The same phrase had to be used to describe the Savior of the world coming from their midst.

The same is true for us. Any success that America has gained, any development that has brought wonder by others, any greatness of all, is not of our doing.

The victory over sin and death, the inheritance that we shall receive in glory—all of this, and everything else that is good and right—is not our doing.

In grateful humility, we look at the achievements in the history of our nation and find that we must quote the inventor of the Morse Code and declare, “What hath God wrought!”



Prayer: Eternal Lord, source of all that is good, we acknowledge that you have not only showered us with gifts, but you have given us the privilege of serving as your instruments. Use us today and tomorrow, use us in ways that we have not yet seen, to bring your blessings to our nation and its people. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


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Not my mother – October 7, 2018

Not my mother – October 7, 2018


“Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm…?”
Job 38:25




Military Devotion – October 7, 2018

Devotion based on Job 38:25

See series: Military Devotions

Humans have long tried to replace the Creator with the created. They have bowed down to pieces of wood; sacrificed to pieces of stone; and cried out for help to the sun, the moon, and the stars—all in vain.

The scientific age is supposed to have done away with superstition. It has not. Horoscopes and good luck charms seem as popular as ever. If God does not occupy the throne in a person’s heart, something else will. Yet, any replacement for the Holy One will always be a fake. This remains true even if the substitute seems to operate with force uncontrollable.

Nature, at times, appears to have such force. When the forecast calls for threatening weather, we take appropriate action. We have seen damage caused by lightning and tornados. We know all about hurricanes. If we have not lived through them, we have seen the pictures.

An old commercial said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” The ad may strike us as humorous, but a part of us knows that nature can be deadly. If it comes in the form of a rain shower, we might just stay indoors or get out that umbrella. If it comes as a hurricane, we may truly feel at its mercy.

When storms develop over an ocean, millions begin watching their projected paths. Estimates, guesstimates, and spaghetti models are followed closely. A shift in a high-pressure system, an increase in water temperature, or the appearance of wind shear can move the storm further away or bring it right on top of us. Some say this is Mother Nature at work.

Nature is indeed real. Mother Nature is not.

Nature is not a being. It has no control over itself. It does not hear us. It does not care about us. God does.

If we ask, “Who knows what path a storm will take? Who can control it?” the answer is simple: our Savior God. He brings storms into existence. He sets their limits. He sets their paths.

Our loving God rules all of nature for the benefit of those who place in him their faith and trust.
We would not be wrong to carry this truth over to all of the storms of life. Accident, sickness, failure, and heartache can be as devastating as roaring wind and pounding rain. The Maker of heaven and earth is in control of these storms, too.
We recall when a fierce storm at sea once caught the Son of God sleeping in a boat. His companions included seasoned sailors. When they looked at the height of the waves and heard the howl of the wind, they panicked. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He did. Even asleep, he was in control. Then he showed them to what degree he was in charge of nature: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:38,39).

Children of the heavenly Father are not at the mercy of anything but his mercy. It is a level of compassion so high that it cannot be measured; so strong that it cannot be overcome.

Jesus had not come to earth merely to impress people by having wind and waves obey. His mission had a greater goal. He came to enable us to become children of his own Father. He bought our adoption with his lifeblood. He taught us who we really are when he taught us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” To him belong the kingdom, the power, and the glory.

We can say of ourselves, “God’s own child, I gladly say it! I was baptized into Christ.”

I know God is now my Father!

Nature is not my mother.



We can sing:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.
(Christian Worship 415:1-2)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Plans – September 30, 2018

Plans – September 30, 2018


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11




Military Devotion – September 30, 2018

Devotion based on Jeremiah 29:11

See series: Military Devotions

An old saying declares, “If you want God to laugh, tell him your plans.” More than one person has decided this is true.

The background to the saying is the repeated experience of human plans being dashed to pieces. The message of such disappointment is, “Humans are not in control of their lives.” For some, this is a bitter taste of reality. We prefer to be, as the poet said, master of my fate, and captain of my soul.

We are neither.

Nor are we puppets at the end of some strings from heaven. We do have freedom of movement. We have freedom of thought. But in the end, God does rule.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy will be done.” Yet, he does not need our permission to do what he wants to do. He does not need this prayer. We do. It is a statement of faith. We believe that the will of God is good and gracious. We believe that what he wants for us, for our nation, and for our world is absolutely good and right.

We do not want to reject his plans. We do not seek to replace his plans with our own ideas. We know better—or we should know better—even if we don’t always act that way.

Our plans may not include failures or heartaches or hospital stays. His, might. But that doesn’t make them bad.

Our knowledge is limited. To us, the future is unknown. But not to him. Jeremiah needed to know this. Ancient Israel needed to know this. And so do we.

The city of Jerusalem had been smashed, the temple destroyed, and the nation decimated. Many Israelites were taken as captives to the land now called Iraq. This message was for them.

“I know the plans I have for you,” the LORD tells them. He describes his plans with the words, “prosper,” and “not to harm”. To those who seemed hopeless, he promises a good future.

The later return of the captives, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, and the arrival of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth, testify to the truth of his words and the goodness of his plans.

As it was for them, so it is for us.

To some frightened followers, Jesus gave the assurance, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

We live our lives just one step short of disaster. Even on the best of days, one missed red light, one missed heartbeat, or one missed IED could make it the worst of days.

Our good ideas can turn out to be bad ideas. Our best efforts, wasted. Our worst fears, realized.

It’s enough to make us discouraged, if not frightened.

Good thing we are not the masters of our fate! Good thing our plans do not determine the course of our lives! Good thing Someone at the top of the chain-of-command can override our plans!

Good thing our all-wise, all-knowing, and ever-loving God is in charge.

The life of the Christian is the life of the winner. Warrior-king David was right when he wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).

He knew that God’s plans are good plans.

So, do we.



Prayer: Faithful Lord, and loving Savior, we live our life in the unknown. We make our plans, but they are only our guesses for what the future will bring and what will be best for us. We thank you that your plans for us give us hope and a future.  May your will be done. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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 Father’s pain – September 23, 2018

A Father’s pain – September 23, 2018


The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33




Military Devotion – September 23, 2018

Devotion based on 2 Samuel 18:33

See series: Military Devotions

Mothers may shed more tears, but fathers are no strangers to anguish. The father who feels responsible for nurturing and protecting his family tends to feel an extra level of pain when disaster strikes those loved ones. King David is an example.

Absalom was his favorite. David’s eyes lit up at the mere sight of him. Absalom was special, and others saw it too. He was handsome, strong, and had a way of getting people to like him. He was the obvious choice to follow David as the king of Israel. And that became part of David’s pain.

Absalom was conceited. Absalom was self-centered. And Absalom was greedy for power. He wasn’t willing to wait until his father’s death to become king. He drew a crowd of insurgents around him and tried to take the throne by force. He started a civil war. He was willing to kill his father to get what he wanted.

But the Lord God had other plans. David’s life would be spared. His kingdom would remain secure. The rebellious son would be put down. This came about in a dreadful way. Riding for his life in a battle that was going against him, his head got caught in some low branches of a tree and he was pulled out of the saddle. While hanging in midair, three javelins hit his body and ten soldiers finished him off. He was thrown into a pit, and his corpse abandoned.

We might have expected David to be relieved to hear that the son-turned-enemy was no longer a threat. We would assume that he had disowned this unappreciative traitor by now. Instead, he cries out, “If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” He reveals a father’s pain.

David is not only an ancestor of Jesus, the Savior of the world; parts of his life reflect the workings of the holy God. This is one of them. It brings to mind another Father and his rebellious children. We can see how fitting it would be for God the Father to disown those rebels and punish them. Who could blame him?

The reflection becomes fearful when we realize that we once were counted among the rebels. We have, at times, rejected our Father, and taken our stand with Satan, his enemy. We sometimes still join with those who defy the King. We are the modern-day Absalom!

Could it be that the Lord God weeps over us when we rebel with sin? Might it be that he is actually willing to die in our place? Was the Son of God killed so that we might be adopted into the family of God? Do we mean that much to him?

Yes.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, it shames us to think that so often we throw away your kindness and reject your rules.  We deplore our weakness and regret our rebellious wanderings.  Reach out to take hold of us by your powerful hand.  Keep us from straying.  Hold us close.  We want to cause you no further pain.  To that end, shower us with your powerful love through the working of the Holy Spirit.  We pray this in the name of your beloved Son, who even now shares your kingdom, power, and glory. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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


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The far-off God – September 16, 2018

The far-off God – September 16, 2018


Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1




Military Devotion – September 16, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 10:1

See series: Military Devotions

“They cut off her leg and left her in the road to draw us into range of the snipers!”

He was a young soldier. First tour. Just a few days into it. The email carried his confusion, frustration, and distress.

“I jumped out of the MRAP to help her, but my sergeant tackled me and dragged me back.” Someone in another vehicle also tried to run to help. He too, was pulled back. The small convoy had to stop and watch as the woman was bleeding to death. “Wait for the Blackhawks!” was the command. So, they did.

As others were wondering, “Where are the Blackhawks?” this soldier was asking himself, “Where is God?”

The writer of Psalm 10 asked the same question. He observed, “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak” (verse 2). He complained: “He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent…” (verse 8). He then told the Lord what should happen: “Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness!” (Verse 15).

We don’t have to be in a distant and dangerous place to run into times when it seems that the Lord God is far away. We know that he exists. We know of his power and his love. But sometimes we cannot see that he is doing anything to help where he is desperately needed. It appears that he sees the problem, he sees the need to step in—but he will not engage!

What are we to think?

We are to think that he he does know. He does see. And he will act—at the time and in the way that he knows is best.

Our vision is limited. Our knowledge is scant. We cannot see even one second into the future. He knows, he sees, and he ultimately controls everything.

We are not to think that we are God.

We have absolutely no reason to doubt him. He has proven his power, his caring, and his boundless love again and again—most of all, in giving his Son to rescue us. In the end, with the psalmist we must say, “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encouraged them, and you listened to their cry.” (verse 17).

We may not see him, but he is always near. He is hidden only to human eyes. Angels can see what he is doing, and they praise him for it. We need daily to join them in those words of praise, for daily he watches over us with a Father’s care.

And about that distressed young soldier? He went on to report: “Then the Blackhawks came!” That took care of the snipers. And God no longer felt far away.

But then, he never was.



Prayer: Lord of Glory, who has bought us with your lifeblood as the price, remind and assure us that you never are far away from those who love and trust you.  Keep our doubts and frail understanding from questioning your way or your will. We place ourselves, and those we love, into your care.  Keep us under the shadow of your powerful hand. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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On the side of the angels – September 9, 2018

On the side of the angels – September 9, 2018


O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle—do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused. Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise…may disaster hunt down men of violence.
Psalm 140:7-11




Military Devotion – September 9, 2018

Devotion based on Psalm 140:7-11

See series: Military Devotions

On the back of a Special Forces cap are the words: “WE DO BAD THINGS TO BAD PEOPLE.”

Those words disturb some folks. They anger others. They confuse still others. But there are some who understand. King David would be among this last group. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned the words of Psalm 140 , which calls for bad things to happen to bad people.

Some claim this goes against the directive of Jesus: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39).

Some would argue that there is no such group as “good people,” since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They point to the words of Jesus saying only those who have no sin should throw the first stone of punishment (Cf. John 8:7). This would eliminate everyone.

But Scripture must always interpret Scripture. The words of Jesus do not mean that evil, and the people who carry it out, are never to be fought against. That would be a misapplication of God’s Word.

In both Old and New Testaments, God has spoken clearly about protecting human lives. He charges ruling power to protect its citizens. He authorizes the use of extreme force to provide that defense. Those doing bad things—carrying out evil against others—are to be stopped. They have forfeited the goodwill of others. Sometimes they forfeit their very lives.

There is a famous saying that declares, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke—1770).

That is not a Bible passage, but it does reflect biblical teaching. “Good” can mean sinless, but it does not need to. It can also indicate those who are standing up for what is right and good. Sometimes this is called, “being on the side of the angels.”

“Bad people” can refer to those who stand for that which is bad. That is the side of the demons.

Those who serve their nation in defense of its people are authorized and expected to take a stand against those doing evil.

King David placed himself with the forces for good. When he wrote, “Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise…may disaster hunt down men of violence.” he was asking the Lord to prevent the triumph of evil.

He prayed that bad things would happen to bad people. The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that we may have prayed the same.

Jesus addressed a different type of situation with his words about turning the other cheek. The slap on the cheek is a personal affront. It’s an insult. The natural reaction to that is to seek revenge. We want payback. But then, shameful acts will escalate. Demons will cheer.

Jesus reminds us that vengeance belongs to God. We can put up with those who dishonor us. We can shake off their attacks. We can walk away.

But we cannot ignore our duty to protect others. We will risk our lives to do that. We will fight against those who threaten with evil designs. We will call upon God to aid us in that fight.

We will take our stand with King David on the side of the angels.



Prayer: Eternal and holy God, we know that we are sinful creatures who live in a sinful world. But we also know that the sacrifice of Jesus has liberated us from the death-grip of sin. We are now free to serve you by serving others who need our help.  Keep us from abusing the power that you have given to us. Bless our efforts to overcome evil. Keep our feet on the holy path. Keep us on the side of the angels. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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Ancient paths – September 2, 2018

Ancient paths – September 2, 2018


This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Jeremiah 6:16




Military Devotion – September 2, 2018

Devotion based on Jeremiah 6:16

See series: Military Devotions

When decisions need to be made, care needs to be taken. The more serious the decision, the greater the care.

Deciding which brand of toothpaste to buy is not high on the critical list. Deciding which person to marry is. Deciding upon a path in life is at the top of that list.

When a decision can change the course of our life, we say we are at a crossroad. Graduation from high school places us there. College, job, or military are some of the ways we might go. The decision we make at that time will determine the road we take.

While sometimes we make such a decision carefully, at other times we may not even be aware that we stand at a critical point. Sometimes we give little thought to the direction we are taking in life. In our physical life, this can be dangerous. In spiritual life, it is deadly.

“What kind of life do I want to live?” “What’s the most important thing in my life?” “What role do I want God to have in my life?”

Critical questions, all!

When we were young, we already saw people walking different life-paths. With loved ones giving guidance, we could recognize the dangerous ones. When we joined the military, it was different. We were now an adult. Mom and dad were not around. We had to live and work with people who were together with us on the military career-path, but whose life-paths were far different from our own. The question arose, “Should I turn off onto their roads?”

The answer is, “No!”

When driving home for a visit, we look for familiar markers. If the signs are in a foreign language; if they show no speed limit; and if the exits name places we never heard of, this tells us something is wrong. This is not the familiar and safe road home.

When choosing a route for life, if the exits list only “Fun” or “Money,” it’s a route to stay away from. If the highway sign says, “Make up your own rules,” it is a dangerous road to be on. If the sign says: “No Gods allowed in this lane,” better get off that road. Fast.

To decide which road to take, a person needs to know where he wants to go. We may travel to many places on this planet, but at the end of our earthly journey we seek only one destination—and it is not on this planet. We want to go home.

Home is where we are safe. Home is where we are loved. Home is where life is lived to the full and happiness runs over.

For the children of God, heaven is our home.

The way home is by an ancient path. It has been walked on by God’s people from days of old.

It is a good road. It is the right road. It is sprinkled with holy blood and patrolled by angels.

The toll has already been paid. A friendly face is waiting for us at the entry control point (ECP). Our Friend has reserved a place for us. This is his Father’s house. This will be our forever home.

Whenever standing at a crossroad in life, look for the right road. Look for the road home. Look for the road with the cross on it.



Prayer: Savior of the world and our heavenly Friend, life can be confusing and the paths of life dangerous. Too often we head off on a path without thinking. Too often we choose a wrong road. Lead us, then, back to the Way of Life. Keep us on the road where we walk home with Jesus. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 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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