Military Devotions

Keeping count – June 28, 2020

Keeping count – June 28, 2020


The total number of persons belonging to Jacob—his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons—who came to Egypt: 66. And Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt: two persons. All those of Jacob’s household who had come to Egypt: 70 persons.
Genesis 46:26,27




Military Devotion – June 28, 2020

Devotion based on Genesis 46:26,27

See series: Military Devotions

A WWII veteran once remarked: “In war, life is cheap!” He had survived for weeks on the beaches of Anzio without a scratch. All of a sudden, pain erupted in his stomach. It was not an enemy shell. It was a ruptured appendix. Medics hauled him off for treatment. As he watched the mangled wounded come in, he came to realize that he was being overlooked. “I didn’t count!” he said. “I was sick, not wounded. But I knew that unless someone noticed my condition, I was going to die.”

One does not need to be neglected on a battlefield to feel that he doesn’t count for much. Bad enough if superiors act toward him in this way. Worse, if friends and family begin treating a person like this. Absolutely the worst if a person concludes that not even God notices.

A major famine was heading for Canaan in Jacob’s day. Money would do no good if there was no food to buy. So, God provided for Jacob and his family by allowing Joseph to be sold into slavery in Egypt. Years later, he could welcome his father and brothers by offering abundant food and rich pastureland.

News reports of the day would not have taken note of this one refugee family while countless others in Canaan were on the brink of starvation and death. But God noticed. He was counting these people—because they counted to him. Their number was 70!

Four hundred thirty years later, he counted them again. The time had come for his people to return to Canaan. By now, they could field an army of 603,550 (Numbers 1:46). Adding women, children, and others not able to wage war, the number was easily 2.5 million. He had not forgotten his people or the promises he had made to them. He had watched over them.

Their lives mattered.

If the Lord knows the number of the stars and calls them by name, if he notices when a bird falls from the sky, and if he has counted the hairs on our head, then we should not be surprised to learn that he kept count of the people from whom the Savior was going to come. Or, that he is keeping careful watch over us—counting our sorrows, counting our fears, counting our blessings—counting everything but our sins. For those he has removed from us as far as the east is from the west. His Son took them all away.

It matters little if we are far from home or if we are able to go home to our family every night. It makes no difference if we are sick or well, in safety or danger, awake or asleep. The Lord God keeps track of us. He watches over us. He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3).

Our lives matter.

Thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Anzio in 1943. The Lord knew each one of them. The young sergeant from Rock Springs, Wisconsin, needed not to fear. The eyes of his Lord were upon him. His life was not cheap. It had been bought with the blood of Christ. In the eyes of his Creator and Savior God, he counted dearly.

As do we.



Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we know that you neither slumber nor sleep. At times we feel that we have been forgotten; that our needs have been overlooked. Banish our doubts and fears. Wipe out our lack of faith. We lift up our eyes to you, O Lord, for your eyes are always upon us. And since you have already counted out the days and minutes of our earthly life, keep us safe with you until we have finished our mission in life. Then lead us home. Amen.



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

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


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Mercy has a price – June 21, 2020

Mercy has a price – June 21, 2020


I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy. Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.
Zechariah 12:10




Military Devotion – June 21, 2020

Devotion based on Zechariah 12:10

See series: Military Devotions

“Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.”

If these words from the Athanasian Creed seem confusing to us, it is because the nature of God seems confusing to us. Three persons, but only one God? How can that be true?

Because it is true—limited human comprehension notwithstanding.

Rather than trying to unravel the mystery with our minds, Scripture bids us marvel at the wonder of the eternal God, and grab hold of his blessings with our faith.

We can easily form a mental picture of God the Father. After all, we have seen fathers. We can visualize God the Son. He took on human form.

But what would God the Holy Spirit look like? Scripture compares him to the wind. What does wind look like? We cannot see it. We only see what it does. We see trees bend. We feel it move against our skin. We don’t need to see the wind in order to know it is there.

The same is true of the Triune God. Regarding him, we live by faith, not sight. It is a certain faith built upon amazing realities. God seldom shows us the how of his existence. Instead, he points us to the what.

We sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus” because we have been shown that he was willing to step into the place of the guilty—where we should have stood. The rescue plan was formulated long before Jesus was crucified. Long before he was born as our brother, he could say, “Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.”

This is God the Son speaking. This is God the Son dying.

But there is more to it. Through the prophet Zechariah we see all persons of the Trinity are in the picture. The Triune God tells us, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy.”

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of grace. He pours out God’s undeserved love. He pleads for mercy. Mercy was indeed given. But mercy has a price.

The suffering and death of the Son of God was the answer to the Holy Spirit’s prayer.

The holy God could not overlook sin. His very nature ruled that out. Justice needed to be served. Sin needed to be punished. The death sentence needed to be issued.

Just like the rebellious angels, rebellious humans forfeited all the blessings of the loving Creator. They could expect only to be abandoned from his presence to endless misery and darkness.

But the Holy Spirit pleaded for mercy for humans.

We look in at the picture with amazement. Why would the Holy Spirit plead for unholy humans to be spared? Why would the Son of God be willing to make this possible? Why would God the Father agree to this?

The Bible gives the answer, then repeats it and repeats it. The Holy God wants us to know that we did nothing to deserve mercy. He wants us to realize how despicable sin is—and how deadly.

He wants us to know how much he loves us.

Our salvation is the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It was an act of mercy.

And the Triune God knew very well; mercy has a price.



Prayer: Holy God of grace and wonder, our feeble minds cannot comprehend the concept of the Trinity. We simply rejoice to know your name and your greatness. We wait for heaven to understand fully. But already now, we offer thanks and praise for being willing to pay the price of mercy for us. Amen.



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

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


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The kill zone – June 14, 2020

The kill zone – June 14, 2020


I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 EHV




Military Devotion – June 14, 2020

Devotion based on John 10:10 EHV

See series: Military Devotions

A kill zone is the primary target area for a military ambush. It can also refer to the blast radius for an explosive weapon such as a grenade or bomb, or anything else that kills. It’s a dangerous place. We should avoid it. But we cannot.

We live our entire life on earth in a kill zone.

Maybe earlier we could forget this. While we knew everyone will someday die, it was easier, back then, to pretend it only happened to others.

We can pretend no more.

Those who have spent time in combat have already learned this. No matter how young they were, or how good their weapons, they knew getting killed was always a distinct possibility.

It changed the way they thought about living and about dying. They knew they lived in a kill zone.

People who live far from battlefields tend to think they live in a safe zone. They hear no weapons of war. They seldom see stretcher bearers at work. Surely, they are safe.

They are not.

The whole world should realize by now that there is no place completely safe. The very air we breathe can kill us. The old hymn had it right: “I walk in danger all the way.”

Everyone on this planet lives in the kill zone.

It has been this way since our first parents were driven from Eden and angels were sent to bar access to the tree of life.

Earth had become infected with the virus of sin. It brought death to everyone it touched.

Human eyes alone are not able to detect the coronavirus. A victim may not even know he has been infected. He may ignore the symptoms. But untreated, it can be deadly.

It’s much the same with the sin virus. The lab report is in from heaven. Rebellion against the holy God has been detected in the entire human race. Sometimes it reaches a fever pitch.

We don’t need to take a test. We already know what God sees. Our conscience tells us. His Word confirms it: We are dead men walking.

It’s only a matter of time before our hearts stop. Each day inches us closer. The warning words rush back into our minds: “Dust thou art…”

If the coronavirus doesn’t get us, something else will. The future? Looks hopeless, doesn’t it?

The prognosis for our soul is no better. Sin already infected us in our mother’s womb.

Hopeless.

No.

It is not! The hope is real. Our hope is certain. It’s based on this: That which is dead can come to life again. That’s the official declaration from the Giver of life.

The Son of God explained why he came to live and die on this planet: “I came that they may have life…”

Who are the “they”? We are.

How long of life? How complete of a life? What kind of life?

“And have it abundantly.”

Those who put their faith in him receive new life for their soul. Those who put their faith in him receive new life for their bodies.

“I will come back and take you to be with me” he said, “that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

We don’t just live until we die. We live until we live again—till we live anew.

A squad of angels will extract us from the valley of death. We will receive a hero’s flight.

We will leave the kill zone. We will leave as victors.



Prayer: Creator and Savior God, the signs of death surround us. We watch the rising numbers of those who have succumbed to a new infection, but we know that’s not the full count of the dying. We know there will finally be no survivors left on this planet. We wait for you to come back for us. We stand our watch until then. Amen.



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

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


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God is light – June 7, 2020

God is light – June 7, 2020


This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5




Military Devotion – June 7, 2020

Devotion based on 1 John 1:5

See series: Military Devotions

“Let there be light!” was one of the first creation commands. Obedience followed instantly.

“Do not come any closer!” was the command to Moses from a burning bush. Why not? “The place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Who said that? “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).

And Moses quickly hid his face—much like a child might bury his face in a pillow after seeing a lightning strike.

Then there was the nightly pillar of fire that led Israel to the Promised Land. In daylight, it became a dazzling bright cloud.

How could we forget that the face of Jesus shone like the sun at his transfiguration? Or that his clothes became as white as the light? (Matthew 17:2)

“God is light,” the Bible explains. “In him there is no darkness at all.”

This is more than just a description of the holy God. It is to be a description of us.

The apostle John went on to say, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie…”

There is a kingdom of light, and there is a kingdom of darkness. There is a Lord of glory, and there is a prince of darkness.

We belong to one or the other. We follow one or the other. Jesus warns against thinking we can belong to both at the same time. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).

To some people of his day, Jesus spoke the frightening words, “You belong to your father, the devil…” (John 8:44). Might he say this to us?

At my Baptism, I was asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?” My godparents answered for me: “Yes!”

But does that answer still stand? How often did I not visit the kingdom of darkness? How often followed its prince into temptation? Like a fallen Peter, how often did I act as if I didn’t even know the Holy One of God? Am I kidding myself when I say I am a Christian? Might I be lost to the darkness?

The evil one would smile and shout, “Yes! The evidence is damning.”

But Satan is not the judge. Jesus says of him, “For he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He lies now.

The restored Peter tells us: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

The apostle Paul writes: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).

Then he lays it out for us: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

The verses pile up. The truth sinks in: “We are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Why not? We belong to the heavenly Father, “And the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Wonderful news! Best possible news! Life-changing news.

Now, amidst a crooked and depraved generation, our Father calls upon us to shine like stars.

“Shine like stars” (Philippians 2:15). We belong to God—who is light.

We should show it.



Prayer: Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows, continue to change us—that more and more we shine forth your light in our life. Amen.



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

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


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Aim high – May 31, 2020

Aim high – May 31, 2020


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




Military Devotion – May 31, 2020

Devotion based on John 14:2,3

See series: Military Devotions

The United States Air Force already claims the words “Aim High” as its motto. We acknowledge that but point out that other groups also find meaning in these words. Christians are one of them.

After all, the Christian life aims not at the grave—but beyond the sky.

A recent writer suggests a way to face death peacefully during a pandemic. In short, he says, “Accept the idea that we are nothing.”

He tells us, “We are negligible instances, inhabiting a random, unremarkable backwater of the universe, basking for an instant or two in the light of a dying star.”

He thinks that one day we will only be a strange figure in a family photo. “Soon enough we’ll diminish into uncertainty and then we’ll be entirely unknown, a blip in an uninteresting record in an unexamined file somewhere in a never-visited archive. It will be as if we had never been.”1

“As if we had never been…”

A voice within wants to call out: “That’s not true! My life has meaning! I am not nothing.” We think of the great things that people have accomplished. “Surely, that counts for something!”

But does it? Centuries ago, someone wrote, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Isn’t that so?

What about the words, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”? Aren’t they true?

If even our Creator calls us mere dust, where else are we headed, but to the grave? Isn’t that where the molecules of our body will become part of the fabric of the universe, in which our planet is just a speck?

Looks like it.

But looks can be deceiving. In this case, they are! We need to look in through the eyes of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier God.

Our life ends, not at the grave, but beyond the sky. We are heaven-bound.

We are to aim high.

That’s not always easy to do. Fears, doubts, and worries pull us down. We can think of hundreds of reasons why we should not expect to survive the grave—and each of them may be valid.

There is only one reason to expect that we will be lifted to glory: the promise of God. And that reason overrules everything else!

It’s not a sales pitch. They’re not empty words to make us feel better for a little while. The promise is backed by blood! Holy, precious blood.

The disciples saw Jesus lift off from the earth. They knew he would be coming back for them.

In a Communion hymn, we sing to our Lord, “Remember that I am but dust.” “Help me when doubts assail me.” We need that help.

We are not among the unknown. Our Redeemer calls us by name. He will give that help.

That poet who wrote that our paths lead but to the grave? He understood life does not end there. He knew the path continues on to bring the Christian to what he called “the bosom of his Father and his God.”2

He knew the ascended Jesus leads us to heaven. We know that too.

We will aim high.



Prayer: Lift up our eyes, Lord Jesus, that we may be reminded of your promise and await your return with hope and joy. Point our hearts ahead and above to your heavenly mansions. Amen.


1 In an article by The School of Life
2 “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray.



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

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


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Remembering loss – May 24, 2020

Remembering loss – May 24, 2020


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 – May 24, 2020

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 32:7

See series: Military Devotions

My mother always called it Decoration Day. The high school band always led the way to the cemetery where a speech was made. The speech always ended with the words: “They have not died in vain!”

I always wondered why some people cried.

As a child, it was an exciting day. School was over. Summer was starting. Why would someone be sad?

Later, I learned. Some of my friends who watched the parade marching to the cemetery later marched to war. Some returned with broken bodies and some with broken minds.

Some now lie silently in that same cemetery. If they could hear, they would note the words, “They have not died in vain.”

I have learned it is not a day for looking ahead to happy times. It’s a time to look back and remember. It is rightly called Memorial Day.

It’s all about remembering loss.

In 1868 General John Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30th for the 650,000 Americans who died during the Civil War.

WWI cost America 116,708 deaths, including 43,000 who fell in the attacks by Spanish Flu.

There was a brigade surgeon who looked out over the field where chlorine gas was released for the first time in war. 87,000 Allied soldiers died there and another 37,000 who fought for the Kaiser. The doctor’s best friend was among them.

Remembering a cluster of red poppies growing among the dead, he later penned the famous poem beginning with: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow beneath the crosses, row on row.”

The wearing of a poppy became the mark of those remembering those lost to war.

Much has changed since those days. More names have been added to the list of the lost. Yet, it seems the day for remembering has become more of a holiday than a solemn observance.

Some are eager to move on to the future. “The past,” they say, “is past.” What good does it do to go back over what we cannot change? Why remember?

Those who have only a memory left of their loved ones might answer: “We cannot forget. We don’t want others to forget.”

At the 1945 dedication of the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, Chaplain Gittelsohn said this: “We memorialize those who, having ceased living with us, now live within us.”

We think of words from God: “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” Then he tells us how to do this: “Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”

The younger do not understand. They must learn from the older. They need to be taught the true cause of war and the only source of peace.

True understanding comes only when they learn that God the Father lost his Son in the battle for our eternal life! That war is now over. It is time to remember the victory.

A cross became his memorial marker. But no body lies beneath it. That marker points to an empty grave. These are reminders of the life never-ending and the peace never-broken that he has won.

If remembering loss can lead us to remembering Christ, Memorial Day will have served us well.

For truly, it can be said of him, “He did not die in vain.”



Prayer: Almighty Father, strong to save, hear us when we call to you for mercy upon our fatherland. Remind us of our shortcomings, tell us of our sins. Call forth an army of those who are older to explain to the younger the blessings you have showered upon our nation. Let them see that the cost of freedom is counted in the number of lives that were lost. Comfort those who are remembering loss during these days and bless those who have left friends behind to march to war. In the name of Jesus, Amen.



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

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


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Poor Solomon – May 17, 2020

Poor Solomon – May 17, 2020


“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2




Military Devotion – May 17, 2020

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 1:2

See series: Military Devotions

He was rich in wealth and wisdom. He had no equal. And yet, when we take a closer look at his life, we may end up saying: “Poor Solomon.”

“Solomon” means peace. But for much of his life, no peace could he find. We would not want to be like him.

Oh, we would like some of that wealth, and it would be nice to be honored like him. But we would hate to be as miserable as he came to be.

If we ask, “How could he be so unhappy with all that he had?” he answers in the book of the Bible called “Ecclesiastes.”

The opening words are striking: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” How did he come to that sad conclusion?

He was bored: “What has been will be again, what has been done,” he wrote, “will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (1:9)

He discovered wisdom did not bring happiness. He reports: “With much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” (1:18)

So, he undertook great projects. He built houses, planted trees, bought livestock, and piled up gold and silver. “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” (2:10)

The result? “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.” (2:18)

He came to the conclusion: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.” (2:24)

So, the king who has it all is no better off than a common laborer.

Then, he shared some words of wisdom: “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness….”

Happiness, he learned, is a gift from God. It is not something we can make for ourselves.

And then a warning: “…but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” (2:26)

This, he would tell us, is truly a meaningless life.

His words may surprise us. We don’t expect this from the son of the great King David and the builder of the great temple in Jerusalem. Had he not impressed even the Queen of Sheba?

Yet, much of his life was empty. There may have been peace throughout his kingdom during those years, but no peace was found in his heart and soul. Poor Solomon!

But there is more to his story. It turns out, one of his descendants was the very Prince of peace.

Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and son of Mary, from the line of David and Solomon, was the answer to Solomon’s emptiness—and ours.

What is the greatest thing the great King Solomon accomplished in life? Wrong question!

Rather, “What is the greatest thing God accomplished through Solomon?”

The answer must be: “God used Solomon, with all of his strengths and weaknesses, with all of his wealth and wisdom—God used the man with the name, “Peace” to bring the Prince of peace to the earth.

Rest in peace, Solomon! You now share in the endless wealth, power, and glory of your Savior.

One day, because of your distant Son, we will too.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your death and resurrection give us peace of heart, mind, and soul. Accept our words of thanksgiving and our labors of love. Amen.



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

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


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Angels unaware – May 10, 2020

Angels unaware – May 10, 2020


For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Psalm 91:11,12




Military Devotion – May 10, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 91:11,12

See series: Military Devotions

The problem is, we don’t normally see them! Those celestial beings called angels. We know they are here because God says so. They’re all around. However, since we don’t detect them, we don’t often think of them.

They are angels unaware.

Some humans have seen them. Jacob did when he was returning to meet Esau (Genesis 32:1). David saw an angel striking people with a plague (2 Samuel 24:17). Nebuchadnezzar saw one walking around in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:24-25). There have been other sightings.

It appears there are different types of angels that carry out different assignments. Some serve their Creator as messengers. We think of those who once made an announcement over the fields of Bethlehem. Who could forget the ones announcing that the Easter grave was empty?

Some serve their King as warriors. The first battle in history took place far above our heads. It was a case of angels against angels: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).

The rebellious angels, now called demons, were thrown out of heaven but not barred from earth. Here, among us, the battle rages on. Angels still fight angels. Angels from the realms of glory are being deployed to protect God’s people from superior and deadly spiritual enemies.

These defenders from heaven have been described as God’s Special Forces. It’s an apt title.

We might remember the Bible naming the Holy One as the “Lord of hosts.” Some translations use the better term, “Lord of armies.” He commands an army of countless angels.

We have no idea how often an angel has stepped in to protect us from disaster. We might wonder about a time when we should have been in a car accident—but somehow, were not. Some may wonder about the times they surprisingly escaped injury or death in battle.

They might have said it was a miracle they survived. It may have been just that. It might have been the work of angels unaware.

One morning, the servant of Elisha looked up to see that an enemy army had surrounded the city. When he asked, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” Elisha told him, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

The servant couldn’t see it. He knew how few defended the city. But then, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” We learn: “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Angels unaware.

When we think of divine intervention, our minds tend to go toward big, life-threatening events. But the Bible tells us that God also pays attention to the little things. Jesus talks about noticing a single bird dropping from the sky. He reports the heavenly Father knows the number of hairs on our head.

So, maybe it should not surprise us to learn that he sends angels to keep us from tripping over stones.

Angels are here to protect us from dangers we may have never noticed. This includes threats invisible to the human eye. Among them are the unseen forces of darkness gathering to attack our souls. It surely includes virus particles that would attack our bodies.

We are told angels are commanded, “to protect you in all your ways.”

Nothing slips unnoticed through the defensive perimeter surrounding God’s people. Angels stand watch. Only that which has been cleared by Command is allowed in. Pain can sometimes enter—but only so much. Sometimes, misery is given a pass—but only so much. God sets the limits and provides the deliverance.

Our orders are: “Stay inside the wire!” So, we mark the boundary he tells us not to cross.

We live our lives watched over by angels unaware.

Many a Christian has ended the day with the words of Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer. Those words fit our lives quite well. So, when night falls, we might pray:



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



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

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


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Be still – May 3, 2020

Be still – May 3, 2020


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 4:39




Military Devotion – May 3, 2020

Devotion based on Mark 4:39

See series: Military Devotions

Words spoken once to wind and waves come now to storm-tossed souls: “Be still!”

It wasn’t a suggestion to those forces of nature. It was a command.

Wind and waves recognized that voice. It was their master. Instantly, they obeyed.

So, should we. Not out of fear. Out of trust. Those words bring blessed assurance.

Nature on a rampage can shatter one’s peace of mind. It certainly did for those disciples caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. We are told it was a “furious squall.” Waves began breaking over the boat. They were in danger of being swamped. And Jesus was sleeping!

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Maybe we would have asked the same. Maybe we have already done so in the past, when troubles washed over our lives.

Wrong question! Bad question. It springs from doubt, not faith.

We don’t know exactly what the disciples expected Jesus to do, but they did want him to do something. They knew he could work miracles. They had seen his words had power.

To a leper, Jesus had said: “Be clean!” and he was (Mark 1:41). To a paralytic, Jesus had said: “Get up, take your mat and go home” and he did (Mark 2:11). To the man with a shriveled hand, Jesus had said: “Stretch out your hand.” And it was completely restored (Mark 3:5).

Maybe more astonishingly, when an evil spirit asked, “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!” Jesus said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”

And he did! We hear: “The demon shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek” (Mark 1:24-26).

The disciples had seen the evidence; had heard the cry of the demon; and had witnessed the power behind the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

They knew the Holy One of God was with them. He was sleeping in their boat!

So, why the panic?

They knew what he could do. They were not sure what he would do.

And we are in the same boat.

We have seen the evidence identifying Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. We have read the testimonies of people who have seen the risen Jesus with their own eyes. We have heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

That’s the kind of disciple we are. The Holy Spirit has worked the miracle of faith in our hearts. With the apostle Peter, we say to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (Matthew 16:16).

And yet—and yet—we sometimes find ourselves wondering, “Don’t you care about us?”

Like those disciples in the boat, we sometimes expect that if Jesus did care about us, he would act quickly to help us. When he does not, we are tempted to wonder, “Is he sleeping? Doesn’t he care?”

Shame on those disciples! Shame on us. How dare we doubt him! Holy words ring in our ears: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

He never promised to keep us untouched by a storm. He has not promised to keep a virus from attacking our body. He surely has never said we would never die.

He has promised to make certain that we are safe in his hands no matter what. Finally, he will bring us back from death. He will land us safely on heaven’s shore.

The nail prints in his hands testify to the certainty of that.

When he bids us “Be quiet! Don’t be afraid!” our soul recognizes the voice of the all-powerful, loving Lord.

And we can know: “All is well!”



Prayer:
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. Amen.
(Christian Worship 415:1)



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

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


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Seeking safety – April 26, 2020

Seeking safety – April 26, 2020


Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 17:8




Military Devotion – April 26, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 17:8

See series: Military Devotions

“They have tracked me down, they now surround me.” With these words King David described his plight. He had prayed, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1). Everywhere he looked he saw danger. He needed help!

David was a veteran warrior. He had a capable army. His commanders were skilled. But these are not the assets he turned to. Instead of looking around for help, he looked up. “Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry” (Psalm 17:1). The call goes out to the command center on high. This was his only hope.

“Keep me as the apple of your eye!” he pleads. That’s a strange phrase. But, “apple of the eye” is an old way of referring to the center of the eye, the pupil. The illustration becomes clear. Throw something toward a person’s face and watch what happens. Instinctively, a hand will come out for protection. We watch out for our eyes.

This is what David is saying to the Lord: “Treat me as if I were the center of your eye. Protect me just as surely and quickly as a person would guard his eyes.”

But the warrior David also knew that while sometimes it is best to fight, at other times it is better to hunker down and hide. That becomes his second plea: “Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

He probably had seen this more than once in nature. Many birds, including eagles, use this technique to protect their young. When danger threatens, the bird will spread its wings, call its young to gather closely around, and then enclose the little ones under its strong wings. If a predator wants to attack the hatchling, it must first get past the fiercely protective parent.

Many a person has found comfort and assurance in the words from this psalm. But those who have faced an enemy that was intent upon killing—those people find a depth of meaning that few others can. The submariner whose boat has been targeted by a ring of ships with depth charges, the airman who found enemy fighters in all directions, the marine or soldier who has walked into an ambush, and the sailor who has fought off simultaneous attacks on his ship—they grasp the terror behind the words, “They have tracked me down and now surround me.”

But not all enemies are human. Not all enemies can be seen. Some threats can only be detected with an MRI. Some threats show themselves with a cough and a fever.

Some foes surge out from the pits of hell.

In a famous hymn we sing: “But for us fights the valiant one Whom God himself elected.” He is more powerful than any enemy. He has already overcome the greatest enemy. He will protect us. He will shelter us. And when the time comes for us to close our eyes in death, we can say with David: “When I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

We will open our eyes in glory.

This we know to be certain:

“With might of ours can naught be done; Soon were our loss effected.
But for us fights the valiant one Whom God himself elected.
You ask, “Who is this?” Jesus Christ it is,
The almighty Lord. And there’s no other God;
He holds the field forever.”
(Christian Worship: 200:2)



Prayer: Keep us as the apple of your eye. Hide us under the shadow of your wings. Amen.



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

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


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Easter expectations – April 19, 2020

Easter expectations – April 19, 2020


“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
Luke 24:19-21




Military Devotion – April 19, 2020

Devotion based on Luke 24:19-21

See series: Military Devotions

“Well, what did you expect?” The question was aimed at a disappointed youngster on an Easter morning.

The blank look and the shrugged shoulders said, “I don’t know.” But what he really wanted to say was: “I expected more!”

I know what the boy was thinking because I’m the one who was asked that question a while ago—well, maybe more than a while ago.

Christmas had made quite an impression: the decorations, the cookies, and the presents—lots of presents.

Easter had a similar buildup: a special meal was planned, extra church services held, holiday cards exchanged—and my sister had said there would be a surprise on Easter morning.

Some surprise. Some hardboiled eggs, a chocolate bunny, and a handful of jellybeans!

I expected more from Easter.

I wasn’t the only one.

On Easter evening, two followers of Jesus were walking the road to Emmaus, talking about the unexpected events of the day. When Jesus joined them, unrecognized, they revealed their disappointment.

Actually, they were disappointed in him.

“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people,” they explained to this “stranger.” Then, referring to the authorities, they reported: “they crucified him….”

What a letdown!

This they did not expect. Instead, they said, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).

But he did! He did pay the ransom for the fallen human race! What more could they want?

They wanted him to redeem Israel in the way they were expecting him to do it. Their expectations for Easter were far different than God’s expectations.

How sad.

But how common.

And how current!

The disappointed youngster who grew up still needs to guard against being disappointed in God’s plans. His expectations still often run down a different path from those of his heavenly Father.

On some days, he expects life to be easier than it often is: less stress, more money—and no deadly virus.

On other days, he is surprised that problems have been solved; threats averted; and fears deflated—through none of his doing.

He is learning not to second-guess how his God is going to work all things out for his good.

He is learning to take a very hard look at what the first Easter means for him and those he loves.

He is learning to expect much more from the Lord God than he could ever dream of.

He is waiting to talk with those two fellows from Emmaus.

He is expecting to do that on a perfect Easter-like day.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your resurrection from the dead has proven that we will live forever. Keep the vision of Easter before our spiritual eyes that we may always cling to the certainty of life eternal when the day of our death comes. Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, dearest Jesus, unto thee. Amen.



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

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


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God must live—again – April 12, 2020

God must live—again – April 12, 2020


The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
Matthew 28:5,6




Military Devotion – April 12, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 28:5,6

See series: Military Devotions

“God must die if humans are going to live!” That was the divine decision.

But there was a critical second part to the plan of salvation: “God must live again!”

That’s the story of Easter.

Our minds balk at the idea of God dying. How can that happen to an eternal one?

The Bible explains that by the Son of God becoming human, he received a human body. When his spirit left his body, life left him.

God the Father did not die. God the Holy Spirit did not die. God the Son did die.

But he must live again.

His dying paid for our sin. His coming to life again claimed his victory over sin and death. The importance of the empty grave cannot be overstated. We are warned: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (1 Corinthians 15:17,18).

Then comes the assurance: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The victory over sin, death, and the devil was won on the cross. But humans needed to know it. It had to be proven to them.

They knew the Son of God had died. They had seen the thrust of the spear and the gush of blood and water. They had handled the lifeless body.

Now they needed to see him alive. They needed to touch him. And they did.

That’s the story of Easter.

But as we read the accounts of that day, we may find ourselves asking, “Couldn’t things have gone more smoothly?”

Why the confusion? Why did Jesus appear and then disappear? Why did he keep some of his followers from immediately recognizing him? Why didn’t he show up in the temple in front of crowds?

Why wasn’t Jesus sitting on that rolled-away stone in radiant glory instead of an angel?

Couldn’t the events of Easter have rolled out better than they did?

Of course not.

Each appearance was planned. The timing was perfect. They also wipe out the assertion that the disciples removed the body to a hidden place. They demonstrate that the story of Easter was not a fabrication by his followers.

No human could envision the way the events of Easter took place.

Good thing the planning of Easter was not left to us. We would have ruined that perfect day.

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it. Everything happened the way that it did for our benefit.

We look in from afar. But the line of vision is clear and direct. The Holy Spirit has seen to that.

As Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We were not there on Easter Day. We have not seen him with our eyes or touched him with our hands. But we are, indeed, blessed.

The Holy Spirit has entered into our hearts to show us that Jesus lives.

He lives again.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your resurrection from the dead has proven that we will live forever. Keep the vision of Easter before our spiritual eyes that we may always cling to the certainty of life eternal when the day of our death comes. Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, dearest Jesus, unto thee. Amen.



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

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


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God must die – April 10, 2020

God must die – April 10, 2020


When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Matthew 27:54




Military Devotion – April 10, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 27:54

See series: Military Devotions

The evidence was in. The verdict was obvious. “God must die!”

Not in the chambers of the Sanhedrin was the decision made. Not in the courtroom of the Roman governor. And surely, not on the streets of Jerusalem.

The verdict was delivered in the vault of heaven before time began. The Holy One, himself, decreed: “God must die!”

Our puny minds cannot penetrate the mystery of the Godhead. We cannot wrap our heads around the concept of eternity. All we can do is look in with wonder as events unfold.

We are permitted to look in at Christmas Eve through the eyes of shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. On Good Friday, we look through the eyes of a squad of soldiers who were keeping watch over an execution. The shepherds saw a vision of glory. The soldiers saw only gore.

Rome was the superpower of the time. On the day when darkness came at noon, some of her troops were stationed in the pitiful province of Judea.

At least four of them, with a centurion in charge, were ordered to carry out three executions.

They had no idea how far up the chain-of-command the order had originated.

Humans wanted the man, Jesus of Nazareth, killed. They did not recognize that Jesus was also God, even though this was his claim.

Actually, that is the one charge that stuck. Before Pilate, the Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).

In fact, he was the Son of God.

He had said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:9,10)

Jesus is God! Scripture reveals that. We confess that: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father” (Nicene Creed).

In fact, he was also human.

This we confess with the words: “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and became fully human” ( Nicene Creed).

Otherwise, there was no hope for us. “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’” (Romans 3:10). We sin. The penalty is clear: “For the wages of sin is death…”

So, it was decided: “God must die!”

The Second Person of the Trinity would become human. He would die to meet the demands of justice. We hear: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering” (Romans 8:3).

Thus, the follow-up announcement: “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

His death for our life. It’s the Great Exchange.

Roman soldiers saw it happen. The centurion knew what he saw: “Surely he was the Son of God!” The sentence was carried out.

“God must die!”

And he did.



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



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

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


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I remember – April 9, 2020

I remember – April 9, 2020


And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19




Military Devotion – April 9, 2020

Devotion based on Luke 22:19

See series: Military Devotions

I remember the summer of 1949.

I remember the headache, the fever—and the legs that would not work.

I remember the look on my mother’s face.

I remember the polio virus.

I remember the doctor asking my mother, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

She shook her head. “No. His father is coming. We will take him to the hospital.”

But my father was far away, helping to build a canning factory. How long would it take him to get to me?

Not long.

A neighbor flew a war surplus two-seater Piper Cub to pick him up and land him in a nearby hayfield. I can still picture him showing up in the doorway to my bedroom.

That changed everything. I was a five-year-old who believed my father could fix anything.

He wrapped me in a blanket, lifted me onto his shoulder, and headed for the car.

What a relief! I was at peace.

That same shoulder carried me home three days later. My parents didn’t have the money to pay for a longer stay. My mom became my nurse. My red wagon, pulled by my sister, became my legs.

It reminds me of a scene Jesus once pictured: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:4-6).

When I think of the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, I again have peace. One day, they will joyfully carry me home.

I will remember the coronavirus.

Corona is the Latin word for crown. Under a microscope, that’s what this infective agent resembles.

It makes me think of another crown—one made of twisted thorns.

It makes me think of another Father—one who can truly fix everything, including the virus called sin.

It makes me think of the pain in his heart as he watched his Son writhe in agony, then breathe his last.

I remember why that happened. I remember my sin. I remember his love.

I remember the last meal before his Son died.

I remember that on the night he was betrayed he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Then he took the wine and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27,28).

Christians have received that body and blood in remembrance of him ever since.

They treasure it because they treasure him.

He is the same one who promised: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

I remember Jesus and look forward to that crown.

I remember: “He has not forgotten me.”



Prayer: Too often have I forgotten you, Lord.
Too often have I acted as if I did not need you.
Too often have I failed you.
Let me taste again the joy of your salvation.
Let me receive again forgiveness through
your body and blood, hidden beneath bread and wine.
Let me remember my sin and my Savior. Amen.



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

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


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Only after – April 5, 2020

Only after – April 5, 2020


Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first, his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
John 12:14-16




Military Devotion – April 5, 2020

Devotion based on John 12:14-16

See series: Military Devotions

They did not understand. The crowds, the rulers, his enemies, and his friends—they didn’t comprehend all that was happening on the day of the palm-branch parade.

They probably did expect this ride of Jesus into Jerusalem was something special. Maybe now he would make his move to claim the throne of Israel. His followers hoped that. The Jewish leaders feared that. The Romans were not sure what to think.

As that Sunday came to a close, people were still not certain what it all meant. It reminds us of the words about his birth, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Many from Galilee considered him a hero. Crowds of people all across Israel had seen his miracles and heard his teachings. Word had spread that he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Expectations were running high. His mere appearance sparked a joyous uproar. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem seemed to be a spontaneous event.

It was not.

It had been planned in heaven long ago. It had been foretold with clear words. The apostle John could quote the words: “See, your king comes to you…” (Zechariah 9:9).

The disciples did not think of those words on Palm Sunday. On that glorious day, they never suspected that Good Friday was down the road.

Only after, only after Jesus had risen from the dead, did they realize they had played a part in fulfilling an ancient prophecy with a history-changing event.

Only after Easter did they see how the pieces of God’s plan of salvation fit together.

They came to understand that Jesus would not be an earthly king; they would not sit next to him as he ruled from Jerusalem. But on Palm Sunday, Golgotha and an empty grave had never entered their minds.

It makes us wonder what all we don’t understand about the happenings in our lives.

We, too, live in days of confusion and change. Hopes and fears now mix together. As the disciples did back then, we believe that the hand of God is in what we now see. But our picture is still blurred, and the ending uncertain.

Has Scripture told us that days like these were coming?

Probably in greater detail than we realize. We do know Jesus warned about terrible times. The word, pandemic, fits into that picture.

But not the word worry. We are specifically told not to worry.

The Bible’s words, “Fear not!” to God’s people were not given as an invitation, but as a reassuring directive. Think of a drill instructor saying: “You will stand at attention!” Then think of these words: “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:5,6).

We have heard the words. We resolve not to fear.

The disciples eventually came to understand the confusing days of Holy Week. Holy Writ had told of this. They just hadn’t recognized it while it was happening.

Clarity came after—only after all this had taken place. Only then were they able to see the loving hand of God behind such distressing events.

One day we, too, will clearly understand how events in our lives also fit into a perfect plan. After our God shows us, we will be amazed to see how blessed we have been all along.

But only after.

We can wait without fear until then, can’t we?



Prayer: Lord Jesus, your ride into Jerusalem to the cries of “Hosanna!” fills us with joy. We smile to see you hailed as a king. It pains us to think of what will happen to you by the end of the week. But it thrills us to know that the next Sunday is coming. Keep us safe in the hollow of your nail-pierced hands as we pass through the days of our lives. Remind us that after all this is over, we will understand, thank, and praise you in Easter joy. Amen.



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

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


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In your anger – March 29, 2020

In your anger – March 29, 2020


Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.
Psalm 7:6




Military Devotion – March 29, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 7:6

See series: Military Devotions

The season of Lent is all about justice. If that is not understood, the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth remain a mystery.

The images of Lent show us people consumed with rage. One would think the object of that burning anger must have done something despicable. Why else would they accuse him of capital crimes? Why would they delight to see him tortured? Why demand he die?

The Roman governor clearly stated: “I find no fault with him.” That only increased their rage.

In blinding hate, they chose to have a murderer released into their midst instead of the one who broke no laws and harmed no person.

They claimed they wanted justice. In truth, they wanted revenge.

He had insulted them. He had exposed their hypocrisy. He had told them: “You belong to your father, the devil” (John 8:44).

Their rage boiled over because the finger of truth was pointing at their hearts. Their fierce denial only revealed the verity of his words.

Their wrath was not just against the man, Jesus, but against the almighty God in heaven who dared to judge them.

Earlier in this psalm, King David begged the Lord to save him from his enemies lest, “They will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.”

Those words remind us of the ones the Son of God used to describe his upcoming ordeal: “Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.” Then he added, “I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint” (Psalm 22:13,14).

We might expect to hear of the anger of the God the Father breaking out against those who dared to lay hands on his beloved Son. We might expect to see fire from heaven strike down those who dared defy his demand for holiness.

Not this time.

This time, the thunderbolt of divine justice spared the guilty and struck the innocent.

Was it a mistake? Was it a miscarriage of justice? Did the Lord God strike out in blind rage and hit the wrong person?

Of course not.

This was part of a perfect plan that had been spoken of since the Garden of Eden. This was the way he would crush the serpent’s head. Justice demanded that the guilty die.

And the Son of God stepped in to take the blame.

The last breath of the Crucified One smashed the head of the Evil One. Satan’s death-grip on humanity was broken. The condemned prisoners could go free.

Justice had been served. Punishment had been meted out. The cry of despair had ascended on high: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The dead silence relayed the answer.

The anger of the Holy One had struck down the Beloved One because he was now the Guilty One.

The prophet wrote: “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath” (Jeremiah 10:10).

We breathe a sigh of relief.

He is not angry with us.



Prayer: “Not in anger, mighty God, not in anger smite us.” We know what our sins deserve. We know how quickly we forget the price you paid to rescue us. We know how easily the “old evil foe” can lead us astray. But we also know of your abiding love and your just verdict that sets us free. Keep us close to you. Keep us free. Amen.



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

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


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The pause button – March 22, 2020

The pause button – March 22, 2020


“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
Isaiah 45:22 KJV




Military Devotion – March 22, 2020

Devotion based on Isaiah 45:22 KJV

See series: Military Devotions

“Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” is the title of an earlier musical that many can now relate to. A celebrity recently said, “They’re canceling meetings, canceling trips, and canceling sports—maybe we should just cancel 2020.”

Well, 2020 might be canceled. The Lord God just might decide this is the year in which the world will end.

While it is too soon to tell if he will push the STOP button on all earthly life during this year, it certainly seems that he has already pressed the PAUSE button.

We are accustomed to seeing world events stream by with few interruptions. We have been shown a disaster here and a calamity there. But unless we were directly involved, after a brief glance, our attention went back to the flow of events that are part of normal life.

Not this time! A pandemic is not normal.

When we press the pause button on a video, everything stops. We are left to look at the one picture left on the screen. Today, the world’s screen is displaying the face of God to all who would see it.

This new virus has given pause to millions. They are confused. They are worried. What good is a strong economy and a good job if one will soon die? What kind of world are we now living in if American stores are running out of face masks and toilet paper?

Could it be that the health pandemic is causing human panic? It might be.

People are looking to medicine for answers and to governments for help. They are no longer confident they are in control of their lives. They see no answers within, so they conclude deliverance must come from without. Hope must lie somewhere out there!

It does. It always has. Every good thing has always come from the One who dwells in the beyond. No virus rose from the rich soil of Eden. No animal carried disease. The first humans could embrace without risk. They had the Lord God to thank for that.

When human hands brought the sin virus into paradise earth, it spread over the whole planet and on to generations yet unborn.

This virus carried the seed of death. It spawned a host of viruses, including ones now labeled corona.

Humans would have been as doomed and damned as were the rebellious angels if God had not inserted a stop loss into the system. His love would break the downward spiral. His Son would provide the cure. His Spirit would fight further infection. The whole human race would not be lost. Health care for the soul was offered free to all: true universal coverage.

It still is.

The Savior God continues to call out, “Look unto me and be saved, all ends of the earth!”

Before this spreading disaster hit, many of us had been too busy; too independent; and too sure of ourselves to give thought to heaven.

But now, an unseen hand has pushed the pause button. Maybe now we will look up. Maybe now we will take the time to see how little we can control life or prevent death.

Maybe, just maybe, more of us will pause to look more closely at the world’s only hope.

Perhaps more of us will stop our rebelling long enough to see that the Innocent One came from heaven to die here so that we might live forever with him there.

“I am God, and there is none else.” he warns.

We pray that the Lord God will kill the killing virus. He can, of course. He already knows when to allow the warning picture to fade from the big screen. He’s just waiting for the right time.

Until then, he will keep his finger on the pause button—waiting for the world to look to him to be saved.



Prayer: Gracious God, healer of bodies and souls, we pray that you remember us in mercy and soon stay your hand of affliction over this world. Until then, we place ourselves into your loving hands and pray that the threat of death from a virus will cause many to look to you for life from heaven. Amen.



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

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


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Just dust – March 15, 2020

Just dust – March 15, 2020


As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13,14




Military Devotion – March 15, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 103:13,14

See series: Military Devotions

At times, it’s easy to forget what we are. We know how we look. We know what we have done and what we hope to do. We are not some plant. We are not some animal. We are at the top of the food chain. We are human!

Yet, we are just dust.

But we are the designers of skyscrapers; the makers of atomic weapons; and builders of civilizations.

Yet, we are just dust.

Sometimes we act like we will live forever. Even then, in the back of our mind we know better.

We are just dust.

It’s a fact we must face. To ignore it will doom us. If we do not face our frailty, we will never find our strength.

Meaning to life, joy in life, and peace is not found inside of us.

We are just dust.

Ideas and plans, hopes and dreams may swirl within, but finally, they will come to nothing.

Rich or poor, wise or foolish, weak or strong, at the end, the caption over our life reads, “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Those may be old words, but they are true words. Good thing they are not the last words.

The final words for the planned outcome of the human race were spoken under dark clouds on a hill far away. They were recorded for the generations ahead. We treasure them.

“It is finished!” he said.

The one who spoke those words was the same one who told us that dust would return to dust. Now he was shouting we need not fear that return. He had just finished his rescue mission. He had just told a dying human, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

How can this be? How can frail children of dust enter into never-dying glory?

Only their Creator can allow this to happen. Only their Judge can ordain it. Only their Redeemer can make it so.

“I am the resurrection and the life…” the Redeemer proclaimed. “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25) he explained.

The dust can return to life. The curse of Eden has been broken. Compassion washed over guilt.

“God so loved the world…”

God the Father knew we could not measure up to the standard that holiness demanded. So, he sent Jesus. He turned the curse upon his own Son. We went free. He knew it had to happen that way.

He knew, and he still knows, the ones he loves are just dust.



Prayer:
When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies
E’en then this shall be all my plea;
Jesus has lived and died for me. Amen.
(Christian Worship 376:5)



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

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


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Of course he can – March 8, 2020

Of course he can – March 8, 2020


While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Luke 5:12,13




Military Devotion – March 8, 2020

Devotion based on Luke 5:12,13

See series: Military Devotions

It has been said that some of the bravest words a person can say are: “Thy will be done!” The point is made—and it’s a legitimate one—that this places the speaker at the mercy of someone else. Who would want to do this?

If the “thy” refers to our Savior God, we answer: “We do! We do this every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer.”

That’s a good answer, but we need to consider more fully what this means.

Leprosy is a horrible disease, even today with our modern equipment and medicine. It is painful. It is disfiguring. And it is contagious. We wish it upon no one, and we pray that everyone so afflicted would be healed.

Saint Luke was a doctor. Of all the gospel writers, he gives the most detail about the sick and hurting who came before Jesus. He tells us this was a serious case. The man was covered with leprosy. He was desperate in his search for help. He fell with his face to the ground. He begged to be healed.

We understand. We probably would do the same. But when he pleaded for help, we are surprised at his words. He did not demand. He didn’t bargain. He left it up to Jesus: “Lord, if you are willing…”

This is faith in action. This is strong faith. If we had asked him, “Do you think Jesus might be able to heal you?” his answer would have been: “Of course he can!” It wasn’t a question of power. He knew that Jesus had the power to do this, and more. The question was: “Did Jesus want to do this?”

Well, why wouldn’t he? If he had the power to relieve this suffering, as a loving God, why would he not do it? The answer is: “Because he is a loving God.”

The child lies in a hospital with a tube in her nose and a needle in her arm. She is afraid. She is hurting. She calls out: “Mommy, take these things off, and let me go home!” What will a loving mother do? She will do what she knows is best for her child—even if her little one does not understand. She will keep her beloved child in that hospital bed.

We know that Jesus wants our sins to be forgiven. We know that he wants our faith to be strong. We know that he wants us in heaven. About such things, there are no “ifs.” But for everything else in life, for the physical and temporal, for the release of pain and the enjoyment of good days—for those things we pray: “If you are willing…”

Of course, he could give us all that we ask for! He would be willing to touch us even if we had leprosy. That’s why we are willing to trust him when he says, “No.” He will always, and only, do what is best for us. After all, he does love us.

He did prove that once and for all, didn’t he?

Remember Golgotha?



Prayer: God of grace and mercy, into your hands, we commend ourselves and all whom we love. Your power is matched by your love. Help us to trust you when we do not understand your ways. Help us to become convinced of your absolute power so that we can rest assured that when your will is done, it is for our good. In the name of the loving Savior, we pray. Amen.



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

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


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The peacemaker – March 1, 2020

The peacemaker – March 1, 2020


“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Matthew 10:34




Military Devotion – March 1, 2020

Devotion based on Matthew 10:34

See series: Military Devotions

In 1873 the Colt Manufacturing Company produced a gun called “The Peacemaker.” A century later, America produced an ICBM with a nuclear warhead called “The Peacekeeper.”

To some, this was as confusing as the Prince of peace saying, “I did not come to bring peace…”

What do weapons such as guns, missiles, or swords have to do with peace?

Much.

If there were no evil in the world, if there were no sin, there would be no reason for any weapons. There would be no reason for the Son of God to leave his throne on high to engage in battle against the forces of evil. There would be no reason for us to fight against Satan.

The dream of the song from the ‘60s would come true: “And peace shall rule the planets.”

Only it is not true. Only, it will never be, until the planets are burned up at the arrival of their Creator in the clouds of glory.

Until then, there will be war.

Even as we pray for peace among nations—and sometimes that prayer is granted—there will never be peace between the holy God and the powers of evil.

“I did not come to bring peace…” Jesus said. He came to fight. After fasting for 40 days and nights, he was attacked by the prince of darkness in a desert. The weapon Satan used was not a knife or a sword. It was temptation.

A most powerful weapon.

If Jesus had yielded to the temptation of taking the easy way out that Satan claimed to offer, all would be lost. We would be lost.

If Jesus had given in to the suggestion of Peter to not go to Jerusalem to die, all would be lost. We would be lost.

If Jesus had listened to the arrogant voices shouting at him to prove he was the Son of God by coming down from the cross, we would be lost.

The Prince of peace had to go to war to destroy the cause of war. He had to win the battle against our deadliest enemies because we are too powerless to do so.

He had to fight the decisive battle in our place. He had to win peace for us.

And he did.

The war to rescue humans from the dominion of evil is over. But the enemy has not yet left the field.

Warriors know to watch for snipers after a battle has been won. Sniper fire will kill as well as a ballistic missile.

You and I are still on the field of battle. We have not been commanded to stand down.

Until then, we must be on guard. Until then, we must fight.

We will not be evacuated until angels arrive for our hero’s flight home to heaven.

Then we will know perfect peace.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we consider the battle you fought for us, we grow ashamed at the times we have waved the white flag of surrender when attacked by the old evil foe. You have not left us behind. You came with the power of your Word and sacrament to pull us back to your side. Keep us there. Use us to help others. Empower us to become peacekeepers in your kingdom. Amen.



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

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


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The dictator – February 23, 2020

The dictator – February 23, 2020


So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Genesis 11:8,9




Military Devotion – February 23, 2020

Devotion based on Genesis 11:8,9

See series: Military Devotions

Some people feel that the Lord God is a dictator. They say he dictates how humans are to live; he sets limits to what people can do, and he was not elected to his position. There is no court of appeal for his decisions. He overpowers any attempt to challenge his authority.

They feel the incident at a place called Babel gives evidence of his dictatorial ways.

Following a devastating flood by which he ended the lives of probably millions of people and changed the landscape of the entire planet, he commanded the descendants of the survivors to spread out to repopulate the earth.

They had their own plan. They decided they should stick together. They started to build a tower high enough to serve as a landmark that could be seen from far off. By staying in sight of the tower, they would stay close to one another. What could God do about it?

He could do whatever he wanted to do. He could dictate what would happen.

He could have sent a hurricane-force wind to blow that tower over. But they probably would have rebuilt it.

He could have wiped these people out with a Noah-type flood. But he had promised never to do that again.

Instead, he chose a plan that kept everyone alive, yet carried out his will. There would be no regrouping, no resurgence, no rebellion. The tower would just never be finished.

He would scatter them by turning their language into gibberish.

Sometimes deployed troops learn what that is like. In a marketplace, or even in a meeting, when people are speaking a language we cannot understand, it sounds like nonsense. Body motions may help us find a direction or show that we are hungry, but little else. We would need an interpreter.

No interpreter was at Babel. It was mass confusion. So, there could be no joint effort. The tower had to be abandoned. The Lord God forced them to carry out his plan. Was this being a dictator?

The label doesn’t seem to fit. His power is never used in disregard of his subjects.

He stopped the building of the tower for the good of the human race. It was a case of tough love.

That unlimited power of his brings his people confidence and joy. Blessings flow from that power. He can control weather. He can control disease. He can control the Powers of Darkness. He has power over death and hell. Under his control, we are protected.

On the Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus to heaven, the confusion at Babel was reversed. Everyone there heard the good news of salvation in their native language.

And now, we have heard it in our native language.

Has he dictated that those who believe in him will live with him in glory? We love him for that.

Let others call their Creator a dictator. We won’t.

We call him Father.



Prayer: Good and gracious God, you have given the human race the gift of language. We praise and thank you that you have used your powerful gift to tell us of your undying love for us. Enable us to use clear language to tell others of this love. Instead of that tower of old, allow us to “Lift high the cross” that others may gather with us to scatter your Word far and wide. Amen.



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

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


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So easy – February 16, 2020

So easy – February 16, 2020


“Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
Mark 2:9-12a




Military Devotion – February 16, 2020

Devotion based on Mark 2:9-12a

See series: Military Devotions

One visit to a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) is enough to show that rehabilitation for the wounded is not easy. Sweating brows, quivering muscles, and strained faces reveal the degree of effort being made. It pains us to see this. Yet, there are worse sights.

Some cases never make it to the WTU. The label over their names would be: “Permanently Paralyzed.” When a loved one asks the doctor, “Will my brother ever walk again?” the sad answer comes back: “Impossible.”

It was this sad realization that caused four friends to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. When they couldn’t get into the house because of the crowd, they opened a hole in the roof and lowered him in with ropes tied to his mat.

What impressed Jesus was the faith that these friends had in him. What grieved Jesus was the burden of sin the paralyzed man carried. He promptly lifted that burden by announcing to him, “Your sins are forgiven!”

Some people in the house challenged these words. “Impossible!” they thought. “Only God can forgive sins.” If Jesus could forgive sins, he would have to be God. In their minds, this was impossible.

Human eyes cannot detect the burden of sin being lifted from a heart. But they can see paralyzed muscles become strong. No therapy, no conditioning: those muscles simply grew strong as soon as the words of Jesus were out of his mouth. The man got up. He picked up his mat. And he walked home!

Unbelievable? No one in that house could deny it. We hear: “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12b)

The greatest miracle remained unseen. Humans had to take Jesus’ word for it: the man walked home without his sin! Strong legs are a great blessing, but only in this life. A soul absolved of sin is a blessing for all eternity—no matter how physically weak a person might be here on earth.

Good health is a blessing God grants to some of us. A clean soul is what God demands from all of us. Jesus showed the people in Capernaum that he could grant what God demands. He was, and is, the Son of God.

We tend to determine need by what we see and feel. We tend to think, “seeing is believing.” Sometimes we feel hopeless and think our situation impossible.

It never is. With God all things are possible. We know that. How could we forget that?

Jesus shows that he can provide what we really need—and that for him, the impossible is so easy.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, at your command, sin and frailty depart from us. We don’t realize how many times you have kept disease and harm from our bodies. We don’t know how close we have come to being permanently paralyzed. We thank you for sparing us from what we have not had to face, and we ask you to help us face the burdens and pains that you have allowed to come into our lives. But, like the man lowered to you from the roof, continue to forgive our sins, and enable our lives to show reason for others to praise God. Amen.



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

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


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The upside of down – February 9, 2020

The upside of down – February 9, 2020


Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
Psalm 130:1,2




Military Devotion – February 9, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 130:1,2

See series: Military Devotions

Through his Word, the Holy Spirit confronts us, corrects us, sometimes confuses us—and comforts us.

He tends to turn our way of thinking upside down. Jesus points to a small child as a great one. Saint Paul tells us when he is weak, then he is strong. We even are told that those who mourn are blessed.

Psalm 130 is a lament. We might say the person was down in the dumps. He said he was in the depths.

Perhaps it will help us to think of an empty well or cistern. A person who falls into such a thing has no way to climb out. He’s stuck there. All he can see are the walls that hold him in and an opening above that is empty. All he can do is call out for help.

He will call and call—and then call louder.

That’s what the psalmist was doing.

But the call was not going out to friends or family. The only one who could see the depth of his need, the only one able to rescue him was the Lord his God.

He was not in physical danger. Sin had trapped him. Guilt was smothering him.

He laments, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?”

He knew the answer, and so do we: No one!

Many are the things in life that can get us down. Failure and frustration seem to be part of life.

Many are the things in life that present us with peril. Nothing, however, matches the risk of facing the Holy One who sees every sin and delivers crushing justice.

The pit of hell is deep. No human ever has, or ever will escape from it. The day will come when demons will not be able to leave.

The thought of that can lead to despair. The demonic whispers from those depths say: “This is what you deserve.” It claims, “There is no way out. Your sin damns you, just as it did us.”

“O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”

Mercy is our only hope. We have no other ground to stand on. Everything else lands us in the depths.

But there was the sound of hope in the voice of the one writing this psalm. He continued, “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, you are feared” (verse 4).

This fear was one of respect and confidence. “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope” (verse 5). He adds, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning” (verse 6).

We pay attention to these words. We will remember them the next time we are down in the dumps. If the Lord can pull us from the deathtrap of hell, what other danger would he not be able to deliver us from?

One last word of encouragement: “Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love” (verse 7).

Sometimes we need to be in the depths before we remember to look up. When we do, we find God’s unfailing love.

That’s the upside of being down.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, please listen when we call for help. We have sung the words, “When all things seem against us to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer.” Lead us to believe those words and call out our prayers in faith and hope. Amen.



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

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


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If only – February 2, 2020

If only – February 2, 2020


If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1 Corinthians 15:19




Military Devotion – February 2, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 91:11

See series: Military Devotions

Sometimes, the words “if only” express regret, as in “If only I had not done that!” Sometimes they reflect hope, as in, “If only I get that promotion.” This time, the apostle used them to issue a warning reminder.

It’s a reminder we need.

Otherwise, we might spend too much time thinking about things here and now and too little about there and then.

We forget that our stay on earth is only a short blip on the screen of life. Life after this life goes on and on and on forever.

There are benefits to being a Christian in this life. It’s a relief to know we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. It’s reassuring to know we are being watched over.

But, in the end, we must expect to die.

Then what?

As strange as it seems, there have been people who claimed to be followers of Jesus who did not believe that there is life after death. Some lived in Corinth at the time of Saint Paul. Some live in America today.

It’s not just the “Eat, drink, and be merry” crowd that dismisses the idea of an afterlife. Some very serious and respected people have come to the conclusion that upon dying, we simply become molecules in soil or water—just like dead leaves.

Then, what role would Jesus serve in life? They answer, “He is an example of how we might live. He teaches us compassion. He reflects love and kindness.”

Then, they add: “But he died. And he stayed dead. And so will we.”

How sad! How hopeless! How wrong!

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

How true. What a pity!

Good thing we can have hope for life after this one! Good thing it will be a good life—the best one ever!

The apostle points out: “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The first grapes on a vine mean more are coming. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that his followers will rise.

Good to know!

It is good to know our end game. It allows us to make better use of our time here and to enjoy it more fully.

We are not on death row. We are waiting for orders to stand down so we can go home.

If only we will remember that.



Prayer:
Jesus, lead us on
Till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow, calm and fearless.
Guide us by your hand
To our fatherland. Amen.
(Christian Worship 422:1)



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

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


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Angels abiding – January 26, 2020

Angels abiding – January 26, 2020


For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
Psalm 42:5




Military Devotion – January 26, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 91:11

See series: Military Devotions

Some say that those missiles sent in the night to attack installations where American troops were dwelling show the improved precision of Iranian technology.

Some say that the Iranians—and thus the Americans—were just lucky.

Another possibility should not be overlooked:

Angels abiding.

On a famous night years ago, some shepherds were abiding in fields in the Middle East keeping watch over their flocks. When the sky lit up, they became afraid. Sore afraid.

But it wasn’t an attack. It was a squad of angels. They, too, were keeping watch. They also were abiding over those fields.

Never doubt that angels were abiding over the fields of Iraq when missiles recently lit up that sky. Angels are also able to guide missiles.

We normally react to what we see, feel, or hear. That works well for many phases of our life. But there is another plane of existence that is not detected by our senses. Most often, we call it the spiritual.

A part of us is aware that there is something more than what we see or hear. Sometimes it is described as a feeling that something is out there. That something is often feared.

Religion is based upon a belief that something humans cannot see is able to affect lives. This implies power beyond human ability. It grows from the natural knowledge of God. Power, wisdom, and wonder are reflected in what God created. Guilt comes from a conscience that calls out warnings that the unseen power is not pleased.

Thus, the instinctive reaction to the spiritual world is one of fear. This is followed by a desire to get that unseen power to be on our side.

Idolatry grows from fear of the unknown. It is shaped by human minds to reflect what humans imagine that power to be like: what it demands and what help it can offer.

Idolatry, in every form, is manufactured by mankind. But each form follows a pattern drawn up in the spirit world by powers of darkness. It is a demonic pattern. It is built upon lies.

But truth also comes from the spiritual world. The source is the Holy One who does not lie. Perfect wisdom, absolute power, and judgment are part of his being.

He is to be feared.

But he also is to be trusted—and loved.

At times, he has given miraculous signs of his presence. Yet, the greatest evidence came when he took on human flesh and lived among us. We know him as Jesus of Nazareth. He came as the fulfillment of the promise of rescue from powers of darkness.

His arrival was announced by spirits under his command. Those spirits are called angels.

Humans have seldom caught a glimpse of these heavenly beings, though they constantly watch over those who put their trust in the Holy One.

Most times, we only have the Lord’s word that those angels guard and keep us. Sometimes we question that because things do not work out the way we wish.

Sometimes his people are hurt. Sometimes they are killed.

This is not failure. This is according to plan—God’s plan—a perfect plan, always for our good. One day we will understand why spirit-warriors were sometimes used in ways we would not choose. Until then, we thank our God for his shield of protection.

May there always be with us, angels abiding!



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



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

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


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A place for hope – January 19, 2020

A place for hope – January 19, 2020


Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:5




Military Devotion – January 19, 2020

Devotion based on Psalm 42:5

See series: Military Devotions

Hope misplaced is hope lost.

Hope cannot stand alone. It does not float on air. Hope must be placed in something. That something must be the right thing.

Otherwise, hope is lost.

A soul that has lost hope is a sad and troubled soul. It looks for answers it cannot find, for joy that always fades. It finds fears that it cannot face.

To lose hope is to have a miserable existence.

We might think of medical patients to whom doctors say, “There is nothing more we can do.” We might remember the American prisoners on the Bataan Death March when the Philippines fell to the Japanese.

Hope is more than an emotion. It rests alongside faith and love. It is at the center of our soul. It has been placed there by our God. Better to lose an arm or an eye than to lose hope.

The hope the psalmist speaks of is different from a child hoping for a toy or a person hoping it doesn’t rain on a picnic. Disappointment comes when such incidental hopes are lost.

Disaster follows the loss of essential hope. The meaning of our lives, the reason to keep living, and the joy of life is bundled with the hope planted into our souls by our Creator.

We want things to turn out well. We work toward that end. We pray for it. No matter how difficult or long the path, we want to find joy and success at the end.

We hope for the good.

We are born with hope in our hearts. Disappointments can whittle away at it. Tragedies can kick it in the face. Failures can cause us to lose sight of it.

Despair crushes it.

How can we protect it? How can we keep hope alive and well?

We need to put it in a safe place.

Hope in our skills will fail. Hope in our friends will fade. Hope placed in our money or job won’t keep it safe. Only one place is safe. The psalmist names it.

Put your hope in God!

That’s the essential message the Lord God gives to the human race. When we are told to “Fear, love, and trust in God above all things…” we are pointed to the place for our hope.

The triune God never changes, never fails, and always cares. Better than gold in a bank vault is hope resting in the everlasting arms of the Almighty.

Can he take care of our needs? Ask the birds of the air who feeds them.

Can he protect us from danger? Ask the wind and the waves who commands them?

Can he rescue us from death? Ask Moses and Elijah, who appeared on earth thousands of years after their earthly life ended.

Can he deliver us from evil? He did. Look at Golgotha. Look at Easter’s empty tomb. Then declare with the apostle Paul, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

The next time our soul begins to worry, relay the order from on high: “Place your hope in God!”

And all will be well.



Prayer: Since all power is in your hands, O Lord, and since you watch over your servants with loving eyes, lead us along the path of life. Lead us to victory and glory everlasting. In you alone, we place our hope. Amen.



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

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


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Benighted – January 12, 2020

Benighted – January 12, 2020


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:1-5




Military Devotion – January 12, 2020

Devotion based on John 1:1-5

See series: Military Devotions

A famous hymn asks: “Can we to souls benighted the lamp of life deny?”

We don’t hear the word “benighted” very often. It does, however, seem to capture the picture of Saint John’s words. Although the life that Jesus brought now shines into the world that had been shuttered in spiritual darkness, “the darkness has not understood it.” Those people remain in the dark.

They are benighted.

It pains us to say this includes Americans. We see many groping for answers and stumbling over truth.

That hymn reminds us, “In vain with lavish kindness, the gifts of God are strown.”

We look at the blessings that have been scattered upon our homeland, and we admit God has lavished us with kindness. Often in vain.

Sadly, many of the benighted are our neighbors.

But some troops sent to faraway places have seen an even darker picture.

What are we to think when we see large masses of people gather to worship a god who cannot help them because he does not exist?

What does it mean when we see truck drivers stop on the side of the road, pull out their mats, and prostrate themselves in answer to the call to prayer sounded from a nearby tower?

Would we stop our travel to pray in public to the LORD Almighty? Where does their boldness of faith come from?

What is the source of their zeal? What makes so many of them so serious about their religion? Is this not the Prince of Darkness flexing his muscle?

Why are we so often so shy about our faith? How can we be timid about showing that we serve the living Creator and the only source of Life?

The question remains, “Can we to souls benighted the lamp of life deny?”

It isn’t as if there is any doubt that Jesus is the Son of God and promised Savior of the world. The apostle Peter points out: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

That word demands our attention. It tells us, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

Perhaps we once sang the words, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” Maybe we overlooked the meaning of those words.

Our God hasn’t. It cost the life of his Son to make it possible for us to be lights in the world.

The apostle Paul makes it clear to us: “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

We do not belong to the darkness. We walk in the light of heavenly glory. We reflect that light.

We should not; we dare not; we will not deny that light to souls benighted.

So help us God!



Prayer: Lord of glory and light of the world, we marvel at the wonders of your plan pf salvation. We know we would still be part of the darkness if the Holy Spirit had not brought the light of the gospel into our hearts. Keep us from the powers of spiritual darkness. Use us as lights in the darkened and dying world. Amen.



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

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


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Leaning – January 5, 2020

Leaning – January 5, 2020


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




Military Devotion – January 5, 2020

Devotion based on Proverbs 3:5

See series: Military Devotions

We do a lot of leaning. We lean into a grocery cart to get it moving. We lean back against an easy chair to relax. A mother leans close to comfort a child. And sometimes, we lean against something for support.

Think of a wounded warrior leaning on his cane. Think of what happens if that cane breaks. The lesson is: if we are going to lean on something for support, that something better be strong.

Our Savior God tells us: “Your understanding is not strong enough to carry you through life.”

That may surprise us.

Our ability to reason solves many a problem. Our mind remembers things. It learns new things. It tells us not only that two plus two is four, but also how to start a car. It even figures out how to stop a bullet.

We are not like a tree or a mule. We can think. We can figure things out. We are smart.

But not smart enough.

Our brain is too small to understand things beyond our level of existence. We cannot comprehend the infinite. We cannot process the concepts of eternity, or omniscience, or omnipotence.

In the field of complete understanding, we stand in one little corner looking into the fog of mystery.

When God tells us something, our complaint, “It doesn’t make sense!” dare not be the judgment, “Therefore it cannot be!” Rather, it’s an admission that our understanding is weak.

When asked, “Why does God permit wars?” or “Why are innocent people killed?” or “How can this setback be for my good?” our reason doesn’t know.

But that doesn’t keep it from telling us what it thinks. With satanic prompting, it is quick to say, “God doesn’t care! God doesn’t keep his promises!” Or even, “There is no God.”

Our ability to reason things out is a precious and powerful gift from our Creator. We should use it with thanksgiving.

But we dare not lean our entire weight upon it.

We need something more solid, more certain—something that is indestructible.

We need God. He, alone, is worthy of our complete trust.

We have been told, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). The beginning of this universe would be only a guess, except: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3).

Does the creation of all things from no things make sense to us? Of course not.

Does one God, but three Persons make sense? Does the Son of God becoming a human make sense? Do we understand how his death makes up for our sin? Do we understand how he came back from the dead, or how he ascended to heaven?

Do we understand God?

Not now. Not totally. Not yet. But we will. He promised that to us. He kept every promise in the past. He will keep every promise in the future. We can trust in him.

We can lean upon him for support in every need. We must.

We will.



Prayer: Lord of time and space, Ruler of eternity, and God of our salvation, we thank you for our ability to reason things out. We thank you more for who you are and what you do that is beyond our understanding. We trust you. Amen.



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

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


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Really – December 29, 2019

Really – December 29, 2019


The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Romans 16:20




Military Devotion – December 29, 2019

Devotion based on Romans 16:20

See series: Military Devotions

With thoughts of Christmas trimmings soon coming down, the question is, “What lies ahead?”

Since we cannot see into the future, we might assume the answer must be, “We don’t know.”

That assumption is wrong. It forgets that our God does know. It overlooks the fact that he has revealed some future events to us.

We can walk across the threshold of a new year with the knowledge that God will crush Satan under our feet.

Really?

We might not expect that. We may even doubt that. We could more easily believe that he will be with us in the new year. Though difficult at times, we can even expect that he will make everything work out for our good.

But crush Satan under our feet?

It reminds us of the way God spoke to Satan when the devil was in the form of a snake in the Garden of Eden. “He will crush your head” was the prophecy. The Promised One effectively did that when he defeated the devil and paid the price for our crimes against heaven.

The death-grip of the evil one has been broken. But he still is dangerous. We have learned that a rattlesnake can still bite after its head has been cut off. Satan is still deadly, even though he has been conquered.

We have learned that by sad experience.

Too often, he has bested us in the match of wills. So easily, he has tricked us. We have seen how he has coiled around the souls of some who once were free of his grip. Martin Luther was right when he wrote, “The old evil foe now means deadly woe….”
That was most certainly true in the 1500s. It is just as true today.

When Luther wrote, “On earth is not his equal….” he was warning us not to try to take him down by ourselves.

“But for us fights the valiant one whom God himself elected.”

Notice that the Bible passage does not say, “You will soon crush Satan….” We cannot do that.

The God of peace can.

The war for our souls will still rage in the coming year. We will remain in harm’s way. We will need to fight against powers that strive to drag us into the pit of hell.

But we will not be alone. With the Son of God fighting for us, there is no doubt about the outcome.

“From victory unto victory, his army shall he lead….” That’s a certain truth.

Those who follow him share in his victories. Battle after battle, time after time, the Lord of glory smashes those who oppose him. Time after time, we overcome.

Until the time when time will stop for us. Until the day dawns that will last forever.

Until then, the promise will be kept.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet.

Really!



Prayer: Lord of time and space, we try to peer into the future, but see only a reflection of the past looking back at us. We can guess and hope. You can declare with absolute certainty. With respect and deference, and invited by Jesus, we boldly ask, “Be our battle buddy in the coming year.” Amen.



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

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


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Home for Christmas – December 22, 2019

Home for Christmas – December 22, 2019


Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
Ecclesiastes 12:5




Military Devotion – December 22, 2019

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 12:5

See series: Military Devotions

We’ve heard the song. Bing Crosby first sang it in 1943. The airwaves of America have carried it every year since then.

“I’ll be home for Christmas” he assured the listeners. But he wasn’t speaking for himself. His was the voice of thousands of Americans in distant and dangerous places scattered from the snows of Europe to the sands of Pacific Islands.

For most, it was only wishful thinking. That explains the phrase, “If only in my dreams.”

War does not fit well into the picture of Christmas. Snow, mistletoe, and presents under the tree—that’s what is expected. That’s what many long for. Not blood on Christmas snow. Not medics scrambling to pick up wounded.

Misery does not make for a merry Christmas. The quiet of the dead is not what we think of when we sing “Silent Night.”

There is something very wrong with this world when the celebration of the “good tidings of great joy” is dampened by tears and crowded out by the sound of exploding shells. We do not believe Christmas is the time for mourners to go about the streets.

But it happened. It happens. It will happen again.

What should we do about this? What else but to glorify the Child of Christmas? What better than to cling closer to him? Does not war and bloodshed drive home the value of Christmas?

Another old song announces,

“Hark now hear the angels sing
A new king born today
And man will live forevermore
Because of Christmas Day.”

We will not live forevermore here on earth. Here we are only TDY. Our forever home has a different address. There the streets are described as if paved with gold. We sing, “There are the good and blest. Those I love most and best. And there I, too, shall rest. Heaven is my home.”

We need to finally get home.

We want to be filled with Christmas joy in the here and now. We want to receive goodwill. But our soul longs for never-ending perfect peace. That’s not going to be found here.

Wise Solomon may not have been thinking about Christmas when he talked about people going to their eternal home. But he surely knew that for the children of God, where their Savior dwelt, there was their forever home.

We pray that war will cease. We ask our Father in heaven to so rule world events that none of those who defend our nation will bleed and die. We beseech him to bring them back to loving homes.

We want them to have a merry Christmas.

But we understand well that earthly joy, like all of earthly life, is only transitory. Even the best of times quickly pass.

Thus, we fix our Christmas eyes on that which is eternal. We think of loved ones who now live in their forever home.

We may miss them. But we do not want them recalled to the battle line. Let them have their forever celebration. It adds to our joy to know their war is over.

They are home for Christmas.



Prayer: God of mercy, God of grace, look down in pity on the human race. Guard and guide the souls at risk. Bless and keep those who look to you for help. Allow us to again know the joy of our salvation. Comfort us in our troubles. Bring us home for Christmas. Amen.



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

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


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