How Will They Hear?

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Romans 10:14

I was at my dear friend, and brother-in-Christ, Jeff’s wedding. I was an usher at the wedding and I was getting ready with the other groomsmen and the father of the groom.

All the other guys were ready and headed out into the narthex of the church. I was left along with the father of the groom, Ron, who was also the presiding minister of the wedding.

Ron, at that time, was also the District President of the South Wisconsin District of churches in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I, on the other hand, was a radio host and producer at KFUO in St. Louis. I had taken an extended leave of absence from my seminary studies but with no plans to continue those studies.

As I was straightening out Ron’s bow tie and he mine, he looked me in the eye and said, “I need your help.”

I thought he meant he needed my help with something else on his tuxedo or something for the wedding and asked him what it was.

He again looked me straight in the eye and said, “I need your help in the Church. I need you to go back to school, graduate, and be ordained as a pastor.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t really say much of anything.

But I never forgot that.

One year later, I re-enrolled in seminary and five years later was called to serve Christ Lutheran Church in White Cloud, Michigan and ordained on June 25, 1995.

The people of God at Christ Lutheran in White Cloud called me to be their pastor. I served among them for 25 months until I was called to serve in South Wisconsin, which I did for nearly nine years. Serving with Ron, by the way.

It was – and is – my privilege to preach the Law and Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit moves those who hear me to believe in Jesus. It is my joy to be called and sent by the people of God in various places – Michigan, Wisconsin, California, and Illinois – to tell the Good News about Jesus.

It is the Holy Spirit who calls men to be pastors and men and women to be teachers, deacons and deaconesses, directors of Christian Education, and other workers in the Church. The Holy Spirit calls these workers through the congregations of the Church.

And it is our awesome privilege and responsibility to tell, proclaim, teach, and preach the Law of God and the Gospel of Jesus.

And as we proclaim and call, people will then believe in Jesus as Savior.

And when people believe in Jesus as their Savior, they are then able – and encouraged – to call upon their Heavenly Father for help, support, strength, protection, and to give thanks for all that God has done for them!

A member of a Christian congregation has a great privilege and responsibility. To not only hear the Gospel and believe in Christ, but also to tell others the Gospel. And to support their congregation and pastor(s) and teachers.

It is all part of the overall Great Commission of the Church that Jesus gave us:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, for the benefit of your people you call faithful men and women to serve in a variety of offices in your Church. Grant that your Holy Spirit may lead and guide the Church to call qualified workers to serve among us according to your gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Shut In By the Lord

And the Lord shut him in.
Genesis 7:16b

I have two scars on my face. One is in my right eyebrow and the other is below my left eyebrow in the top of my left eyesocket.

The one on my right eyebrow I got when I was three or four years old. I was with my mother driving in Silicon Valley, California. I was standing up in the backseat between the two front seats when she had to slam on the breaks suddenly.

I went flying into the front seat and hit the open ashtray, cutting open my forehead. As you may know, scalp lacerations are notorious bleeders. There was blood all over the place but the injury was relatively minor. I just needed a few stitches.

But it gives me a cool looking scar that I can tell stories about (like this one).

The other scar I got when I was about 7 or 8. I was ice skating on the channel behind our house in Long Lake, Illinois. I was practicing my hockey slap shots when I slipped and fell face-first into a jagged piece of ice.

Again, a relatively minor injury but with lots and lots of blood all over my face and the ice!

These could have been very serious injuries. I could have lost both eyes or worse! But God was protecting me. God was watching over me.

God “shut me in” in protection. I received just enough of an injury to make me be more careful – to this day I wear a seatbelt at all times while driving and have everyone else do so (no standing up in the back seat!). And just enough injury to give me stories to tell.

God promises to protect his people. Here are just a few of those verses:

2 Thessalonians 3:3

2 Samuel 22:3-4

Hebrews 13:5

Isaiah 41:10

Isaiah 54:17

Psalm 91:1-3

One of the most intense stories of God’s protection is the story of God protecting Noah and his family from the world-wide flood.

Of all the people in the world at that time, only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives were protected by God from the devastating flood. They alone were faithful to God. All others had turned away and rejected God.

God would start the human race all over again using Noah and his family.

When the ark was completed and the animals were all on board, Noah and his family boarded the ark and “the Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16b).

Other parts of the Bible describe this protection as God “hedging” his people or putting a “hedge” around his people.

No matter what the storm around us entails, God is protecting us. God “shuts” us in.

Most importantly, God shuts us in and protects us from sin, death, and the power of the devil by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us from eternal death and gives us eternal life.

And this protection is found in the “ark” of the Christian Church!

This is part of the prayer in the Baptismal Rite in Lutheran Service Book:

“Grant that [this child] be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving [God’s] name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope…” (Lutheran Service Book, Holy Baptism © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, p 269).

In the Church, each child of God is “shut in” by the Lord and will be ultimately protected from any storm or attack in this life.

What better place to be?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, lighten our darkness and by your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers; for the love of your only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Why Are You Afraid

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:26

I’ve always been a bit of a weather-junky. I used to love watching the Weather Channel, but since they’ve started airing produced weather documentaries, I’ve drifted away from them.

But I try to never miss the forecast of meteorologist Tom Skilling on WGN-TV, Channel 9, in Chicago.

He’s rarely wrong about what weather is heading our way. He also loves to show weather pictures from viewers. He’s even used pictures I’ve sent him – usually of snowy days and of the snowfall around The Hawthorn Woods Parsonage at St. Matthew Lutheran Church & School.

Like just about every other kid who grows up in the Chicago area, I love snow days!

Growing up in Fox Lake Hills (Lake Villa, Il) I would wake up with eager anticipation if a heavy snow fall was forecast the night before. I would watch with bated breath as Ray Rayner started to announce school closings on his morning Channel 9 cartoon show.

When he announced “St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Round Lake, Il” I would let out a whoop! I’d then run upstairs and get my snow gear on and go outside for a day of playing in the snow!

I’ve never outgrown my love of snow days, but as an adult and father I’ve grown wary of extreme weather. I’ve shared part of the reason why in the devotion Natural and Special Revelation which is included in the latest paperback & Kindle edition of In My Father’s Footsteps called “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”

It has been my experience that when it comes to storms God either calms the storm or calms me in the storm.

In the Gospels, Jesus calms several storms. Two of them are when he’s been in the boat with his disciples and one of them he walks out on the water in the midst of the storm to the boat the disciples are in.

Jesus can calm the storms because he is the Son of God. He was the “Word” through whom God the Father created the entire universe. All created things must obey Jesus. And so the storms that Jesus calms obey him.

I also notice, however, that not only does Jesus calm these storms the disciples find themselves in, he also calms his disciples.

When we go through storms in life – literal weather-storms, the storms of illness, despair, pain or death, storms of our own making, or storms that come our way completely unexpected – Jesus can calm these storms.

But many times, Jesus calms us in the midst of the storms.

The storms are meant to catch our attention. They are meant to draw our eyes and our hearts back to God because Christians are sometimes tempted by Satan to look away from God, tempted to focus on the storm, the wind and the waves, instead of Jesus.

Jesus comes walking on water in the middle of the storm and calls us to himself!

Sometimes he’ll calm the storm, but most of the time he calms our hearts in the middle of the storm.

And make no mistake, we are in the middle of storms! The storms of homosexuality, transgenderism, political division, abortion, opioid addiction, pornography, the lack of civility, the list goes on and on and on and on!

Satan has unleashed the putrid and disgusting arsenal of hell upon us

Still, Jesus is here in the midst of the storm. There is no reason to fear these storms. We have faith in Christ given us by the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace.

And we will get through these and any other storms!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, there are immense storms in this world and sometimes in my life that make me afraid. Please strengthen my faith so that I will not be afraid; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Cry to the Lord

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

Psalm 107:28

In the last devotion, I talked about Apollo 11 and how I don’t understand how it got to the moon and back – after all, it is rocket science! – but that doesn’t change the fact that they did and I am fascinated about the program.

That reminded me of another moon mission, Apollo 13.

It was going to be the third mission to land Americans on the moon. This time, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert would travel the nearly quarter of a million miles to the moon and back.

After two days of travel to the moon, the call came back from Apollo 13, “Houston, we’ve had a problem!”

The three astronauts called back to Houston control for help. They were in distress and desperate for a solution to their trouble.

The three astronauts and all the ground personnel put their collective heads together and came up with solutions to the various problems faced – keeping the three alive, getting them back to earth, and landing them safely.

I don’t think I’m spoiling the ending by telling you that’s exactly what happened. Lovell, Haise, and Swigert lived to tell the incredible story of Apollo 13!

During this life we also can find ourselves in distress. And we can cry out to the Lord in our trouble. And, as in days of old the Lord will deliver us from our distress!

A parent can cry to the Lord about a sick child.

A husband or wife can cry to the Lord about a marriage on the rocks.

A man can cry to the Lord about an uncertain job situation.

A woman can cry to the Lord about the hurt caused by someone close to them.

A young man or woman can cry to the Lord about an uneasy school situation.

No matter where we are or what is happening to us, we can cry to the Lord for help. And the Lord promises to hear us and to deliver us.

Israel cried to the Lord in the distress of Egyptian slavery. God sent Moses to deliver them from bondage.

They cried to the Lord in the distress of being attacked by Midianites, Amalekites, and Philistines. The Lord rescued them by sending Gideon, David and Samson.

If you cry to the Lord in your distress, he will rescue you and deliver you.

First and foremost, the Lord rescues you by saving you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He sent Jesus to be your Savior. Jesus took all your sins on himself and paid the penalty for them, giving you his righteousness.

With eternal salvation taken care of, the Lord also promises to rescue us from the temporal distress we all face at one time or another.

But not all rescues are the same or of the same degree.

A sick child may not recover.

A wayward spouse may not return.

A job may be lost.

School may not turn out the way you planned.

This doesn’t mean that the Lord hasn’t heard your cry and it doesn’t mean he hasn’t or won’t rescue you.

It just means that we have to be patient and we may have to look for rescue in unforeseen ways.

But what is certain is that we will be heard and we will be rescued.

The Lord promises that.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I cry out to you when I am in distress. I pray you will give me patience to wait for your rescue and vision to see your rescue as you will and not as I will; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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If You Have Understanding

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

Job 38:4

I sat down at my computer and started to write.

I wrote and wrote. I prayed before I started, I prayed while I was writing, I prayed when I was finished writing.

I then put all the writing together into one document. I formatted it so that it resembled a paperback book form and then uploaded it to my publisher.

What I got back didn’t look like what I sent! That is, the formatting became “changed” in a way that I didn’t intended. When text was supposed to be in the center of the line it rather was off to the right.

Fonts that I intended for some words didn’t come out looking like I intended at all.

So, after praying about it, I made changes and some more changes, then some more prayer and more changes.

Again, the formatting was not as I intended when I got the “proof” back from the publisher.

Finally, after four or five changes and a lot more prayer, the manuscript’s “proof” looked okay. It wasn’t as I originally intended, but it was “book like” and, I must admit, looked pretty good!

I didn’t understand why the changes happened in the first place, and I didn’t understand why the book couldn’t be formatted the way I originally intended. But the final set of changes worked and it was ready to go to print.

There’s a lot of things I don’t understand. For most of what I don’t understand, it is understandable that I don’t understand.

For instance, I don’t understand how the Apollo 11 space flight was able to get off the ground, travel the quarter of million miles to the moon, land safely, take off again and travel the quarter of a million miles back to earth and reenter the atmosphere and land with all three astronauts alive and well.

It is understandable that I don’t understand. I have trouble with rudimentary algebraic equations and Apollo 11 is literally rocket science!

But in the long run – and the short run, actually – it doesn’t matter if I understand or not. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins did get to the moon and back safely. And I’m okay with that. More than okay, actually. The U.S. Space Program is awesome and I love reading about it and learning more about it and follow its developments closely – even though I don’t understand most of things about it!

I tend to have the same attitude about God.

I don’t understand nearly anything about God. I don’t understand how he created the universe just by speaking. I don’t understand how he constantly loves his people and continually forgives their sins and rescues them.

I definitely don’t understand how Jesus can love me so much that he was willing to become a lowly human being, live a perfect life even though it was filled with every imaginable (and, I’m sure, loads of unimaginable) temptations, and died a horrifically painful death, all to save me from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

I don’t understand how Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means that I, too, will rise from the grave one day.

And I don’t understand what it will be like to go to heaven and live eternally.

But it doesn’t matter that I don’t understand!

I believe that God knows what he’s doing. He is the Creator and sustainer of the universe, after all.

And he tells me in his Word that my understanding all of this is not needed. All I need is faith.

And he gives me that through the Holy Spirit working in the Means of Grace.

Understanding isn’t needed.

All I need is faith.

That much I can understand!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me and loving me and saving me from my sins. I don’t understand that kind of love and power, but I am so grateful that understanding isn’t required, just faith is; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Feed His Sheep

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
John 21:15

For the last couple of devotions, the Scripture readings have dealt with God miraculously feeding his people through ordinary means – namely, bread and fish.

Today’s Scripture text also talks about feeding. It also includes fish. Jesus and Peter and six other disciples were having a breakfast of roasted fish on the shore of Galilee. It is a couple of weeks after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Up to this point, Jesus has been appearing and disappearing. He’s talked to all his disciples and has been getting them ready for when he will be leaving them by Ascension. They will then be going out into all the world to tell others the Good News about Jesus.

At this breakfast, Jesus and Peter have a heart-to-heart chat.

Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Three times! After the third time, Peter is practically insulted, certainly hurt.

Jesus doesn’t explain to Peter why he asks him three times. But it doesn’t seem hard to figure out.

A few weeks prior, Peter was in the courtyard of the home of the High Priest Caiaphas and was confronted by three different people who asked him if he knew Jesus.

They didn’t ask Peter if he loved him, only if he simply knew him.

And Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Three times!

There on the shore of Galilee, Jesus “reinstates” Peter with the words, “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.”

Was Jesus changing Peter’s vocation from fisherman to shepherd? Was Jesus really telling Peter to get a flock of ovis aries (sheep)?

No, I don’t think so. After all, history tells us that Peter didn’t become a literal shepherd, but instead he became an Apostle whose mission for the rest of his life was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus wasn’t telling Peter to become a literal shepherd. But Jesus was telling Peter to feed his flock.

Jesus’ flock would be all Christians from that moment to this very moment. Peter was to take care of these Christians by “feeding” them the Word of God.

He would preach, proclaim, and share the Word of God from the Day of Pentecost till the day he was executed by Rome.

He would continue to “feed” Jesus’ lambs through his two epistles in the Bible and through his story told and re-told countless times down through history.

But another way of looking at this is that Jesus was not telling Peter only to feed his sheep. He was telling the entire Church to do this.

Martin Luther – the 16th Century Reformer – put it this way:

“It does not follow from this passage that a peculiar superiority was given Peter. Christ tells him ‘feed’ (i.e., teach <preach> the Word <the Gospel>, or rule the Church with the Word <the Gospel>), which task Peter has in common with the other apostles” (Power and Primacy of the Pope – Refutation of Roman Arguments, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, pp 298).

This means that even though Jesus was telling Peter to feed and tend, he’s also telling us to do that.

How do we feed and tend Christ’s flock? By using the gifts that God has given us to support the Church. We also tell others about Christ by telling our story of how Christ saved us!

So, let us feed and tend Christ’s flock with all that God has given us!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you have called your Church to witness that in Christ you have reconciled us to yourself. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may feed and tend Christ’s sheep so that all who hear the Gospel may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Satisfaction

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2

Mark is, in a lot of ways, a typical teenager. He goes to school, does his homework, and participates in school sports (in his case, baseball).

But what sets Mark apart for a lot of young people his age, in this day and age, is that he works hard to make money and saves his money for what he want to buy.

And what further sets Mark apart from a lot of young people his age, in this day and age, is that he sets his sights and his goal on buying things that he can use and that will satisfy him.

For example, Mark worked hard and saved his money for a good-sized down payment on a vehicle. He had his driver’s license for about 9 months but had been saving money longer than that. He had his eyes on a particular vehicle. It wasn’t a sports car or a fast car.

Mark wanted a pick-up truck. And he wanted to get a truck for a particular reason – so that he could use it to help out other people in moving stuff and working. He also wanted a truck so he could haul all his baseball gear around to the various fields he would play or practice at.

He could have spent his money on other things, games, toys, that kind of thing. But instead, Mark put his hard work, effort, and goals into buying something that he could use and that would satisfy him.

God’s Word tells us that this is the better way to go.

In Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s Word uses the analogy of “food” or “rich food” to represent goals that will have purpose and satisfy us.

Why would anyone want to have these kinds of goals in the first place? Because this is how we’ve been created by God!

We were not made for just this life. If this life – from our cradle to our grave – was all there was, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense looking for something or doing things that have lasting significance or satisfaction.

But we have been created for more than just this life!

We were created to have a personal relationship with our Creator – God the Father Almighty!

And that is exactly what his creation had until something disastrous happened.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve to choose their own, personal satisfaction instead of being satisfied in the “rich food” of a relationship with God.

This is called “The Fall” and since then, every descendant of Adam and Eve has been infected with Original Sin. We are all conceived and born separated from God.

But we still have the longing of satisfaction encoded in our DNA by God. We long to have a relationship with God. But we no longer know how to have that relationship on our own.

Many try to find the satisfaction of that relationship in other created things. Money, goods, or other people. But all these are temporary. They will not last. Money can be here today, gone tomorrow. Goods can break or wear out. People leave or die.

There is only one thing that can satisfy the deepest longing and need in us – and that is God himself and God alone!

We know we long for something. We learn it is God. But then how to we get God?

This is the reason Jesus Christ came!

He was born a human to take our sin on himself. He lived perfectly but died with, and for, all the sins of all people of all time. The third day he rose from the grave – thus guaranteeing that we, too, will rise one day. Then forty days later Jesus ascended into heaven. He fully restored our fallen relationship with God.

He leaves us on this earth with the mission to tell others this Good News. He prepares paradise for us when we will finally leave this world and this temporary life.

We who have faith in Jesus Christ will find that feast of rich food that truly satisfies in heaven forever.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will continue to guide and strengthen me in the true and satisfying relationship that your son died and rose to restore in me; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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