Establish and Exhort

…we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith….
1 Thessalonians 3:2

Twenty-two years ago – in April of 1995 – I was sitting with a bunch of guys waiting for my name to be called.

I was in the pews of the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis with my brothers in Christ and fellow seminarians as we awaited the announcement of our first calls in the pastoral ministry.

I didn’t have to wait long – at least not as long as most of the guys. That’s the blessing of have a last name that begins with a “B”!

I was excited. But I was also nervous and not a little scared.

My wife – who was sitting a dozen or so pews away with the rest of the wives – was feeling the same way.

We were about to find out where we were going to move to. After being married for four years and living in the St. Louis area that entire time, we were about to find out what congregation extended a call of the Holy Spirit for me to “establish and exhort” them in their faith.

That first call was to Christ Lutheran Church in White Cloud, Michigan and our time there was wonderful!

The calling that a pastor has is at the same time exciting and frightening. The Holy Spirit places us exactly where he knows we are needed.

It isn’t always where we would choose to be, however.

I wonder if that was how Timothy felt.

He was a companion of St. Paul and had traveled with Paul and Silas and Luke to Macedonia and Greece.

It was clear to them that Paul wanted to eventually end up in Athens where they would have the greatest opportunity yet to reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But after Paul was the Holy Spirit’s instrument in starting a church in the city of Thessaloniki, it soon became clear that someone would have to stay behind while Paul traveled on to Athens.

Timothy was chosen to “establish and exhort” the Thessalonians in their faith. He would serve there for time and the church there would thrive by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Timothy’s service.

Timothy would eventually move on to another place – ending up in Ephesus as pastor.

Just as I would not remain in White Cloud, but would be called to Mayville, Wisconsin and then Ontario, California, and then to Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

Some men spend their entire pastoral ministry in one place. Others move around like I have.

But in each place there are people who become especially important to them.

If you are not a pastor, I encourage you to be one of those people. If you are a pastor, I encourage you to find these people!

Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, in part, to thank them for encouraging and supporting Timothy as much as he was encouraging and supporting them.

As a member of your congregation, I strongly encourage you to pray for your pastor or pastors. To support them, encourage them, lift them up when they seem down. And do the same for their wives, if applicable!

I’m not writing this to get someone to do this for myself, by the way. There are already people in my own congregation that do this for my wife and I – just as there has been in our previous stops – and we thank God for them!

In the last couple of days about 100 men received their first calls to the pastoral ministry in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

They are excited, I’m sure. And not a little fearful.

But please pray for them. If you know one of them, or one of them is coming to your church, I pray you will encourage and support them as they come to serve you and alongside of you in the Kingdom of God where you are!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Purpose

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

Why am I here?

It isn’t that I don’t know. Not really. But I need to remind myself on a regular basis.

I am here to be loved by God – and I am.

I only need to look at the cross to see how much God loves me!

And I am here to share the love of God with others.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me – and all people – from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

But sometimes, I forget that. I pursue fame and fortune. Not in a crass way like is depicted in the movies or in books or on TV shows.

But in more subtle ways. I am tempted to do things to get “likes,” to get “follows,” to get “views.”

The temptation is to use these things to define why I am here. If I get more “likes,” “follows” and “views” then I’m being successful.

But these things are not why I am here. They can be results of why I am here but not the reason I am here!

I am here to be loved by God and to share the love of God that is shown to me in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

You are here for the same reason!

In my case, I have a ready-made arena to do this. And it isn’t Facebook or Twitter (I’m not quite involved in Instagram yet).

My first and foremost arena to share the love of God is my family. My wife of 26 years and my sons (just about 21-, 18- and 17-years-old).

Of course, I love them. But I also tell them every day. (Well, every day for Nancy, Kurt & Mark. I don’t talk to Eddie every day, but I tell him I love him whenever I do talk with him).

Before Kurt & Mark leave for school in the morning I tell them I love them. Before they go to sleep at night, I tell them I love them.

I tell my wife I love her when we wake up and before we go to sleep and at various times during the day.

I also show them I love them. I take care of things for them – laundry, the dog, odds and ends for school and what-not.

These are things that I do because God has first loved me. In response to God’s love for me in Christ, I love my family.

I also love my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ at church and in the Church (notice the difference?).

This is why I am here. This is my purpose. Like Paul, I do it to please God as a response to his love for me.

How about you?

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Imitators

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit….”
1 Thessalonians 1:6

The vision was still vivid in his mind’s eye. A man standing with the sea behind him, beckoning to him.

Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

And so Paul, Silas and Timothy had set sail from Troas and headed west.

They had met Lydia in the city of Philippi.

They had been jailed soon after for exercising a demon from a slave girl.

They then were miraculously released from jail and shared the Gospel with their jailer.

They made their way to Thessalonica and preached the Gospel there for about a month.

They headed to Berea and did the same. But Paul continued on his own to Athens.

Timothy headed back to Thessalonica and the new Christian church there. He caught up with Paul in Athens and gave him a report.

Paul responded to this report by writing a letter to the church back in Thessalonica.

We know this letter today as 1 Thessalonians.

This letter is bursting with encouragement for us as much as it was for the 1st Century Thessalonians!

They heard the Gospel from Paul. They then put that Gospel into practice.

Paul says they “imitated” him and Silas and Timothy.

They pray. They display the power of the Holy Spirit, which is showing love for all people.

Love that was first displayed by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection to save all sinners.

They also were persecuted for their faith. Paul says that they “received the word in much affliction.”

But for someone who knows the love of Christ in their heart and soul, persecution and affliction do not matter!

They still love their fellow townsmen. They still pray for them. They live the new life they have in Christ Jesus.

This life isn’t easy or soft. It is a hard life because the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature declare unrestricted warfare on us when the Holy Spirit converts us to faith in Jesus Christ!

But Christ is stronger than all three combined! And victory is ours through Jesus Christ!

As Paul encourages the Thessalonians, so we are encouraged to be imitators of Christ and his faithful followers.

We love one another and never shy away from proclaiming the love of Christ to the people around us.

When you do this, don’t be surprised that it makes the news!

Paul lets the Thessalonians know that news of their love and life has spread throughout Greece!

This will be used by the Holy Spirit to bring more people to us to love and pray for and share the Gospel with!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Life After This Life

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before…. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters.
Job 42:10, 12-13

Job had lost it all.

His vast fortune wiped out overnight.

His seven sons and three daughters all killed on the same night.

He had been struck with some affliction that reduced his skin to festering and itching boils.

The only thing Job is left with is his wife and his life. And his wife told him to “curse God and die.”

And yes, I realize this is exactly how I started the last devotion!

We’ve come to the end of the Book of Job and the story it tells.

Job receives back double of all that he lost. Twice as many sheep, twice as many camels, twice as many oxen, and twice as many female donkeys.

Job is restored to the position he had before as “the greatest of all the people of the east.”

I presume his health is also restored.

Remember, this was never really about how wealthy Job was or how blessed by God Job was.

That was Satan’s accusation. That Job only believed in God because God had blessed him with tremendous wealth.

Satan was shown to be wrong when Job continues to believe in God and look to him as his Redeemer who lives even though Job lost everything but his life and his wife!

Job ultimately shows his belief and reverent awe (fear) of God by praying for and sacrificing on behalf of his friends.

God once again blesses Job with incredible wealth.

But wait a minute! Not everything God blesses Job with is doubled.

In Job 1:2 it says, “There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.” In Job 1:19 we’re told that all ten of them were killed at once when a great wind destroyed the house they were in.

In Job 42:10,12 it says that God restored the fortunes of Job two-fold.

Except for his children.

Job 42:13 says that Job and his wife are blessed with ten more children. Not twenty more!

But think of this: Job’s first ten children have been killed in this life. But as believers in God they would still be living! They are living forever in heaven!

When Job and his wife are blessed with ten more children, they have two-fold children! Ten on earth and ten in heaven!

This is a subtle yet powerful way of telling us that there is life after this life!

And that life is ours because our Redeemer lives!

Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and he lives! He had died on the cross, paying the penalty for all our sin. His sacrifice on Calvary was the redemption price that purchased and won us from all sin, from death itself, and from the devil.

You and I – as believers in Christ – will live forever in heaven! Even if we die on this earth, we will live forever!

This is the ultimate lesson of the Book of Job!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Hearing AND Seeing

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in the dust and ashes.”
Job 42:5-6

Job had heard of God from Elihu. Before that he had heard of God via “oral tradition.” His father told him of God. His grandfather had told his father. His father told him and his father’s father’s father had told him.

This was how knowledge of God was told, through families and friends telling others about what God had done in the past.

On occasion God intervened and interacted directly with people. Noah, for instance. Abraham is another example. Jacob yet another one.

But less and less, apparently, by the time Job comes along (a couple of generations after Jacob).

Job was a special case, though. If anyone ever needed to hear directly from the Lord, it was Job! And this is exactly what Job had been seeking.

But be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!

Fast forward 1800 years. It is just after sunset of a very momentous day.

The women in the group came banging on the door very early in the morning.

“Angels!” they said. “Tomb empty!” they exclaimed. “He’s alive!” they shouted!

Then two other disciples rushed up the stairs and into the room – the dust of the road to Emmaus still clinging to them.

“He spoke to us!” they announced! “He broke bread for us!” they further explained, in awe.

Then Jesus was suddenly there with them. Even though the door was locked, there he stood.

“Peace be to you.”

But Thomas was elsewhere. He came back later and they all told him, mostly all at once!

“Angels!” “Tomb empty!” “He’s alive!” “He spoke to us!” “He broke bread for us!”

He gave us his peace!

“I hear you speak of him with my ears, but I won’t believe until I see with my eyes and hands!”

Once week later, Jesus shows up again.

“Peace be to you.”

This time Thomas is there. He hears. He sees. He touches. He believes.

“My Lord and my God!”

Like Job, Thomas repents of his unbelief. Like Job, Thomas is forgiven and restored.

Like Thomas, Job will also intercede for others. Thomas will take the Gospel of the resurrected Lord to the world.

Job will pray for his three friends.

What will we do with our belief in God?

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Leviathan

“On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.”
Job 41:33

Knight George had been there the entire summer. And he was getting extremely frustrated.

He wanted desperately to return home and get back to work. But he couldn’t. Not yet, anyway.

He tried to spend his days wisely. He studied Greek and Hebrew and set out to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into the language of his people.

He had made good headway towards the end of the summer and was nearly done translating the New Testament by the time the snow was flying.

His days were occupied with studying, writing, and translating.

But nights were something else entirely.

He would try to sleep. But his foul mood and his deep depression at being away from his home and work weighed on him like an oppressive millstone.

He also felt oppressed and attacked by Satan himself. He knew he was doing the work of God. He knew that he was called by the Holy Spirit to be who he was. He knew that he had been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

But still Satan attacked! Breathing the flames of doubt and accusation like a fire-breathing dragon!

Night was Satan’s favorite time to attack. Knight George was tired, hungry, cold, bitter, and depressed. And Satan would use this time to press his attacks.

On one such night, Junker Jörg was feeling attacked by Satan. So much so he was provoked to violence. He picked up the nearest thing to him – an inkwell – and hurled it at Satan.

It smashed against the wall, staining it.

Within a few months, Junker Jörg, Knight George, would leave the Castle Wartburg, return to his post at Wittenberg, and resume his true name – Martin Luther.

The story of the inkwell is a legend, most likely based on his own statement about his stay in the Castle Wartburg where he had “driven the devil away with ink” (quoted from Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach’s website here: http://www.redeemer-lutheran.net/Articles/1000039345/Redeemer_Lutheran_Church/Media_Center/Pastors_Articles/Throwing_Ink_at.aspx).

But what is not legend is that Luther fought against Satan, as do we all! Satan is real. He is a fallen angel – and thus a creation of God and under his authority. He hates God and also hates us!

In Job 40, God describes Satan – so it is thought – as Behemoth. This is likening Satan to a wild and ferocious land beast.

In Job 41, God describes Satan – again, so it is thought – as Leviathan. This is a sea monster of some type. A giant sea serpent or squid. But one that has scales like armor and breaths fire.

This brings to mind a dragon. And this fits in with how Satan is described in the Book of Revelation.

Then war broke out 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).

At the end of Job 41, God says that there is nothing like Satan on the earth.

Martin Luther – who fought the devil all his life – would describe Satan this way: auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen. This is commonly translated “on Earth is not his equal” (from stanza one of A Mighty Fortress is Our God, composite translation from the Pennsylvania Lutheran CHURCH BOOK of 1868).

God’s point in Job 41 – and Luther’s in stanza 1 of A Mighty Fortress is Our God – is that left to our own resources, we are powerless in fighting Satan.

Only God can defeat Satan.

And he did through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us!

That one little word – Jesus – defeats Satan every time. And that one little word is ours through our baptism into Christ!

Satan may be able to take away all that we have. He took away Job’s wealth, children, and health. Luther poetic states that Satan could take away “our life, goods, fame, child and wife.”

But because of Christ, we will live forever and Christ’s Kingdom will be ours!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Behemoth

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you….”
Job 40:15

I started reading science fiction when I was about 11 or 12 years old.

It wasn’t long after that I picked up some fantasy novels and added that genre to my list of growing favorites.

When I was about 14 years old, I made the jump – albeit a small one – to horror novels. I read Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, then went back to the classics of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley.

The last horror novel I read was The Amityville Horror. I had been feeling increasingly uneasy about reading such novels and this last one was so much about the occult and demon possession that it really scared me.

It scared me because I knew that the devil and demons are real. They are not something to be dabbled or played with.

And while that kind of stuff still scares me – I still don’t watch horror movies or visit haunted houses in October – I am not really afraid of the devil or demons. I know they cannot hurt me because I am a baptized child of God!

God continues to make it clear to Job that he is God and Job is not. He had been talking about the universe that he created and still sustains. He had been talking about the animal kingdom and its level of complexities that virtually prove that God is the Creator and man is not.

Here in chapter 40, God makes reference to Behemoth (verse 15). This name is based on the common Hebrew word for “animal” or “beast.” Today we use it to reference huge and dangerous animals.

But the way Behemoth is described in the Book of Job indicates that God may be talking about Satan.

Behemoth is a creation of God, therefore he is subjected to God’s authority. He is described as being unusually strong and large – certainly not equal to man. He is said to be “the first of the works of God” but in this case “first” means “greatest” and not first, chronologically.

Ezekiel 28 seems to hint at this. It talks about the greatest of angels becoming prideful and rebelling against God. He is then banished from heaven. Couple this with Revelation 12 and I get the impression that Satan was so beautiful that he turned all he was inward in self-pride and rejected his Creator.

God spells out to Job that even this Behemoth of a creature is still a creation of God and subject to him.

God uses the Behemoth to show that no matter what happens to us – good or bad – God is still in control of all things.

We need to follow Job’s example when confronted with this divine truth.

Be silent!

Be still and know that God is God (see Psalm 46)!

Even the mighty and epic creature Behemoth is still under the control of God!

Remember this the next time you are tempted to think you know better than God concerning your life or when you question whether God is in control of your life or even paying attention to your life!

He is. Both in control and paying attention. He may use his creation to get your attention, but he always is watching over you!

You need look no further than the empty cross and the empty tomb to see God’s love for you and his care for you.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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