Made A Little Lower

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
Psalm 8:5

The human body is an amazing thing.

We have the ability to mend ourselves when we’ve broken a bone. We can fight off infection with our blood. We can imagine something and then figure out how to build it!

There are two main ideas about how the human body came to be this way.

One is that it was just random chance and mutation over vast amounts of time.

The other is that God created us that way.

I’m sure it is not a shock to you that I believe the latter.

Of course, it takes faith to believe that God created us.

But from where I sit, it takes even greater faith – nigh impossibly great faith – to believe that over millions of years, random chance used mutations to come up with the human eye, the capacity to defeat infections with white blood cells, and form a brain that can imagine the Saturn V rocket and Lunar Module – all in the same bodies!

Many times when I look in the mirror (or see myself in the screen of my iPad), I thank God for creating me and all humans like he did.

Psalm 8 is a song King David wrote for the same reasons!

But just how wonderfully made are we?

King David says that God made us a little lower than the heavenly beings. This could mean the “angels” and that’s a pretty amazing thing. We know from other parts of the Bible that angels are powerful creatures. And we’re just a little less powerful than they? Awesome!

But “heavenly beings” could also be translated as the plural form of God himself (plural because God is Trinity).

This is where the idea that human beings are the crown of God’s creation comes from.

Only God is greater than us!

Of course, he’s much, much, greater than us but the point is that all the rest of creation is under our control.

God has put all the creation under our “dominion.” We are charged by God to take care of it and protect it.

Yet, we didn’t do such a good job. No sooner had God created Adam and Eve and put all creation in their hands than they rejected God and succumbed to the temptation of Satan.

Now creation is tainted. It is in turmoil, awaiting the day when we humans are finally saved by God.

Our salvation comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And those who have saving faith in Jesus will, on the Last Day, be raised and taken to God’s side.

This creation, then, will be destroyed by fire (see 2 Peter 3).

We will then be given a new heaven and new earth to live forever in the presence of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Love God? Then Love Others

We love because [God] first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:19-20

Every morning I wake up next to a lovely woman who loves me. I don’t know how I came to be so blessed by God to have such a lovely and loving wife, but I thank God every day for her!

The love of a married couple is a picture of God’s love for all of us, as St. Paul illustrates in his letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 5).

John picks up on this theme of love in his first epistle.

I am able to love my wife and my wife love me because God first loved us. We wouldn’t know how to love if God didn’t first love us and define love for us.

It is really that simple. God is love. And we are able to love because God is love.

It is important to realize that God doesn’t just say he loves us. He says he loves us (see Hosea 3) and he shows that he loves us.

God created us. God promised to send a Savior when we – as a race – rejected him. God fulfilled his promise in Jesus Christ who was born, lived, died, rose and ascended in order to save God’s people!

God did this all out of love. And now, as God’s beloved, we are to live the same way!

Remember, however, that we can say we love God but unless we also love others, we are liars. There is no loving God without loving other people.

This is the difference between Christianity and other religions.

Just recently, there was a terrorist bombing that killed almost two dozen people. Those who are taking credit for the bombing said they did so because of their religion.

In their religion they may say they love God, but they also show that they hate certain people.

John is very clear (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit it is actually God who is making it very clear) that there is no loving God if we do not love other people as well.

In the past, even those who claimed to be Christians hated certain peoples. John convicts in this case as well. If love of God doesn’t also lead to and include love of other people, then it is not Christianity.

The glorious irony is that even when those who claim to love God but hate other people (by hurting them or even killing them) are still loved by God.

Jesus – while he was being crucified by those who hated him – said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23).

With that same love – the love of Christ within us – we can and must reach out to all people! Even if they want to kill us in response, we must love them even as we love God.

I realize that this is a tall order. And also something that most likely cannot happen overnight.

But it is my prayer that I can be brought by the Holy Spirit to this kind of love for others, even if it dangerous. I ask you to pray the same!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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What You Need to Hear

“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Amos 3:2

As a pastor and leader in a church, I sometimes feel I have two choices.

I can either a) tell the people what they want to hear; or b) tell the people what God wants them to hear.

There are a lot of pastors and a lot of churches that I have observed that tell people what they want to hear. It is as if their mission for ministry is to do whatever they can to make the people who come to their church feel good. To tell them that they are okay. That everything is going to be alright.

I suspect that if I were to follow this example and model it in my own church, more people would come and listen to me.

But I am certain that I wouldn’t feel right about it. Not that I have anything against people feeling good! Quite the contrary. I try to make people feel good, to be happy, and to leave my church feeling better than when they came in.

But when I became a pastor, I wasn’t called to make people feel good. I wasn’t called to make people happy.

I was called by God through a congregation to tell them what God wants them to hear.

I was called by God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A good summary of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ was born to be our substitute under God’s Law. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and gives us his righteousness by faith. Jesus Christ died on a cross to forgive all the sin of all people of all time. Jesus Christ rose from the grave three days later so that we, too, might rise from the grave one day. And Jesus Christ ascended into heaven with the promise to come back and take those who have saving faith in him back to paradise to live there forever.

This is what God wants people to hear. This is what I’ve been called to proclaim.

This is the Gospel.

But the Gospel means little unless we understand why Jesus Christ did all this for us!

And that understanding comes from something I’ve also been called to proclaim – the Law.

Law and Gospel are the two teachings of Holy Scripture. The Bible passages we read from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 are either Law passages or Gospel passages.

They are God’s Word to us – and that which I have been called to proclaim – about the things that we should do and don’t, the things that we shouldn’t do and do anyway, and the things that only God can do for us and does out of love for us.

John 3:16, for example, is a Gospel passage. It tells us what God has done for us because he loves us.

Amos 3, on the other hand, is mostly Law. And it is just as hard to hear today as I’m sure it was for God’s people when this shepherd from Tekoa first spoke it.

God has specially chosen Israel to be his people, purely out of love for them. He didn’t choose Israel because they were the most beautiful, most prosperous, or the most numerous of nations.

God chose Israel only because he loved them.

By the way, that doesn’t mean that God didn’t love the rest of the people of the world. Oh, no! John 3:16 is still true! “For God so loved the world” that he put a plan of salvation – for the whole world – in play through his special people Israel! The Savior of the world would come from the nation of Israel!

But the prophet Amos had some very tough words to proclaim to Israel. They had been rejecting God and his love for them. Even though God had chosen them. Even though God had saved them from slavery in Egypt. Even though God had given them everything they needed: food and water in the desert, fertile land to live in, victory over their enemies, good kings (like David and Solomon) and powerful prophets (like Elijah and Elisha).

God did all of this for Israel out of his love for Israel, and yet they rejected him and his love over and over again.

And so God – like any loving father – would punish them. Not to hurt them out of spite but discipline them so they learn to not reject him!

The prophet Amos could have been like other prophets and told Israel that all was well, that everything was okay, and that they would be alright.

But it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be true. And it wasn’t what Amos was called to do.

Amos loved God. And he loved his brothers and sisters. And so, he proclaimed to them what they need to hear and what God wanted them to hear.

It wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t make Amos popular.

But it would be exactly what God’s people needed.

And that is what your pastor does as well.

Please pray for him as he tells you what you need to hear!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Watching and Thankful

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

“They are watching you. 24/7/365.”

I was told that this is what it would be like being a parent. My children would watch me. Even when I didn’t realize it. Even when I didn’t think they were. Even when I didn’t want them to.

It was true. They were watching me. They still are.

My wife and I have three sons. Our youngest is 17. Our middle is 18. Our oldest is soon to be 21 (how did that happen?).

And they have watched me all their lives.

I was privileged to be the first baseball coach of all three of them. The youngest and the oldest still play – one in high school and one in college. And they still play the game the way I taught them to play. They were listening. They were watching. Not watching how I played the game but how I taught them how to play the game.

I was also privileged to be their first pastor. I taught all three of them about Jesus as revealed in Scripture and further revealed in Luther’s Small Catechism.

They still read their Bible’s and participate in worship as often as they can.

The other day my oldest told me that he was picked to lead the team in prayer before a baseball game.

The youngest has about a dozen Bible passages in his “work out log” book that help him understand why he is practicing and training for the game of baseball.

Our middle son just bought a ring with a cross on in to wear. But when I asked him why he took it off the other day, he said some kids were making fun of him for it. I told him that would happen – it is part of what we face as Christians.

They still watch me. They still learn about life and faith from my wife and me. It is an awesome and scary responsibility.

But it is part of being a parent and God helps us every day to do the best we can.

Recently I was reading through First and Second Thessalonians as part of my morning devotion time.

When I came across 2 Thessalonians 1:3 I stopped and said a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

For I give thanks to God for my three sons because it is evident to both my wife and I that their faith is growing abundantly!

However, we don’t feel our job is done! We still look for relevant resources to use for our daily devotions with our sons. It is important to my wife and I that we continue to grow as a family in our faith in Jesus Christ!

Why?

Because the world isn’t getting any better. We see it decaying and destroying itself every day. And one day soon, our boys will be living in this world but not in our house. They won’t have our daily influence anymore.

So we continue to thank God for their abundantly growing faith and pray that God will keep them in that faith after our daily influence is gone.

So that they will be ready when the End comes and Jesus calls all the faithful home to heaven.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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He Lives!

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
Job 19:25

“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” has been a hymn that has been sung at the past 22 Easter Sunday worship services of which I have been presiding or preaching minister.

It also is used at the vast majority of funerals that I have presided or preached at for the last 22 years.

This hymn by Samuel Medley is very popular because of the amazing message that he put in it – the Easter message.

The phrase “He lives” is repeated thirty times over eight stanzas.

Anything repeated that often in a song or poem must be important. And so it is!

That Jesus is alive is incredibly good news. It is the best news of all.

After Jesus died a gruesome death on the cross – and there was no doubt he was dead, no one could survive what Jesus went through – three days later he was alive.

He lives!

But why?

That is the question this hymn answers.

Jesus lives to: save, rule his Church, grant me rich supply, guide me, comfort me, hear my soul’s complaint, silence my fears, wipe away my tears, calm my troubled heart, impart blessings, bless me, plead for me, feed my soul, love me, grant me daily breath, my mansion to prepare, to bring me safely there (to my mansion).

That’s quite a list!

And yet, that’s only part of the Easter message!

Jesus bled and died to save you and I from our sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.

As we learn from the Book of Job, the devil has some pretty powerful weapons in his arsenal. He’s able to destroy Job’s wealth, his family, and very nearly his health.

But God is more powerful than the devil – no surprise there. The creator is always more powerful than his creation.

But what makes God most powerful is not strength, or weapons, or tactics.

It is something that Satan doesn’t have. Something that we desperately need.

What makes God powerful is love.

God loves us. Even amid death and despair, God’s love is more powerful than anything else.

That’s why Job can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

That’s why Jesus goes to the cross to die.

God’s love for us!

And now it’s our turn.

It is Easter Sunday and it is time to celebrate God’s love. Sing a hymn of praise, shout that Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Spend time with your church family. Spend time with your blood family.

But come Easter Monday, it is time to respond to God’s love.

Tell someone else that you know that your Redeemer lives!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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The Countenance of Job

“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”
Job 36:15

It was a cold Wednesday. The harvest had been good that year and it was now stored for the winter.

Everyone was content and waiting for the first snows of the long winter.

Everyone, that is, except Martin Luther.

He had finished an extensive writing project and now walked over to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and posted his project – the 95 Theses.

Six months later, Luther would defend his position at a meeting of the leaders of his monastic order, the Augustinians.

Formally called The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Luther would expand on his 95 Theses and, in doing so, set the path of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and elsewhere – a Reformation that would change the world.

At The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther would refer to the Book of Job and make the connection of Job’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ.

It would become known as the “Theology of the Cross.” Martin Luther echoed Elihu’s words extoling the greatness of God, especially as God works through a person’s suffering, in Job 36.

Luther said, in part:

The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. [“1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

Luther would go on to argue that if preachers and teachers led people to seek God’s grace through good works, they completely misunderstood (either ignorantly or intentionally) how God works through suffering!

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ (Rom. 4:15).

Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.” [1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

As Luther would go on to explain these points, he would describe the righteousness of Christ as “‘the countenance of Job’ (AE 31:64). God called wounded and suffering Job to intercede for his friends and avert God’s wrath (Job 42:8). In a similar way, the wounded and suffering Christ interceded for all sinners, averts God’s wrath from us, and grants us His righteousness. The Lord looked upon the diseased and battered countenance of Job and heard Job’s plea for his friends. In a similar way, when the Lord looks upon the battered face of His Son, He hears Christ’s pleas on our behalf” (taken from the article The Countenance of Job, in The Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, p 837).

3,300 years earlier, Elihu expresses much the same thought (obviously not referencing Christ, who wouldn’t be born for another 1800 years).

This tells me that this is something that is most certainly true. And since Elihu’s expressed thought is actually part of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, I think I’m on safe ground making this assertion of truthfulness!

This I need to remember when I go through bad times. When I’m suffering pain or sorrow, I must remember – or be reminded – that God is good and that he will use this suffering for my own good and for his glory.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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The Right Thing to Say – the Best Way to Say It

“I will answer you and your friends with you.”
Job 35:4

In a previous devotion, Repentance, we heard about John the Baptist and his words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

John was the “forerunner” of Jesus Christ. In other words, he was the one who was prophesied in the Old Testament who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

John’s last recorded public words were, “He (meaning Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John is saying that he must now leave the limelight, that his mission is accomplished.

John was soon after imprisoned by Herod the tetrarch. He languishes in Herod’s dungeon for about year when he receives word of what Jesus has been doing.

He sends some of his own disciples to ask Jesus if he is, indeed, the Messiah that he prepared the way for.

During John’s ministry, his message was God’s message. But that didn’t mean that John himself was perfect or anything less or more than human.

He still had his doubts. He must have known that he wouldn’t leave Herod’s dungeon alive and that his death was fast approaching.

Jesus reassures John that all is well. That John’s message and ministry did exactly what they were supposed to do.

Once again, God used an imperfect human to convey his perfect message to his perfect effect!

Elihu serves much the same function as John the Baptist. He’s preparing Job and his friends for when God will show up to speak to Job.

Elihu’s message is intended to turn Job to God so that Job is ready to hear God and receive what he says. This will happen very soon.

But Elihu is still just an imperfect human. His overall message will have God’s effect of getting Job to focus on God. But Elihu also conveys the message in a less-than-perfect way at times.

Elihu berates Job for a lack of faith in God when what is more likely happening is that Job is crying out in grief and sorrow to God.

Elihu – in his youth and level of maturity – misses the fact that Job is a beaten-down man. It is almost as if Elihu is saying, “Buck up, man! It isn’t that bad! Get over it! Don’t cry out to God in complaint and anger! Just trust in God and his goodness!”

This isn’t a wrong thing to say, just a less than proper way to say it. Elihu probably could have found a more comforting way to say to Job, “Trust in God! He is good! He will come through for you!”

As a man, especially, I need to learn this lesson. When my wife or sons are upset, I want to jump in and make it all better as fast as I can. I will say comforting words to them, hug them, help them.

But if they are still sad or hurting or despairing when I felt that they should have gotten over it, I get frustrated and I tend to be like Elihu and overreact.

Or I can be like John the Baptist and question whether what I had said and done did any good.

Thankfully, God is so much more powerful and wise than I. He gave me the words, yes. But when I botch up the delivery of the message, he is still able to bring out his own desired result.

That’s our encouragement today, to continue to follow God’s leading in our own lives to speak to and help others. Don’t get discourage if you overreact or get frustrated. Keep telling God’s message and let God take care of how that message affects people.

God has given you the right thing to say – in his Word. Always be learning the best way to say the right thing to say.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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