Qualified

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Colossians 1:12

I’ve been told I have a good voice – speaking and singing.

I’ve also been told I have a face for radio, but at least my voice is also qualified for radio!

I never thought about being a radio announcer until an opportunity to do just that opened up in the fall of 1987.

I was a first-year student at Concordia Seminary. I had a part-time job as an accessioner at Concordia Historical Institute. It was an okay job, one which could feed my love of history.

But I found that while I was qualified for the job – it wasn’t because of my love of history. I could simply write a number in a book and affix that number on a piece of paper. That’s what an accessioner does – inventorying and recording historical documents that come into the Institute’s collection. I had a little room, dusty and musty, that was kept at a cool 68 degrees. There was one window high on the wall where I could see whether it was daytime or night but that was about it.

The pay was okay, but the work soon became dull. I started looking for another position. I walked down to the studios of KFUO AM/FM radio that was on the campus. I asked to see the program director. I told him who I was and what I was looking for.

He hired me on the spot and a couple of days later I was hosting the weekend afternoon slot on the AM side.

Like a duck takes to water, I felt right at home behind the control board and microphone of the radio studio.

My voice qualified me for the job! My voice that I readily acknowledge is a gift given to me by God (through my mom and dad).

The word “qualified’ shows up in today’s devotional text. But not exactly in the same context as my radio career.

It has been said that “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

I think that is very true!

While my voice qualified me for radio, what is in me doesn’t qualify me “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Instead, God qualifies me.

God qualifies all of us through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. To share with the saints in light is to live forever in God’s Kingdom of Glory – heaven!

We can only be qualified by God himself. We bring nothing to this party on our own!

And while the Kingdom of Glory is the end result of our inheritance, there are things we do before we go there!

God calls us to be his own children through the Means of Grace. Typically, this is first through Holy Baptism. And through the other Means of Grace – God’s Holy Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion – we are continually qualified to fill God’s calling of us.

Our calling here in the Kingdom of Grace – our life in this world – is to tell others the Good News about Jesus!

I realize that there are many Christians who feel less than qualified to do this. But I contend that this isn’t true at all. God wouldn’t call us to do it and then not qualify us to do it.

As the hymn writer says:

If you cannot preach like Peter,
If you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus
And say He died for all.
stanza 3 of the hymn There Is a Balm in Gilead

You are qualified because you are called by God!

Almighty and ever-living God, you make me both to will and to do those things that are good and acceptable in your sight. Let your fatherly hand ever guide me and your Holy Spirit ever be with me to direct me in the knowledge and obedience of your Word that I may obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Book Review: The Search for God and Guinness

I recently listened to an unabridged audio version of Stephen Mansfield’s book. I actually stumbled across it looking through the “Biography” section of my library’s online collection.

As a pastor, I’m interested in God (that should come as no surprise).

And when I saw the word “God” on the cover alongside a pint of Guinness Extra Stout, I was intrigued.

A pint of Guinness on tap is still, by far, the best tasting beer I have ever experienced. And I’m not alone in this. It is estimated that over 10 million pints of Guinness Stout (or porter) are enjoyed every day.

I’ve enjoyed Guinness for over 25 years. But even I was dumbfounded to find out that the Guinness story is over 250 years old!

Stephen Mansfield – who admits he’s not a beer drinker – dives deep into the history of beer (which goes back over 6000 years) to set the stage for the Guinness story.

This story has in its roots the history of the Church, particularly the Reformation, and the social concerns – and needs – of 18th and 19th Century Great Britain.

What intrigued me the most was the reach Arthur Guinness – the founding father of the brand – had in subsequent generations.

His Christian faith was the foundation of all that he did – from brewing beer (picking up on Martin Luther’s doctrine of Christian vocation) to “loving God and loving neighbor” (see Matthew 22:36-40).

So much so that not only did sons and grandchildren follow in his brewing footsteps, but also became doctors, medical missionaries, and clergymen.

While Mansfield’s book is an interesting history and biography of a man and his brewing empire, it is also an intriguing book on the formation of faith within a man’s family.

I highly recommend Stephen Mansfield’s In Search For God and Guinness.

Afraid

“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6

An anxious manI find it increasingly hard to live in this world.

In my lifetime, I have seen the changing of definitions of institutions that have previously stood the test of thousands and thousands of years.

For example: the institution of marriage. Until just a couple of years ago, it was defined as “one man and one woman in a lifelong union.”

This was the definition of marriage given by God in the very beginning!

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Two thousand years ago, the writer to the Hebrews confirms God’s definition of marriage and encourages us to “let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

But not anymore. Marriage can be defined by the government, and accepted by the governed, as to be just about anything they want it to be.

But instead of wallowing in misery and longing for the “days that used to be” it is time for me to look ahead and to encourage and engage the culture I am in!

I need to start with love. While I am tempted to beat down and beat up those who are forcefully, maliciously, and – yes – falsely trying to change God’s definition and will for his creation, instead I will take God’s tact and path.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).

Jesus Christ – the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity – was incarnated in the Virgin Mary. He was born in order to take on the sins of all people. In love Jesus lived a perfect life in order to give us righteousness in exchange for our sins!

Even though our culture today is changing definitions to fit their own will and desires, the TRUTH is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

He still loves. He still saves. And he calls us to love and proclaim salvation to everyone around us.

But I’m afraid.

I’m afraid to tell others this truth. I’m afraid to love others like Jesus loves them.

After all, look what his own culture did to him two thousand years ago! And it appears things have gotten much, much worse today!

I’m afraid that people will hate me for loving them. Even though I tell them the truth in love that the cultural definitions of the world are wrong (when they contradict God’s Word), I’m afraid they won’t be happy with me.

I’m afraid I’m going to make people mad. I’m afraid that in doing this, those in authority will take away the things I like and the people I love.

These are very real fears!

While the writer to the Hebrews can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”, I’m not so confident.

But I will also say it. I will also – by the power of the Holy Spirit – believe it.

And I will go to Jesus “outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Hebrews 13:13), meaning I will engage my culture and love them and tell them the truth because I love them.

Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life I am afraid of enduring sufferings and death. I know I will enter eternal glory one day, but in the meantime, give me grace at all times so that I can subject myself to your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of my life. Give me courage to share the love and message of Christ with all around me so that they also may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Gift Giving

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

Wages and gifts are two different things.

I realize that statement sounds like it comes from the file of “it goes without saying.”

However, there are some different ideas about gift-giving, so much so that I think it is a good idea to say something!

The different idea of gift giving that I’m talking about is that of reciprocity. That giving a gift to someone obligates the receiver to purchase a gift of commensurate value to reciprocate the gift.

But that isn’t what gift-giving was ever meant to be!

Giving a gift was originally meant to be motivated by the love the giver has for the receiver of the gift!

The greatest gift ever given was that of the forgiveness of sins – and the resultant eternal life – from God to us.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has forgiven our sins and given us eternal life in heaven. And this is a gift.

Not a reward. Not a payment for services rendered. And never meant to be reciprocal.

God did not save us in response to us either being good enough or getting close enough to him first.

It is a gift – indeed, it has to be a gift – because “people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works” (The Augsburg Confession, Article IV Justification, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 33).

That is why I believe, teach/preach and confess that “people are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake” (ibid).

In other words, we are saved by grace through faith alone as a completely free gift – to us – from God.

We cannot do anything to earn the gift. Of course, then it wouldn’t be a gift at all, even if we could earn it.

God gives us this gift because he loves us. He forgives that which we did actually earn.

As St. Paul says in Romans 6, “the wages of sin death.”

We earn death and everlasting condemnation because of our sins. Another way of saying this is that a person cannot “do something good and helpful in divine things before his conversion. Because a person is ‘dead in [his] trespasses’ (Ephesians 2:5) before his conversion, there can be no power to work anything good and helpful in divine things” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration Article II Free Will quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 531).

Our sins earn us hell. But thanks be to God that he gives us the free gift of the forgiveness of our sins!

But let us not overlook the truth that while salvation is a free gift, it still has a cost.

It is a free gift to us.

But it cost Jesus everything! He paid the wages of our sins with his sacrificial death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead on the third day!

So, in our own gift giving we can glorify God and proclaim the Gospel by giving gifts freely and without expectation of reciprocity – just as God gave us the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Heavenly Father, God of all grace, govern our hearts that we may never forget your blessings and always thank and praise you for all your goodness in this life until, with all your saints, we praise you eternally in your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Independence

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

What was going through his mind after the fact? Samuel Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett and 52 others put their signatures to a document that for over 350 million people today is a symbol of freedom and independence. But 241 years ago, it could just as easily have been their death sentence – and for several that is exactly what it was.

The Declaration of Independence. A piece of paper. Fragile. Easily destroyed. Extraordinary measures are taken today to preserve it. In the end, these measures will prove unsuccessful, as they must with anything made of such fragile stock. We’ve enshrined the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives in Washington D.C. But it is the power of the idea that gave – and continues to give – life to these words of Thomas Jefferson so long ago.

Something much more powerful is enshrined in the heart of the Christian. Not words written with ink on parchment but life written in blood on the heart and soul.

Our independence from sin, death and the power of the devil – paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is the power of the Christian’s life. Our individual independence comes in the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The lives that were freed from England with the Declaration of Independence were now lives full of responsibility. Two wars would be fought against England because of the Declaration. It is a fact that freedom is never free.

Our freedom from sin is a completely free gift from God (grace) but it is not without cost. It cost the life of the Son of God. Now a life lived for God is a life full of responsibility.

We live in God’s Kingdom, sharing the Good News about Jesus, doing the things that need to be done – not to get to heaven, but because we are going to heaven!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us not look at this as a “midsummer respite” with nine more weeks of summer left. Rather, let us give thanks to God for that independence. In the freedom given us as citizens, let us exercise the freedom of religion (not from religion) and share the Good News about Jesus that gives us independence from sin through his death and resurrection.


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Why You Do What You Do

“The righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you….”
Matthew 25:37

What you do when no one is watching – or when you don’t think anyone is watching – is a truer definition of your character and integrity than just about anything else.

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you help a little, old lady across the street?

Why do you return the $20 bill to the person in front of you who dropped it in the grocery line?

Why are you faithful to your wife even when it is virtually impossible for her to find out that you would have been unfaithful?

There are two reasons for doing things like this.

One is to get a reward, to get a payment, or a chit mark in your ledger, to add weight to your scales of life on the “good” side.

But this isn’t a good reason. Not in God’s eyes, anyway.

Some people do things like this in order to earn their way into paradise. But paradise cannot be earned! The only way to get into paradise by yourself is to be perfect 24/7/365 according to God’s standard of perfect.

And that’s impossible.

The other reason people do these things is because they are simply the right thing to do. Something deep within them wants to do the right thing and does the right thing as often as they can.

And they do this only because God has given them the power of the forgiveness of sins and the abundant life through his Son Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

The Scriptural Truth is that the good we do is only done through faith and only done in response to the grace and love God showed and showered on us first.

When people insist that “good works have the right to merit eternal life” we can only answer with the Truth of Scripture:

“He will render to each on according to his works. (Romans 2:6)

Glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good. (Romans 2:10)

Those who have done good to the resurrection of life. (John 5:29)

I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. (Matthew 25:35)

In these and all similar passages in which works are praised in the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand not only outward works, but also the faith of the heart. Scripture does not speak of hypocrisy, but of the righteousness of the heart with its fruit. Furthermore, whenever the Law and works are mentioned, we must know that Christ cannot be excluded as Mediator. He is the end of the Law, and He Himself says, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5)”(Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V (III) Love and Fulfilling the Law, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House,  p 138).

In other words, we simply go around doing good because we are Christians, saved by the blood of Christ and imitating Christ. We are simply doing what Christ himself did!

And we wouldn’t even realize that we were doing all this good to Christ himself when we did it to the least of his brothers, unless he told us – which he will do on the Last Day!

So go about doing good! Not to get a reward, but because it is God’s Will and is a response to God’s Love!

Lord God Almighty, even as you bless your people with various and unique gifts of the Holy Spirit, continue to pour out your grace on us so that we use them to your honor and glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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In My Father’s Footsteps – Christmas 2016 Edition

Devotional stories for the Christmas season including stories about the ten most beloved Christmas carols of all time by Ed Blonski, pastor, author, and podcaster.

In My Father’s Footsteps, Christmas 2016 Edition – paperback copy
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