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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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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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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God’s Sword

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

I love to read, and have since I was a young boy. Starting in the 1st grade my dad would bring home once a week – usually on Fridays – comic books (Batman, Superman, Archie, etc.). He still sends a box of comic books to the house once or twice a year. He says it’s for my sons, but I must admit I still love reading them myself!

As I got older, I started reading some of his favorite books and authors – Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

I started with science fiction then moved into the fantasy genre – with the requisite knights, damsels in distress, and swords.

So when I read about swords in the Bible, it definitely gets my attention.

Hebrews 4:12 is one of those attention-getters!

A quick glance at this passage might suggest that God’s Word is a sword – as it certainly is in Ephesians 6:17.

But here in Hebrews it specifically says that the word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” It isn’t a sword itself but more than a sword!

It is “living and active” and basically gets to the heart of every person.

Does this mean that I should be careful with what I say and do with my Bible sitting on the desk next to me?

Well, yes and no.

The book itself doesn’t listen to me or read my mind.

But the Bible is more than just a book. It is the Word of God and, as John’s Gospel begins, the Word is the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity – Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God!

And Jesus Christ knows us intimately. As the omniscient Son of God he can look into our hearts and see it all.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews is getting at in chapter 4 of his (or her) epistle.

Nothing is hidden from God. We can hide our inner thoughts and feelings from other people – even those we love. But we cannot hide anything from God.

God’s Word opens us up before him better than any sharp sword ever could.

God sees into our hearts. He sees all our sinful thoughts, desires, intentions, and predilections.

God, through his word – the Law – brings to light our sin. It shows us our sin as a mirror bright.

Thankfully, that’s not all God’s Word does! God’s Word also brings to us God’s grace.

After God’s Word opens us up like a sword, the sweet and healing balm of the Gospel heals and revives us to the life Jesus came to give us through his death and resurrection!

Martin Luther put it this way:

“The Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used it is bound never to be without fruit [the topic of a future devotion, by the way!]. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words. And even though no other interest or necessity moves us, this truth ought to urge everyone to the Word, because thereby the devil is put to flight and driven away” (Large Catechism, Part I. The Ten Commandments, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 370).

This is, indeed, good news! Let’s share this with everyone today!

Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.    Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Stories That Come to Life

[Jesus said], “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
John 5:24

The idea that reading something makes something come alive has been a creative device for a long time.

The computer game Myst has it. The plot of the game is that Atrus has written books/stories and in doing so has created worlds, or ages, as the game calls them. This was one of my favorite games to play back in the 1990’s.

The movie Bedtime Stories, staring Adam Sandler, is about a man who tells stories to his niece and nephew and these stories magically come true.

And the movie Goosebumps, staring Jack Black, is about the author R. L. Stine whose stories actually come to life!

While these are just stories written to amuse and fascinate people, the concept has its roots in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Does that surprise you? I don’t think it should. After all, humans are created in the image of God. Since the Fall, each human carries the echo of God’s image within them, an echo that is loudest in our creativity! Consider this: the greatest stories ever told are about the epic struggle of good versus evil and our favorite stories are when good overcomes evil!

When humans create these kinds of stories, it is an echo of the very true epic battle of Good versus Evil – that is, God overcoming and conquering Satan through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus comes right out and says this in John 5, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.

Jesus is saying that if we hear his word, that will lead us to believe in God and that means we have eternal life!

We hear his word. That word is the Gospel! Jesus’ words are eternal life – as St. Peter said in John 6, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Hearing the Gospel leads us to believe in God. The God who loves us so much that instead of leaving us in our condemned state because of our sins, he provided the perfect sacrifice to forgive all our sins.

And through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have eternal life.

All because we heard the words of Jesus. All because we read the story or heard the story.

The story that came to life.

The Story that came to give us life!

O Lord God, heavenly Father, by the blessed light of your divine Word you have led me to the knowledge of your Son. Grant me the grace of your Holy Spirit that I may ever walk in the light of your truth and, rejoicing with sure confidence in Christ, my Savior, be brought unto everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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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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God’s Meal

“O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.”
Genesis 18:3

God comes to us where we are.

Sometimes these are in unexpected ways

Sometimes God comes to us and we may not even know it was God who was speaking to us! (That’s intentional on God’s part by the way. See Luke 24.)

Abraham wasn’t surprised at all at God’s appearing to him at the Oaks of Mamre.

He was sitting in the shade at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. At some point, he looks up and there is God and two angels standing in front of him.

Since no one can look upon God and live (see Exodus 33:20), I understand this to be God in the person of the Angel of the Lord. That is, the 2nd Person of the Trinity who – before his incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary – appeared in the form of an angel of God.

Abraham knows this is God but also treats them as honored, human guests by preparing a meal for them.

This may seem rather strange, but not to Abraham. Or to God, for that matter.

The importance of fellowship around a meal is presented throughout Scripture.

It is something that God instilled in the crown of his creation.

I have grown up with this importance of fellowship meals. Each year at the end of May my family has gathered together around a meal. Then again at the beginning of July – both of those meals are usually outside and feature grilled meat of some kind!

Then there’s the meal that comes at the end of November and another one at the end of December – both of those meals featuring roasted turkey and ham!

Then there are birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other special occasions.

No doubt you have a similar experience, if not the same menus!

This shouldn’t surprise us seeing that God usually makes a big deal about food and meals in his Word!

After Adam and Eve had children, food was part of their worship of God.

Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a meal. Jacob prepared a meal for Isaac in the ceremony that bestowed the blessing on him that promised the Messiah would come through his bloodline.

Jesus teaches and performs miracles at several different types of meals.

And the last book of the Bible describes heaven as the “marriage supper of the Lamb in his kingdom” (see Revelation 19:6-9).

There is no greater fellowship meal, however, than the supper that Jesus gave to the Church. His supper, the Lord’s Supper.

In this supper – celebrated every week in the Holy Christian Church – Jesus gives us Christians his very body and blood under the bread and wine to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

More than just a memorial meal, it is God actually, literally, coming to us!

I thank God for this incredible meal that he has given to us and am so happy I can share it with my brothers and sisters in Christ each week!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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