Time Travel

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24

There are some great stories about time travel.

The classic The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. There’s also one of my favorites, The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein.

Of course, the Back to the Future movie trilogy has to be one of the most popular time travel stories of all time.

Alas, time travel is not possible. At least not yet.

Or is it?

Actually, the Christian Church has the closest thing to time travel that I’ve seen so far.

It is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Yes, you read that right. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is spiritual time travel!

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3-4

When I was baptized, I traveled back in time – spiritually – to Jesus’ cross. I was crucified along with Jesus. I was buried along with Jesus. I was resurrected along with Jesus.

Everyone who is baptized by water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit experiences this spiritual time travel.

We are crucified with Christ. Jesus Christ took all our sins (and all the sins of all people) on himself and paid the penalty for them on the cross.

Our sinful nature was then buried with Christ in the tomb.

But when Christ was raised from the dead, we were raised with a new nature. Instead of sin, through Baptism we have the righteousness of Christ!

Our sinful human nature rears its ugly head from the grave every day. We are tempted to sin by the devil, the world, and our sinful human nature.

By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace we can overcome these tempters!

But if we don’t overcome them, if we choose to live accord to the sinful human nature, according to what Lutherans have believed, taught, and confessed for nearly 500 years, “Those who walk according to the flesh retain neither faith nor righteousness” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession Article V Love and Fulfilling the Law, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 135).

When we were baptized, we traveled back in time to Christ’s death and resurrection in the First Century AD.

But every day we must, by contrition and repentance, drown that old sinful human nature and walk by faith!

Again, as Lutherans have believed, taught, and confessed for nearly 500 years: “Faith must be the mother and source of works that are truly good and well pleasing to God, which God will reward in this world and in the world to come” (Formula of Concord – Solid Declaration Article IV, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 548).

We can do this! By the power of the Holy Spirit! We can walk in the righteousness of God! We do not have to give in to our flesh’s passion and desires.

I realize that this is the exact opposite of what the culture has been telling us for generations now.

But really, who do you want to listen to? The culture that is going more insane by the minute? Or God who clearly loves you and wants what’s best for you?

Crucify your sinful human flesh – not literally, but spiritually – by using the Means of Grace.

It is possible and it is the best way to live!

I implore you, O Lord, in your kindness to show me your great mercy that I may be set free from my sins and rescued from the punishments that I rightly deserve; 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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The Sickle

And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”
Revelation 14:15

The garage at my grandparents’ house in Ingleside, Illinois was a place of wonder and adventure for me as a young boy.

It had been a car garage since the turn of the century – the 19th to the 20th, that is – and on the outside was the name “Wear.” This house and property were originally the summer home of the Wear family – where my grandmother spent her summers as a young girl.

Over the ensuing 75 years, no car resided in that garage as it accumulated that side of our family’s “stuff.”

I would explore in there in the spring time – as that was when it was coolest, without being freezing, and no wasps and hornets had built their nests.

One year I came across something I had never seen before.

It was shaped sort of like a hockey stick, but the blade was rotated 90 degrees and serrated on both edges.

I found out later that it was a sickle.

It was a garden sickle and it was used to cut long grass and weeds before there were such things as powered lawnmowers and weed-wackers.

All you did was swing it back and forth through the grass and weeds and it would cut them down to size.

Farmers used larger – and sharper – sickles to harvest grain and barley back before the combine harvester was invented.

This is the picture painted in Revelation 14 of the Last Day.

Jesus had used the parable and analogy of seeds and harvests throughout his ministry. So it is not surprising that this picture would be used here in the last book of the Bible.

It is just a picture – there won’t be a literal reaping of people by Jesus wielding a sickle. But it is a picture that strikes to the heart of each person. Unfortunately, Satan has influenced the picture by inciting someone’s imagination to see this as The Grim Reaper.

But that isn’t the picture painted in Revelation at all!

Jesus has a sharp sickle and this is a picture of the harvesting of the “elect” – those who remain in their Holy Spirit-given faith (through the Means of Grace). This harvest is swift and complete – that’s the picture of the sickle.

There will be no more suffering or waiting on our part. When Christ comes back, our waiting will have finally come to an end and our suffering will be over forever.

This will be followed immediately by another harvest, that done by an angel (or angels), of those who reject Christ. That harvest will also be swift and complete but will not bring an end to suffering but rather be the beginning of eternal torment and separation from God.

The ultimate harvest by Christ is our glorious future and we look forward to it with longing.

But in the meantime, we are to be at work in God’s Kingdom sharing the Gospel so that others will also long for this last harvest!

Almighty and gracious God, you want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Magnify the power of the Gospel in the hearts of your faithful people that your Church may spread the good news of salvation. Protect, encourage, and bless all missionaries who proclaim the saving cross that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to himself, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Far Outweighs

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

I first met Minnie in September of 1997. She was a resident at what used to be called a “nursing home” but today they are known better as “extended care facilities.”

Minnie had lived in that home for over fifteen years when I first met her.

During the day she was confined to a wheel chair. She had multiple sclerosis, initially diagnosed in her late 50’s.

I visited Minnie regularly, sat with her, read scripture to her, and gave her the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Minnie was always cheerful and talkative. She made every effort to be prim and proper in her dress and comportment.

But as I soon discovered, Minnie was constantly in moderate to severe chronic pain due to her MS.

She lived this way for another seven years! Always happy to see me, always talkative, and always prim and proper. She also made it a point to both pray for her fellow residents and share the story of Jesus with them (and me).

Even though she was in constant pain, she loved God and loved her neighbors and told anyone who would listen how much God loved her in Jesus Christ.

This was her story to tell.

She was the living embodiment of Paul’s words in Romans 8, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

No matter how much pain Minnie was in, she knew it didn’t compare to the glory that was awaiting her in heaven!

When Jesus finally called Minnie home, this is exactly what I said at her funeral service. We gathered together with her blood-family and her church family and gave praise and thanksgiving to God for saving Minnie and giving her eternal life.

In a glory that far outweighed her painful life here on earth.

This is true for all of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Still, it is hard for us to believe this sometimes.

Even Martin Luther – the great reformer – would write:

“…Because heaven is not apparent it becomes very difficult for my old Adam [sinful human nature] to believe that on the Last Day God will give me such a beautiful body, joyful heart, and pure soul, endowed with understanding of every kind and full of love and delight and that I am to become a greater lord than any king now on earth” (from Luther’s sermon of 1525 on Romans 8:18-23, quoted from What Luther Says – A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian © 1959 Concordia Publishing House, p 623).

Maybe this is one of the reasons Minnie was here and came into my life. To show me the truthfulness of Romans 8 that how no matter how bad this life is, heaven will be that much greater.

Minnie believed that.

By the grace of God, so will I.

Heavenly Father, you teach me in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve your children. Look with compassion on all those who experience pain. Remember all of us in mercy, strengthen us in patience, comfort us with the memory of your goodness, and let your face shine on us that we may be guarded by your peace in Christ Jesus. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Fruit Recognition

[Jesus said,] Thus you will recognized them by their fruits.
Matthew 17:20

When my family lived in Southern California, we were blessed to have a plum tree and a lemon tree in our backyard.

Alas, the plum tree only produced fruit one of the four years we lived there. But the lemon tree had a lot of fruit each and every year.

The home next door had an orange tree – part of which hung over our fence. The orange blossoms in the spring gave a wonderful aroma to the backyard!

Each summer we would go out into the backyard and look for oranges on the orange tree, plums on the plum tree, and lemons on the lemon tree.

It would be silly to look for bananas on the orange tree, green grapes on the plum tree, and apples on the lemon tree.

We looked for the fruit that was expected on the various fruit trees. Each tree produced its own distinct fruit.

We were disappointed when the plum tree didn’t produce plums. We found out later that it was due to insufficient water reaching the tree roots.

As I remember looking at the trees without their fruit, I could tell they were different trees but that’s about it. I could not tell what kind of trees they were until the fruit appeared.

As Jesus says, “Thus you will recognized them by their fruits.

This is true of fruit trees. This is also true of people.

Everything we do – as Christians, that is, – should be pointing people to Jesus Christ and his salvation. This is our fruit.

But unless we actually produce the fruit, no one will know we are Christians.

Our fruit is a distinctive kind of love, as the camp song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love! Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love!”

When Jesus talks about good fruit and bad fruit in Matthew 17, he begins by pointing out that he’s talking about being warry of false prophets.

You will know a false prophet by the fruit they produce. They may “talk a good game,” meaning they may sound religious and doctrinal. But unless they actually produce the fruit of a prophet, they are to be seen for what they are: false prophets.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that since you are not a prophet, Jesus is not talking about you.

You actually are a prophet, in a sense. You are one who is to speak God’s Word to other people (the first and foremost role of a prophet in the Old Testament).

Martin Luther describes what a modern-day prophet does this way:

“You must hold on to the chief part, the summary, of Christian teaching and accept nothing else: That God has sent and given Christ, His Son, and that only through Him does He forgive us all our sins, justify and save us” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 21 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1593).

This is our fruit. This is our love. This is our story that we share.

By this fruit we will be known.

Almighty God, you have called your Church to share the love of Christ as our fruit. This is our story: that in Christ you have reconciled us to yourself. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may continue to proclaim the good news of your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Rain and Snow

[The LORD declares]: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

As an older kid, I used to love thunderstorms. That all changed when a storm tried to knock down our new house in Wisconsin that we had just bought and moved into the month before. (I wrote about this in a devotion called Natural and Special Revelation, which you can read here.)

Pam King the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011. Why is she smiling? She lives in Florida!

Now, even though I don’t particularly like thunderstorms, I do love it when it rains (until it starts to flood the place, that is).

The author the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011

Snow, on the other hand, I love all the time. As far as I’m concerned, it can snow moderately from the first week of November to the middle of February (at which time it would be great if God would make it warm up and dry the ground out so that we can start baseball in March).

Too much rain and too much snow are a problem, of course. They cause flooding and damage.

But God has made this world in such a way that when there is just enough snow in the winter and rain in the spring and summer, crops and other vegetation grow in all their beauty and bounty.

That’s the glorious beauty of this creation and God’s amazing love and power! Rain and snow come and just that simple water molecule makes crops grow and people can eat and live and thrive.

This is also a picture of God’s Holy Word. Right before our very eyes, whenever it snows or rains, we can see that God’s Word also accomplishes what God intends and purposes – the salvation of our souls.

As Martin Luther said:

“Rain and snow are not useless, but they water the earth, giving seed to the sower. The rain can achieve everything for the earth …. When we experience the absence of rain, we see what the earth produces. So He takes away the glory of the earth and shows that it is not the earth that does it but that it is accomplished by the rain. So our building and promotion of the church is not a result of our works but of the Word of God which we preach” Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 17 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1181).

God’s Word is incredible and complex. It can do so much! It is the Holy Spirit’s Means of Grace. When joined to simple water, it because a life-giving Baptism that creates faith and forgives sin. When joined to bread and wine, it gives Christians the very body and blood of Jesus Christ that, when eaten and drank, forgives sins, gives life and salvation.

God’s Word is the way we carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We use God’s Word to make disciples and teach what Christ has done and commanded us to do.

This is why having God’s Word saturate the Christian Church’s worship and life is so important and powerful!

From the hymns that are based on God’s Word (some God’s Word literally set to music) to the Scripture readings and responsive Psalmody, to the sermon and sacraments, God’s Word soaks through the worship service and immerses the participant in God himself.

Like rain and snow bring forth the fruit of the earth, so God’s Word will bring forth and strengthen Christian men and women of all ages.

Lord God, heavenly Father, I pray that your Word will continue to accomplish your purposes among us and around the world, namely to forgive sin and bring people into everlasting life. Teach me to hold your Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it; 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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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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