Plentiful Harvest

[Jesus said], “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Luke 10:2

One of the joys of living where I do is that we get to experience all four seasons and the beauty and wonder that God displays through them.

Sometimes we can experience all four seasons in one weekend! But usually we get them at the normal times.

As we are now in the summer season, we can experience the spectacle that is a farmer’s field in full bloom!

My favorite summer field is that of corn. The stalks of sweet corn are about knee high right now.

The old adage is that corn should be “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Not anymore, however. Farmers can plant corn about a month or so earlier than they could 50 years ago due to advancements of seed genetics and farming techniques.

A field of growing corn, or wheat, or barley, or soybeans, all are sure signs of summer here on the Illinois prairie.

But a field ripe for harvest also is sign of the work of the Church, according to Jesus.

Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest – meaning God the Father – to send out workers into the harvest field. But he doesn’t mean farmers and the field isn’t a corn field.

The harvest field is the world. The crop is all the people of the world.

The seed that was planted by the Holy Spirit is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit used as his sowers the people of the Church.

When we share the Good News of Jesus Christ and his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension (the Gospel), the Holy Spirit plants seeds of faith into each person who hears it.

Through the continued holy watering of God’s Word, faith can sprout and take root in a person. The Means of Grace can continue to cultivate the seed and soon a harvest will be ready!

The sad news is that not everyone accepts the seed of the Gospel. The reject it, toss it away, and continue in their deadly, sin-filled ways.

That’s why Jesus calls on his Church to pray for harvest workers – to sow seed, be the means to cultivate the seed, and finally to bring the harvest in from the fields.

It is all God’s work but he graces us with the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in his work!

Please join me in prayer for harvest workers (which includes you!):

Almighty and gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have commanded us to pray that you would send forth laborers into your harvest. Of your infinite mercy give us true teachers and ministers of your Word who truly fulfill your command and preach nothing contrary to your holy Word. Grant that we, being warned, instructed, nurtured, comforted, and strengthened by your holy Word, may do those things which are well pleasing to you and profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Powerful Name

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

In a previous devotion I said that the power of words is an amazing thing.

Just as amazing to me is the power of a name.

We all have names. And names tell other people who we are.

They also tell us who we are.

My name is Edward Albert Blonski.

I am named “Edward” after my father, my paternal grandfather, and my maternal grand-uncle.

I am named “Albert” after my maternal grandfather.

My name identifies me as well as informs me of where I have come from, at least in part.

Most parents put a lot of time and thought into the names of their children. Oftentimes, the name is chosen well before the child is born. And just as often, the name chosen is something that reflects who the child is and where that child has “come from.”

This practice is as old as the human race.

The first child that was born was named “Cain” and we’re told that his mother chose that name because, as she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The name Cain sounds like the Hebrew word for gotten.

Moses was so named because Pharaoh’s daughter said, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:10) and Moses sounds like the Hebrew word for draw out.

The name that this devotion is about, however, is a very special name.

The baby boy that was named Jesus was actually not given his name by either of his parents.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to name the boy Jesus (see Matthew 1:21).

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her much the same thing, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

The reason the Messiah’s name is Jesus is, as Gabriel says, because that is what he would do.

Jesus means the LORD saves.

No doubt about it that is what Jesus does. He saves us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He did this by dying on the cross and rising to life again.

And in his name this Good News, this Gospel, is to be proclaimed to the entire world.

JESUS was born to be our substitute under God’s Law.

JESUS lived the perfect life to be our righteousness by faith.

JESUS died on the cross to forgive all the sins of all people of all time.

JESUS rose from the grave so that we, too, might rise from the grave one day.

JESUS ascended into heaven with the promise that he would be with us forever and would come back to take all believers to paradise on the Last Day.

In the name of Jesus many incredible things happened.

For example, Peter and John were going up to the Temple to pray. They encountered a man in his forties that was lame since birth. This man asked Peter and John for a handout.

Peter and John look at him and Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6)

This is nice, but this isn’t the reason Jesus was born, lived, died, rose and ascended. The name of Jesus wasn’t given in order to just heal the lame, the blind, the deaf, or even to raise the dead.

Even though all these things happened in the name of Jesus, the reason they happened was so that the real reason for the name of Jesus could be done: to proclaim the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins!

When Peter and John are arrested for healing this man, they used the opportunity – as would anyone arrested for doing miracles in Jesus’ name – to proclaim the Gospel!

Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12).

Today, healings and raising the dead rarely happen anymore. But the proclamation of the Gospel certainly does – and should continue to – happen by and through us!

You are saved “in the name of Jesus.” Now go and share “the name of Jesus” with all the world!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Powerful Words

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
John 20:22-23

The power of words is an amazing thing.

Of course, actions must back up words. But the words usually come first.

And powerful words inspire great actions and the words and actions accomplish extraordinary things.

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” – Winston Churchill.

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

These are very famous quotes, to be sure.

But if they remained only words, no one would have remembered them.

That they are remember is because these words inspired action!

Winston Churchill’s words inspired England – and the Allies that joined England – in defeating tyranny in Western Europe.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words inspired a generation to not accept the status quo of our nation and brought about a change in how we see and live with each other that still reverberates today.

Thomas Jefferson’s words would have been relegated to the dustbin of history if they had not inspired an entire generation to rise up against tyranny and fight for freedom that gave birth to the great experiment that is the United States of America.

We are inspired by these quotes because these quotes – and many more like them – prompt actions in many people to “be the change we want to see in the world” (a quote from Mahatma Gandhi).

The words of Jesus Christ recorded in John 20 also inspire great action in the world.

Jesus breathes out the words “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit would be given to his disciples (the Church) fifty days later on the day we call Pentecost. But these words, this breath, would literally inspire (“fill with spirit/breath) his disciples to go into all the world.

The disciples – that is, the one Holy Christian and Apostolic Church – would travel throughout the world with the Gospel and make more disciples (through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace).

The proclamation of the Gospel and the making of disciples begins with the forgiveness of sins.

Peter’s “Pentecost Sermon” is a result of these words of Jesus. He speaks to the thousands gathered. He speaks Law, “…you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23) the Son of God. This is an indictment of all of us, for we are all culpable. Our sins are the cause of Jesus’ death.

But Peter continues under the inspiration of Jesus’ words, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).

Our sins are forgiven by Jesus Christ. That is the message and work of the Church – to proclaim and do this!

We are inspired by the words. We live the words. And the world is transformed!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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In the Meantime

“Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:11

Easter is a 50 Day season. On the 40th Day of Easter the Church celebrates the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

It seems a bit odd to celebrate someone’s leaving.

But we’re not really celebrating the absence of Christ, rather we are remembering that we have something to do “in the meantime.”

Jesus spent three Passovers with his disciples. During that time – about three years – he taught, prayed, healed, ate, slept, taught and prayed some more.

Then, at the third and last Passover, Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. Enemies, by the way, that he never stopped loving and praying for!

He willingly bore all the sins of all people of all time. From the first sin of Adam and Eve to the last sin committed by the last person born (whoever and whenever that will be).

He was crucified on a Roman cross. Endured incredible, unfathomable physical pain.

But Jesus also endured something far worse. He was forsaken by God. He was damned by God on that cross. A damnation that you and I deserve because of our sin.

Jesus died on that cross. But that wasn’t the end. That was the beginning!

He descended into hell “and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water (1 Peter 3).

On the first day of the week, three days after his death, Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification!

He spent an additional 40 days with his disciples and then, on a Thursday, ascended to the right hand of the Father.

So, now what? That may have crossed the disciples’ minds as they stood there gaping into an empty sky.

Now what do we do?

Jesus is going to come back. That’s the last promise of God to be fulfilled. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.

In the meantime, we are to “get busy.”

Jesus said to his disciples – to his Church – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:18-20)

The word is “go.” Go live the life Jesus died to give us. Go live in the world. Don’t give in to the world, but go live in it and as you are going make disciples! You don’t get to pick and choose who you will baptize and teach – Jesus says go to “all nations.”

And go you will.

Jesus has ascended. Jesus is coming back.

In the meantime, you and I will go and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ by loving God and loving our neighbors.

In the meantime, go and love and share.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Sharing the Love

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Luke 24:46-47

Today’s devotion contains some healthy quotes from Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions.

The reason for this is because the Ascension of Jesus happened a long, long time ago. What we know of the work of the Apostles comes to us from the Book of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament.

There is also the evidence that the Christian Church has spread from its starting point in Jerusalem to the entire world.

By the time of the Lutheran Confessions in the 16th Century, much of the Church lost its focus and got off-track. Martin Luther wanted to bring the Church back to its roots and to its original mission: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.

That’s what we want to do as well. Learning from out the reformers in the 16th Century went about it will help us do the same five hundred years later.

In Luke 24, Jesus is calling the Church to proclaim Law and Gospel. This would be how the love of God would be shared in all the world.

The Church is to follow Jesus’ model of using the Scriptures to proclaim the message.

1500 years after Jesus, a group of faith Christians in Germany did just this!

Luther would write:

“All Scripture and the Word of God point to the suffering of Christ, as He Himself declares in the last chapter of Luke that Scripture contains nothing else than the promised grace and forgiveness of sin through the suffering of Christ, that whoever believes in Him, and none other, shall be saved” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works American Edition, Vol 14, p 168).

Luther has adamant that Christians know their Bibles in order to share the love of Christ with the world (and thus be fulfilling the Great Commission).

Christ himself opens the Scriptures to his disciples. If Christ does this, it must not only be important but absolutely vital to proclaiming the Law and Gospel!

And I don’t think anyone would argue that this world definitely needs to hear about the love of Jesus!

With multiple terrorist acts committed each week, with daily murder in our cities, with people all over the planet hurting, you and I have a message that can bring peace, comfort and hope to them!

We can tell them that God loves them and this is how we know:

“God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world. This is the particular office of the Gospel” (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article 4, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, p 278).

I suppose it has to start with us. Yes, Christ tells us to go out and make disciples. But we start in “Jerusalem.” One what to look at this is that we start with ourselves.

We have to understand who God is, who we are, and what God has done and wants to do with us.

It starts with repentance.

“… to repent means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them. This knowledge comes from the Law. It is not enough for saving conversion to God if faith in Christ is not added. The comforting preaching of the Holy Gospel offers His merits to all penitent sinners who are terrified by the preaching of the Law. The Gospel proclaims the forgiveness of sins, not to coarse and self-secure hearts, but to the bruised or penitent. The preaching of the Gospel must be added so that the repentance may lead to salvation and not to the Law’s contrition or terrors” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration Article V. The Law and Gospel, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, p 554).

In a world literally dying to hear good news, you and I can share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Can, should, and will!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Witnesses

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 1:8

It was September 9, 1983. I had started my senior year of high school. After I got out of school, my dad took my brother and I (as I remember) to a Chicago White Sox game.

They were playing the California Angels towards the end of what would be a pretty special season, especially for this young (at the time) White Sox fan.

Carlton “Pudge” Fisk signs my son Kurt’s shirt in 2016.

We got to the park a little early to watch batting practice and it was a good thing that we did. Because the first inning was one for the history books!

The White Sox entered the game with a 15 game lead in the American League Western Division and were just about to clinch the division pennant and a ticket to the American League Championship Game (they would clinch the following week).

Part of what made it special was that this would be the first time the White Sox made the post-season since losing the 1959 World Series.

But what made it historical was that for the first time ever, the Chicago White Sox hit three home runs in a row.

Tommy John (yes, the guy famous for the elbow surgery) was pitching for the Angels. In the first inning my favorite player, Carlton “Pudge” Fisk, strode to the plate and hit a bomb over the left field fence.

Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek was the next batter and he, too, hit a bomb over the fence.

Finally, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski made history by hitting the ball off the facing of the upper deck of left field.

I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. What an incredible game! In addition to the back-to-back-to-back historical homeruns, pitcher Britt Burns threw a 1-hit shutout and the White Sox crushed the Angels 11-0.

And I was there to witness it (along with 36,000 other witnesses).

Witnessing something amazing like that prompts a person to tell others about it. And I certainly did. I called my friends that weekend to tell them about it and I told all the guys at school about it Monday morning (this was before the internet so I couldn’t tweet it, check-in on Facebook, or post a picture on Instagram).

Being a witness means that you saw something and/or heard something and then you tell others about it.

That’s exactly what the disciples of Jesus did.

They witnessed Jesus. They saw and heard the things Jesus said and did for about three years. They witnessed his teaching, miracles, his suffering and death. And they witnessed his gloriously resurrection.

Well, they didn’t actually see Jesus rise from the dead. No one saw that. But they did see Jesus after he rose from the dead. Some of them even touched the places the nails and spear pierced him.

They witnessed Jesus and so now they will tell others. That’s what witnesses do.

You and I are also witnesses. We haven’t seen Jesus like those original disciples did. But we do have their eye-witness accounts! The four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the New Testament Epistles.

We also have experiences of Jesus to witness to. Jesus comes to us in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins, life and salvation.

We have blessings from God through Jesus Christ – children, spouses, families, material blessings, health, etc.

And we are to be witnesses of Christ for all of this. Jesus has done all this for us because he loves us!

As witnesses of Jesus we love God and love our neighbors, even our enemies. As Jesus promised, the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us through the Means of Grace (God’s Word and Sacraments).

That power makes us powerful witnesses of Jesus so that others may know Jesus and enjoy his blessings and love!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Showing Love

[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:15

Our family has a pet beagle named Sox. We love Sox.

And if you were to come to our house, here’s how you would know that we love Sox:

We say we love Sox, of course,

But we also feed him every day. We give him water every day. We take him for a walk every day. We give him a bath every week. We take him to the doctor for a checkup every year.

We cuddle with him, we provide a soft warm bed. We have a collar and leash so that he won’t run into traffic chasing a squirrel or a rabbit.

I say I love my dog. I also show that I love my dog.

I say I love Jesus, too.

So how can I show that I love Jesus?

Jesus says that if I love him, I will keep his commandments.

Here are a few ways that I do this:

I love others (see John 13).

I worship him alone (see the Temptation of Jesus in Luke 4).

I tell others about him (see Acts 1).

I talk to him daily in prayer (see Matthew 26).

I read his word (see Psalm 119).

I forgive others as he has forgiven us (see Matthew 6).

All Christians say they love Jesus.

But what does love mean?

It is helpful for me to remember that love is:

A feeling. I can feel love for something or someone and even feel love for Jesus, although not all the time. So I’m grateful that love is not only a feeling.

Love is a choice. I choose to love my wife every day. Happy and successful marriages are those that know that love is a daily choice and not only a feeling that can be fleeting or fluctuate.

I choose to love Jesus. I am given the power to choose to love Jesus by the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace (God’s Word and Sacraments).

Love is action. I love through the things that I do. I think of others first, especially those I love. True love is a selfless act!

Of upmost importance is to remember that we love Jesus because he first loved us (see 1 John 4).

Jesus loved us first – while we were still lost in our sins, Christ died on the cross to forgive those sins (see Romans 5).

We are called to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to proclaim his love for us. We do this by saying we love Jesus and we do this by showing we love Jesus by loving God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength and by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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