Shut In By the Lord

And the Lord shut him in.
Genesis 7:16b

I have two scars on my face. One is in my right eyebrow and the other is below my left eyebrow in the top of my left eyesocket.

The one on my right eyebrow I got when I was three or four years old. I was with my mother driving in Silicon Valley, California. I was standing up in the backseat between the two front seats when she had to slam on the breaks suddenly.

I went flying into the front seat and hit the open ashtray, cutting open my forehead. As you may know, scalp lacerations are notorious bleeders. There was blood all over the place but the injury was relatively minor. I just needed a few stitches.

But it gives me a cool looking scar that I can tell stories about (like this one).

The other scar I got when I was about 7 or 8. I was ice skating on the channel behind our house in Long Lake, Illinois. I was practicing my hockey slap shots when I slipped and fell face-first into a jagged piece of ice.

Again, a relatively minor injury but with lots and lots of blood all over my face and the ice!

These could have been very serious injuries. I could have lost both eyes or worse! But God was protecting me. God was watching over me.

God “shut me in” in protection. I received just enough of an injury to make me be more careful – to this day I wear a seatbelt at all times while driving and have everyone else do so (no standing up in the back seat!). And just enough injury to give me stories to tell.

God promises to protect his people. Here are just a few of those verses:

2 Thessalonians 3:3

2 Samuel 22:3-4

Hebrews 13:5

Isaiah 41:10

Isaiah 54:17

Psalm 91:1-3

One of the most intense stories of God’s protection is the story of God protecting Noah and his family from the world-wide flood.

Of all the people in the world at that time, only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives were protected by God from the devastating flood. They alone were faithful to God. All others had turned away and rejected God.

God would start the human race all over again using Noah and his family.

When the ark was completed and the animals were all on board, Noah and his family boarded the ark and “the Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16b).

Other parts of the Bible describe this protection as God “hedging” his people or putting a “hedge” around his people.

No matter what the storm around us entails, God is protecting us. God “shuts” us in.

Most importantly, God shuts us in and protects us from sin, death, and the power of the devil by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us from eternal death and gives us eternal life.

And this protection is found in the “ark” of the Christian Church!

This is part of the prayer in the Baptismal Rite in Lutheran Service Book:

“Grant that [this child] be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving [God’s] name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope…” (Lutheran Service Book, Holy Baptism © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, p 269).

In the Church, each child of God is “shut in” by the Lord and will be ultimately protected from any storm or attack in this life.

What better place to be?


Heavenly Father, lighten our darkness and by your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers; for the love of your only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. 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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What Is Truth

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37

“What is truth?” This was Pontius Pilate’s response to Jesus’ statement recorded in John 18:37.

Pilate may have meant it as a rhetorical question – especially since Jesus’ doesn’t answer it.

But it is a great question that needs an answer.

Thankfully, Jesus does provide an answer.

Jesus is the answer.

He tells Thomas that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

The truth is that Jesus is the promised Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

First promised in the Garden of Eden as the one who would bruise the head of the serpent (the devil) (Genesis 3:15), Jesus was promised as the one through whom all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3); would be the one who was a king (Genesis 49:10); would be a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19); and the prophecies keep piling up in the Old Testament.

Jesus Christ fulfilled them all. He is the truth!

Pilate wasn’t really interested in the truth. But we certainly are!

We want to know the truth – the truth of our existence, the truth of our purpose, the truth of love, life, and happiness.

But we live in strange times. The devil, while defeated, is not giving up in taking down as many of us as he can before Jesus Christ comes back to end his reign of sin once and for all.

And one of the most insidious attacks Satan has successfully pulled off was to cause the doubt of truth.

This is summed up in the song lyric from a progressive rock band named Rush:

Truth is after all a moving target
Hairs to split
And pieces that don’t fit
How can anybody be enlightened?
Truth is after all so poorly lit
(lyrics by Neil Peart, © 1987 Mercury Records © 1987 Anthem Entertainment)

This is accepted as fact by so many people – that truth is relative, a “moving target,” and “poorly lit.”

But it isn’t, not really. Jesus Christ is only poorly lit if we do not proclaim him and share him, and love others!

Jesus is the truth. He has come to forgive all the sin of all people of all time. The One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church (3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed) is given the task by Jesus Christ to tell other people this Good News!

Jesus Christ is the truth. And the truth is love! The truth is not found in the media – the news reporters and channels. The truth is not found in the government – the White House, Congress, or Governor’s Mansion. The truth is not found in the sun, moon, or stars.

The truth is found only in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The truth is lived in love, not in hate, not in disagreement, debate, or dissension.

“What is truth?”

It is Jesus. It is in us. It is our life and our love.

©2017 True Men Ministries


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Get Back to Christmas

ChristmasMerry Christmas! It is my prayer that as we celebrate today, God would shower His blessings on us in such measure that we will flood our world with His love and peace as we anticipate the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ!

I’ve heard quite a bit lately the sentiment to “get back” to a more real Christmas. By “real” I think many people are thinking “simple” and “less commercial.”

This is a noble pursuit, but I wonder if we really understand just what that might entail. I suspect that it will also lead us to focus on the wrong things about Christmas and its season.

Today, we have gathered together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! We have gathered together in Jesus’ name to worship our God who loves us! That’s about a “real” as Christmas could ever get!

Speaking of getting back” let’s look at the first verse of the Christmas Day Gospel – John 1:1.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. – John 1:1

With John’s Gospel we get all the way back to the Creation! John’s Gospel begins with the same words as the Book of Genesis, “in the beginning.

And look what is there! The first thing God says, according to Genesis 1, is “Let there be light!” There was darkness, and then there was light! Then there was darkness again – the darkness of sin.

But the creative light of God is not so easily dimmed!

On a dark night, over the fields of the little town of Bethlehem many thousands of years after creative light was spoken into existence, the skies exploded again with light!

A joyous light, and a message of song from the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

We sing the same song – as the Gloria in Excelsis – in many of our worship services to remind us that Jesus – the Light of the World – was born to be our substitute. In that sense, every Sunday is a little celebration of Christmas!

A lot of momentous things happen in the dark where, when light shines, it shines very bright.

In the Old Testament:

· The Creation of the World

· The First Passover

· The Victory of Gideon over the Midianites & Amelekites

But even more momentous, in the New Testament:

· The Birth of Jesus Christ

· The Death of Jesus Christ

· The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The reason, I think, that all these momentous things happened “in the dark” – especially the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus – is because darkness is sometimes defined as the absence of light. For a Christian, then, there is no darkness because Christ forever shines in our hearts; we are reminded of this at every baptism and the giving of a candle.

And in the dark, light shines the brightest! This is especially so with the Light of the Word – Jesus Christ!

I’ve got even better news than the light shines on this Christmas morning! The Light comes to each one of you!

Now, you have two choices when it comes to what do to with the Light you receive. 1) Accept Jesus as He comes to you; or 2) reject Him because he doesn’t fit your idea of what the Messiah should be.

There is only one Jesus. And He’s not some good person. He’s not some moral teacher. He’s not some figment of a church’s imagination. He is – and always has been and always will be – the True Son of God! He was before the foundation of the world – which is exactly what John’s Gospel tells us in verse one. He was born of a Virgin Mary, in the family tree of King David and a descendent of Abraham. He lived a perfect life. Yes, tempted to sin as we are, but was, in fact, without sin. Still, He died a sinners death on the cross – also bearing the punishment of God for sin – for us! Three days after His death Jesus rose from the dead. Again, this took place before dawn on the first day of the week (therefore, in the dark!). And He ascended into Heaven with the promise that He would be with us always and would return to take us and all believers to heaven.

That’s who Jesus is. We either accept Him as He is or we reject Him as He is.

We can reject Him by trying to make Jesus into something He isn’t. Just some moral teacher or good person who had the unfortunate luck to get Himself killed. This shouldn’t surprise us, that people reject Jesus because He doesn’t fit their idea of a savior or messiah.

9The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:9-11

It is being done today, isn’t it? It is being done by removing prayer and Bibles from schools. It is being done by making pronouncements that terror happens because God is angry with us. It is done today by dismissing the importance of worship and the fellowship of Bible study.

We have these two choices: accept Jesus as He comes to us (and, in so doing, do what He tells us to do as His followers) or reject Him because He doesn’t fit our idea of a savior or doesn’t fit into our lifestyle.

I give thanks to God that He is forgiving and merciful, and gives us these times of celebration to remember the glory of His Light.

The glory of Jesus as the Light of the Word born on Christmas is that He is full of grace. He was born, lived, died, rose and ascended to give us full, abundant and everlasting life!

And the truth is that He continues to be with us as the Son of God, as our savior from sin, and as our true and dearest friend.

No matter what we do, that grace and that truth remains – because He didn’t come because of anything we did and He doesn’t stay because of anything we do!

I know, we still try to convince ourselves that God loves us because of something we do – whether it is a certain style of worship, or whether is it based on what we give in the offering, or it is because of where we go to church or are a member.

But the truth is that God’s loves you and me in spite of us!

This is the Truth of Christmas. It is, I think, what people mean when they wish we could “get back” to the real meaning of Christmas. For many, the true Light of Christmas is dimmed by all the commercialism we see nowadays.

But this is nothing new.

Centuries ago the Puritans we hear so much about at Thanksgiving thought that they were ruining Christmas with all their pagan rituals. They especially objected to the fact that the holiday usually came on a week day, therefore distracting people, they thought, from the Lord’s Day of Sunday. But they did more than annually complain about it as we do. They took action and got rid of Christmas altogether! In Puritan settlements across 17th century America a law was passed outlawing the celebration of Christmas. The market place was ordered to stay open for business as though it was no special occasion and all violators were prosecuted. It was against the law to even make plum pudding on December 25th. The celebration was not referred to as Yuletide but as fooltide.

So we want to reform Christmas and clean it up, do we? Well, is this how far we want to go? Do we really want to be rid of it altogether? Then will Christmas, as the Puritans thought, be saved from us and our sinful ways. So what if we spend $40 billion annually on presents. Can you think of a better way of spending all that money than on gifts of love? And most of them are just that. And so what if all the lights and tinsel do is create a fairy tale setting that soon disappears as does the so-called Christmas spirit. At least it lets us know, if only for a brief time, what life can be like if we only try.

So let the message ring out this day, not that we are destroying this holy day, but rather, that we can never destroy this day – and instead will receive the Person Who’s birth we celebrate as He comes to us!. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. Amen.

Sunrise – Sunset

Image courtesy of Eddie Callaway

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. – Genesis 1:16-19

The first sunset and the first sunrise. Imagine how beautiful that was.

We can only imagine how beautiful that was because Adam and Eve were the last people to see those kind of sunsets and sunrises.

I set my alarm for 5:20 every morning and nearly every morning I get to see a spectacular sunrise over the Illinois prairie. Most evenings I also take a moment to watch a spectacular sunset.

But Adam and Eve spent most of their lives never seeing any sunset or sunrise nearly as spectacular.

They may have seen some beautiful sunsets, especially after a long day of taking care of young children and working in the fields. They most likely would have paused every morning to watch the sun peak over the eastern horizon and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His bountiful gifts.

But I suspect that Adam would not have described those sunsets or sunrises as I would.

Because Adam knew what a truly awesome sunset looked like. He saw sunrises that were immeasurably more spectacular that any we could see in this lifetime.

But after he and his wife sinned, those sunsets and sunrises were no more.

When I see the sunrise, I think about how beautiful it is. I feel so blessed to be able to witness it.

But what must have Adam felt every time he saw the sunset or sunrise? A longing? Crushing regret over what could have been had he only not eaten a single piece of fruit his wife offered him? A yearning, perhaps. A yearning to the day that this promise would come to pass:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

That promise, I imagine, made every sunset and sunrise that Adam and Eve had to endure just a little be easier.

Today, I was again awake right before sunrise. And again, I was thinking about beautiful it was and I thanked God for that sunrise.

And then I remembered Adam and Eve and all the sunrises they saw after they left the Garden of Eden.

And that reminded me of yet another sunrise many millions of sunrises after Adam and Eve saw their last sunrise on this earth.

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb…. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead….

The Son rise makes all sunrises and sunsets mere shadows, faint reflections of the glory that awaits us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

When I see another sunrise and sunset, I will remember, not the pained longing or crushing regret of Adam and Eve, but of the day that will come when we see Jesus face to face and look no more to a sunrise or sunset, because the Son will always be with us.


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That’s one of those “they-isms.” You know:

“They say you should not swim at least a half-hour after eating.”

“They say you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company.”

“They say the more things change the more they stay the same.”

I don’t know who, exactly, “they” are, but they are correct; when it comes to the devil’s schemes to tempt us to sin, he tends to not be too creative. He uses the same temptations over an over again. But I guess he sticks with what works!

Image courtesy of

The devil started tempting people way back when there were only two people in the world. He approached Adam and Eve and tempted Eve to disobey God. The devil had a three-fold temptation scheme (in Genesis 3:6)

1. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” (Hunger)

2. “and that it was a delight to the eyes…” (Attraction)

3. “and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” (Wisdom)

I’ve noticed that I’m tempted to sin when I’m hungry. I’ve stolen candy or some other snack from my sons when I’m hungry (please don’t tell them until I’ve had a chance to repent and ask their forgiveness – I’ll do that right after I finish this).

But hunger doesn’t just have to be about a lack of food. People are tempted (and rather successfully) to sin when they have a hunger for power, possessions or money.

Attraction is also used by the devil to tempt us to sin. Eve was tempted by the attraction of the fruit. Now, I’ve never been tempted to sin by how a fruit looks. Even the most gorgeous apple, orange or watermelon only makes me think, “That’s a nice piece of fruit.” But everybody is different. And we all have that weak point where attraction to something or someone can be used by the devil to tempt us to disobey God.

Wisdom is a very subtle point of temptation for the devil. In a world that seems to be increasingly lacking in wisdom, it may not seem like the devil is using this one all that often. But “knowing more” can be, and is, used. Some of the highest rated TV shows are those that promote “knowing more” about celebrities, politicians, and knowledge. These can – and are – used by the devil to tempt people to disobey God.

The devil is crafty. And when you look around today – not to mention throughout history – you see a track record of hall-of-fame temptation levels by the devil.

And the devil set his goals of temptation pretty high in that he even tempted the Son of God – Jesus Christ!

Where Eve was tempted with the idea that forbidden fruit was just as good to eat as all the other fruit, Jesus was tempted with food after having been on a fast for over a month. This is a hunger of a different kind. The devil, perhaps, is tempting Jesus to give in to physical hunger. If Jesus does that, He will have broken His fast, something He had set out to do for specific reasons, and doing it by giving in to a lost and condemned creature. Instead of listening and following Himself (God) He would be listening and following the devil – and this would be a sin.

The devil’s second temptation was to question Jesus’ wisdom in putting His trust in His Father. The devil uses God’s Word against Jesus here, just as he used it against Eve (“Did God really say…?”). Surely this was foolish on the devil’s part. Who would trust God more fully and intimately than God’s only Son? Yet, the devil does it.

The final temptation is that of power. While Jesus knows that the world is His by virtue of being the Son of the Creator, this temptation is more subtle. How Jesus fights off this temptation is important. Jesus must fight it off without giving even a hint that He might accept the premise that the devil has some claim to the world. And this Jesus does successfully.

Temptation is something that we all face. The devil tempts us to sin because we are God’s children. He hates everything that has to do with God and he wants to destroy our relationship with God.

Jesus teaches us how to fight against the devil’s temptations and win. Know and use God’s Word. Every time the devil tempted Jesus, Jesus responded by quoting God’s Word.

Jesus fought this battle and won. And by His death and resurrection Jesus gives us the power to also fight and win our battles of temptation.