D-Day +26,657 (Post Updated)

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Image result for d-day73 years ago in 1944, on June 6, 156,000 Allied soldiers – the bulk of which were made up of American and British forces – made amphibious and air landings on Normandy, France. Their task was to drive German forces away from the shore in order to obtain a foothold in Europe from which to win back Europe from Nazi, Germany. Movies such as “The Longest day” and “Saving Private Ryan,” and TV shows such as “Band of Brothers” have brought the stories of D-Day to my generation.

But movies and such can only convey so much truth. There are very, very few people today who were actually there to tell their story of D-Day. The number grows smaller every day. In this regard we can be thankful for the movies, TV shows and books in order to keep the story alive so that we can never forget.

And we should not forget. Not because so many heroic things were done during the war. And certainly not because war is glamorous or a glorious adventure. No, we should never forget for at least two reasons. One: men and women sacrificed themselves for a cause greater than themselves. Men like my grandfather who would survive D-Day and men like my great uncle who died on Iwo Jima. Whether we agree or not with why they fought in war, we should not forget their honor, their integrity, nor their sacrifice. The second reason we should not forget is so that we understand what war is all about. It is not something to be entered into lightly or inadvisdedly. It has been said that war is hell.

But is that true? Here’s a quote from the M*A*S*H TV series (written by Burt Prelutsky):

Hawkeye: War isn’t hell. War is war and hell is hell, and of the two war is a lot worse.
Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?
Hawkeye: Simple, Father. Tell me, who goes to hell?
Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.
Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in hell. But war is chock full of them. Little kids, cripples, old ladies, in fact, except for a few of the brass almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

War is ugly. War is dirty. It is not an adventure to be sought out, but rather sometimes a necessary fight to overcome evil. I believe it is to be avoided if at all possible.

But I also believe that sometimes it cannot be avoided. No, war is not hell. But as bad as it is, war is not as bad as hell, because all wars come to an end eventually. Hell goes on for eternity. But like Hawkeye says, there are no innocents in hell. In fact, there doesn’t have to be any human in hell. It can be avoided. There is a way out. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born, lived, died, rose again and ascended to save every human being from sin, death (hell), and the power of the devil (for whom hell was created in the first place). As we remember the men and women who sacrificed 73 years ago on what was called “D-Day” – let us also remember that Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us on the cross to save us from our sins.

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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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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Love God? Then Love Others

We love because [God] first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:19-20

Every morning I wake up next to a lovely woman who loves me. I don’t know how I came to be so blessed by God to have such a lovely and loving wife, but I thank God every day for her!

The love of a married couple is a picture of God’s love for all of us, as St. Paul illustrates in his letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 5).

John picks up on this theme of love in his first epistle.

I am able to love my wife and my wife love me because God first loved us. We wouldn’t know how to love if God didn’t first love us and define love for us.

It is really that simple. God is love. And we are able to love because God is love.

It is important to realize that God doesn’t just say he loves us. He says he loves us (see Hosea 3) and he shows that he loves us.

God created us. God promised to send a Savior when we – as a race – rejected him. God fulfilled his promise in Jesus Christ who was born, lived, died, rose and ascended in order to save God’s people!

God did this all out of love. And now, as God’s beloved, we are to live the same way!

Remember, however, that we can say we love God but unless we also love others, we are liars. There is no loving God without loving other people.

This is the difference between Christianity and other religions.

Just recently, there was a terrorist bombing that killed almost two dozen people. Those who are taking credit for the bombing said they did so because of their religion.

In their religion they may say they love God, but they also show that they hate certain people.

John is very clear (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit it is actually God who is making it very clear) that there is no loving God if we do not love other people as well.

In the past, even those who claimed to be Christians hated certain peoples. John convicts in this case as well. If love of God doesn’t also lead to and include love of other people, then it is not Christianity.

The glorious irony is that even when those who claim to love God but hate other people (by hurting them or even killing them) are still loved by God.

Jesus – while he was being crucified by those who hated him – said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23).

With that same love – the love of Christ within us – we can and must reach out to all people! Even if they want to kill us in response, we must love them even as we love God.

I realize that this is a tall order. And also something that most likely cannot happen overnight.

But it is my prayer that I can be brought by the Holy Spirit to this kind of love for others, even if it dangerous. I ask you to pray the same!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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A Result of Love

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit … Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Acts 7:59, 60

The first sermon I preached as a pastor was on the Old Testament text of 2 Samuel 11 & 12.

I remember it well. The Bible story is about David’s sin with Bathsheba. He broke the Sixth Commandment then he broke the Fifth Commandment. Two people end up dying – Uriah, the husband of the woman that David has an affair with and impregnates and the child of David and Uriah’s wife.

That may sound like a rather odd choice for a first sermon in a new parish and as a newly ordained pastor.

But it was part of the assigned readings for that weekend and I saw in this text an important lesson on the consequences of sin, repentance, and forgiveness.

I also remember that the sermon when 45 minutes – the first and last time I ever preached that long!

Still, my congregation was patient with me and encouraged me. I got better at preaching and, more importantly, more efficient with time and content!

My first sermon certainly went better than Stephen’s first sermon.

Stephen’s first sermon – recorded in Acts 7 – was also his last. It certainly had a lasting impression, to be sure!

Stephen laid down the Law on his hearers. He told them, and I’m paraphrasing here (you can read the entire story in Acts 7), that all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Twelve sons of Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Then Stephen told them that they killed Jesus, just as their forefathers had rejected the prophets of God in the past.

They didn’t like to hear this, so they grabbed Stephen and dragged him out of the city. They threw him down on the ground, picked up large stones, and started throwing these stones onto Stephen.

They wouldn’t stop until Stephen was dead.

That’s quite a reaction to a first sermon! But it is Stephen’s last words that are the most wonderful!

“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

You know what this is?

It is a confession of faith.

It is loving God with all heart, soul, mind and strength.

It is loving neighbors (even enemies) as self.

The Bible doesn’t mention that Stephen met Jesus or was one of the extended number of disciples. But he was certainly well acquainted with Jesus’ teachings.

He took seriously his calling to be a Deacon that would be the hands of Jesus in distributing food to widows and others (see Acts 6).

He didn’t just distribute food, however. He also shared his faith in Jesus and was not shy about proclaiming both Law and Gospel.

His courage calls to us to have the same courage to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I pray the Holy Spirit will encourage me to never be afraid to tell others the Truth of Jesus Christ and to never stop loving God or my neighbor (even enemies).

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Trust

“Seek me and live … seek the LORD and live … the LORD is his name….”
Amos 5:4, 6, 8

When I sit on a chair, I trust that it will support my weight and not collapse.

But that has happened. Mostly because the chair was broken and ready to fall apart (but partly because I was too heavy for it, too!).

When I turn on the light switch, I trust that the lights in the room will go on. Most of the time they do. But there have been times when the wiring wasn’t correct or the bulb was burned out and flipping the switch did not have its desired effect.

There are some things we trust and count on. We put our faith in them. Things like the support of our family or the love of our spouse.

Still, it is very important to put our ultimate trust in someone who will never, ever let us down.

I’m talking about the Creator of the universe. He is the LORD (Yahweh).

He called into being everything we see (and everything we can’t see except with a microscope or telescope). We can trust him to sustain this universe to the very end.

He also formed you and me – initially from the dust of the earth and the rib of the first man.

God is our Creator. But Adam and Eve rejected God when they listened to Satan instead and then their own desires.

Because of their Fall we are all conceived and born sinners. We also initially reject God.

Some continue to do so all their lives. They put their trust in other things. Some put their trust in gods – like Sikkuth or Kiyyun, Mesopotamia deities of the ancient near east.

Others put their trust in science. Or in the world. Or even in themselves.

But everything else will violate our trust.

Science will. After all, science once told us the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

The world will violate our trust. Ask those who once trusted in the German Chancellor in the last 1930’s and early 1940’s. Or those who trusted the General Secretary of the Communist Party from the early 1920’s to the early 1950’s.

Even we ourselves will prove to be untrustworthy. Our bodies will age and fail us, our minds can grow dim and fade as well.

If we put our trust in anything but the Creator of the universe, we will be let down.

God does not want that for us. So he sent his Son to be our Savior! Jesus Christ would bear that which causes us to reject God – our sin. Jesus paid the price to buy us back from our sin, from death itself, and from the devil who led us to this untrustworthy path in the beginning.

This is the message that we have been given to proclaim and share with the world.

The prophet Amos proclaims the Law loud and clear in his book of the Bible. And reading just his prophecy is a grim experience.

But there is more to the story! The Law is always grim. But the Gospel is beautiful and comforting!

The Holy Spirit uses both – Law and Gospel – to complete in us that which the prophet Amos calls us – to seek the Lord and live!

This specific chapter of Amos – chapter 5 – warns us to not play at or pretend to trust in the LORD. There is no “going through the motions” of a worship service. That won’t work.

The trust that will truly work is that which comes from faith. Not actions but where the actions start – in the heart.

This is why Amos’ prophecy tells us that the LORD is not delighted in “solemn assemblies” or “burnt offerings and grain offerings.”

These are important, no doubt. God instructs us to worship him. But our trust is not to be in what we do. What we do should flow out of our trust in God.

And we trust in God because Jesus Christ forgives and removes our sin and gives us his righteousness.

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us, “justice” can “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (v 24).

©2017 True Men Ministries

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