God’s Answer

“For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”
Jeremiah 31:19

I’ve got some bad news for you.

You are a sinner. So am I.

God originally established the human race in perfection. He created first Adam out of the dust of the earth and then Eve from the rib of Adam and made them both perfect, without sin, and immortal.

But in order to have a true relationship with us, God also gave humans free will. God chooses to love us. And he gave us the ability to choose to love him back. That’s how relationships work.

Tragically, Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s love by fulfilling –  or trying to, at least – their own needs and desires themselves. They listened to Satan’s lies and disobeyed God’s one rule – do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It wasn’t because God wanted to withhold some knowledge from us. God gave them the choice because that’s how relationships work – both parties choose to commit to loving each other.

With Adam and Eve’s bad choice came death. Not immediate physical death – that would come to them hundreds of years later. But spiritual death was immediate.

And since then, all descendants of Adam and Eve – that’s everyone, including you and me – are conceived and born sinful (see Psalm 51).

As Lutherans have been saying for nearly 500 years:

“The entire notion that a person is righteous is mere hypocrisy before God. We must acknowledge that our heart is, by nature, destitute of fear, love, and confidence in God. For this reason the prophet Jeremiah says, ‘after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded….’” (The Apology [Defense of] the Augsburg Confession, Article II Original Sin, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 79).

Did I say “bad news”? This is devastating news.

We are utterly helpless and hopeless!

But there is good news!

Sixteen verses before this hopeless cry recorded in Jeremiah are the words of good news: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), says the Lord.

God loves us without beginning and without end!

He proved it by providing the perfect sacrifice for our sin – his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ!

God’s answer to our cry of despair is his everlasting love!

Jesus Christ took all our sins on himself and paid the penalty for them on the cross. He buried all our sins in the tomb and left them there when he rose from the dead three days later!

The bad news reminds us that we are sinners and we cannot do anything about our sin.

God’s answer to this bad news is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.

O Lord, my God, I acknowledge your great goodness toward me and praise you for the mercy and grace that my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, and my heart has known. I sincerely repent of the sins of this day and those in the past. Pardon my offenses, correct and reform what is lacking in me, and help me to grow in grace and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In his name. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Independence

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

What was going through his mind after the fact? Samuel Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett and 52 others put their signatures to a document that for over 350 million people today is a symbol of freedom and independence. But 241 years ago, it could just as easily have been their death sentence – and for several that is exactly what it was.

The Declaration of Independence. A piece of paper. Fragile. Easily destroyed. Extraordinary measures are taken today to preserve it. In the end, these measures will prove unsuccessful, as they must with anything made of such fragile stock. We’ve enshrined the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives in Washington D.C. But it is the power of the idea that gave – and continues to give – life to these words of Thomas Jefferson so long ago.

Something much more powerful is enshrined in the heart of the Christian. Not words written with ink on parchment but life written in blood on the heart and soul.

Our independence from sin, death and the power of the devil – paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is the power of the Christian’s life. Our individual independence comes in the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The lives that were freed from England with the Declaration of Independence were now lives full of responsibility. Two wars would be fought against England because of the Declaration. It is a fact that freedom is never free.

Our freedom from sin is a completely free gift from God (grace) but it is not without cost. It cost the life of the Son of God. Now a life lived for God is a life full of responsibility.

We live in God’s Kingdom, sharing the Good News about Jesus, doing the things that need to be done – not to get to heaven, but because we are going to heaven!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us not look at this as a “midsummer respite” with nine more weeks of summer left. Rather, let us give thanks to God for that independence. In the freedom given us as citizens, let us exercise the freedom of religion (not from religion) and share the Good News about Jesus that gives us independence from sin through his death and resurrection.


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Made A Little Lower

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
Psalm 8:5

The human body is an amazing thing.

We have the ability to mend ourselves when we’ve broken a bone. We can fight off infection with our blood. We can imagine something and then figure out how to build it!

There are two main ideas about how the human body came to be this way.

One is that it was just random chance and mutation over vast amounts of time.

The other is that God created us that way.

I’m sure it is not a shock to you that I believe the latter.

Of course, it takes faith to believe that God created us.

But from where I sit, it takes even greater faith – nigh impossibly great faith – to believe that over millions of years, random chance used mutations to come up with the human eye, the capacity to defeat infections with white blood cells, and form a brain that can imagine the Saturn V rocket and Lunar Module – all in the same bodies!

Many times when I look in the mirror (or see myself in the screen of my iPad), I thank God for creating me and all humans like he did.

Psalm 8 is a song King David wrote for the same reasons!

But just how wonderfully made are we?

King David says that God made us a little lower than the heavenly beings. This could mean the “angels” and that’s a pretty amazing thing. We know from other parts of the Bible that angels are powerful creatures. And we’re just a little less powerful than they? Awesome!

But “heavenly beings” could also be translated as the plural form of God himself (plural because God is Trinity).

This is where the idea that human beings are the crown of God’s creation comes from.

Only God is greater than us!

Of course, he’s much, much, greater than us but the point is that all the rest of creation is under our control.

God has put all the creation under our “dominion.” We are charged by God to take care of it and protect it.

Yet, we didn’t do such a good job. No sooner had God created Adam and Eve and put all creation in their hands than they rejected God and succumbed to the temptation of Satan.

Now creation is tainted. It is in turmoil, awaiting the day when we humans are finally saved by God.

Our salvation comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And those who have saving faith in Jesus will, on the Last Day, be raised and taken to God’s side.

This creation, then, will be destroyed by fire (see 2 Peter 3).

We will then be given a new heaven and new earth to live forever in the presence of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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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.

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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Free Indeed

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
John 8:33

One of my favorite “old” movies is Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston.

The story of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from bondage in Egypt is the basis for the Jewish Passover celebration and is also pivotal to Christianity.

There is no doubt at all that the Children of Israel spent years enslaved to the Egyptians about 1400 years before the birth of Christ.

They also were in a sort-of bondage to the Assyrians and the Babylonians, Medes, and Persians – although not strictly slaves in this case.

By the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire was in control of Israel. Again, not strictly speaking slavery but oppressed nonetheless, as another favorite “old” movie of mine depicts, again starring Charlton Heston – this time in “Ben Hur.”

Knowing this history of Israel, it has always struck me strange that the Jewish opponents of Jesus in John 8 make the proud statement that they “have never been enslaved to anyone.”

Really? Come on, guys!

Surely, they knew their own history. They read about it and celebrate it every spring as Passover!

Of course Jesus is talking about true, spiritual freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

I contend that these Jews also knew what Jesus was talking about – spiritual slavery and freedom.

In that case, they are certainly correct. The covenant of God with Abraham involved his – and his family’s – true spiritual freedom. Even though they would be enslaved by the Egyptians, they were still truly free because of their faith in God.

But that freedom was always rooted in the Savior that God promised to send.

The first promise of that Savior was to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. The promise was passed down through Adam’s family tree via his son Seth. The promise went through Noah and Shem on down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But here’s where Jesus’ opponents got it wrong. They had the culmination of God’s promise of spiritual freedom standing right in front of them and they were rejecting him!

When Jesus says, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” he meant that they should continue in the faith in the Savior – which was him! – as did their ancestors.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. But unless you have an understanding, or experience a lack, of freedom, I don’t think you can truly grasp the magnitude of freedom.

Those of African descent who were brought to the United States as slaves have a distinct perspective on freedom. It was something they always hoped for. And something they rejoiced in finally having when Abraham Lincoln presented his Emancipation Proclamation which directly led to the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution abolishing slavery.

If you have never endured the scourge of slavery, it is hard to understand fully what freedom really is.

But you and I are in bondage. We are in bondage to sin. We are conceived and born in this slavery.

“By his own powers he is not able to aid, do, work, or agree in working anything toward his conversion. He cannot do this fully, halfway, or even in part—not even in the smallest or most trivial part. He is sin’s [slave] and the devil’s captive….” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration Art. II – Free Will, or Human Powers – quoted from A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, © 2005, 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO p 521)

Bad news, indeed! But there is good news! Jesus announced and implemented his own Emancipation Proclamation!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

And that is exactly what Jesus did! The Son of God sets us free! He took our sin and paid the cost of our sin on the cross. He freed us from sin, death, and the devil!

We are free, indeed!

But free to do what?

Free to live. Free to love. Free to proclaim this freedom to other slaves of sin.

Let us continue to proclaim our emancipation from sin in Jesus Christ!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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C.F.W. Walther

Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (1811-87), the father of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, served as its first president from 1847 to 1850 and then again from 1864 to 1878. In 1839 he emigrated from Saxony, Germany, with other Lutherans, who settled in Missouri. He served as pastor of several congregations in St. Louis, founded Concordia Seminary, and in 1847 was instrumental in the formation of the LCMS (then called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States). Walther worked tirelessly to promote confessional Lutheran teaching and doctrinal agreement among all Lutherans in the United States. He was a prolific writer and speaker. Among his most influential works are Church and Ministry and The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel.