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.

Stand Firm in Traditions

So the, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us….
2 Thessalonians 2:15

Traditions can be things that are handed down to us by previous generations.

Most everyone has traditions they cherish. Things they do at Christmas-time. Things they eat at Thanksgiving. Things they do for birthdays, while on vacation, at the beginning or end of the school year, and on and on.

Then there are traditions that exist in congregations. Things that they have always done.

There was one pastor who was a guest preacher filling in at a certain congregation. It was during the summer months and their regular pastor was on vacation.

He arrived somewhat early to the little church. It was a congregation that was over 100 years old, with a cemetery right next to it and a verdant corn field across the street.

The people gathered for the service, shuffling in amid the tried-and-true preservice organ music. As they found their regular pew, they said good morning to friends and family, shook hands with each other, all the while stealing glances to the front to see if they could catch a preview glimpse of their guest preacher.

Soon enough, he walked out and stood in front of the congregation and began the worship service.

He bowed before the altar and then turned to welcome them to worship. As he turned, he was surprised to find nearly the entire gathered group sitting on one side of the sanctuary.

But they didn’t seem at all bothered by this, so he didn’t say anything.

As he stood looking at the faces of these steadfast Christians, he led them in the confession of sins, read to them Holy Scripture, and then had them sit down to sing the hymn before the sermon. He turned to walk to his chair behind the pulpit to get ready to sing with them.

As the organist introduced the hymn, the preacher was startled by a commotion. He turned back to the congregation and what a sight to behold!

The entire congregation was moving to the other side of the sanctuary!

Again, no one seemed surprised or startled except him, so he didn’t say anything.

He preached his sermon, albeit a bit distracted as part of his mind was trying to figure out this odd behavior.

The rest of the service continued with no further interruptions or mass movements by the people.

After the service, the guest preacher was sitting in the fellowship hall chatting with some of the people over coffee and a Danish.

As the people finished their fellowship and started to head home, an elderly gentlemen walked over to the preacher and sat down.

“Good morning, Reverend. Thank you for preaching God’s Word to us this day!” he said.

“You are quite welcome. It was a … ah…. pleasure and a … um … unique experience!” the preacher replied.

“I bet you are talking about the mass movement right before the sermon hymn.”

The guest preacher let out a sigh and said, “Well, now that you mention it, that was rather odd. Why do they do that?”

“It’s a funny thing. Most of the people actually don’t really know why they do it. It’s just that they have always done that, for over 70 years. Two or three generations have grown up in this church doing it but don’t really know why,” the elderly gentlemen explained.

The guest preacher noticed a twinkle in his eye and said, “But I’m guessing you do know the reason why!”

“You are correct, sir!”

“You see, 70 years ago, this was a vibrant and exciting congregation filled with mostly farmers and their families. As you probably suspect, we have sunny and warm summers – but they were awfully short. Our winters were long, drawn out affairs that were snowy and cold.

During the winter, this old clapboard church used to get mighty cold. One year, a particularly wealthy business man joined our congregation and, not being from around here originally, didn’t like the cold winters at all.

So he donated a large and brand new wood burning stove to heat the sanctuary in the winter time. The trustees of the congregation installed it the north side of the sanctuary as that was the coldest part of building.

Everyone was pleased with this new donation and during that cold and snowy winter, this sanctuary was warm and toasty. In fact, too warm and toasty. At the beginning of the service, everyone would sit near the stove to keep warm. But by the time of the sermon, they were plenty warm and they would get up and move to the other side of the sanctuary to be comfortable in the cooler air.

That stove was so well built, it lasted us till the late ‘60’s when another wealthy businessman donated a new, central heating and air conditioning unit and the stove was removed.

But the tradition of sitting on one side of the sanctuary at the beginning of the service and moving to the other side in the middle of the service was so ingrained in the hearts and lives of the people that they kept doing it out of habit.

Today, they still do it, although there are only a few of us left who know why we used to do it in the first place!”

This kind of tradition is not one the “traditions” that St. Paul is talking about in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. He is not talking about things that we do “because we’ve always done it that way.”

He is talking about things that he and his companions (Luke, Timothy, Silas) had taught them when they were in Thessalonica. Things like the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how the Old Testament prophesied about the coming of Christ, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

You and I are tempted to stand firm in our traditions because we’ve always done them. They are comfortable. They feel right. They are a part of who we are.

But St. Paul reminds us that we need to stand firm in the traditions that God has passed on down to us through our fathers and forefathers – the Good News of Jesus Christ and him crucified!

Other traditions are fine, but the traditions of the Gospel will stand forever and will cause us to stand firm as well as we pass them on to another generation!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Watching and Thankful

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

“They are watching you. 24/7/365.”

I was told that this is what it would be like being a parent. My children would watch me. Even when I didn’t realize it. Even when I didn’t think they were. Even when I didn’t want them to.

It was true. They were watching me. They still are.

My wife and I have three sons. Our youngest is 17. Our middle is 18. Our oldest is soon to be 21 (how did that happen?).

And they have watched me all their lives.

I was privileged to be the first baseball coach of all three of them. The youngest and the oldest still play – one in high school and one in college. And they still play the game the way I taught them to play. They were listening. They were watching. Not watching how I played the game but how I taught them how to play the game.

I was also privileged to be their first pastor. I taught all three of them about Jesus as revealed in Scripture and further revealed in Luther’s Small Catechism.

They still read their Bible’s and participate in worship as often as they can.

The other day my oldest told me that he was picked to lead the team in prayer before a baseball game.

The youngest has about a dozen Bible passages in his “work out log” book that help him understand why he is practicing and training for the game of baseball.

Our middle son just bought a ring with a cross on in to wear. But when I asked him why he took it off the other day, he said some kids were making fun of him for it. I told him that would happen – it is part of what we face as Christians.

They still watch me. They still learn about life and faith from my wife and me. It is an awesome and scary responsibility.

But it is part of being a parent and God helps us every day to do the best we can.

Recently I was reading through First and Second Thessalonians as part of my morning devotion time.

When I came across 2 Thessalonians 1:3 I stopped and said a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

For I give thanks to God for my three sons because it is evident to both my wife and I that their faith is growing abundantly!

However, we don’t feel our job is done! We still look for relevant resources to use for our daily devotions with our sons. It is important to my wife and I that we continue to grow as a family in our faith in Jesus Christ!

Why?

Because the world isn’t getting any better. We see it decaying and destroying itself every day. And one day soon, our boys will be living in this world but not in our house. They won’t have our daily influence anymore.

So we continue to thank God for their abundantly growing faith and pray that God will keep them in that faith after our daily influence is gone.

So that they will be ready when the End comes and Jesus calls all the faithful home to heaven.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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