Feed His Sheep

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
John 21:15

For the last couple of devotions, the Scripture readings have dealt with God miraculously feeding his people through ordinary means – namely, bread and fish.

Today’s Scripture text also talks about feeding. It also includes fish. Jesus and Peter and six other disciples were having a breakfast of roasted fish on the shore of Galilee. It is a couple of weeks after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Up to this point, Jesus has been appearing and disappearing. He’s talked to all his disciples and has been getting them ready for when he will be leaving them by Ascension. They will then be going out into all the world to tell others the Good News about Jesus.

At this breakfast, Jesus and Peter have a heart-to-heart chat.

Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Three times! After the third time, Peter is practically insulted, certainly hurt.

Jesus doesn’t explain to Peter why he asks him three times. But it doesn’t seem hard to figure out.

A few weeks prior, Peter was in the courtyard of the home of the High Priest Caiaphas and was confronted by three different people who asked him if he knew Jesus.

They didn’t ask Peter if he loved him, only if he simply knew him.

And Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Three times!

There on the shore of Galilee, Jesus “reinstates” Peter with the words, “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.”

Was Jesus changing Peter’s vocation from fisherman to shepherd? Was Jesus really telling Peter to get a flock of ovis aries (sheep)?

No, I don’t think so. After all, history tells us that Peter didn’t become a literal shepherd, but instead he became an Apostle whose mission for the rest of his life was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus wasn’t telling Peter to become a literal shepherd. But Jesus was telling Peter to feed his flock.

Jesus’ flock would be all Christians from that moment to this very moment. Peter was to take care of these Christians by “feeding” them the Word of God.

He would preach, proclaim, and share the Word of God from the Day of Pentecost till the day he was executed by Rome.

He would continue to “feed” Jesus’ lambs through his two epistles in the Bible and through his story told and re-told countless times down through history.

But another way of looking at this is that Jesus was not telling Peter only to feed his sheep. He was telling the entire Church to do this.

Martin Luther – the 16th Century Reformer – put it this way:

“It does not follow from this passage that a peculiar superiority was given Peter. Christ tells him ‘feed’ (i.e., teach <preach> the Word <the Gospel>, or rule the Church with the Word <the Gospel>), which task Peter has in common with the other apostles” (Power and Primacy of the Pope – Refutation of Roman Arguments, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, pp 298).

This means that even though Jesus was telling Peter to feed and tend, he’s also telling us to do that.

How do we feed and tend Christ’s flock? By using the gifts that God has given us to support the Church. We also tell others about Christ by telling our story of how Christ saved us!

So, let us feed and tend Christ’s flock with all that God has given us!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you have called your Church to witness that in Christ you have reconciled us to yourself. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may feed and tend Christ’s sheep so that all who hear the Gospel may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Asking God

God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

1 Kings 3:5

Solomon was the heir-apparent of King David. He knew he’d be the next king as soon as David died.

And that’s what happened. Solomon ascended to the throne of his father, David. He was the most powerful man in Israel and, indeed, in the Middle East at the time.

He could have anything he wanted, and he pretty much did!

Then God comes to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

I think that this is like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet handing you a blank, signed check and saying, “Do what you would like.”

Solomon could have asked for long life. He could have asked for more land and territory to rule over. He could have asked for riches beyond anyone’s imagination.

Ask what I shall give you.”

How would you respond?

Solomon would later write that everything is folly “that goes on without God’s Word and works. He calls that man wise who guides himself by God’s Word and works, and he calls that man a fool who presumptuously guides himself by his own ideas and notions” (from the preface of 1523 to Proverbs, quoted from What Luther Says – A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian © 1959 Concordia Publishing House, p 1455).

While God has never come to be in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you,” Jesus did say, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

There’s nothing wrong with asking God for things or stuff. But maybe our first request should be for wisdom to ask for what we ought.

Sometimes I think we think we know what we want or need but it turns out that we didn’t really.

God knows exactly what we need and exactly when we need it. So we should approach his throne of grace in prayer asking for his will to be done in our lives and ask for the things we should.

A good rule of thumb in knowing what we should ask for is to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (see Matthew 6:34). This will put us in the right frame of mind and heart to ask God for what we ought.

Remember, God has promised to hear us and to answer us. And he will hear and answer as our loving, heavenly Father. And that is a beautiful thing.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you have promised to hear the prayers of those who ask in your Son’s name. Mercifully incline your ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications to you, and grant that those things for which we have faithfully asked according to your will we may receive to meet our need and bring glory to you; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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A Loss

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Philippians 3:8

When St. Paul talks about counting everything as loss, that’s a little hard to understand.

Everything, Paul? Really?

Yes, really. At least when compared to knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.

Paul tells us that there is absolutely nothing in all creation that compares with knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord.

Christ Jesus is the Word through whom God created the entire universe. What could be greater than the Creator?

Yet, that’s the temptation of the devil. To focus more on the creation than the Creator.

God did such a wonderful job with his creation, it is very tempting to overlook the Creator when we wonder in awe looking at his creation.

I’ve been to the Pacific shore near San Diego. I’ve been to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the Bitterroot Range in Idaho. I’ve hiked through Jackson Hole in the shadow of the Grand Tetons and explored the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve napped in the shade on the white sands of Cabo San Lucas. I’ve slalomed down the slopes of the Dolomites in Cortina, Italy. (I’ve been incredibly blessed to have parents that love me and have taken me to these places or allowed me to go to these places based on the blessings God has given them.)

It is a very real temptation to overlook the Creator when you are in the presence of his majestic creation.

This is what Martin Luther has getting at when he wrote,

“The invocation of saints is also one of the Antichrist’s abuses that conflicts with the chief article and destroys the knowledge of Christ. It is neither commanded nor counseled, nor has it any warrant in Scripture. Even if it were a precious thing—which it is not—we have everything a thousand times better in Christ” (Smalcald Articles Article II The Mass, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, pp 266-67).

Which is why regular morning devotions is vital for me. When I start each day with reading God’s Word, reading a devotion based on God’s Word, and spend time in extended prayer to God, then I have more strength from the Holy Spirit to overcome this temptation of overlooking the Creator.

But I can only do this because Christ Jesus is my Lord.

This is what Paul is getting at when he says that he counts every as loss when compared to knowing Christ.

  1. S. Lewis is reported to have written (as found in the book The Joyful Christian),

“Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Why would I want to focus solely on the creation when I am offered a deep and everlasting relationship with the Creator?

Because of my salvation won by Christ alone through his death and resurrection, I can truly enjoy God’s creation even as I look forward to my everlasting life on the New Earth (see Revelation 21).

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for this amazing creation that you have placed me in to look after and enjoy. I pray that you will strengthen me in my faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit so that I never overlook you, the Creator, while enjoying your creation ; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Far Outweighs

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

I first met Minnie in September of 1997. She was a resident at what used to be called a “nursing home” but today they are known better as “extended care facilities.”

Minnie had lived in that home for over fifteen years when I first met her.

During the day she was confined to a wheel chair. She had multiple sclerosis, initially diagnosed in her late 50’s.

I visited Minnie regularly, sat with her, read scripture to her, and gave her the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Minnie was always cheerful and talkative. She made every effort to be prim and proper in her dress and comportment.

But as I soon discovered, Minnie was constantly in moderate to severe chronic pain due to her MS.

She lived this way for another seven years! Always happy to see me, always talkative, and always prim and proper. She also made it a point to both pray for her fellow residents and share the story of Jesus with them (and me).

Even though she was in constant pain, she loved God and loved her neighbors and told anyone who would listen how much God loved her in Jesus Christ.

This was her story to tell.

She was the living embodiment of Paul’s words in Romans 8, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

No matter how much pain Minnie was in, she knew it didn’t compare to the glory that was awaiting her in heaven!

When Jesus finally called Minnie home, this is exactly what I said at her funeral service. We gathered together with her blood-family and her church family and gave praise and thanksgiving to God for saving Minnie and giving her eternal life.

In a glory that far outweighed her painful life here on earth.

This is true for all of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Still, it is hard for us to believe this sometimes.

Even Martin Luther – the great reformer – would write:

“…Because heaven is not apparent it becomes very difficult for my old Adam [sinful human nature] to believe that on the Last Day God will give me such a beautiful body, joyful heart, and pure soul, endowed with understanding of every kind and full of love and delight and that I am to become a greater lord than any king now on earth” (from Luther’s sermon of 1525 on Romans 8:18-23, quoted from What Luther Says – A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian © 1959 Concordia Publishing House, p 623).

Maybe this is one of the reasons Minnie was here and came into my life. To show me the truthfulness of Romans 8 that how no matter how bad this life is, heaven will be that much greater.

Minnie believed that.

By the grace of God, so will I.

Heavenly Father, you teach me in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve your children. Look with compassion on all those who experience pain. Remember all of us in mercy, strengthen us in patience, comfort us with the memory of your goodness, and let your face shine on us that we may be guarded by your peace in Christ Jesus. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Rain and Snow

[The LORD declares]: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

As an older kid, I used to love thunderstorms. That all changed when a storm tried to knock down our new house in Wisconsin that we had just bought and moved into the month before. (I wrote about this in a devotion called Natural and Special Revelation, which you can read here.)

Pam King the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011. Why is she smiling? She lives in Florida!

Now, even though I don’t particularly like thunderstorms, I do love it when it rains (until it starts to flood the place, that is).

The author the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011

Snow, on the other hand, I love all the time. As far as I’m concerned, it can snow moderately from the first week of November to the middle of February (at which time it would be great if God would make it warm up and dry the ground out so that we can start baseball in March).

Too much rain and too much snow are a problem, of course. They cause flooding and damage.

But God has made this world in such a way that when there is just enough snow in the winter and rain in the spring and summer, crops and other vegetation grow in all their beauty and bounty.

That’s the glorious beauty of this creation and God’s amazing love and power! Rain and snow come and just that simple water molecule makes crops grow and people can eat and live and thrive.

This is also a picture of God’s Holy Word. Right before our very eyes, whenever it snows or rains, we can see that God’s Word also accomplishes what God intends and purposes – the salvation of our souls.

As Martin Luther said:

“Rain and snow are not useless, but they water the earth, giving seed to the sower. The rain can achieve everything for the earth …. When we experience the absence of rain, we see what the earth produces. So He takes away the glory of the earth and shows that it is not the earth that does it but that it is accomplished by the rain. So our building and promotion of the church is not a result of our works but of the Word of God which we preach” Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 17 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1181).

God’s Word is incredible and complex. It can do so much! It is the Holy Spirit’s Means of Grace. When joined to simple water, it because a life-giving Baptism that creates faith and forgives sin. When joined to bread and wine, it gives Christians the very body and blood of Jesus Christ that, when eaten and drank, forgives sins, gives life and salvation.

God’s Word is the way we carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We use God’s Word to make disciples and teach what Christ has done and commanded us to do.

This is why having God’s Word saturate the Christian Church’s worship and life is so important and powerful!

From the hymns that are based on God’s Word (some God’s Word literally set to music) to the Scripture readings and responsive Psalmody, to the sermon and sacraments, God’s Word soaks through the worship service and immerses the participant in God himself.

Like rain and snow bring forth the fruit of the earth, so God’s Word will bring forth and strengthen Christian men and women of all ages.

Lord God, heavenly Father, I pray that your Word will continue to accomplish your purposes among us and around the world, namely to forgive sin and bring people into everlasting life. Teach me to hold your Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Seek First

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus makes it clear that there is no reason to worry or be anxious about anything in this life. None. Zero. Nada!

There’s no reason to worry about what clothes you’ll wear tomorrow.

There’s no reason to worry about having clothes to wear tomorrow!

There’s no reason to worry about what you’re going to eat tomorrow.

There’s no reason to worry about eating tomorrow!

No reason whatsoever!

Why?

Martin Luther explained it this way:

“For how could [God] allow us to suffer lack and to be desperate for temporal things when he promises to give us what is eternal and never perishes?” (The Large Catechism, Part III The Lord’s Prayer, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 415)

Jesus Christ took care of our eternity! He took all our sins on himself and paid the penalty for them on the cross.

God has forgiven us of all our sins for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Heaven is assured! Eternal life is now ours.

With our eternal life taken care of, there is simply no reason to worry about our life here and now. God promised to take care of our eternity (the first of many times in Genesis 3:15).

He also promises to take care of our “hear and now.”

He promised to feed his people: 1 Kings 17:4, Psalm 81:16, Isaiah 49:9, and Isaiah 58:14, just to name a few.

He promised to clothe his people: Genesis 3:21, and Ezekiel 16:10 tell us this.

There is no reason to worry about what we will eat or wear. There just isn’t!

Worrying won’t do any good anyway. Jesus says clearly that we can’t add a single hour to our lives by worrying.

Doctors tell us that just the opposite is actually the case. We can actually shorten our lives by worrying!

But worrying is a big part of so many people’s lives! What are we supposed to do if we don’t worry?

Jesus tells us this also – which is also the way to stop worrying.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness….

Make this your number one priority and use of time – seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Do this and you won’t have time to worry!

Nor will you have need! As Jesus concludes: and all these things will be added to you.

God will be taking care of your food and clothing – and everything else – needs as you seek his kingdom and righteousness.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, your mercies are new unto us every morning, and though we have not deserved your goodness, you abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul. Grant us your Holy Spirit that we may heartily acknowledge your merciful goodness toward us, give thanks for all your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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The Conflict

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Romans 7:22-23

I want to do the right thing.

I want to do what God wants me to do.

So why do I keep on sinning?

St. Paul asked the same thing!

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15, 24)

If anyone knew what the right thing – the God thing – to do it was St. Paul!

He was a zealous Pharisee and knew the Law of God forwards and backwards. He was so passionate about the Law of God that he took on the entire Christian Church single-handedly in order to snuff them out of existence.

But then Jesus Christ showed up!

As Paul was about to enter the city of Damascus in order to arrest the Christians he found there, Jesus knocks him down with the brightest light he’s ever seen!

Then Jesus speaks to Paul. Paul is struck blind (temporarily) but then recovers his physical sight after he receives his spiritual sight through the waters of Holy Baptism!

The Gospel was given to Paul and he became the champion of the Christian faith. He traveled from Jerusalem to Rome and most spots in-between, all the while proclaiming the Good News of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

And yet, towards the end of Paul’s missionary ministry, he’s still lamenting the fact that while he knows better, and wants to do better, he still sins!

How is this possible?

In September of 1945, Mamoru Shigemitsu – on behalf of the Emperor and nation of Japan – signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. This officially brought to an end World War II. The war was over. The Allies had won.

Yet, in March of 1947 Lieutenant Ei Yamaguchi and a detachment of 33 Japanese soldiers emerged from the jungle of Peleliu and attacked the garrison of U.S. Marines stationed on the island. While the war was over, these soldiers either didn’t hear of the surrender or refused to accept it and were still battling!

The war against sin, Satan, and death has been won. It was won by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection.

But the battles are still being fought in the outlying areas. In this case, the war for our hearts has been won, but the battles are still being fought at our hands and feet and eyes – the outlying areas away from the heart.

This is why we have been given the Means of Grace – to strengthen our hearts, our faith, to continue to fight the battles against sin and Satan in our outlying areas!

Martin Luther picked up St. Paul’s cry when he wrote:

Therefore see to it that you subdue the flesh. It will require a strong effort on your part to overcome and quench your lust; and the greater your faith is, the greater the conflict will be. Therefore you should be prepared and armed and should contend without ever ceasing, for they (your lusts) will assault you in multitudes and would take you captive” (from Luther’s exposition of 1 Peter in 1522-1523, quoted from What Luther Says – A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian © 1959 Concordia Publishing House, p 659).

Keep fighting by reading God’s Word, having daily devotions and prayer, and participating in weekly worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ!

Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In your mercy you sent your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sin and everlasting salvation. Grant us a true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by your life-giving absolution. Grant us your Holy Spirit that we may be ever watchful and live true and godly lives in your service; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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