Living Anew

They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations.
Ezekiel 29:26-27

What I’m about to say (write) is going to be very unpopular. It may even get me banned from some places and put on a black-list for some organizations. But here it goes:

Every human being is born sinful, spiritually dead and blind, and an enemy of God.

There, I said. I’m not going to apologize for saying it – because it is true. I suppose I could apologize for the way I say it, but I can’t think of a better, more softer, way to say this.

And I need to say it because we all need to hear it!

I didn’t make this up. I’m not the first person to stumble upon this.

Nearly 500 years ago, a man by the name of Philip was taught by another man by the name of Martin and wrote these words (albeit in German and Latin and not English):

“Our churches teach that since the fall of Adam, all who are naturally born are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin, called concupiscence. Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit” (Augsburg Confession, Article II, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, pp 31-32).

I was born a sinner. I would have perished eternally unless God saved me – which he did! Through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ on the cross, I am forgiven of all my sin. Through the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ I am assured of eternal life in heaven.

I still sin much and I still sin daily. But I also have my baptismal grace which gives me the power of daily contrition and repentance and receives the forgiveness of God through the blood of Christ on a daily basis!

There is a picture of this in the Bible. It is the Old Testament people of God, Israel.

They were created by God and called out by God to be separate from the rest of the world. But they continued to reject God. They were less than 100 days from the time they left Egypt and slavery when they rejected God and built a golden calf to worship!

They would continue to be called back from their sin, forgiven by God and then reject God yet again. Over and over again. Still, God continued to pour out his grace and mercy on them over and over.

But there will come a time when the need for over-and-over-pouring-out will come to an end! The prophet Ezekiel foresees a time when there will be an end to all sin. God will take his people to heaven where there will be no more sin, tears, pain, or death.

Nor will we remember that we were sinners. We will certainly focus all our thoughts and lives on God alone and his glory and majesty and love!

He says that we will “dwell securely” because there will be no more enemy, no more death, only light and love and God!

This is certainly good news!

Too good to keep to myself!

Please join me in living anew and tell others about this wonderfully good news!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Poured Out

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh
Joel 2:28

Water is vital to life. Without water, a person will die within a couple of days.

Water is found just about everywhere on the planet. Even in the driest places it rains water sometimes.

Water pours from the sky. Water pours from the side of mountains. Water pours from a pitcher into a glass or into a jar.

The sound of pouring or running water can be soothing. There are many videos on the internet of just rain pouring down (here’s one I particularly like: rain and thunder video).

It isn’t a coincidence that God uses the description of pouring water when talking about the Holy Spirit and Holy Baptism.

Nor is it a coincidence that Holy Baptism uses water as its visible, earthly element to carry or contain the Word of God.

The passage from Joel 2:28 is a prophesy that was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection from the dead.

Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection was the Day of Pentecost in the Hebrew religious calendar. Pentecost was the celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai in the 15th Century BC. It would become known also as the “Feast of Weeks” as it is seven weeks after Passover (a week of weeks).

On the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection, and the tenth day after his ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Disciples of Jesus.

The immediate result of this pouring out was that they could speak different languages. This is important as the “Feast of Weeks” saw Jews from throughout the known world in Jerusalem for the festival.

The Disciples could now speak to all the people in their native languages. But what could they possibly speak to them about?

With the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the Disciples immediately began to tell anyone who would listen about Jesus!

The Prophet Joel used words like “prophesy” and “dreams” and “visions.” What he was describing was simply the proclamation of the Gospel to all people through the means of the Disciples.

Today, the Holy Spirit is continually poured out on the disciples of Jesus. In Holy Baptism, as the water is poured on a person and the Word of God is spoken, the Holy Spirit saves that person from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

The Holy Spirit continues to pour into that person the power to proclaim the Gospel through word and deed.

We become vessels into which so much power and grace is poured that it overflows into the lives of those around us.

God pours his love into us and into the lives of others through us as we consistently and regularly read his Word and worship with brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are living in the days where God has poured out his Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Powerful Name

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

In a previous devotion I said that the power of words is an amazing thing.

Just as amazing to me is the power of a name.

We all have names. And names tell other people who we are.

They also tell us who we are.

My name is Edward Albert Blonski.

I am named “Edward” after my father, my paternal grandfather, and my maternal grand-uncle.

I am named “Albert” after my maternal grandfather.

My name identifies me as well as informs me of where I have come from, at least in part.

Most parents put a lot of time and thought into the names of their children. Oftentimes, the name is chosen well before the child is born. And just as often, the name chosen is something that reflects who the child is and where that child has “come from.”

This practice is as old as the human race.

The first child that was born was named “Cain” and we’re told that his mother chose that name because, as she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The name Cain sounds like the Hebrew word for gotten.

Moses was so named because Pharaoh’s daughter said, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:10) and Moses sounds like the Hebrew word for draw out.

The name that this devotion is about, however, is a very special name.

The baby boy that was named Jesus was actually not given his name by either of his parents.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to name the boy Jesus (see Matthew 1:21).

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her much the same thing, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

The reason the Messiah’s name is Jesus is, as Gabriel says, because that is what he would do.

Jesus means the LORD saves.

No doubt about it that is what Jesus does. He saves us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He did this by dying on the cross and rising to life again.

And in his name this Good News, this Gospel, is to be proclaimed to the entire world.

JESUS was born to be our substitute under God’s Law.

JESUS lived the perfect life to be our righteousness by faith.

JESUS died on the cross to forgive all the sins of all people of all time.

JESUS rose from the grave so that we, too, might rise from the grave one day.

JESUS ascended into heaven with the promise that he would be with us forever and would come back to take all believers to paradise on the Last Day.

In the name of Jesus many incredible things happened.

For example, Peter and John were going up to the Temple to pray. They encountered a man in his forties that was lame since birth. This man asked Peter and John for a handout.

Peter and John look at him and Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6)

This is nice, but this isn’t the reason Jesus was born, lived, died, rose and ascended. The name of Jesus wasn’t given in order to just heal the lame, the blind, the deaf, or even to raise the dead.

Even though all these things happened in the name of Jesus, the reason they happened was so that the real reason for the name of Jesus could be done: to proclaim the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins!

When Peter and John are arrested for healing this man, they used the opportunity – as would anyone arrested for doing miracles in Jesus’ name – to proclaim the Gospel!

Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12).

Today, healings and raising the dead rarely happen anymore. But the proclamation of the Gospel certainly does – and should continue to – happen by and through us!

You are saved “in the name of Jesus.” Now go and share “the name of Jesus” with all the world!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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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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Close Order Drill

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
1 Peter 3:8

The U.S. Military teaches their recruits “Drill” or “Close Order Drill.”

The simplest explanation of this is that the soldiers all walk the same way at the same time holding their weapons or flags the same way at the same time.

Watching a group of military personnel perform Close Order Drill is a fascinating thing to behold. There’s even a group of Marines that do the drill without any verbal commands – called the Silent Drill Team.

Drill and Close Order Drill are traditions in the U.S. Military since the very beginning and is also a tradition in other nations’ military that dates back to the 5th Century BC.

The reason for Drill is to instill discipline and obedience.

It was vital for U.S. Troops in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War but with the advent of trench warfare was not needed for combat as much as it used to be.

It is still used with troops today in order for the troops to have “unity of mind” and “brotherly love.”

That’s what Christians are called upon to have in 1 Peter 3.

It is vitally important that we Christians have a unity of mind – to be of one purpose and goal. That goal is to make disciples of all nations.

Along with this, we are to have sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind.

We are not Christians for ourselves. We should not be joining a congregation in order to get something. We join congregations to give.

We serve others. We help others. We have our own version of “Close Order Drill” in order to build each other up in our calling to make disciples.

Our “Close Order Drill” is our Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds). It is also, for those who are Lutherans, the Confessions (Book of Concord and Small Catechism).

Our Drill is daily contrition and repentance. It is receiving the forgiveness of sins from God’s Holy Word daily and Holy Absolution weekly.

Our Drill is regular and consistent worship with brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the military, “Drill” was used to make warfare more efficient and successful.

In the Church, “Drill” is used in much the same way. For we are at war. We are at war with the devil, the world and our own sinful nature.

But Christ won the war by taking all the sins of all people on himself and paying the penalty for our sins on the cross. We are forgiven and the devil has no claim on us.

But even though he’s lost the war, the devil continues his campaign of terror against us.

Our “Close Order Drill” will help each one of us who participates to walk together in safe and powerful numbers.

I realize that to many, the word “drill” has a negative connotation. For some it carries an idea of drudgery, work, even slavery.

But for those who have learned the U.S. Military’s “Close Order Drill” I would suspect they understand the value, the camaraderie, and the powerfully positive feeling that comes when the Drill is done correctly by so many at once.

To see Drill done powerfully by the military, look at this video here.

To participate in a Drill, go to your local congregation this weekend and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Staff and Sword

Resist [the devil], firm in your faith….
1 Peter 5:9

It’s not easy being a Christian.

People can laugh at you.

Worse, people look at and think of you in derision.

Worst of all, the devil incites hatred of Christians in world leaders and groups of people.

I suppose it should be comforting for a Christian that there is such opposition. It must mean Christians are relevant and powerful. Otherwise, why oppose us so vehemently?

When St. Peter wrote his first epistle, the Roman Emperor Nero was turning more and more paranoid putting down revolts, especially Jewish revolts in Palestine.

Nero would blame Christians for some of his problems and both Peter and Paul were imprisoned at this time, soon to be executed.

Being a Christian today in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa is no less dangerous.

The devil still prowls around like a lion.

Which means that we Christians are still relevant, powerful, and a threat to him!

Of course, he’s already defeated. He was defeated by Christ on the cross when our sins were forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But defeat doesn’t mean the war is over. It just means its won. The battles still are waged.

And we need to be ready!

We need to resist the devil.

Our weapon is the Word of God. We resist by reading, meditating on, and studying the Bible.

When Martin Luther wrote “one little word can fell” the devil, he meant God’s Holy Word that is incarnated in Jesus.

We remain firm in our faith when it is strengthened through the Means of Grace.

The Means of Grace are God’s Word and the Sacraments. The Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion get their power from the Word of God.

And we are to remain in our baptismal grace daily through contrition and repentance. And we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper often. We do that by worshipping regularly with brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is true for you and for me. As a pastor I am not exempt from daily contrition, repentance and reading God’s Word, study and meditation. In fact, I not only have to do that but I do it in order to encourage and help others to do it.

Remaining firm in the faith is what I do and encourage others to do. God’s Word is my sword that I use to resist the devil. The Lutheran Confessions are my staff to guide others to do the same.

Please pray that we will continue to be strengthened in our faith to resist the devil and his minions in this world until that day that Jesus returns to take us to paradise forever.

©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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