Why Are You Afraid

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:26

I’ve always been a bit of a weather-junky. I used to love watching the Weather Channel, but since they’ve started airing produced weather documentaries, I’ve drifted away from them.

But I try to never miss the forecast of meteorologist Tom Skilling on WGN-TV, Channel 9, in Chicago.

He’s rarely wrong about what weather is heading our way. He also loves to show weather pictures from viewers. He’s even used pictures I’ve sent him – usually of snowy days and of the snowfall around The Hawthorn Woods Parsonage at St. Matthew Lutheran Church & School.

Like just about every other kid who grows up in the Chicago area, I love snow days!

Growing up in Fox Lake Hills (Lake Villa, Il) I would wake up with eager anticipation if a heavy snow fall was forecast the night before. I would watch with bated breath as Ray Rayner started to announce school closings on his morning Channel 9 cartoon show.

When he announced “St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Round Lake, Il” I would let out a whoop! I’d then run upstairs and get my snow gear on and go outside for a day of playing in the snow!

I’ve never outgrown my love of snow days, but as an adult and father I’ve grown wary of extreme weather. I’ve shared part of the reason why in the devotion Natural and Special Revelation which is included in the latest paperback & Kindle edition of In My Father’s Footsteps called “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”

It has been my experience that when it comes to storms God either calms the storm or calms me in the storm.

In the Gospels, Jesus calms several storms. Two of them are when he’s been in the boat with his disciples and one of them he walks out on the water in the midst of the storm to the boat the disciples are in.

Jesus can calm the storms because he is the Son of God. He was the “Word” through whom God the Father created the entire universe. All created things must obey Jesus. And so the storms that Jesus calms obey him.

I also notice, however, that not only does Jesus calm these storms the disciples find themselves in, he also calms his disciples.

When we go through storms in life – literal weather-storms, the storms of illness, despair, pain or death, storms of our own making, or storms that come our way completely unexpected – Jesus can calm these storms.

But many times, Jesus calms us in the midst of the storms.

The storms are meant to catch our attention. They are meant to draw our eyes and our hearts back to God because Christians are sometimes tempted by Satan to look away from God, tempted to focus on the storm, the wind and the waves, instead of Jesus.

Jesus comes walking on water in the middle of the storm and calls us to himself!

Sometimes he’ll calm the storm, but most of the time he calms our hearts in the middle of the storm.

And make no mistake, we are in the middle of storms! The storms of homosexuality, transgenderism, political division, abortion, opioid addiction, pornography, the lack of civility, the list goes on and on and on and on!

Satan has unleashed the putrid and disgusting arsenal of hell upon us

Still, Jesus is here in the midst of the storm. There is no reason to fear these storms. We have faith in Christ given us by the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace.

And we will get through these and any other storms!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, there are immense storms in this world and sometimes in my life that make me afraid. Please strengthen my faith so that I will not be afraid; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Miracle of Ordinary Things

And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”

Matthew 15:34

Nearly every Christian – and quite a few non-Christians – have heard the Bible story “The Feeding of the 5000.”

That miracle is recorded in all four Gospels. But the miracle of “The Feeding of the 4000” is a separate miracle only recorded in Matthew and Mark.

Both miracles point us to the miraculous provision of God. One of the lessons of each miracle is that God provides us with what we need.

As I explored in the devotions “Miraculous Feeding” and “Satisfaction”, there are other miracles of God providing people with food that they need. God provided manna and quail for the People of Israel during their Wilderness Wanderings following the Exodus (Exodus 16). And God provided bread for 100 men through his prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4).

God will always provide exactly what we need at the exact right moment. But there are a couple of things to consider.

One, God is never late and seldom – if ever – early.

There are times when I have waiting for God to come through, show up, or in some way provide for me. But I was disappointed because I had my own schedule and God wasn’t interested in my schedule.

It’s not a bad thing to have a schedule, but it is important to remember that our vision is limited, while God’s is not. What we think is the right time for God to act and provide is limited to our view on things. God is not restricted in his view so he knows the exact right time to act and provide!

When I look back at all those times in my life when God has acted in my life and provided, I see that it was exactly what I needed and at the exact perfect time! God is never late and seldom – if ever – early!

Two, don’t go to a place where it will take a miracle to save you from it!

There are times when I have put myself in an impossible situation and it was only by the grace of God that I got out of it. God gave us a brain and wants us to use it! Don’t get yourself into a place where it will take a miracle to save you from it! God can do it, don’t get me wrong. But if I get into tough spots because I hadn’t let God control my life, then that isn’t what God wants for my life! He wants something better for me!

When we read about how Jesus feeds the 5000 and then the 4000, both times he uses what has already been given to provide for so many more.

With the feeding of the 4000, Jesus makes a point to ask them what the disciples have. I believe he wants them to see that it doesn’t matter how much they have but that they simply have gifts and provisions from God.

God wants to use what we have already been given and have in our possession now.

We have the ordinary things. God will take care of the miracle. And we give glory and thanksgiving to God for both!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, even as you bless your servants with various and unique gifts of the Holy Spirit, continue to grant us the grace to use them always to your honor and glory; 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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Fruit Recognition

[Jesus said,] Thus you will recognized them by their fruits.
Matthew 17:20

When my family lived in Southern California, we were blessed to have a plum tree and a lemon tree in our backyard.

Alas, the plum tree only produced fruit one of the four years we lived there. But the lemon tree had a lot of fruit each and every year.

The home next door had an orange tree – part of which hung over our fence. The orange blossoms in the spring gave a wonderful aroma to the backyard!

Each summer we would go out into the backyard and look for oranges on the orange tree, plums on the plum tree, and lemons on the lemon tree.

It would be silly to look for bananas on the orange tree, green grapes on the plum tree, and apples on the lemon tree.

We looked for the fruit that was expected on the various fruit trees. Each tree produced its own distinct fruit.

We were disappointed when the plum tree didn’t produce plums. We found out later that it was due to insufficient water reaching the tree roots.

As I remember looking at the trees without their fruit, I could tell they were different trees but that’s about it. I could not tell what kind of trees they were until the fruit appeared.

As Jesus says, “Thus you will recognized them by their fruits.

This is true of fruit trees. This is also true of people.

Everything we do – as Christians, that is, – should be pointing people to Jesus Christ and his salvation. This is our fruit.

But unless we actually produce the fruit, no one will know we are Christians.

Our fruit is a distinctive kind of love, as the camp song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love! Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love!”

When Jesus talks about good fruit and bad fruit in Matthew 17, he begins by pointing out that he’s talking about being warry of false prophets.

You will know a false prophet by the fruit they produce. They may “talk a good game,” meaning they may sound religious and doctrinal. But unless they actually produce the fruit of a prophet, they are to be seen for what they are: false prophets.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that since you are not a prophet, Jesus is not talking about you.

You actually are a prophet, in a sense. You are one who is to speak God’s Word to other people (the first and foremost role of a prophet in the Old Testament).

Martin Luther describes what a modern-day prophet does this way:

“You must hold on to the chief part, the summary, of Christian teaching and accept nothing else: That God has sent and given Christ, His Son, and that only through Him does He forgive us all our sins, justify and save us” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 21 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1593).

This is our fruit. This is our love. This is our story that we share.

By this fruit we will be known.

Almighty God, you have called your Church to share the love of Christ as our fruit. This is our story: that in Christ you have reconciled us to yourself. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may continue to proclaim the good news of your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 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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Why You Do What You Do

“The righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you….”
Matthew 25:37

What you do when no one is watching – or when you don’t think anyone is watching – is a truer definition of your character and integrity than just about anything else.

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you help a little, old lady across the street?

Why do you return the $20 bill to the person in front of you who dropped it in the grocery line?

Why are you faithful to your wife even when it is virtually impossible for her to find out that you would have been unfaithful?

There are two reasons for doing things like this.

One is to get a reward, to get a payment, or a chit mark in your ledger, to add weight to your scales of life on the “good” side.

But this isn’t a good reason. Not in God’s eyes, anyway.

Some people do things like this in order to earn their way into paradise. But paradise cannot be earned! The only way to get into paradise by yourself is to be perfect 24/7/365 according to God’s standard of perfect.

And that’s impossible.

The other reason people do these things is because they are simply the right thing to do. Something deep within them wants to do the right thing and does the right thing as often as they can.

And they do this only because God has given them the power of the forgiveness of sins and the abundant life through his Son Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

The Scriptural Truth is that the good we do is only done through faith and only done in response to the grace and love God showed and showered on us first.

When people insist that “good works have the right to merit eternal life” we can only answer with the Truth of Scripture:

“He will render to each on according to his works. (Romans 2:6)

Glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good. (Romans 2:10)

Those who have done good to the resurrection of life. (John 5:29)

I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. (Matthew 25:35)

In these and all similar passages in which works are praised in the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand not only outward works, but also the faith of the heart. Scripture does not speak of hypocrisy, but of the righteousness of the heart with its fruit. Furthermore, whenever the Law and works are mentioned, we must know that Christ cannot be excluded as Mediator. He is the end of the Law, and He Himself says, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5)”(Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V (III) Love and Fulfilling the Law, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House,  p 138).

In other words, we simply go around doing good because we are Christians, saved by the blood of Christ and imitating Christ. We are simply doing what Christ himself did!

And we wouldn’t even realize that we were doing all this good to Christ himself when we did it to the least of his brothers, unless he told us – which he will do on the Last Day!

So go about doing good! Not to get a reward, but because it is God’s Will and is a response to God’s Love!

Lord God Almighty, even as you bless your people with various and unique gifts of the Holy Spirit, continue to pour out your grace on us so that we use them to your honor and glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Salt Is Good

[Jesus said], “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”
Luke 14:34-35

Summertime! Here on the Illinois prairie it is a time of warm, humid days. Sunshine and wind rustling the corn fields.

Picnics and backyard BBQ’s with hamburgers, hotdogs and watermelon.

Ah, watermelon. I love a sweet, juicy, chilled watermelon on a hot summer day.

I have fond memories of sitting in my grandparent’s yard along the banks of Squaw Creek in Ingleside, fishing for bluegill and crappie and eating watermelon in the shade of their huge and ancient willow tree.

As I look over to my right in my memory I see my grandmother – Nana – sitting there with a cane fishing pole eating a big slice of watermelon.

Before she takes each bite, she sprinkles a little salt on it!

Now, I like salt. I like salt on my popcorn, on my salad (along with lemon juice), on my potatoes and chips.

But on watermelon?

It was a delicacy to her, but I never understood it.

Salt is an important part of a person’s diet. According to the website fitday.com salt helps retain water in the body, stimulates muscle contraction, and contains nutrients vital to the digestive system while low levels of salt in the body, along with low blood pressure, leads to shock.

It is also known that salt, like just about everything else, is only good in moderation. Excessive intake of salt is very bad for a person.

Salt has also been an important economic commodity, especially in its importance in preserving food. So much so, it is thought by some, that early in the Roman era soldiers were paid in salt.

Both the words salary and soldier have their roots in the Latin word for salt.

The benefits and commodity of salt seem to be on Jesus’ mind when he tells us that “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”

He would go on to call his followers the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).

Our faith is what makes us “salty” – that is, what makes us beneficial and precious to others. As long as we have faith and continue to grow in our faith, we can be of benefit to others in this world. A benefit by sharing the Good News of Jesus with them.

We are precious because of our response – in faith – to God’s love for us. Our response is to love and serve others. Loving and helping others is how we are “salty.”

Like real salt, we can lose our saltiness. If we do not strengthen our faith through the use of the Means of Grace (most notably the reading of God’s Word regularly and receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion regularly – if appropriate) we can suffer from weakened faith that will not be considered “salty” by Jesus’ standards. See what Jesus says about what to do with such salt!

Let’s stay salty! Let’s continue to be a benefit and precious to the people of our world by salting their lives with the Gospel and the love that responds to the Gospel!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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