Guard the Good Deposit

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:14

During my senior year of high school, I worked as a “utility clerk” at a local grocery store. (“Utility Clerk” is just a fancy name for “bagger.”)

Part of my work was to receive and then sort “pop bottles” (“pop” is the Chicago way of saying “soda pop” as in cola, white soda, cream soda, root beer, etc.).

The empty glass pop bottles were brought into the store because there was a 10¢ “deposit” on each bottle.

You have to be of a certain age and generation to know what and why this was. It was the 1980’s and when you bought an 8-pack of cola, root beer, etc., you were charge an extra 80¢ but you would get that money back when you brought the empties back (intact, of course).

That extra 10¢ was the deposit. You gave the store that money to use. But then they returned it to you when you requested it back (by bringing back the empty bottles).

The “good deposit” in today’s Scripture text is the Gospel. But not just the Gospel as in “the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension” of Jesus for our salvation. It is the Gospel in a wider sense, meaning what we believe, teach, and confess to the entire world.

St. Paul, in his two letters to Timothy, tells him to “guard the deposit” (1 Timothy 6:20 and 2 Timothy 1:14).

What Paul is encouraging Timothy to do is to continue the work of the Gospel with which he has been entrusted.

Paul has been entrusted with the same deposit. But as he writes these letters to Timothy, he is apparently closer to physical death and the time when the deposit will be returned to God.

Which brings us to an interesting point about the Gospel in this wider sense.

God has deposited the Gospel in us. Out of his fatherly divine goodness and mercy he has saved us from all our sins, from death, and from the power of the devil through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus deposited this Gospel in us in order to “go and make disciples of all nations” (see Matthew 28:19-20).

Here’s where it might get a little uncomfortable.

God saves us by grace alone through faith alone. There is nothing we do or don’t do in order to merit this salvation.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t do something.

It isn’t enough to just think we are saved by grace alone through faith alone and we don’t have to do anything at all – even go to worship, read the Bible, participate in Bible studies with other Christians, have daily devotions, or even pray regularly (that is, without ceasing – see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It is very “fashionable” today to berate going to church, being a part of a congregation, and the like, as “religious” and, therefore, not what Jesus came to give us. This is nothing but a heinous heresy that will doom many to hell unless corrected!

When Paul tells Timothy – and us – to “guard the good deposit” he is telling him – and us – to use the Gospel as it was intended to be used.

He is telling us to proclaim it through our words, our actions, and our very lives.

He is telling us to live the Gospel 24/7/365.

Sound hard? It is actually impossible. Which is why Paul prefaces his words with “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us….

It is impossible for us by ourselves. But, as God’s Word says, “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 and see Matthew 19:26).

Because the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we can “guard the good deposit” and do the work that God has entrusted us with.

But we need to actually do the work! Not in order to be saved, but because we are saved!

Almighty God, you have called your people to guard the good deposit of the Gospel, which is that we are reconciled to yourself through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may 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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Encouragement for Parents

For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
1 Thessalonians 3:5

This devotion goes into the file “things I need to hear and learn for myself.”

Most – if not all – of these devotions are lessons, thoughts, and meditations that I need to learn and heed first for myself! I am thankful to God that he has given me a platform in which to share these with others, but am most thankful that he speaks to me through them directly!

There are some things that were not told to me about parenting before I became a parent. The closest things to sage advice that I received was “you’ll understand when you are a parent.”

When my wife told me that we were starting our family – I remember the day vividly – we were so excited about becoming parents for the first time.

But here we are, twenty-one years later and I am still awed that God has called me to be a father! I’m also still plenty scared!

Early on, my wife and I understood that our primary responsibility as parents was to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our children. To that end we have nightly devotions and prayers – and have been doing that since our first born came home from the hospital.

I pray for my wife and children every day. My wife has brought our sons to worship nearly every week for the last twenty-one years (I’ve been there, too, but usually up in front of the church in my man-dress).

Still, sharing the Gospel and training up our sons is no guarantee that they will continue in the “faith of our fathers.”

In this, I can relate to what St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 about inquiring as to the faith-life of the church at Thessalonica.

The men, women, and children to whom Paul, Timothy, and Silas had proclaimed the Gospel were so close to Paul’s heart that he basically regarded them as his own family.

When Paul had to leave them in order to continue on his missionary journey to Athens, the church at Thessalonica was never far from Paul’s heart!

Thus, he writes to them to inquire of the status of their faith. His concern was that since they were no longer under his direct influence they would be tempted by the devil, the world, and their own sinful nature away from the one, true faith.

Paul understood that the Holy Spirit was the one who keeps people in the true faith and strengthens their faith through the Means of Grace. But Paul still has a father-like concern for his “children” at Thessalonica.

Much like a Christian parent today has for their own children!

So I encourage you young parents to double your efforts in sharing the Gospel of Jesus with your children. Bring them up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord – by worshiping together weekly, having them participate in a Sunday school or Bible class, and lead them in daily devotions and prayers.

For you more “experienced” parents, continue to pray for your sons and daughters – and grandchildren. Then follow up those prayers with a phone call (or text or Facetime or Skype, etc.) to further encourage them in growing up in the Lord.

That is my prayer for you today!

Visit, O Lord, the homes in which your people dwell, and keep all harm and danger far from them. Grant that we may dwell together in peace under the protection of your holy angels, sharing eternally in your blessings; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Stand Up and Bless the Lord

Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.
Nehemiah 9:5

I’ve called it “Lutheran Calisthenics.”

“Stand up, sit down, repeat” throughout a worship service.

It is more than just trying to get people to get a little exercise while they worship, however.

If you are of a certain age, you were taught that it is the polite thing to do to stand when a lady enters a room.

Hardly anyone does that anymore. And when someone does do it they shock people! But when they are asked why they are standing when a lady enters a room they couldn’t tell you, other than “It’s the polite thing to do.” (Which is probably why most younger people are not taught to do it anymore – because those who teach don’t know why it should be done).

Standing is a sign of respect. It also is a public confession that you are welcoming the person for whom you are standing. When you stand you are signaling to all who witness it – and to the person themselves – that you are pleased to see them and are inviting them into your personal space.

I’m a big proponent for knowing – and explaining – why we do the things we do in liturgical worship. Nearly everything we do from the Invocation to the Benediction (beginning to end) has a purpose and sends a message.

Standing is one of those things. We tend to stand when we confess our sins because we are addressing the Almighty God and confessing to him that we are sinners and repentant.

We tend to stand when we sing a hymn stanza that gives glory to the Holy Trinity. If we are already standing, bowing will convey the same message – that we are addressing God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and acknowledging God as our God.

In certain liturgical settings we stand for the formal reading of the Gospel because it is usually the very words of Jesus Christ (or at the very least, specifically about Jesus Christ).

In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, a group of Levitical Priests are leading the people of Israel in a worship service of formal confession of sins. At one point they say, “Stand up and bless the LORD!

When we stand to bless (worship) the LORD (Yahweh), we are making a public confession that he is God (and we are not) and that we are welcoming God into our lives to forgive us and heal us.

We are also telling ourselves the same thing. We are reminding ourselves of our standing before God by standing before God!

This isn’t to say that not standing is improper and a sin. Some people are physically incapable of standing. And we are not bound by some law to stand or sit or kneel when we worship.

Standing is just one way of showing respect and reminding us of who we are, who God is, and our relationship with him.

©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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Trust

“Seek me and live … seek the LORD and live … the LORD is his name….”
Amos 5:4, 6, 8

When I sit on a chair, I trust that it will support my weight and not collapse.

But that has happened. Mostly because the chair was broken and ready to fall apart (but partly because I was too heavy for it, too!).

When I turn on the light switch, I trust that the lights in the room will go on. Most of the time they do. But there have been times when the wiring wasn’t correct or the bulb was burned out and flipping the switch did not have its desired effect.

There are some things we trust and count on. We put our faith in them. Things like the support of our family or the love of our spouse.

Still, it is very important to put our ultimate trust in someone who will never, ever let us down.

I’m talking about the Creator of the universe. He is the LORD (Yahweh).

He called into being everything we see (and everything we can’t see except with a microscope or telescope). We can trust him to sustain this universe to the very end.

He also formed you and me – initially from the dust of the earth and the rib of the first man.

God is our Creator. But Adam and Eve rejected God when they listened to Satan instead and then their own desires.

Because of their Fall we are all conceived and born sinners. We also initially reject God.

Some continue to do so all their lives. They put their trust in other things. Some put their trust in gods – like Sikkuth or Kiyyun, Mesopotamia deities of the ancient near east.

Others put their trust in science. Or in the world. Or even in themselves.

But everything else will violate our trust.

Science will. After all, science once told us the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

The world will violate our trust. Ask those who once trusted in the German Chancellor in the last 1930’s and early 1940’s. Or those who trusted the General Secretary of the Communist Party from the early 1920’s to the early 1950’s.

Even we ourselves will prove to be untrustworthy. Our bodies will age and fail us, our minds can grow dim and fade as well.

If we put our trust in anything but the Creator of the universe, we will be let down.

God does not want that for us. So he sent his Son to be our Savior! Jesus Christ would bear that which causes us to reject God – our sin. Jesus paid the price to buy us back from our sin, from death itself, and from the devil who led us to this untrustworthy path in the beginning.

This is the message that we have been given to proclaim and share with the world.

The prophet Amos proclaims the Law loud and clear in his book of the Bible. And reading just his prophecy is a grim experience.

But there is more to the story! The Law is always grim. But the Gospel is beautiful and comforting!

The Holy Spirit uses both – Law and Gospel – to complete in us that which the prophet Amos calls us – to seek the Lord and live!

This specific chapter of Amos – chapter 5 – warns us to not play at or pretend to trust in the LORD. There is no “going through the motions” of a worship service. That won’t work.

The trust that will truly work is that which comes from faith. Not actions but where the actions start – in the heart.

This is why Amos’ prophecy tells us that the LORD is not delighted in “solemn assemblies” or “burnt offerings and grain offerings.”

These are important, no doubt. God instructs us to worship him. But our trust is not to be in what we do. What we do should flow out of our trust in God.

And we trust in God because Jesus Christ forgives and removes our sin and gives us his righteousness.

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us, “justice” can “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (v 24).

©2017 True Men Ministries

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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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The Test

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job 1:20-22

A good parent let’s his child fail on occasion. A good parent lets a child feel pain, to a reasonable point.

Life is hard and a good parent allows his child to learn this lesson while still loving him completely and as unconditionally as any human can.

A good parent doesn’t like doing this. But does it all the same because it is best for his child.

testing-of-jobGod allows Satan to strike Job down.

Satan uses Sabeans to wipe out Job’s donkeys.

Satan uses lightening to wipe out Job’s sheep.

Satan uses the Chaldeans to wipe out Job’s camels.

Satan uses a tornado to strike Job’s children and all ten were killed at once.

The reason for all this is so that it can be seen clearly that Job believes in God because of faith and not because God had given him lots of stuff.

We know this because we can read the dialog between Satan and God in Job 1:6-12.

God allows Satan to hit Job and hit him hard.

Job’s wealth is gone.

Job’s children are dead.

How would you react?

Job says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.

At first glance this may appear shallow and callous. As if Job just shrugs his shoulders, as if to say, “Oh well. You win some. You lose some.”

No, this is not what this means. At all!

The complete quote is “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

This is Job saying, “I didn’t bring anything into this world. I’m not going to bring anything with me when I die. My wealth was not mine to be begin with. It was given to me by the Lord and is his to do with as he pleases. Same with my children. They are gifts from God and he has taken them to be with him.” (More on the children in a later devotion).

When Job received this news he grieved the death of his children. He went into a state of mourning (tearing his clothes, shaving his head and falling to the ground).

But also noticed that Job worshiped.

Even after this horrendous loss, Job turns to God. He is sad. He’s angry. And rightly so.

But he doesn’t give up on God.

This is how we need to face all the pain and suffering we will endure in this life.

We can be sad. We can get angry. We can grieve.

But we should never, ever, give up on God.

God loves us. But that doesn’t mean he forbids bad things to happen to us.

In his love for us, God allows Satan to have his “little season” against us. But this is so we can know more deeply how much we love God and how much God loves us.

Which is exactly the reason we have the Book of Job in our Bible. To know these things.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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