Saturday, December 28, 2013

Your Life Is More Important Than You Think

When we consider our role among the 7 billion other people on this planet, it would be very easy to have a low estimation of our value. What is one person among such a sea of humanity? Put in that perspective we feel pretty expendable.

About two thousand years ago a 12 year old boy from the rural regions of northern Israel went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. By all appearances he was just like any other 12 year old – excited to go to the big city and attend his first Passover celebration. He did cause some raised eyebrows at the questions he asked the religious scholars who would hold discussions in the Temple. But after that brief moment of attention, the boy went back home to the country and lived what some have described the common life as “a life of quiet desperation”.

Some 18 years later that same boy exploded on to the scene as a teacher and miracle worker. He spent three years traveling throughout Israel making the most outrageous of all claims: that he was the Messiah, God himself. He was put to death for those claims. But three days after his crucifixion he gave irrefutable proof that his statements about himself were not just empty words – he physically rose from the dead. This one person changed eternity for all people.

Jesus Christ said he was God in the form of a human being. His purpose in doing that is found in the cross and his resurrection. But what we often overlook are the 30 years he spent living like an ordinary human being, doing all the ordinary things of life. Was he killing time, waiting for just the right moment to execute his rescue plan? Did he need to learn something from us before he went to the cross? God doesn’t kill time and he certainly doesn’t need to learn anything from the people he created.

The thirty years of anonymous living demonstrates how God values what we call “common” or “ordinary”. Every daily activity: from work to family and friends to relaxation, when it is done God’s way has a divine purpose and value. Jesus Christ is not looking for any of us to change the world. He is rather offering us the opportunity to join with him on a daily basis in changing lives – one at a time. Can you put a value on that?

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Flicker of Christmas

Christmas is a flicker of hope as we trudge our way in a sin-darkened world.

The person cold, hungry, and lost in the wilderness on a dark night picks up his head at a glimmer of a far off light. He stares at that distant spot lest he lose track of where the brief flash came from. When it reappears, he hastens his step and lifts his hopes. The closer he comes, the more he focuses his eyes in the direction of the light.

He had feared he would have to spend the night in this dangerous place. He worried that he would never find his way out. He wondered if this is where his life would end.

But that flicker of light renewed his hope. Not just a chance that this would turn out all right, but the absolute certainty that everything would be all right! For you see, he had earlier been given a map with instructions. According to the map—and others had confirmed it—a house was waiting on the edge of the wilderness. Its windows were well lit, and the front door would be open. Inside would be food, drink, and friends. There, the once lost would be ever safe.

What we celebrate as Christmas is only a flicker of light from a far away place. It passes by quickly, and soon is again out of sight. Often the cares and fears and the “being busy” that are all around us blank it out. It’s as if we were trying to see a flashlight beam while looking through the tall reeds of a marsh. We think, “Perhaps the next time it comes around we will see it more clearly. Maybe it will come closer. Maybe we can make it out of this swamp!” We can only hope. But that hope is a solid one.

Perhaps this Christmas we can push away the obstacles and get a clear view. Maybe this Christmas we can pause long enough to stare at the wonder of the light, and catch hold of some of the music that drifts in on the wind. Just maybe we might think we see the shadows of some who dwell in the house of peace and joy. We already know the names of many of them. Some we have read about in a Book. Others, we have lived with, and loved, and then lost to the grave.

Had we come to this spot worried and fearful? Had we been tired and discouraged? Had we stuffed our rucksack with regret, and now wonder if there is any hope at all for peace and joy?

Have we not seen that flicker of light from on high? Have we not heard the song of the angels? Have our eyes of faith not peered in through the barn window to see the Christ-child?

And what was stacked behind the Bethlehem scene? Did we not see a cross beyond the manger? Did we not see an open grave? Did we not see the heavens open to receive its King?

Did we not hear the words: “I go to prepare a place for you”?

That’s the house of the lighted windows and open door! That’s heaven. That’s home.

Christmas is the flicker of light that lets us know what’s waiting. And each time Christmas comes around, heaven comes closer.

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military

Friday, December 13, 2013

Joy or Happiness: Which Is Better?

What do you think about the following quotes concerning happiness?

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”
Gustave Flaubert - French Novelist

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
Mark Twain

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
Ernest Hemmingway

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
Charles Schulz

“Happiness is a warm gun.”
The Beatles

“Happiness depends on ourselves.”

Most people will choose happiness over joy because joy has a religious connotation which usually means some kind of good experience based on something to do with God rather than having fun. And to be honest, human beings would rather have fun than have God.
Glancing at the quotes above, however, shows that not only is there a great deal of confusion over a definition of happiness, but some thinkers aren’t even sure it is a possibility!
This Sunday marks the beginning of the third week of Advent – the week of joy. In Paul’s New Testament letter to a group of Christians in the Greek city of Philippi he talks about joy at length. What we discover from his letter is that joy centered on the Christ of Christmas beats human based happiness hands down.
Have you been chasing happiness only to come up empty handed? Maybe what you really need is joy – the joy of Christmas. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) for our weekend worship. You may just find what you’ve been looking for.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Open The Christmas Gift of Love: A Love You Don’t Earn and Can’t Buy

This coming Sunday brings us to the 2nd week of Advent and the lighting of the second candle on our Advent wreath. This candle represents the gift of love which Jesus Christ brought to the world when he entered our time and history more than 2000 years ago.

There is a very famous Bible passage which begins with the words, “For God so loved the world…” Christmas is the beginning of that history changing demonstration of divine love.

Love is hard to come by for most of people. It seems we have to either earn it or buy it. Maybe we don’t actually use money to buy love, but we make payments by doing nice things for the people by whom we want to be loved. Sometimes we even wonder if anyone really loves us for who we are rather than for what we do. How often don’t friends and family disappear when we can no longer offer what attracted us to them? It’s a hard lesson of life to learn.

Christmas love is so very different from the way people define love in our day to day living. It’s different because it’s God’s love. This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we’re going to be comparing God’s love with the way we love each other. Please join us. You will find Christmas love is a gift worth opening, a gift that can make the difference in your life.

Friday, November 29, 2013


How is the shopping going so far? It can be challenging depending on how many people there are to buy for and how much money is budgeted for gifts. And then there are those folks who have everything! It gets very frustrating going from store to store looking at possible presents that are either too expensive or just plain too “blah” to buy. Finding presents which people will appreciate and use can take a whole lot of work.

A friend recently helped his elderly parents move from their home of forty some years to a small apartment. Much to his surprise he found several years of Christmas presents he had given his parents in the attic, still in the original boxes. They had never been used. He laughed as he spoke about the experience, but it was clear there was disappointment in his voice. Time, money and love had gone into giving those presents. Unfortunately, they were not the gifts his parents were looking for.

The tradition of exchanging gifts is meant to be a commemoration of the gifts God wants us all to have not only during Christmas, but throughout our entire lives. During the Sundays of the Advent season (December 1, 8, 15, 22) we are going to look at the gifts of hope, love, joy and peace which God offers us through Christ. These gifts are so different from the ones we buy in stores. They’re not glamorous. They can’t be bought with money. And sometimes they don’t even make us feel the way we want. But these presents from God are what make up the foundation of a meaningful, productive Christian life. No one can take them away. Nor will any wear out or become out of date. When it comes to hope, love, joy and peace – they only grow and get better with each year.

Maybe what you need to help you through the shopping season is a rest from the stores and some quiet time hearing about the gifts God gives to you. Join us each weekend during December either on Saturday evenings (6:

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Is the Alternative?

The subject of Judgment Day is an uncomfortable one, even for Christians. It’s easy enough for us to talk about heaven, but hell? How does a place of never ending anguish fit with a God who sacrificed his own Son on behalf of the human beings he created?

But what is the alternative? If there is no such thing as a final accounting of each person’s life, what is the point of human life? If a person can “get away” with doing horrible things all his life and then not be held accountable, something is very, very wrong. That kind of thinking seems to contradict every sense of justice and fairness which exists in us.

For as horrible a concept as hell is (and Jesus spoke of it more than anyone else in the Bible), it literally screams out to us, “What we do is of the greatest importance! It matters for all eternity!”

It’s easy to just kind of stumble through life trying to be happy, avoid pain as much as possible and live comfortably. Judgment Day explodes that kind of thinking by demonstrating that our daily actions have consequences which will last forever.

We can only imagine the pressure a professional quarterback is under as he takes the last snap of the Super Bowl with his team down by 5 points and on the opposing team’s 10 yard line. The NFL championship rests on his shoulders. What could be more important? How about some little kid giving another little kid who is thirsty a cup of water? Do you think God is worried about who wins the Super Bowl or how the people he created live?

There are only two things we can be sure of: we have today to live and eternity is waiting for us. If the choices we make today will determine where we will spend eternity, wouldn’t you agree your life is pretty important?

And remember, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, there is absolutely no reason – no reason at all anyone should be in hell. He died for the sins of the world. Believe it and Judgment Day changes from a day to fear to a day to look forward to.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Don’t Miss Out on the Benefits!

Imagine you ate out at a certain restaurant and the following day mention your dining experience to a co-worker who asks, “What did you think of the dessert buffet?” You look at him quizzically and respond, “What dessert buffet? We didn’t have dessert.” He then looks at you with a pained expression and says, “You missed out! They have all sorts of cakes, pies, ice cream and the best part is, it’s included with the price of the dinner!” If that actually happened, you would be pretty let down, to say the least. You had every right to eat all kinds of fabulous sweet stuff, but you didn’t know it was part of the meal.

There are a lot of believers who have the same experience with Christianity. They have the idea that the only benefit which comes from believing in Christ is eternal life. And so they often go through this life with the attitude that they have to give up a lot of fun stuff they’d really like to do in order to not disqualify themselves for heaven. In other words, life as a Christian on this earth is a drag but that’s what Christians have to put up with.

This Sunday we’re going to be studying one of the most powerfully encouraging chapters in the Bible – Romans 8. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul describes with a contagious enthusiasm the benefits we have today, right now, as followers of Jesus Christ. You’ve heard people say, “You can’t have the best of both worlds.” That’s not true! With Christ, you can.

Friday, November 8, 2013


At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 an armistice was declared in France that silenced the guns of WWI. Since that war was labeled as “The War to End All Wars”, the armistice was expected to usher in never-ending peace.

But that war did not end war; instead, that peace ended quickly. The children of the peace-signers were to wage an even more horrific war over many of the same blood-soaked fields. Since then, the world has seen more wars with greater weapons, and less chance for lasting peace.

Armistice Day has been changed to Veterans Day for a number of reasons. But the saddest reason is that the hope tied to the first Armistice Day has long ago faded and died.

Christians are aware that there was an Armistice Day that took place much earlier than 1918. This one was far more successful. The announcement that: “The war is over!” took place on some pastureland in Israel, outside of Bethlehem. Citizens of heaven announced to citizens of earth that a unilateral peace treaty had been put into effect. The state of hostilities between the holy, eternal God and the descendants of Adam and Eve had ceased. The attitude of the Creator and Judge toward mankind was one of goodwill. The response of those who understood and accepted the significance of this declaration came in the form of songs of praise and glory to the One who dwelt in the highest heaven. The singing has not stopped yet.

The armistice of 1918 was to end bloodshed. The one announced on the first Christmas Day would be sealed with bloodshed. The Son of God would be placed into the hands of enemies, who would torture and kill him. The bloody pieces of wood upon which he died would be recognized as evidence that the price of peace had been paid. God the Father would not wage war against the human race. His wrath, instead, had fallen upon his innocent Son. Jesus was the voluntary scapegoat.
There are those who still rage against the God of Glory. Many have rejected the declaration of peace and continue to carry out guerilla warfare against him. This is as sad as it is true. Why fight, when you are already forgiven? Why die, when you are offered life?

The war between God and the people of the earth is over. The Prince of Peace has come to earth to seal the contract. It is a gift from the Holy One.

Nations will still rise up against nations, and our children will need to replace those presently standing guard against America’s enemies. But, God is not at war with us.

The Christmas armistice still stands—and stand it will till the end of time.

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military

For an audio file of this, and other devotions, logon to:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Before and After

“She’s gonna be alright. She just needs to rest. Give her some time, yeah. That’s all she needs. Time. Preacher, can you go in there and see her please. Says she wants a prayer…Thank you.”

The old man was shaking. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t, but his wife inside certainly knew. As the preacher walked in the dark little room he saw the emaciated figure of a woman from whom life was slowly escaping.

“He doesn’t know does, he?”

“Don’t know if he does or doesn’t,” replied the preacher.

“I know what’s happening. Say a prayer for me. Don’t need to be much. Just something to take away the fear.”

It was short and simple – nothing fancy or elegant. The preacher wasn’t much good at those kinds of prayers. So after a few words he said, “Our Father, who art in heaven….” The dying woman quietly began to pray with the preacher and for a few moments the two voices blended into one in the hushed darkness.

“Thank you,” she said when it was over. “Before you came I was a little scared. I’m ready now. Sweet Jesus, I’m ready for you to take me.” And she closed her eyes as she heavily breathed.

It’s a story of a time gone by. It’s a story of simple people with a simple faith. But that simple faith made all the difference when it counted. This coming weekend we are going to study the “before and after” of a person who comes to know Jesus Christ. While we may not fully appreciate the “before and after” affects of Christ’s forgiveness at conversion, we will certainly cherish them at the moment of death – when Jesus is the only one who can make a difference. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) for the “before and after” difference Jesus Christ can make in your life.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Is Faith Believing What You Know Isn’t True?

Mention the word “faith” today and on some faces you will see eyes roll and a look of exasperation. In our culture dominated by scientific and technological advances, faith has been set aside as something for those who can’t keep up in the world of data, numbers and formulas. The truth is, everybody lives by faith in the most important areas of their lives.

As the bride and groom look into each other’s eyes and say, “I do”, they are making that commitment by faith. They believe they are going to live happily ever after because they have shared many good times together, but finally, in tying the knot, the two are taking a step of faith.

The young woman has worked day and night for six years earning her bachelor and masters degrees. As she walks into her new office for her first day of work she is looking forward to a long and successful career. Is she certain it will work out as she hopes? No, she’s going on faith.

An old man painfully tosses and turns in his hospice bed. Doctors have told him he has only a few months to live. He thinks about death and what will happen after he takes his last breath. He remembered Steve Jobs final words were, “Wow, oh wow!” But what did that mean? Did Jobs see something, hear a voice, experience God? Or was he feeling the effects of the pain killing drugs? And of course, that was Steve Jobs. What about him – just a regular common guy who didn’t even know how to work his I Phone much less make one? What would happen to him? He hoped for the best, but he didn’t know for sure. He was going on faith.

Everybody has faith? What’s yours? More importantly, what is your faith based on?

Join us this Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) and see where you are in this matter we call faith.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The One Thing No Man Wants to Hear

Tell a man to climb Mt. Everest and he’ll ask, “When can I start?” Order him to build a bridge from Hawaii to the mainland and he’ll respond, “How many lanes do you want?” But tell that same man to ask for help and he will walk away offended.

Challenges often bring out the best in men. It’s a chance to show their competence, ability, hard work and all the other traits men admire. But when it comes to admitting the need for someone else to lend a hand, men give the impression they would rather die than be helped.

The great irony is that the same man who will be the first to help others will refuse to allow people to return the favor, even when it is obvious his need is real. Is it that same independent pride which keeps so many men from ever getting close to God?

The opening chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans are offensive to anyone. He makes a very strong case that no one, no man or woman, is able to approach God on his/her own terms. The only way to God is through the door of destitution – by admitting, “Lord, I need you to make me into what I can’t be by myself.”

There is a saying, “The truth hurts.” From God’s point of view it would be more accurate to say, “The truth heals.” This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we have the opportunity to study one of the tremendous chapters of the Bible (Romans 3). For the last two weeks as we’ve studied the opening chapters of Romans we have been forced to look at our lives honestly. It has been at times uncomfortable, at times depressing. But it all leads to just one thing – healing. And that healing is available to us all!

Friday, October 4, 2013

When Humility Is a Necessity

“These boots are made for walking,
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots
are gonna walk all over you.”

Often humility is defined as letting another person take advantage of us. But in our culture of aggressive, assertive individualism, we want to let others know that just isn’t going to happen. That’s why we like songs like Nancy Sinatra’s hit “These Boots Were Made for Walking”. This song is a personal anthem declaring to anyone who will hear, “Don’t mess with me.”

It is interesting that the Webster’s Dictionary has a very different definition of “humble”.

“having or showing a consciousness of one’s defects or shortcomings…”

What’s important to note about that definition is it says nothing about other people taking advantage of the individual, instead, it emphasizes that the humble person sees him or herself the way they really are and doesn’t try to cover up the truth, even if the truth is not personally flattering. An example of a humble person then would be someone who, after making a mistake, can openly say, “Yes, I made a mistake. I blew it.” Now that doesn’t seem negative at first glance, does it? It is becoming harder and harder, however, for people to be humble in the dictionary sense. We seemed to be obsessed with the idea that it is a sign of weakness to admit that we are not only capable of making mistakes, but that some of those errors are very serious.

People might be able to get away with the “I’m never wrong” image with some other human beings, but such an attitude is absolutely disastrous with God. In fact, the only way a person can begin to get close to God is by having a consciousness of one’s defects or shortcomings.

The message of Jesus Christ’s coming into this world to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves is the most liberating and life changing story ever heard. But that story only makes sense if read through the eyes of humility. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) to experience how one preacher of the past described the journey to God. He said, “The way up always begins on our knees.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Reason We Need Jesus

How often haven’t you heard a statement like the following?

“Hey, it’s cool if you need Jesus. I guess I just don’t feel the same way.
If he works for you, that’s fine. I’m good the way I am.”

More and more people give the impression that while they aren’t violently against Jesus Christ, they just don’t see the need for him. Their life is comfortable. They don’t have any real pressing problems. And they’re convinced that if there is a heaven, good people go there (and of course they put themselves in the “good” category). These folks don’t see Jesus making their already good life any better.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the “must read” books of the Bible. If it were the only portion of the Scripture that existed, we would still have a complete understanding of Christianity. The first chapter which we’ll be studying this Sunday, however, is controversial. It talks a great deal about God’s anger over human evil. Many take offense at Paul’s strong words, saying it paints God out to be a sick despot. In reality, Paul is explaining why every human being needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Regardless of what people want to think, things aren’t good between us and God – at least from His point of view. The whole reason for Jesus dying on the cross is that the problem of human evil is so great, so overwhelming that only the death of the Son of God in the place of humanity could rescue us.

While the message of the early chapters of Romans makes us feel uncomfortable, it acts like an X-ray, painting a vivid picture of human life from the divine perspective. It is very much a picture we need to see if we are going to get life right - both now and in eternity.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Last Words

If you had the opportunity to gather together all the important people in your life for one final conversation, what would you say to them?

After spending forty years leading the nation of Israel through its most dramatic period, Moses says, “Good-bye” to the nation. In his speech Moses recalled stories from the past. He complained a little. He reviewed the laws God had given the Israelite nation. But above all he confronted the people.

“Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live...” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16)

Each day you and I wake up we are confronted with the same choice. Who will we serve? Who will be the Lord of our lives?

Busy schedules make it easy to push aside those piercing questions but our decisions, our behavior, our words all reveal who is #1 in our lives. And we must ask ourselves, “What do they all reveal?”

The challenge Moses laid before the Israelites 3500 years ago is as relevant today as it was then. Join us for one of our weekend services as we consider how ancient words of the past speak to our 21st century hearts.

Friday, September 13, 2013

God Has a Plan When Things Go Bad. Do You?

Most of us would probably have to admit that our Plan B for life is, “If things don’t work out the way I hoped, I guess I’ll just do the best I can.” Those words sound courageous but how much substance do they contain? Isn’t that statement really saying, “I don’t have a clue what I will do”? But having a Plan B is important because life has a not so funny way of taking our meticulously prepared plans and turning them upside down. And ironically, we can even destroy what we hoped for by making bad decisions. How often aren’t people the architects of their own demise? When this happens we say, “He brought it on himself.”

Life isn’t fair. We make some big mistakes. Things don’t turn out the way we want. Then what? Is there anything to work for, to live for? Or are we condemned to kill time until we die? Is there an alternative to despair?

The book of Numbers describes a time in the history of the nation of Israel which seems for the most part futile. After a making a very unwise decision, an entire generation of people is condemned to wander around the Sinai Peninsula until every last person from that generation has died. What good could come from a 40 year camping trip ending in death? From a human point of view – nothing. But God always has a plan for every situation. And what he did 3500 years ago, he continues to do in the lives of his followers today.

Maybe life is turning out just the way you want at this moment, but someday it won’t. Then you will need Plan B – God’s Plan B.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blood Red—Snow White

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

“He said ‘the snow is no longer white. It’s red with blood!’” A neighbor lady reported this to us after receiving a letter from her son in Korea in the early ‘50s.

I had seen bloodied snow before. Its striking color had appeared next to a fallen whitetail deer, or a cottontail rabbit. Smiles and high spirits had attended those events. Red on the snow was the sign of a successful hunt—and it meant meat in the freezer.

But that’s not what our neighbor was describing, and his words contained no joy. For a farm boy who grew up in northern Wisconsin, a snowfall had been always exciting and pleasant. When he returned from Korea, we saw that he had changed. He no longer enjoyed the snow. He said it reminded him of pain and death—and red blood.

Through the Prophet Isaiah the holy God, who is judge of all, breaks into our daily lives to announce a decision by the divine court. The problem between mankind and our Creator is the matter of sin. It has always been that way since our first parents were driven out of the Garden of Eden. In case we are wondering how serious this is, we hear the warning of the Almighty One to Israel: “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my face from you...I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood!” (Isaiah 1:15) Could anything be worse?

What a surprise then, to hear that same Judge declare: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Could anything be better?

This should cause the human race around the world to jump for joy and shout out songs of thanksgiving. But, it doesn’t. Satan has blinded much of the world in unbelief. That free gift of salvation from God usually lies still wrapped and waiting—as if it were worthless. Meanwhile, we humans dive into the garbage piles of life to grab for what we have decided is treasure.

To help us see clearly, the Lord uses this striking picture of blood and snow, of red and white. It grabs our attention. It forces us to stare, and to listen. This is not a scene of death, but of life. The red stain of sin has been covered by white, as if by snow. Even the deep red of crimson becomes as white as wool.

There is a solution for sin. There is an escape from death. There is a way out from eternal damnation. The blazing white holiness of God covers up the deadly stain of the sin that seeps from our soul. In the heavenly court of God the righteousness of the Son of God wipes out all charges against us.

Jesus died for us! We are declared as pure as freshly fallen snow. The matter is settled.

We pray:
Heavenly Father, we admit that usually we do not take sin seriously enough. We often do not believe it is deadly. At other times, we tend to go to the other extreme, and become convinced that we cannot be forgiven because our sin is too serious. Draw us back to your decrees. Enable us to see sin in all of its deadly ugliness. Then allow us to see that, because of Jesus, our sin, which is as clear as blood on snow, is completely covered by your perfect holiness. And then, lift up our hearts in joy and peace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida

Friday, August 30, 2013

If God Were To Tell Us about Himself, Would We Listen?

What kind of question is that? Of course we would listen. He’s God and so we need to hear what he says.

And what if he says something about himself we don’t like – something that messes with our lives? Would we still listen to him?

About 3500 years ago God made a startling self-revelation to a man named Moses and a nation called Israel. He wouldn’t reveal himself in a more personal way until 1500 years later. But what God said about himself hasn’t always been the most popular through the centuries. He basically said, “I am God. Human beings were created by me and I made you to live according to my will.” God then went on to describe himself as incredibly loving, compassionate and gracious. In a sense, he said he is like a father who would do anything for the good of his children.

Unfortunately, people gloss over the part of God’s love and then get hung up on his commandments (there were 10 big ones he gave to all people for all time). It seems the human race has gotten to the point in its history that people don’t want to be told what to do – even by God.

The account of Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai describes the many facets of the awesome God who is. Some of his qualities comfort us, others scare us. But to experience him as he intended, we need to understand and accept all of his attributes – even if they make us uneasy or demand that we change our lives in some way. Remember, this is the same God who watched His Son pay for our sin on the cross. Could he want anything but the best for us?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Exodus Quiz

Take thirty seconds and see how many names or words associated with the Exodus you can come up with.

Stop reading now! :)

If you paid attention as a child during Sunday School classes you probably came up with:
Moses – Pharaoh – the burning bush – the 10 plagues – the crossing of the Red Sea.

The stories of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt after spending 430 years in that country are full of charismatic characters and spectacular events. It’s easy to get so caught up in the drama that we miss what is really going on. A careful read of Exodus chapters 1-15 though, shows that much more than being a story of political liberation, Israel’s leaving Egypt is a powerful example of God working out his plan for human history.

In reality, no one, not even Moses, was particularly cooperative with what God was doing. Which leaves us with a tremendously important lesson: It is more important to do what God tells us to do rather than what we want to do. This kind of thinking very much goes against the idea that each person’s purpose in life is to do what he or she wants. While repressing our desires is considered politically incorrect, it is spiritually the wisest thing a human being can do. Ultimately, God’s will is going to be done, whether we work with him or against him. What a tragedy it would be for us to find out that all the while we were living life on our terms, we were, like Pharaoh, futilely fighting against God.

The Lord usually gives people the chance to rant and rave that they don’t need him or anyone else. They can sing, “I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone.” But in the end, people are mortal. We die. And then we must stand before God and answer for our lives. At that moment, tough talk doesn’t cut it.

Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) to consider the alternative to what we hear all week long. Maybe there’s more to life than just doing our own thing. And maybe that’s the best news we could hear.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What to Do When Life Isn’t Fair

When unexpected and unjust suffering hits us straight on it’s hard to imagine any other strategy than survival. So much of our lives are spent trying to avoid such times that when we do have to experience them, we tend to become unglued.

This coming Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we’re going to be studying the account of a man named Joseph. His story is so compelling that even blockbuster movies have been made about it. What makes Joseph’s life get our attention is how much of it was just plain unfair. Joseph was a man of integrity and character, but everywhere he turned, people, including his own family, were doing everything possible to destroy him.

After thirteen years of one disaster after another, Joseph finally ends up as one of the most powerful men in the world. But ironically, he doesn't use his power to punish people. Rather, he literally saves the lives of millions of underfed people.

If you are thinking, “God has to be behind this guy somehow,” you are exactly right. Joseph’s life wasn’t a series of random chance events which incredibly came together to create an inspiring success story. No, Joseph would be the first to say his life was a testimony to what God can do with a person even in the most extreme situations.

The Bible story of Joseph is a story for each one of us. There will be times in life when we’ll wonder out loud, “God, what are you doing to me? Why are you letting this happen? Where are you?” It is in those moments we can claim the same promise and hope Joseph had when he was sold as a slave far from home or sitting in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. More than that, we can actively live out that hope on a daily basis. For the follower of Jesus Christ, life is about much, much more than survival, even when it isn’t fair.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Have You Ever Made a Deal with God?

Most of us, at one time or other, found ourselves in a situation that was disastrous and we couldn’t do anything to make it better. So we did the only thing we could think of – we tried to make a deal with God. It probably went something like this:

“Dear God, I just don’t know what to do. I’m so confused. I know I haven’t been the best person in the world, but I’ve tried hard to be good. I really need your help now. And I promise, I really do, that if you get me out of this I will be the best person ever!”

In the heat of that desperate moment we surely meant everything we said, but looking at that kind of prayer from a more objective point of view, it’s pretty clear we were looking for a quick fix for our problems and we figured God was the best option available to give us what we wanted.

Whether or not we received what we asked for on that occasion, the truth is, the best thing we can do is let God make a deal with us.

“God makes a deal with people?”

That’s right. His deals are called covenants. This Sunday we’re going to look at a covenant God made with a man named Abraham about 4000 years ago. In the most important part, that 4000 year old deal God offered Abraham is the same deal he offers us today. It’s a win-win deal in which God does what only he can do and in return he asks only for a grateful, sincere love.

If you’ve gone through life making deals with God which have continually left you disappointed, join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) to consider the life changing deal God offers you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

How Good Is Your Word?

There are a couple of important sayings that have gone by the wayside in recent years. One is: “A man’s word is his bond.” A little better known is the proverb, “A man is only as good as his word.” Both statements have pretty much the same meaning: “If you say you are going to do something, you do it.”

It seems, at the present moment in American history, how a person says something is more important than if he/she actually does what they say they will do. A current example of this is a New York City mayoral candidate who continually promises voters that he will stop sending naked pictures of himself electronically to women who aren’t his wife. On camera this gentleman is very sincere and emphatic that he has broken this inconvenient habit, but then some time passes and it is revealed he is up to his old tricks again.

The “say one thing but do another” syndrome is so prevalent that we are hesitant to talk about it because it has become a way of life for most. On a daily basis people make passionate promises which soon after they either forget or decide are too difficult to keep. The most tragic is the promise, “Till death do us part.” It is rare not to see at least a tear in the eye of the bride and groom as they make their wedding vows to each other. And yet, a few years later those solemn promises are set aside as either impractical or unrealistic. We have gotten to the point that it is acceptable if we mean what we say at the moment, however, if we change our minds in the future, then the promises of the past are cancelled out.

Our worship services this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) will involve the commitments of baptism and confirmation during which young people will commit their lives to serving Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. There will be emotional and inspirational moments during these services. But as important as what is said this weekend is the day to day living in the coming years of these young people. Such special services serve an important role in our own spiritual lives. As we watch other confess their faith in Christ, we should be asking ourselves the searching question, “Have I been a Christian man/woman of my word?

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Moment of Truth

“The moment of truth.” Just saying that phrase is dramatic, isn’t it? A glance at several dictionaries shows that the original meaning of this phrase refers to “the moment in a bullfight at which the matador is about to make the kill”. Picture the scene in your mind. The huge bull, with spears hanging from its neck, makes one last charge at the exhausted matador.

The young man, his gold encrusted outfit stained with bull’s blood waits, sword poised for the last mortal thrust. All eyes in the stadium are fixed on man and beast. It is a matter of life and death. But who will live? Who will die? Such a scene truly is “the moment of truth”.

In everyday language the term “moment of truth” has taken on the meaning of “a moment or crisis on whose outcome much or everything depends.” Think of some of the “moments of truth” in American history: the decision to write the Declaration of Independence, the battle of Gettysburg, the assassination of President Lincoln, the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. The outcomes and implications of each one of those events was uncertain and had they turned out differently, the United States might well be a much different country than it is today.

From a biblical way of looking at things, the moment of truth in the life of every human being is that moment when we understand who Jesus Christ is and what he did for us. But that is not where it ends. What defines the moment of truth is what we do with Jesus. Do we put our faith in him or walk away? That is THE moment of truth because our reaction determines our eternal future.
This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we’ll meet two men who came face to face with Jesus Christ. In their moment of truth one got upset and walked away, the other thought for a moment and then blinked.

Have you had your “moment of truth”?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Paul’s Parting Words

What do you say to someone you care for deeply if you’re pretty sure it’s going to be the last time you’ll talk with them? Certainly your conversation would include those subjects most important to you. Even if you knew what you would say might upset the other person, you’d probably bring it up because you would think, “I’ll never get another chance.”

Paul was finishing up his third missionary journey. Over the course of the last 20 years he had traveled over 7000 miles going from city to city, preaching about Jesus Christ and starting local churches. While God accomplished great things through this man, Paul also experienced tremendous hardship and brutal persecution. He was tired. He had aged. He was convinced that he would soon meet death because of his bold and fearless mission work. And so he called together the leaders of the church in Ephesus to say “good-bye”. Paul had spent over two years in that city growing a vibrant congregation before he was forced to leave by irate silversmiths whose sales of pagan statues had dramatically decreased due to people receiving Christ.

As the great apostle looked at these fellow Christians he had come to love over the years, he opened his heart and shared with them words that continue to impact lives today. Join us this coming Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning at Foster Point (10:00 am) for a time of serious reflection on what is most important in life.

Friday, July 5, 2013


People in Maine love their lighthouses. If you ever get a chance to spend some time there you’ll find people wearing lighthouse sweatshirts in the fall and lighthouse tee shirts in the summer. A major tourist attraction is the “Lighthouse Tour” which runs almost the entire coast of Maine. Today many of the lighthouses are no longer in operation. They are historical sites to which people go to recreate in their minds a time of the past. But for hundreds of years those Maine lighthouses saved the lives of thousands of sailors, serving as the reference point for ships sailing through stormy seas. No matter how brutal the weather was, if the ship captain could see even the faintest light from the lighthouse, he knew where to go. He just had to follow the light.

Everyone needs a “lighthouse”. Each day we make hundreds of decisions which determine the course of our lives. But what is the basis of those decisions? What is the reference we use to determine if a choice is good or bad? A more important question might be, “Is there such a reference or must each person determine for themself what is best?”

Even though there is a very strong emphasis today on individualism and personal independence, we still sense that we ourselves don’t have enough information to always know what is best. Many years ago a Christian preacher named Paul went into the cultural center of the world at that time – Athens, Greece. As he walked through the downtown of Athens he saw statues to the many gods who the Greek people worshiped, such as Zeus and Hermes and Apollos. But then he saw a statue which was different from the rest. Instead of giving the name of the god to whom the statue was dedicated, there was an inscription, “To the unknown god.” Despite all their learning, culture and spirituality, the people of Athens were still looking for “The Lighthouse” of life, the unchanging reference point to serve as the guide for their lives. Paul didn’t leave those people in the dark. Join us either Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) and bask with us in the same life changing light of Jesus Christ which Paul shared with those Athenians some 2000 years ago.

Friday, June 28, 2013

When Taking a Stand Is Necessary

It’s tough to say “yes” when everyone else says “no”. The majority doesn’t like the dissenting voice, it doesn’t welcome the challenge. Often, the reaction of the majority is sudden and harsh. The power of peer pressure is one of the strongest molding forces of human behavior. If, in a culture, we voluntarily dress alike, eat the same things, cut our hair according to prescribed rules, how much more apt are people going to go along with the flow when it comes to subjects like God, heaven and hell, right and wrong?

At the present moment in the history of our nation, the people of the United States of America are being showered with media propaganda to accept a morality which according to the Bible is just plain wrong. Anyone who disagrees with these powerful opinion makers is labeled as ignorant, mean and uncaring. Regardless of the consequences, Christians must take a stand against popular opinion today, just as we have in the past. 2000 years ago Christians were confronted with a compromise we view today as minor. It wasn’t at that time. Believers of that era courageously took a strong stand with the result that Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire in less than 30 years.

God blesses his people when we trust him to stand up for what is right. He acts in history no differently today than in the past. Join us this Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am) to take a stand for Christ.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Is Being Happy the Most Important Thing in Life?

So how do you answer that question? Is the appropriate response a “no brainer” as it seems to be? What’s the point of living if not to be happy? Maybe the heart of the issue is how we define this word. Most people would probably indicate that happiness is having life, for the most part, the way we want it. That would seem to make sense. Who enjoys not getting their way? The only thing is, much of the time we don’t get what we want. And if we look at history, we see that if we define happiness on the basis of getting the creature comforts in life, some of the most influential and respected people in history weren’t anywhere near being happy. If having a comfortable, pleasant life is happiness, it’s hard to imagine Moses or Abraham Lincoln being happy. Based on such a definition, would we say Jesus was happy?

This week in our study of the book of Acts we’ll begin to look at the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. These trips literally changed the course of history, but they were not at all filled with what we would call “happy” times. So, maybe being happy isn’t the most important thing in life. Maybe it’s more important to do what is right, to be the person God intends for us to be. If you’ve been chasing the “happy” life but seem to be always coming up short, join us either this Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am). You just might discover the life you really have wanted all the time has been a whole lot more accessible than you ever imagined.

Friday, June 14, 2013

No Excuse

But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11,12)

The Lord God has a plan for each one of his people. His plan includes missions to carry out and responsibilities to fulfill. He does not have the exact same plan for everyone. When God issues marching orders, they correspond to the gifts he has given to the individual and the work that he wants to accomplish through that person.

Moses was ordered to personally go to Pharaoh to announce that the Israelites would leave Egypt under his leadership. Moses’ response was, “Who am I?” He was saying that he was not equal to the task. He was offering an excuse. God countered with the words: “I certainly will be with you.” He backed up those words of assurance by giving Moses a glimpse of the future. Moses had no excuse. Neither do we.

One of the greatest missions we can receive is to be a parent, to be responsible for the protection, nurture, and development of a child. Parents are charged with the task of being faithful to their assignment. It is not an easy job. It is tempting to say, “Who am I?” making the excuse that parenting is beyond our ability.

On Father’s Day we especially think of the serious responsibility God has assigned to fathers as the servant-leader of the family. If our grandfathers thought it was difficult to carry out that assignment years ago, how much more difficult in the world of today? But, difficulty is no excuse. Neither are personal inadequacies. As he said to Moses, so our God says to fathers today: “I will certainly be with you.” We have no excuse. What we do have is a promise! And that divine promise is more than enough to enable us to carry out our mission – successfully!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

We like the obvious. We prefer clear cut choices. It bothers us when we have to make a decision without knowing for sure how things are going to turn out. And we get very upset when we have the wrong impression about someone or something which leads to an unpleasant surprise. We want life to be “what you see is what you get”. Unfortunately, as we well know, that is not the way life is.

What may surprise us is that even as Christians, the things in our lives are not always the way they seem to be. Nor does the way God accomplishes his will always make sense to us. We find a shocking example of this in the early history of the Christian Church. For a while, everything seems to be going great. But then there is a sudden and violent persecution which takes out one church leader and scatters most of the Christians from their homes in Jerusalem. It seems like the tragic end of a beautiful movement which had such a positive beginning.

Looking back on that event from a perspective of 2000 years we can see how God was working to spread Christians from one geographic place so that the Church would spread throughout the world. A simple maxim by which Christians need to live is: “Regardless of the way things might seem, God is going to do something through us.” What a tremendous way to live! What confidence that truth gives us to face each day!

You are invited to our Saturday evening service at 6:00 pm or our Sunday morning worship at 10:00 am. Together let’s see what God can do through us.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Jesus, the Only Way: Intolerant or Invaluable?

It is difficult to spend a lot of time with a person who always insists there is only one way to do things – their way! It’s nice to have options, to exercise the freedom of choosing what we would like. Years ago a fast food chain imprinted the power of choice in our minds with the advertizing campaign: “Have it your way!” Frank Sinatra gave added credibility to the idea we need to have things the way we want with his classic rendition of the song, “My Way”.

So it is difficult for people to be positive when somebody comes along and says, “No, in certain matters, you don’t have a choice. There is only one way.” In regard to knowing who God is, what he means to us and how to have a personal relationship with him, that is exactly what Jesus Christ says. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through the Son.” By itself, such a statement seems to be the product of megalomania. However, that statement anchored on the historical and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, means human beings can have certainty when it comes to answering life’s most important questions.

Jesus as the only way to knowing God and eternal life was just as controversial when his disciples began to preach as it is today. This Sunday we’ll be studying an account from the book of Acts in which Peter and John, after being confronted about healing a man paralyzed from birth, boldly responded that the power of the miracle came from Jesus Christ. And then they told those listening, “For there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

If life is comfortable and pleasant at this particular moment, you may be inclined to see Jesus’ claim as the “only way” to be intolerant. But get outside your present situation and think about what lays ahead in life – times of difficulty, even suffering. How do you want to face heartbreak, financial ruin, failing health and eventually death? Do you want to pray, “God, if you are out there and you can do something about my situation, I’d really appreciate a little favor”? Or do you want to pray with the certain confidence, “God is my refuge and strength an ever present help in trouble because if God did not withhold his Son but gave him up for us all through his death on the cross, will he not also graciously give us all things”? For the earthquakes of life, we need certainty, the certainty of not only knowing who God is, but that he will use everything in all creation to do for us what is best.

Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) to see how invaluable it is that Jesus is the only way.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Great Gatsby and Pentecost

Reviews of the remake of the film “The Great Gatsby” have been mixed. Film purists have criticized the attempt to modernize the plot while others have applauded the film’s bold attempt to weld the aura of the roaring twenties with our contemporary culture. Regardless of one’s artistic impression of the film, its final scene is spectacularly shocking. It proposes a message which is so desperately needed in our moment in history.

Jay Gatsby is a self-made billionaire who has come into his wealth by less than honorable means. His lifestyle goes beyond the word extravagant. Money is no issue for Gatsby as he tries to spend his way to obtain the one thing in life he doesn’t have – true love.

The movie ends with Gatsby in a coffin, shot dead. More striking though, is that only one person is present at his funeral. Only weeks earlier Gatsby had been the talk of New York, the man who hosted the most fabulously decadent weekend parties which everyone wanted to attend. But in death, he was alone, very much alone. His “friends” had disappeared as his life unraveled. His money could not help him. And even more tragic, he never did find the love he was seeking.

The message of “The Great Gatsby” is laser like: money, no matter how much a person has, can buy happiness. That message has been around a long time. People acknowledge it as true, but the lesson is not well learned by most. People may say “money can’t buy happiness”, but they still live as though it does.

And that brings us to Pentecost. Pentecost is a story about a message too, but it is a completely positive message. Fifty days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead he empowered his disciples to take the message of his resurrection to the world. Pentecost describes the power of the Holy Spirit enabling a few ordinary people to change the world in an extraordinary way. What money can’t do, Jesus Christ can. And that is one of the messages of Pentecost which people today so desperately need to hear and understand. Join us this Sunday at 10 am. Be a part of getting that message out!

Friday, May 17, 2013

What On Earth Am I Here For?

There are some days, aren’t there, when we honestly wonder what life is all about and if there is some kind of plan behind everything, or if life is just a helter-skelter sequence of unassociated events? While it may seem, in those down moments of life, that a meaningless existence appears the easier path to choose, that is a horrendous deception. It is true, if there is no plan or purpose for our lives, we are not accountable for how we live. We can justify doing what we want, regardless of how our behavior affects other people. The crushing reality of meaninglessness, however, is worthlessness. If our lives have no meaning, neither have they worth. We are, as a song from years back went, “Dust in the wind.”

Just before Jesus Christ removed himself from the visible sight of his disciples – on the day we call Ascension – he explained what his followers are on this earth for. To those who identify with him, who call him Savior and God, Jesus gives a mission which at the same time is exhilarating and exhausting. His plan for our lives challenges us to the utmost while at the same time fills us to overflowing with supernatural meaning, value and importance.

How do you answer the question, “What on earth am I here for?” If you aren’t satisfied with your answer, join us either Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) for the alternative Jesus offers you.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother’s Day Is More Than a Hallmark Card

Those of a cynical bent see Mother’s Day as one more money making scheme which leads people to buy gifts their mothers will probably not use in an effort to salve their consciences for not treating mom well during the other 364 days of the year. But Mother’s Day is so much more than that.

Mother’s Day is a celebration of that which is best in the human race. Mother’s Day is a day to honor the one person in our lives who probably sacrificed more for our happiness than anyone else. Mother’s Day is an opportunity to take a stand against the growing individualism and isolation of our society by stating boldly that people are more important than things, that family well-being is more important than self-centered happiness.

The Christian mother is a symbol of sacrifice. She is committed to doing anything for the good of her children, even if it comes at her expense. She represents the ideals and values which the American family so desperately needs today.

If you have a wonderful mom who seemed to always mix love and discipline in just the right measures, take this Mother’s Day to tell her what she means to you. Thank her. Tell her you love her.

If you have a mom who didn’t always get it right with her kids, a mom who was learning to find her own way in life, be there for her on Sunday. You can be sure she knows the mistakes she made far better than you. Tell her the past is the past. Affirm her. Assure her you will walk into the future together, supporting one another.

There is a fierce assault today on what has been called the “traditional” family – one husband, one wife and children. Its critics want to see our nation become a group of individuals whose greatest allegiance is to self-fulfillment. The traditional family, however, is God’s idea. It has been the foundation of every society in history. Every culture that has gotten away from family commitment has crumbled. The future will demonstrate the same as has the past. We need families. Motherhood is one of the pillars of the family. So let’s honor our moms Sunday – because they deserve that honor, because it is good for us to express our thanks to them and because our country needs Christians to celebrate the tremendous gift God has given us called – family!

Friday, May 3, 2013

What Kind of Proof Do You Need?

The first Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to his followers, Thomas, one of the original 12 disciples, was not present. And no matter what the other disciples said to convince him that Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas refused to believe. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” You probably know how that challenge turned out.

For a moment though, think about your own questions. Fill in the blank of the following statement with what causes you to doubt Jesus:

“Unless I ________________________________, I will not believe.”

Every one of us has had doubts about our faith. Maybe we didn’t want to put our finger in the nail holes of Jesus’ hands, but it was something we wanted him to do for us. Have you ever had thoughts like, “Jesus, unless you heal me or give me that job or make my life the way I want it to be, I will not believe in you”? This Sunday we’re going to use the doubts of Thomas to learn how to turn our doubts over to Jesus so that he can turn them into something positive in our lives. Doubts are something we all struggle with, no matter how sincere our faith is. What matters is what we do with those doubts. Join us either this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) and start turning your doubts into something good.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Easter: The Best Reason to Get Up in the Morning!

All of us have experienced those times in life when we didn’t feel all that enthused about getting up in the morning. Maybe it was a nagging problem which just wouldn’t go away. Or, it might have been the crushing sense of futility that the daily routine can have on us. We’ve all been there. We’ve all asked the question, “What good reason do I have for getting up this morning?”

Do you think that maybe some of the men disciples felt that way on Easter Sunday morning? Maybe that’s why we only find the women at the empty tomb. We do know for certain, however, that Monday morning there was no question all the disciples had everything in the world to get up for. On Easter Sunday evening, around dinner time, Jesus Christ physically appeared to his disciples. At first they thought it was a ghost, but after some reassuring words, a demonstration of his pierced hands and a bite to eat, they were convinced the dead Jesus of the Friday before was now alive.

It is not hard to imagine the celebration in that room two thousand years ago – the hugging, the happy laughter, the tears of joy. But Jesus does not leave them celebrating, instead he gives his disciples an ongoing mission. He said, “

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you…If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

From that day on, Peter, James, John and the others never lacked a reason for getting up in the morning. They were on a mission from God himself to let people know that eternal life is a free gift to anyone willing to receive it. That mission continues today. It is no less urgent or important than it was when Jesus first gave it. If you need a reason to get up in the morning, join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am). Your life may never be the same!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Easter Is the Answer to the Questions We All Ask

“Why?” That is the question on the lips of Americans. Even though justice seems to have been executed swiftly in the case of the Boston Marathon bombers, the nation is in shock. “Why are we such a violent people?” The events of the past week made it clear that the problem of mass murder is not rooted primarily in guns, but the human spirit.

In the coming days there will probably be news of lawmakers proposing all sorts of new legislation aimed at preventing another such tragedy. But deep down we know that laws are meant to be broken. What humans need is a change of heart – and that, in the view of many, will never happen.

Easter does give us answers to our “why” questions of 2013. They are not the kind of answers a human being would come up with, but they definitely address the issues at hand. It is hard for many people today to admit the need for divine intervention. But isn’t it better to confess we are helpless than to simply ask “Why? Why? Why?” without ever expecting an answer? That would seem to be the essence of futility.

Join us this weekend as we search out the Easter answers for life’s most agonizing “why” questions and let the healing begin.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Time to Step Up

They were two men with everything to lose and nothing to gain. What good could come out of burying the corpse of Jesus Christ? And think of everything they could lose. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were considered important by the way folks judge other folks. They had money. They were well known and respected. They had influence. So why would they risk it all by requesting permission from Pontius Pilate to give Jesus an honorable burial? Burying Jesus would be saying to Caiaphas and all the other religious leaders, “You were wrong in condemning Christ!” After seeing what Caiaphas did with Jesus, was it really worth taking on that man over a burial? Apparently it was.

Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Joseph and Nicodemus had been secret admirers. They knew Jesus was special, that he had something to offer which they desperately needed, but they weren’t yet ready to publicly commit to him. Good Friday changed all that. In an act of bold courage, they not only removed the body of Christ from the cross, but gave it the burial of a king. In no uncertain terms, Joseph and Nicodemus declared their allegiance to Jesus Christ to the world.

There are moments in the lives of every Christian during which we are called to step up, to publicly demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. Often it comes after experiences of great testing, when we are confronted with having to choose between living for ourselves or for Christ. How we have chosen in the past is in the past. What we need now is to prepare ourselves for the next opportunity. Join us for one of our services this weekend and begin to get ready to step up!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter Is about Second Chances. Do You Need One?

What do you think passed through Peter’s head on the Saturday night before Easter? Lots of regrets, that is for sure!

“How could I have denied him?
I never got a chance to tell him I didn’t mean it.
How can I live with myself?”

Peter needed a second chance, but he never imagined he would get one. How do you get a second chance from a person who is dead? We don’t know exactly what Peter’s first reaction was when he arrived at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday and it began to dawn on him that Jesus had risen from the dead, but one thought must have exploded in his mind. “I’ve got another chance with Jesus!” A few weeks later that chance came – on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

After breakfast on the beach, Jesus gets Peter alone with him and the two have the conversation of Peter’s life. It’s not an easy conversation, but it was all about a second chance for this man who had violently and vigorously denied Jesus three times.

The core message of Easter is: second chances. Not just for Peter, but for all of us. Join us this week end either for our Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am) service and claim your second chance. It can be as life changing as Peter’s.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Is the Best Day of The Year

Probably you don’t have time to read this. Maybe it’s the kids who need to go to some activity or you have an appointment or maybe you are just dog tired from an exhausting day and the best thing you can do is relax. You’ve got a lot on your plate – too much at times.

Is Easter the best day of the year? Isn’t Christmas better? You may actually still be reading to see why Easter is the best day of the year. Well, think about it, about all the stuff that is stressing you out. If Jesus did physically rise from the dead, how important is it all? Now I’m not trying to minimize your issues. But think about it.

What are all the bills you have to pay going to mean the day Jesus raises you to eternal life in heaven with him? How important, as you enter heaven, will it be that the kids got to all their soccer practices? Your job with all the responsibilities you have, will it still be stressing you out as Jesus says, “Welcome home!” Even the real tough stuff like cancer is no match for Easter. Jesus rising from the dead overwhelms any disease because he says that his resurrection guarantees us that in heaven there will be no more pain or disease. And that hole in your heart that’s there because the one you so dearly love is no longer with you, Easter Sunday means the separation is only temporary, very temporary.

Easter is the best day of the year because it changes everything. It turns human life on its ear. We go from meaningless chemical containers who lead empty, unimportant lives to people made to love and be loved for eternity, whose every day has eternal significance no matter how insignificant it may seem.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cause for Crying

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)

It’s hard for us to get the full picture of the first Palm Sunday because it is impossible for us to see that day through the eyes of Jesus. It would seem to be a day that filled him with joy and satisfaction. But, it wasn’t.

When early in his ministry he preached a sermon in his hometown, they tried to throw him over a cliff. When he worked miracles, some said it was by the power of the devil. He was accused of blasphemy. When would they see him for who he really was?

It seemed as though Palm Sunday was that day. He rode into Jerusalem with crowds shouting their approval. They sang that he was the successor to the great King David. Finally, he was recognized as a King! Was it not a day to celebrate?

Then, why was Jesus crying?

We might guess it was because he knew the crowds would turn on him. We might wonder if he was anticipating the lash of the whips, and the nails driven through his hands and feet. But we would be wrong.

He was not crying for himself, he was crying for the people of Jerusalem. Their rejection of the Lord of Glory and the peace that he offered would bring them pain, disaster, and death. He told them, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:43) He foretold the days when enemies would surround Jerusalem, when they would smash the walls of the city—and the children within the walls. “They will not leave one stone on another,” he told them, “because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:43,44).

It was enough to make the Son of God cry.

This tells us something about our sin, doesn’t it? And it tells us something about our Savior!

The consequences of sin are horrible—worse than we can imagine. Only God, and those who have entered eternity without him, know how horrible.

The love of God for us is wonderful—greater than we can imagine. Only God, and those who now dwell in heaven with him, know how wonderful.

We look in at that Palm Sunday from a great distance. But, it is not a dusty page from history. It is as current as today. For today is our chance to embrace the Savior in faith. Today is our opportunity to see him for who he is, and for what he has done. Today is our chance to join the voices of those shouting his praises.

We have no cause to cry. Today is our Palm Sunday!

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military.
To subscribe to Pastor Ziemer’s weekly message, please contact him at

Friday, March 15, 2013

Truth: Don’t Put It Off for Another Day

Think of the things we plan on doing but often never get to, such as…

* cleaning the garage
* understanding our taxes
* learning a musical instrument or second language
* saving for retirement
* reading the fine print on our investments and health insurance policies
* exercising regularly
* doing the thousand projects on our “to do” list
* making a will
* add your own…
Some of the items on your “never got to” list aren’t all that important. When you think about them you might even chuckle and say to yourself, “I’ve been saying I’m going to take care of that for years. Who am I fooling? I’m never going to get to it.” And, it probably won’t matter all that much if the garage never gets cleaned or you don’t learn to play the guitar. But if you don’t make a will, or save for retirement or exercise regularly, well, the consequences of putting those things off can be catastrophic!

People have the tendency to be procrastinators with something else very important – the Truth about life and death. It’s a very personal subject which makes us all feel vulnerable, and so we tend to put it off and live our lives one day at a time, thinking that someday it will all come together for us and we’ll know what Truth is.

Jesus Christ talked a lot about Truth and he encouraged people to think seriously about what he said. Hours before he died Jesus spoke with a man who didn’t have a clue either about the definition of Truth or where he could find it. Little did he recognize Truth was looking at him. The words of Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” have rung through the halls of history. Join us this Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am) to discover Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hope for When We’ve Failed Totally

Two men, both close to Jesus. They have seen his incredible miracles. They have listened to him explain the mysteries of life. And yet, at the end of his ministry, both men failed Jesus miserably. Judas Iscariot betrayed him into the hands of the people who would eventually have Christ crucified. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.

Two men, so similar in so many ways, and yet, how differently their lives ended! Judas committed suicide. Peter became a pillar of the Church and wrote two books of the New Testament. What can we learn about coming through this kind of moral failure from their experiences? Join us either this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) and take hold of the hope Christ offers even to those who betray or deny him.

Friday, March 1, 2013

“Can Something So Simple Really Do Any Good?”

Have you ever gone up to take Holy Communion with that thought in your mind? Sunday after Sunday, year after year, century after century people from all over the world have lined up at the Communion rails of their churches to receive a little piece of bread and less than an ounce of wine. After the minister sends them on their way with the words, “Depart in peace” nothing seems to have changed. Life goes on. So what is the big deal about this ritual that it continues to be carried out by so many people each day?

God has a way of accomplishing the most incredible things through the most common means.
Jesus used five small loaves of bread and two fish to feed over 5000 people. At his word well water became the finest of wines. A touch of his hand cured the sick and raised the dead. An instrument of execution, the cross, became the way by which he opened eternal life to sinful human beings. Through a simple ritual using bread and wine God himself comes personally to his followers and whispers in our ears, “You are forgiven. My body and blood prove it. No one, nothing can take you away from me!”

Don’t sell God short. He keeps every promise he makes. And the promises he makes in the simple act of Communion are too good to pass up. Join us either Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am) to discover just how much Jesus Christ offers you in Communion.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Cross or Our Culture: You Have to Choose One or the Other

As Jesus nears the day of his crucifixion, he becomes increasingly confrontational. It’s not that he is trying to give people a hard time, no, it’s nothing like that. Instead, he is showing us that we have to make a choice – a choice that has profound consequences on our lives.

Often people like to feel religious without getting serious about what Jesus Christ says concerning what it practically means to follow him on a daily basis. There is something attractive about “feeling” God’s presence and comfort when we’re down and out. On the other hand, we human beings feel it intrusive for God to tell us we are to live in a way that inconveniences us.

We have just begun to commemorate the season of Lent, a period of about 6 weeks just before Easter, during which we focus on the meaning and application of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. This Sunday we will study an event that took place only a few weeks before Good Friday. We will hear Jesus explain to his disciples that his life must end at the cross, but then assures them he will rise from the dead. Immediately following that emotional revelation, two of Jesus’ closest followers ask him to make them the leaders of the other disciples. It’s a pure grasp for power on the part of James and John. It is at that point Jesus contrasts the cross with popular culture. What will it be? Will we give up our lives to Christ out of thankfulness for the Lord giving up his life for us? Or will we choose the path of our culture which is a daily grasp at self-centered power and control?

Jesus makes it clear, he didn’t save us to serve ourselves, he saved us to serve him. And so we must each ask, “Who am I serving?”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Where Self-Esteem and Reality Collide

“I am somebody! I am somebody!” A number of years ago children were encouraged to chant these words in some of America’s classrooms.

“I a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins…” For many years these were the words Lutheran Christians spoke at the beginning of a Communion Service.

The first set of words was spoken in an attempt to improve self-esteem. The second was prayed in repentance.

Self-esteem is an important part of a person’s makeup. Low self-esteem can result in low expectations and failure. But, bold words are empty if they do not rest upon reality. So, where does that leave us? Are we “somebody” or are we “poor and miserable”? Actually, what we decide does not determine the matter. What we need to know is: “What is God’s answer?” Our Creator and Redeemer says that we are both. We are poor, miserable sinners that he has lifted up to be people of awesome worth and ability.

Job was a happy man of great worth until a series of traumatic events stripped him of most everything he held dear. He tried in vain to find the cause of this disaster. He ended up wishing that he could haul God into court. In effect, he called out to the Lord: “I am somebody! At the least I deserve an explanation for your conduct!”

It takes four chapters in the Book of Job to record God’s answer. But, the reply provides no explanation for the way God works. It does not reveal how disaster fit into the overall plan for Job’s life. It simply demonstrates that the Lord is God. He created all things. He controls all things. He knows all things. Nothing and no one is like him. To challenge his decisions is to disrespect him. To disobey his orders is to invite his crushing judgment.

Faced with this reality, Job declares: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

These must also be the words of everyone who has ever doubted, challenged, and disobeyed the holy God. We are indeed poor, miserable sinners.

But, that same holy God is also the friend of sinners. If we ask how much we are worth, he points to a center cross and says, “I was willing to pay your ransom with the death of my only Son!” Talk about something precious! Talk about the basis for high self-esteem! Nothing exceeds this. God calls us his royal priests and kings. We can ask for nothing greater in time or in eternity.

It is the Season of Lent. We look again at the suffering and death of Jesus and we see what our sin cost him. We repent in humility and then our God lifts us up to honor and glory.

Thank you to Pastor Paul Ziemer for this week’s devotion.

Friday, February 8, 2013

If Jesus Says He Answers Prayer, Why Do So Many Go Unanswered?

If you’ve ever experienced a “no” or divine silence to a prayer you offered intensely and persistently, you have felt a frustration and even anger towards God. From our point of view, it made absolutely no sense for God not to give us what we requested. And that spiritual confusion may have led to doubt and even more questions about God and his goodness. To make matters worse, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

So what went wrong? Was the problem with us, our faith? Or is God really not able to do everything he claims he can? Join us this weekend for one of our worship services as we work through the gut wrenching reality of “unanswered” prayer. What we discover from Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount may not take away your pain, but it will certainly enable you to overcome!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Does God Grade on a Curve?

We’ve gotten so used to grading on a curve that it would almost seem to make God out to be a big ogre if he didn’t use a curve to judge people. On the other hand, if God does use a curve, one has to wonder what heaven would be like with so many people bringing all their unsavory baggage to Paradise. Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place, right? But it won’t be perfect long if God grades on a curve. So there’s the dilemma: if God judges us justly according to the way we’ve lived, heaven is going to be empty. If God judges us on a curve, heaven won’t be heaven, it will be a repeat of what were living out right now.

According to Jesus Christ, the answer to the question about God grading on a curve is two sided with bad and good news. The bad news is that Jesus tells us God doesn’t grade on a curve. This week we are continuing our study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In that preaching he takes obedience to the 10 Commandments to another level. He goes so far as to say that God holds us accountable for our thoughts!!! No curve there.

The good news though overcomes the bad. Jesus also said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:17).” When it comes to the single most important part of our lives – our relationship with God – we need to stop looking for curves and loopholes. We have deluded ourselves into thinking we’re better than we are. The purpose for Jesus’ coming to this world as a human being was to show us what we are and what our future will be without him so that we would receive his forgiveness and his rule in our lives. Christians of long ago used to say, “The way up to God begins on our knees.” They were on to something.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jesus’ Upside-Down Plan for the Good Life

There are people who have the mistaken impression that Jesus only talked about life after death. They think he pretty much told his followers to expect to be miserable during their human lives in the expectation that after they died he would make it up to them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While Jesus did tell his followers to make eternal life their priority, he spoke at length and in detail about how to live in the here and now. The best and most specific treatment on this subject is called his “Sermon on the Mount”. For three whole chapters (Matthew 5 – 7) Christ talks about how those who call themselves his disciples will live. And here’s the thing, he says that living the way he describes will make them “blessed” and “happy”!

What confuses people is that Jesus’ plan for the good life on this earth demands humility, sacrifice and commitment – qualities which are just the opposite of what most people imagine make up the good life. The popular idea today is that to enjoy life a person has to pretty much have life on his or her own terms (AKA “having it your way”). You probably know a lot of people who have chosen the “having it your way” model for happiness. Is it working? Do they have the good life? Probably most people won’t admit to failure in their good life quest, but the statistics on disastrous behavior have increased at such an alarming rate that one has to wonder,

“If people are enjoying the good life,
why are they doing such crazy stuff which brings so much unhappiness into their lives?”

Jesus’ plan for the good life may seem upside down, but remember who he is. He definitely has more information on the subject than we do. Why not check his plan out this Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am)? You may find out the life he offers is exactly as he said, “The abundant life (John 10:10)”.

Friday, January 18, 2013

“How Much Is Your Life Worth?”

Sounds like a line from a movie, doesn’t it? And yet, as we approach the 40 year mark since the Supreme Court announced that it would be legal to perform abortions in the United States, it would be a healthy exercise to think seriously about the value of human life. Much has happened since January of 1973 to cheapen human life, not the least being over 50 million abortions. While that figure in itself is overwhelming, the prospects of an even greater tidal wave of bloodletting are appearing on the horizon.

In the past there was an unspoken agreement among people in our country, even those not holding to Christianity, that human life is special and no one has a right to tamper with it. Today, such is not the case. We are at the point of now allowing limited, mistake prone human beings to take what has always been God’s job – decide when life begins and ends.

At this particular moment in your life you may feel the issues of abortion, genetic engineering and euthanasia are little more than abstractions. Don’t be fooled, everyone is involved, everyone will be affected by how our society decides to address these issues. We’ve been told human life began by accident and has no divine purpose or worth. If that is what many of the most powerful and influential people in our country believe, how can we feel secure that anyone’s right to live will be protected? “How much is your life worth?” Not much, if we take God out of it.

Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) in celebrating the dignity and importance of human life. No matter who you are or what situation you may find yourself in, you are alive for one reason only – God himself wants you here. And that is reason enough to celebrate!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stop Setting Yourself Up to Be Tempted!

Have you ever been in a bad situation and found yourself blaming God? A small voice inside us says something like, “God, how could you let this happen to me. I don’t deserve this!” Painful circumstances do hurt. They can rip us apart. And yet, we need to ask ourselves, “Have I demanded a certain lifestyle from God and imposed my will on his?”

We live in a world that is constantly talking about individual rights. We are led to believe that we have the right to anything we want. When it comes to our relationship with God, however, that kind of thinking only sets us up for devastating temptations. God hasn’t promised to meet our every expectation in life. In fact, he’s made it pretty clear that if the only gifts he gave us would be the forgiveness of sins and life eternal, they would be enough.

This Sunday we are going to be studying the account of Jesus, early in his ministry, being tempted by the devil. Satan attacks directly the “I deserve…” feelings of Christ. But the reaction of Christ is much different than ours. And that is what we need to consider as we face the daily barrage of “But you deserve...” attacks in our lives.

We’ll never be free from Satan’s temptations, but we can be better protected by not setting ourselves up. Join us this Saturday at 6 pm, Sunday 10 am or 6 pm (Wheeler Chapel) for a refresher on temptation preparation.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

My photo
Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.