Thursday, October 5, 2017

Devotion 10.4.17

“But, after a person has been justified by faith, there then exists a true, living “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).  That means that good works always follow justifying faith and are certainly found with it, when it is a true and living faith.  For faith is never alone but is always accompanied by love and hope.”  - Epitome of the Formula of Concord, 3.11
The above quote was actually written by Martin Chemnitz, not Martin Luther.  Chemnitz was often referred to as the “Second Martin” and was very much part of the writing of the Formula of Concord, one of our confessional books.  It is a great quote nonetheless that I believe is a good reminder to us all.
“Cheap grace” is what this quote warns us of.  Ever heard of “cheap grace”?  It is the thought that because of Jesus’ unrelenting and unconditional love, that we should just let sin flow from us freely.  God will still love us after all.
Paul states in Romans 6, “shall I continue in sin so that grace may abound?  By no means!”  That is the reality of our faith… it is never alone.  It never desires sin, accepts sin, is comfortable in sin.  Faith desires more.  It desires a change of life, a change of heart, a change in attitude and behavior.  Faith desires to love God, to love and serve our neighbors, to do good works. 
Rev. Eric Hiner

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Devotion 10.3.17

For the next month, we at Hope Lutheran Church will be focusing on some of the thoughts and truths that the Lutheran Reformation focused on.  Both in sermons and Sunday morning Bible studies, we will the reformation and the theology of Martin Luther.
“For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls but the word of the Lord remains forever.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25
VDMA

One may or may not have seen this symbol before.  It stands for Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.  If that doesn’t help you, it means “The Word of the Lord stands forever”.  And this was the motto for the Lutheran Reformation.  Based on 1 Peter 1:24-25, this motto was a foundational theme for all who supported the Reformation.  For Luther, it was a truth that brought him the comfort and the courage that was needed to spark the reformation. 
When he refused to recant, or take back his writings, it was the foundation of the word that gave him the strength to refuse despite the deadly consequences.  He spoke boldly, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  God help me.  Amen.”
Imagine speaking these words knowing that the last person (John Huss) who made such a stand was burned at the stake.  Then again, imagine a world where everything you thought was good, everything you relied upon, everything that was foundational to your life turned out to be bad, dangerous and condemning.  Luther’s was dedicated to the church.  He was a monk of monks devoted to his order.  He was a theology professor dedicated to his work.  But then he found out the church was corrupt, looking out for self and not the people they were called to serve.  Everything crumbled around him, except for the Word of God.  It remains forever.  It is amazing how true this is for our lives as well.
Rev. Eric Hiner

Monday, October 2, 2017

Devotion 10.02.17

This is the continuation of a series of devotions inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Creation and Fall.  Why?  Because what better place to begin than with creation itself.  As they say, let’s make first things first.  No need to read the book to understand though you’re welcome to order a copy.

One of the common sins we see in our world is worship of creation rather than Creator.  It’s something that we can distance ourselves from if we like.  Thousands of years ago they worshipped the sun, the crops, bulls or other creatures, even other humans.  Today we’re rather distant from those concepts in our scientific world.  And yet as the picture below points out, sometimes our idols aren’t all that much different.  We worship money and the pursuit of money instead Dagon, a god meant to bring prosperity.  We worship enticing images instead of Asherah poles focused on fertility.  We worship our tvs and phones, sources of entertainment rather than Marqod, the god of dance. 
Image result for modern idols
Now don’t get me wrong, creation and created things are good.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light….”God creates for a reason and he doesn’t want us to think of created things as evil, as lesser, or inferior to “spiritual things”.  Instead, he wants us to see created things as gifts from the One True God, and turn to the Creator of all things and give our worship to him.  Take a moment to look at the things in your life, examine your attachments to them, and put them in the right order.  God has created all and all the worship returns to him.

Rev. Dan Borkenhagen

Friday, September 29, 2017

Devotion 9.28.17

This is the continuation of a series of devotions inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Creation and Fall.  Why?  Because what better place to begin something than with creation itself.  As they say, let’s make first things first.  No need to read the book to understand though you’re welcome to order a copy.

Ex nihilo. Out of nothing.  God creates out of nothing, because in the beginning, “the earth was without form and void.”

To humans this is scary stuff.  Emptiness is scary.  Sensory deprivation can break down humans in a matter of days or even hours.  When you think of our forefathers many had to suffer through psychological trials in taming the vast open plains where everything looked so similar and the distance between families was so large. 
What nothingness in your life is scary.  Are you bored?  I don’t mean sitting around twiddling your fingers bored, but bored with repetition in life- job, family, pastimes, maybe even church?  Is there a scary nothing out there, an unknown future, a question to which you don’t have the answer. . . and you dread it?

Nothingness is scary.  And yet God bursts into nothingness and he creates.  And then later in history he sends his son to earth, so that he can die, but then transform the nothingness of death into something, into resurrection.  The same God who created out of nothing, also resurrects out of nothing.  And the resurrection is a promise for us too. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:4) So look into your life.  This isn’t a call to cast things aside and to simply get to something new.   This is a call to look at those areas of life that seem boring or unknown and start to imagine how God can transform them into something special.

Written by Pastor Dan Borkenhagen, Hope Lutheran 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Devotion 9.7.17

Got a slap on the wrist one time from a devotion I wrote.  "Do you think God cares about Tech football?" was the message.  No, I replied, but sports is a metaphor for life, so it is used to provide an image to the message.  I also apologized if the person who wrote me had been offended.

Paul, though, uses many kinds of images to convey his message.  As we journey through life, Paul encourages us to live intentionally, focused and remembering the reason we are on this journey.  "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

We pray that we focus on the cross.  We pray that we receive the Spirit to keep us focused through God's Word, the sacraments, and through worship, prayer, and study in God's Word.  We pray we live intentionally and not "aimlessly."

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Devotion 9.6.17

Baseball is the ultimate sport of attrition, and the month of September is where the finishers are determined based mainly on who is left standing.  It is said that Cub manager Joe Maddon tells his team to sleep in during the month of September, to not take as much batting practice, and to not throw as much warm up.  The players have responded by pulling away with the lead in their division.  So who is the best team in baseball?  The last one standing.

God rested after creation.  Christ rested and sought rest.  Rest is an important facet in life.  Isaiah gives us a great passage as to where we find our rest.

"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." 40:30-31

We renew our strength in Christ.  We ask for renewal as we go through our lives.  In Him, we find rest, renewal, and strength.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 9.5.17

Hand-wringing.  We are all guilty of hand-wringing.  We are worriers, and some people worry to the point that they worry about what they were worrying about because they forgot but knew they were worried about something.  I had a friend I referred to as a professional worrier.  "Why should I worry?" I would say, "I'll give it to him and he'll worry about it for me."

Scripture is full of passages that basically let us know just how wrong it is for a Christian to worry.  Joshua 1:9 reminds us: "Have I note commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."  He's basically just promised us He is with us on this journey.  But, that's not good enough.  Sometimes I want to be a man's man and handle this one on my own.  God, you sit in the back seat and enjoy a good book because I'm a self-made man.  Got here this far with my solid mind and firmness in decisions, so I'll let You know when I'll need Your help.

Paul, however, proves we are wrong.  In Philippians 4, Paul reminds us that Mr. Self-Made Independent Man can only go so far.  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things... I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

If, at the end of the day, I don't have these committed to heart, then I continue to rely on me.  However, these two passages tell me that God is with me, and to turn to God in everything.  Paul informs me to be at peace because I've given it to God.  Paul will also say, "My grace is sufficient for you."

That's a peace that surpasses all understanding.  We pray for that peace than only Christ can give.

Hope Men's Ministry