Monday, August 20, 2018

Devotion 8.20.18


Think about a time when you went on vacation and experienced culture shock.  You know, one of those, “I’m clearly not from here” experiences…  You don’t understand the people, the practices, maybe even the language.  The experience can be as big as traveling across the world or can be found in smaller ways right here within the United States too.

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Worship, one of the spiritual disciplines, should act as a form of culture shock for each of us.  That might surprise you. After all, many of us have grown up going to church!  Yet, we spend the majority of our lives living in a world that does not share the same values as church. There can be similar values, but there is so much that we absorb every day from our media, work, friends, politicians, and more that is an altogether different and broken culture. When we enter into worship, we’re stepping out of that world and its brokenness and literally entering into God’s Kingdom here on earth.  We’re taking time to move our focus completely onto God and meeting him.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1-2)

When we’re on a trip and experience culture shock the challenge is for us to start exploring the new culture and seeing what we can learn from it.  Each week we should come to worship with our eyes expecting some little “shocks” from what we’ve been immersed in all week in the world’s culture.  So open yourself up, come to church, and expect to hear something different and good that will help you remember your citizenship in His Kingdom.

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Devotion 8.16.18





This is a picture of the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum just outside of Washington DC.  It’s full of an incredible array of air and spacecraft, including some very famous planes and shuttles.  When we went there this last spring, we only had a couple of hours to take it all in.  It’s interesting to compare my wife’s instincts with mine (and this would be true in most museums we visited).   If you want to know what I was doing, look in the lower left side of this picture.

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I wanted to soak up as much information as possible. So, as we went through I was reading as many signs as I could.  I’d look up at the plane, glider, missile, rocket, or shuttle, and then look down and read as much as I possibly could before we moved on to the next exhibit.  My wife, on the other hand, wanted to see as much as possible.  She wanted to soak up all the sights.  And again, this was true not just at this museum, but at the art museum, history museum, and all the other places we visited.  Now don’t get me wrong, I looked, and my wife read too, but my instinct was to get information and her instinct was to experience it.

When we’re reading Scripture, the same thing can happen to us.  Reading the Bible is an important discipline of the faith, but sometimes our instinct is to just search it for information. And that’s ok for certain purposes.  It’s good to read, break it apart, figure out what other places in the Bible something is connected to, examine how the arguments are laid our or the story is formed, but in reading for information, we can’t stop there.  We also need to read for the experience of transformation. We need to be in the story, in the words, and let them form us.  Read it like we’re listening to God talking to us -because he is!

To take the metaphor from this trip, we need to step back from the informational sign and really look at the exhibit itself.  Remember, “God’s Word is alive and active” (Heb. 4:12)

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Devotion 8.14.18


Have you ever had a trip where your kid was talking… and talking… and talking…

The talking kept winding around from topic to topic with no seeming end or goal in mind. Sometimes it’s funny, but sometimes it can be exhausting.

The question is- what’s the goal of the conversations on a trip?  So often in our world we are rather results oriented.  We come at so many parts of life, including trips and conversations, with a specific result in mind or the assumption we need to get to some action.  The reality is, however, that conversation is often more about relationships than it is about results.

The same is true of our prayer life.  Often, we come into prayer and we have some goals in mind.  I’m going to talk to God about… because what I’m hoping will happen is….  But while God wants us to speak to him about everything that is on our hearts and minds, the goal shouldn’t really be getting God to do some specific action.  The point of the spiritual discipline of prayer is relationship.  The more we speak to God the more we understand him and his work in our lives.  We will sense him as truly our Father and feel a deep sense of belonging to him.  We will lift our prayers to him, not just to ask him for something, but because we know he wants to talk to us and we just want to talk to him.

And in an interesting way, the more we speak to him in prayer, the more he often puts in our minds ways we can be his agents on earth to accomplish that which we’re praying about in some way.  Remember, Luther explained, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” by saying that God’s will and kingdom will come with or without our prayer, but that these petitions express that we want more of his will and kingdom to come in our lives too.

So, the next time you hear a kid jabbering away, smile, and appreciate the relationship, the trust, the love they’re building with you.  And the next time you come into prayer, smile a little, and think of yourself as the child opening up to their dad, talking not just to get to a goal, but because you enjoy speaking with your dad.

Blessings!

Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Devotion 8.13.18


Did you ever hear the phrase, “I’ll pull this car over if you don’t stop….” while you were on a trip with your family growing up?


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Discipline is hart to accomplish on road trips, but our parents figured it out didn’t they?  The word, “discipline” isn’t one we generally get excited about but when we’re talking about the spiritual journey and spiritual disciplines it’s meant to be understood positively.  It doesn’t mean it will be easy or convenient, but it should not be considered something harsh.  Mulholland says that we need to find the sweet spot, somewhere between the extremes – on one side, the avoidance of discipline for the sake of constantly finding comfort, and on the other side, the imprisonment of discipline where it’s looming over you like a threat if you don’t do things exactly right.

There’s a tension and we have to embrace that tension.  God brings us to that in Philippians, “Work out your own salvation…for God is at work in you.” Phil.2: 12-13

You’ll be doing the disciplines (prayer, Scripture, meditation, silence, etc) but God is going to be at work in them.  And you’ll know what to do, but they may challenge you.  To borrow a phrase from recovery ministry, “the work may be simple and clear, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy”.  

Think about the disciplines you’ve tried in the past and what has gone well and what has been more challenging for you.  We’ll be diving into multiple disciplines in the coming days to learn more of how God would use them to grow us.

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Devotion 8.9.18


We’ve begun a summer series focused on the book, Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by Robert Mulholland Jr.  We’ll explore the concept of spiritual formation that he compares to a journey and look at it through the lens of summer vacation we’re so familiar with.

So how was your trip? 

This is the kind of question that can be hard to answer.  Are you supposed to give it a letter grade?  If you give an answer besides, “A+, Amazing!” does that imply that it wasn’t good.  Or as the cartoon bellow implies, is it based on the social media impression it made.

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Since any vacation is supposed to be good, it feels kind of bad to rate it, but there are differences in our vacation experiences.  In a similar way, it can feel wrong to talk about stages in our spiritual journey.  At least I know when I first heard someone talking this way I resented it.  I thought, “It’s all grace and so if I’m saved by grace then what else is there to say.  How can I be at a different stage of saved by grace?”  There is truth in that and it’s important to keep that as a foundation.  We are saved purely by Christ’s work on the cross.  Talking about stages in the spiritual journey is not about rating “how saved” I am, but the reality is that our sanctification is a process.  It’s also important to not make this about comparing our faith and journey to that of another.  

In fact, it’s often true that different areas of our life are at different stages so it’s not so clear cut anyway.  I’ve met some incredible Christians who have shown the ability to trust God implicitly with their future and their money.  They are completely in sync with God that way, at a “illumination” or “union” stage, but they are struggling mightily with resentments at people from their past.  I’ve met others who don’t struggle at all with many sins, but then there’s one biggie, maybe money, and they’ve held on to that control with both fists squeezed tight and they keep bumping into problems because of it.  In this area they may still be “awakening”. 

As with many things, it’s not all as clear cut as we’d like it to be, but Scripture speaks a lot about spiritual growth and the different areas where we can grow.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:5-8
So don’t let this be about a grade.  Don’t let discussion of the spiritual journey shame you.  Let it be something that allows you to take stock of the different areas of your life and celebrate the growth that God has given thus far and point you in the direction of areas he’s still working with you on.

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Devotion 8.8.18


You know that point in a vacation where you reach the pinnacle.  You’ve reached the place you were heading towards and not only are you there, but you and your family are looking at each other and you’re really “there” with each other.  There’s this moment of “we’ve arrived and this is exactly what we were waiting for” that comes. 

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This experience can come in big or small ways.  On an amusement park ride as pictured above or at the top of a mountain journey.  It can also come at Grandma’s house as you laugh at the same old stories or play a card game you’ve played a million times before.

Regardless of how it comes, there’s a feeling of union in that moment that is real joy.  Our book describes the fourth and final stage of the journey as “union”.  He says this about it, “It characterizes those experiences of complete oneness with God in which we find ourselves caught up in rapturous joy, adoration, praise and a deep peace that surpasses all understanding. This is not an escapist kind of experience, but the experience of being at last in the kind of relationship with God for which we were created and for which our beings yearn.”

We were created to be with God and when we move more and more into relationship with him, when we allow more of him to govern our lives, there is an incredible joy, especially in those moments where he really has his way with us.  Many of us experience this in worship.  But it can also be in a very quiet and unassuming devotion or prayer when God really grabs you with some truth.  For most of us, I think on this side of heaven and the resurrection we’ll only receive tastes of it, at least as I understand the journey.  But those tastes are incredible and make us want more.

Think of some of the experiences where you’ve really tasted that union.  You can’t artificially recreate that, but what was going on in life that gave God the room to do what he wanted to do?  Give God a moment of quiet right now and thank him for those moments of union, big and small.

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Devotion 8.7.18


I think it’s always fun to engage in some kind of adventure while on vacation.  What are some of the more adventurous things you’ve done on vacation?  Every gone kayaking on some rapids?

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I have not, but it’s something that’s on the bucket list (or maybe the rafting version first). Regardless, when we embark on vacation adventures, we’re getting out of our comfort zone.  Whether it’s going on a hike in territory we’ve never explored before, jumping onto a strange horses’ back (things I’ve done), or going to an extreme like bungee jumping (which I haven’t done and isn’t on my bucket list) we’re giving up control and learning to go with the flow of whoever or whatever is in charge.

In the third stage of the spiritual journey, Mulholland writes about illumination.  He describes it this way, “rather than my being in charge of my relationship with God, God is given absolute control of the relationship. God becomes present "within us." He becomes the "flow of our life," and is a vital and living reality to our being. This is where we also realize His empowerment.”

When we go on an adventure like those mentioned above we’re giving up control but we’re excited to do it.  We’re not having it wrested from our hands.  We’re not crazy scared about the future.  In fact whether it’s the trail, a horse, a raft, or anything like this, we start to feel connected to them and are thrilled by the prospects of where it will take us.  There’s a smile on our face!

In our spiritual journeys after (or probably better to say, as we continue) to let God purge the junk out of our lives, we start to get more excited about what he’s going to replace it with.  And we start to really feel God’s hand guiding us.  Every day can start to feel like an adventure even if it’s another regular day.  We feel God guiding us in interactions with others.  We start to feel him nudging us to do and not to do other things, even in ways that surprise us.  There’s more of a sense of flow and less of a sense of struggle.

Do you see your walk with Christ as one filled with adventure?  Do you feel his presence guiding you throughout the day?  We’ll seek more of that as we focus on spiritual disciples which help us get to this place in life.

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School