Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Devotion 12.31.14

Planning/Life and Discipleship

Non-conformist and non-conformity.  In truth, we all like to believe we have at least a degree of that.  To defy conventional wisdom or to defy the popular. 

Yet our non-conformity is still trendy.  Very few of us go find a remote place to live and never again interact with society.  Many of us live in large populated areas and conform to the rules that exist.  We pay our taxes.  We obey traffic laws.  We observe a level of a code of decorum.  We may speak of our dislike of certain things such as government, rules where we work, and such, but we conform to them for the most part.  We strive to be, in effect, citizens in a republic (if TR doesn't mind).

Our sinful nature, however, has alienated us from a distinct and certain way of living.  In the Christmas hymn, "Oh Come Emanuel," one verse says, "And ransom captive Israel."  Ransom?  Captive?  Yes, Christ will pay a ransom for a nation captive to its sin, our sin.

Isaiah speaks well of our rebellious nature:  "Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is till to come. I say, 'My purposeness will stand, and I will do all that I please.'... Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness.  I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.  I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel." (Isaiah 46:8 - 10; 12-13)

Want a New Year's Resolution?  How about conformity?  How about conformity to the living God's ways?  How about learning more about conforming to the ways of Christ and seeking his ways?  What God "made known from the beginning," Christ, has come and will come again.  Pray that we seek Christ and help others to learn of Christ.  Pray that we seek his ways, and turn to him in repentance when we fail.  Pray that we seek opportunities in worship, study, prayer, and service. Pray that walk continue from now until we meet Christ.

Peace in the blessings given to us through Christ Jesus,

Hope Men's Ministry 2014 (soon to be 2015)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Devotion 12.30.14

Life and Discipleship

The NFL playoff picture is set, and for the second time in as many years, the playoffs include a team that finished under .500 .  Now wait one second and listen for it...  That crashing sound is the sound heard 'round the world as all the accusers of systems that reward mediocrity, the "everyone gets a trophy" finger waggers.  A system that is clearly supposed to reward winning has, yet again, sent a mediocre team at best and a team with a losing record (7-8-1) to the playoffs.  Maybe the college football system isn't as bad as once thought.

The truth is life is filled with mediocrity.  It exists all around us in public and private sectors.  Yes, I've had great help at a retail chain and then I've had help. Just enough to get the job done, but not even good, let alone great.  When a Democratic Senate was blocking an LBJ appointee to the Supreme Court, one member of the Senate charged he was mediocre at best.  A supporter fired back, "Mediocrity deserves to be represented on the court!"  I chuckled when I read it and thought, "Don't worry, it always has been and always will be."

What creates mediocrity?  Volumes could be written in an answer to that question.  Just enough to get by.  The easy road.  Why take care of today what can wait another week, month, and possibly even year?

Christ speaks of mediocrity.  His mere words tell you of God's complete and utter dislike of mediocrity. The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) has Jesus speaking of the servant who did nothing with his talent saying, "And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  He did nothing good nor bad. He just did nothing.  He failed to act.  His sin was to bury what God had given him, to fail to act. In Revelation 3, Christ speaks to the Church of Laodicea saying, "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

The servant and the church failed to act.  Luke warm.  And Christ speaks vividly, "I will spit you out of my mouth." Where is my faith life?  What do I do with the talent Christ has given me?  What do we do as a body in the name of Christ?  How do we use the talent God has given us?  Pray that we use the talents Christ has given us as we serve our community, and pray that we strive to not allow ourselves to settle into lukewarm, mediocre servants, neither hot nor cold.  Pray that in all we do, we do it in the name of Christ.

Peace in Christ -

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 12.29.14

Devotion - Christmas Blues and Sadness

If you watched any of the NYPD police officer's funeral Saturday, was that not moving?  And the bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace?"  Can that not place a lump in your throat the size of a football?  And imagine the grief of the immediate family who lost their father and provider at Christmas.

Since my mom's passing back in April, the funeral home, Lakeridge Memorial Chapel, has been sending me periodic emails on mourning and the mourning process.  The topic, of course, at Christmas was on the loss of loved ones and the first season without them.  Many grief experts provide many ways to get through the holiday season, especially the first after the loss of a loved one.

This is a road most of us have gone down, losing a loved one and the first _____ that comes after  his or her passing.  If not, we all will go down that road eventually.  Several experts suggest beginning new things at Christmas in his or her honor.

Begin a new practice. That's not a new concept really.  Christians should be familiar with this notion of beginning something new since our savior, Christ Jesus, says in Revelation, "I make everything new!" We are, through Christ, new creations.  As a result of his suffering, death, and resurrection, death no longer has that "sting" that it had.  We no longer fear death, nor loss, because of the assurance of the resurrection.

So, go ahead and place an ornament especially for someone you love who you lost.  Tell stories of the Christmases past that were special.  Place a floral arrangement in the house dedicated to your loved one.  Create that new practice, but know that as a result of Christ, the loss is temporary, not permanent.  Christ makes all things new!

Peace in the assurance of the resurrection at Christmas -

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Hope Men's Ministries

Don't forget that tonight we have two services:  6 p.m. and 10 p.m.  Both candlelight services and the 10 p.m. service offers communion.  Please join us at 5700 98th Street for these wonderful Christmas Eve Services.

To the men who read our devotions daily or periodically (or for the first time), Merry Christmas in the truest sense of the word to each of you.  Peace and joy during the season for preparation for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Take time to reflect and pray on Christmas day for the blessings given to us by our savior's ministry, his death, and resurrection.  Those blessings provide redemption for us. 

Christ is central to the season of Christmas. 

Peace to each of you in Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry