Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekend Devotion 2.27.15

"To you, I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!  Behold, as the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us." Psalm 123:1, 2

What is service and what does it mean to be a servant? Popular television political dramas that involve the White House have staff who constantly use the phrase, "I serve at the will of the president."  We refer to some professions, teachers, police, and firefighters for example, as "public servants."  What does it mean to serve?

Merriam-Webster has fun with this one because the word is best defined in context. I can serve during tennis.  I can serve a meal.  Or, I can serve someone in need.  That last one is probably the contextual definition for our psalmist as we speak of serving God.  Webster says, "to furnish or supply something needed or desired."  In John 13, Christ "poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (v5) Our Lord, Christ, washes our feet?  Peter is astonished at the audacity of the moment and asks, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" (v6) 

Many in the leadership realm talk of "servant leadership," but that is to establish a model for leading.  Service is service, and by Christ's example, service is done with humility and out of love for one another (Galatians 5:13).  It asks for nothing in return, from a mild pat on the back, to a thank you, to a plaque, to compensation for the effort.  Our pastor noted the other night during his sermon on Psalm 123 what service is not:  service is not done to gratify ego; it is not done from competitiveness ("if he can, I can"); service is not perfectionism ("not good enough, it has to be better"); and finally, it is not done for a legalistic purpose ("God says I should, so maybe this will make God look favorably on me").

Service needs no permission either.  It needs no vote from a body, no election as an officer, nor a yes from a boss or person in leadership.  It is an act done out of love.  Where do I serve?  The psalmist tells us to "lift our eyes up to the Lord."  God will give us ample opportunity to serve.  It can start within our homes and extend to our community through church or other service oriented groups or organizations.

It is odd that something so simple seems to not come easy because we are reminded throughout scripture and even in literature of our desire to be served and not to serve.

We pray that the Holy Spirit open our eyes and our hearts to service for people in need.  From a simple act within the house (it is your turn to take out the trash or wash the dishes) to greater needs and acts of kindness.  We ask Christ to empower us to serve with humility as He served.  We look to God for guidance and lift our eyes to Him to seek opportunities to serve.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Devotion 2.26.14

From Mike Tice, member at Hope Lutheran Lubbock.

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
"I have had many challenges throughout my life.
Ups and downs, I have been tested mentally and physically.
The one thing that has kept me going forward is knowing that the Lord was with me, always.
There has never been a large task that I did not think that I could not do because of this."
We look to Christ to strengthen us daily in prayer, devotion, being in his Word, and through the sacrament of communion, and in service to one another.
Hope Men's Ministry


Devotion 2.25.15

Today's passage is from Don Graf, member of Hope Lutheran Lubbock.

Galatians 5:13 - For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

"The last sentence : 'serve one another in love' is a fitting phrase by which to live your life in Christ  would it not be wonderful if I and many others could remember to act accordingly each day?"

Pray that we seek OR not walk by those opportunities of service as we glorify Christ in service for Him and toward one another.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, February 23, 2015

Devotion 2.24.15

Today's passage is from Hans Hansen of Hope Lutheran Lubbock.

"'For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. '(‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NIV)

"This verse reminds me that there is a reason I was put on this planet, that God has a purpose for me. Moreover, it is a reminder that my purpose is much more important than my acquisition of things or my entertainment. I mean; how big is that? The creator of the universe took the time to plan out a purpose for your life before ever putting you here."
Pray that we constantly seek Christ's purpose in our lives.  As we go through Lent, focus on what that purpose might be and how we might be intentional about delivering God's promise from that purpose.
Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Devotion 2.23.15

Today's passage during our Lenten journey is provided by Bryan Barnell of Hope Lutheran Lubbock.

"The passage that gives me the most comfort and assurance is John 11:25 & 26.  Jesus is talking to Martha, 'I am the resurrection and the life, Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.'"

Pray that we focus on that resurrection that provides the grace and eternal life for all of us during our journey during Lent.

Hope Men's Ministry      

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Devotion 2.19.15

Today, Shawn Haseloff  shares Psalm 27:1 with us.  Shawn is a member of Hope Lutheran in Lubbock.  Here is the verse and his reason why it is one of his favorites:

Mine is Psalms 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation of whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strong hold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?"

This was my confirmation verse. It just gives me comfort in knowing that no matter what, my Lord is my salvation, and that he is in control and not to fear whatever this life throws my way. I even have it tattooed on my back under the Lutheran cross (the Missouri Synod logo cross - oh yes he does).

We pray that when we are weak or tempted, we turn to Christ, our stronghold.  Help us remember that Christ is our stronghold during this season of Lent and to remember this during our days to come as we go through life.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday - 2.18.15

Some people customarily "give up" something for Lent.  This is a ritual that is neither commanded nor forbidden by scripture, so it should not be viewed as an act that either makes us a better Christian than others who choose not to OR makes us less of a Christian for not sacrificing something during that period.  It is, in simple terms, a matter of the heart.

Lent is a period that is "of the heart."  Where are our hearts as this season begins?  Where have our hearts been during the course of the year?  At Lent, we turn our hearts toward Christ and focus on the single act of his suffering, death, and resurrection in exchange for our sinful nature and our sins.

"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words... And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward." (Matthew 6:7, 16) "And he called the people to him and said to them, 'Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person." (Matthew 15:10 - 11) 

Today we begin our journey to reflect and repent of our sins.  We being our focus of scripture passages that are particularly meaningful to us as we go through our daily walk.  These passages have helped us with matters of the heart, where we are at that point in our lives, our faith, our temptations, our strengths, our weaknesses.  We will focus on these passages and pray for our matters of the heart for that day.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, February 16, 2015

Devotion 2.17.15

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.  What is the season of Lent and what is its significance (for those of us not new to it but need a refresher, those who are new to it and would like understanding, and for those who may not be familiar with Lent)?

From the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) website:  "During Lent, the Church's worship assumes a more penitential character. The word 'Alleluia' is usually omitted (from the service) as well. By not using the alleluia — a joyful expression meaning 'Praise the Lord' — until Easter, the Lenten season is clearly set apart as a distinct time from the rest of the year. Additionally, it forms a powerful contrast with the festive celebration of Jesus' resurrection when our alleluias ring loud and clear."

"Finally, the penitential character of Lent is not its sole purpose. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation of the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday. This time in the Church's calendar was seen as an especially appropriate time for Baptism because of the relationship between Christ's death and resurrection and our own in Holy Baptism (see Rom. 6:1-11). This focus would suggest that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God."

So, the season is a season of reflection, on our own lives and our relationship to Christ, in the light of what Christ did for each of us.  In a penitential character, as we take inventory during this time, we seek to repent of our sins and follow those lives Christ desires for us.

Over the next few weeks, our devotions will be that inventory through the passages you shared as being meaningful to each of you.  As you share the word of God, we will reflect on that passage and its meaning in our lives based on the meaning it has for you.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Devotion 2.16.15

Listen, you smell that ("Ghostbusters")?  That's the smell of grass being cut, predominantly in Florida and Arizona.  What do you see? I see green grass, white lines, nice square bags on each corner, a planted pentagonal plate at the very top corner.  Looks like a diamond.

Yes, February 18 is a special day for us in our nation.  The answer to, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" will be answered.  See, there is a period each year in which the nation has no choice but to follow football.  It begins around the end of October and then ends about this time every year.  Football, as George Will has noted, is a sport that is a combination of everything wrong with America.  Specialized union players filling only one position, they call a committee meeting before each measure of work activity is done (a huddle), and then work briefly in the craft before returning to a committee meeting.  And the entire spectacle of football is violence from start to finish (the 25 - 30 minutes of actual action out of the 60 on the clock).  It does fill the void, more or less, as we wait for baseball to return.

Part of my annual tradition is to read a book about baseball each year as the season starts. This year is no exception, and the book is Rob Goldman's Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher.  Goldman, a bat boy when Ryan pitched with the Angels in the 1970s, is a man who is now a friend of Ryan's and has nothing but admiration for Ryan (and what is not to like about Nolan - as we in the Houston area are prone to call him since he is, for the most part, a regular guy).  Ryan grew the Texas Rangers into champions as president and then the managing owner, and after being tossed aside like bad deviled eggs by the same Rangers, he rejoined Houston for his son Reid, the president of the Houston Astros. 

Such is the game of baseball. Baseball, as much about suffering as about victory, is a sport of attrition, a marathon over a period of seven months until a champion is crowned.  Predicting a champion in the game of baseball is like forecasting the weather.  Your odds are pretty good two days out, but to assess the potential weather in September when it is February is strictly a guess.  In baseball, you literally reach the starting line together and learn whether or not the moves you made in the off-season to put the pieces together worked.

What causes the baseball thinkers to be wrong about the potential winners of the season as the season starts?  Baseball is a marathon of sorts, beginning in February with Spring Training and ending in October in the World Series.  A lot can happen in that length of time:  key injuries; the rise of new stars not foreseen at the beginning of the year; the length of time of a slump not foreseen; and the unforeseen end of a career (pitcher for example) not expected.  It can all let the air out of a predicted champion.

What caused the world to underestimate the group of men Christ had assembled to become his disciples?  The book of Acts shows us the tremendous growth of a group of people not formally assembled and poorly trained in the ways of the world.  They had Christ's teachings and reassurance of being with them always (Matthew), also known as the Word of God.  Lacking any kind of education, they were also not formally trained.  They knew fishing, tax collecting, and had one physician, albeit a physician in an era that traditionally allowed no real exploration of the body - probably more herbs and remedies.  Paul, who joined them after Christ's call, was possibly the most educated, but had to break the complete bonds and trappings of traditions over thousands of years.

Yet the book of Acts shows us what can happen when we take the underestimated and least among us and give them the ability to take a simple mission and live it with inspiration.  The book of Acts shows us how to make decisions (finding ways to take care of people while still adhering to the Word of God and spreading the word through teaching).  They had no traditions.  They had no formal ways of conducting business.  They had the Word and allowed the Spirit to act within them.

In short, a small group were underestimated and yet eventually changed the world.  From that, we pray we have much to learn as living in this world.  Pray that we serve with that mission zeal that the disciples had. Pray that we rely on God's Word as our guide and that we allow the Spirit to work within us.  Pray that we grow where planted and not make sharing the faith too complicated.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Devotion 2.12.13

How did Valentine's Day come to be?  Truthfully, what event or peoples took time to pause on a day designated during the year to say, "I love you," or "Be mine," or, "Will you be mine," or other such rot?  As comedian Jim Gaffigan noted during CBS Sunday Morning (2.14.15) in a commentary, who decided to remind us that if we hadn't done so during the course of an entire year, stop and tell the one you love, "I love you?"

I found the Valentine's parties in elementary school, as a child, to be painful.  Being an elementary assistant principal and principal, those feelings were reawakened.  A Christmas party was great.  Gifts exchanged.  The last day of school before the two week holiday.  The d├ęcor had been up for a couple of weeks, the Christmas tree, Christmas carols during music.  Everyone was festive.  Valentines?  It was a "drop everything you are doing and let's do this party for Valentine's Day...and don't forget your math problems are due tomorrow."  And it was clear that parents may have been the true vicarious recipient of the party over the kids...some taking it a bit too far.  "Did you see what Jimmy got his little girlfriend Dolly for Valentine's Day?"  Jimmy didn't get that, his mom got it for him to give to her.

Yet, here it is this Saturday, and here we are.  Some of you are probably ahead of the curve.  Reservations at one of Lubbock's finer restaurants or perhaps even a weekend getaway.  Sitter hired or house-watcher contacted.  The rest of us stand flat-footed for another day or two.  What are our options at that point?  As Gaffigan noted, "a card that someone else wrote that expresses how I feel about you and a box of surprise chocolates...yet another opportunity for me to fail."

What is love and love specifically in a Christian household?  In the Bible index, the word love and its derivatives (loved, loving, lovely...) take up almost three pages of references.  The word is used a great deal in scripture.  David writes of God's "unfailing love" (multiple Psalms).  Christ speaks of love for the Father, our neighbors, and our enemy.  Specifically, Christ tells us:  "My command is this, love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."  (John 15:13) Paul provides us an almost poetic description of true love in 1 Corinthians 13 and tells husbands to "love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:25)

There is plenty of narrative in scripture that gives each of us, fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, friends, the direction for love each day of the year, each year of our lives.

Forgive us when we fail. Strengthen us when needed.  Be with us as we are with those we love and away from them.  Give us opportunities to serve and honor those we love each day of our lives in true love.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Devotion 2.11.15

My good friend was moving from Houston to become a principal in Clear Lake, Iowa (the irony that I would move to Lubbock later), and I helped him make the move by driving one of the trucks there and unloading it.  Mike and his wife both told me before we left that I would meet Uncle Oran, a man in his late 70s at that time (1995), and then they told me the stories he would share with me.  He was on the "assassin's squad that was to kill Hitler in WWII."  The trouble with that is that he would then tell me of the "diamonds on the beach he saw while serving in Africa" while simultaneously training to kill Hitler in Berlin.  Uncle Oran is sweet, Mike's wife said, but he does make up some crazy stuff.

Sure enough, within 10 minutes of meeting him, Uncle Oran was bending my ear and telling me of his service to our country. Some things, he acknowledged, he still cannot talk about.  You just smile and nod and go on.  And so we learn of the anchor Brian Williams, who claimed to have flown in a helicopter that was shot down.  This, of course, sparked a series of jokes on social media from being with the Founders at the signing of the Declaration of Independence to being on the moon with Neil Armstrong.  In short, Williams credibility is now shot as a newsman and recovery from the "yarns he spun" will be difficult at best.  He knows it and so does NBC.

But, lest we cast the first stone, isn't there a little of Uncle Oran and Brian Williams in all of us?   Don't we like to make the essence of our being a LITTLE bit more important than it really is?  Don't we like to perhaps have you believe we know people who count?  We are, in some ways, connected to influence or power or authority?  There was a short story written by James Thurber called "The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty" that came out as a movie in 2013 in which a mild-mannered man of little importance played out all the great things he had done in life in his mind.  The story was hilarious to read as Mitty's mind played out his greatness while behind his desk or getting scolded by his wife. 

There is a little Walter Mitty in all of us.  We just don't have Brian Williams platform do we?  It is tempting to finger wag, find a proverb to cite, and remind ourselves just of the shame of it all in what Williams did, but I hope we actually find a verse like Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."  That "fear" is personal.  My fear of the Lord is the beginning of my knowledge.  The only finger that wags should be at me.  I don't seek that wisdom Christ provides, but according to Proverbs, many of us do not, "Wisdom cries out in the street, in the markets she raises her voice." (1:20).  Apparently, many of us do not listen.

Thanks to God that Christ is there to provide that forgiveness when I "Walter Mitty." His sacrifice of his own life spared mine and provides salvation for me in spite of my moments of untruth and deceit, whether to myself or to others.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for that forgiveness and grace and we pray for others who are hurt by our deceit when it happens.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, February 9, 2015

Devotion 2.10.15

Sunday afternoon found me at a meeting of the Lubbock Heritage Society, a small group dedicated to the historical preservation and discovery of area that became Lubbock.  The meeting took place on the Texas Tech University campus at the Southwest Collections Building, and the featured speaker was Dr. Paul Carlson, professor emeritus of history at Texas Tech University.  To be truthful, seeing the story in the newspaper last week that mentioned Dr. Carlson would be the speaker was what drew me to the event more than anything else.  I've studied under Dr. Carlson, and even as a snot-nosed fraternity brat at the age of an 18 - 22 year old student, I found him to be engaging.

What you learn with age is that you wish you had engaged the minds of these men and women who taught you when you were in college more.  Dr. Carlson is still sharp and witty.  He writes (22 books so far I believe they said) and focuses primarily on this region.  He said a couple of things yesterday that I jotted down, thinking to myself that they would become useful later.  The first was that a historian needs to be "correct, honest, and true."  Correct.  Honest.  True.  The historian needs to be correct in his or her assessment of the past which means supporting what you are saying with information from that era or documented evidence from that era from others who have studied it.  Honest in formative opinion or in the usage of others materials.  Nothing is worse than lifting material or creating material that doesn't exist to support your assessment.  True.  "Truth is relative" is an assessment of the now and can be argued, but truth is relative doesn't really apply to history.  Facts begin to unfold and show the true nature of that history.  Discovery of documents, release of information, and new information begins to shed light on events from our past.  Truth then becomes an argument to what the information says, based on a view of that history.

"Myth and majority opinion are not always the truth," Carlson said later, "It's hard to kill a myth."  Kennedy was killed by something dark and sinister and larger than all of  us.  Kennedy was assassinated by a dark government operative so secret that even knowledge of the event puts you in jeopardy.  Books have been written and facts stated that are convincing about such, yet as more light gets shed on the subject (the release of the secrets held in the Warren Commission for example on the 50th anniversary of the event), we learn that it is possible that Oswald acted alone.  Yet the myth won't die.  People are convinced it is true.

What do we learn from Dr. Carlson's observations on the merits of a historian?  Well, we learn that they apply to the professed Christian as well.  We should act in a manner that is correct, honest, and true, both as a body of believers and as we go out into the world as "lights."  As Paul writes in that familiar verse from Philippians 4, "Whatever is true... honorable... just... pure... lovely... commendable..., if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (4:8)  When we speak to one another, do we speak in love and truth?  When we speak of others or talk about others, do we speak in love and truth and in honor of those people and leave unflattering details out of such conversation?   Do we realize that what becomes "truth" about someone, even though it may not be (myth), is difficult to correct once the "story" is out there, so are we constructive in our conversation about others?

Pray that whatever we say or how ever we act toward others are worthy of praise and that we continue to intentionally "think about these things."

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Devotion 2.5.15

Saddled with strep throat, there really was little to do.  No exercise, running errands, doing spring work in the yard, or even sitting and taking notes and writing periodically or working on assigned work from the company I currently contract with.  It was a serious case of the "do nothings."  However, Netflix got me through the day with a few episodes of "Breaking Bad" with the occasional nap.  I fought the first two years of World War II on episodes from the History Channel on Netflix (don't let me know how it ends, it is looking bleak in the Pacific right now so don't spoil it for me), and then came the addiction. Bond.  James Bond.

I'm not the casual Bond fan, but I'm not the die-hard fan.  I believe that Sean Connery is still the best (he was chosen by the author of Bond books Ian Fleming and the creative force behind the first movies), but Daniel Craig is seriously testing that belief.  The die-hard fan doesn't even acknowledge there were other actors to play Bond but Connery.  However, I do love to watch a good Bond movie, and AMC offered up "Casino Royale," the first Bond movie I saw on the big screen since "Live and Let Die," which starred Roger Moore in the early 1970s.  The only redeeming value to that movie was Paul McCartney's song by the same name which received an Academy Award nomination.

It is said that Bond movies were popular in the 1960s for three reasons:  taking people to places they'd never been (places of luxury and extravagance), the actor, and the plot that was one of intrigue and featured gadgets.  Then Bond movies began to meander, lose their moorings, and other movies came to do what Bond once did.  It is said that today's Bond movies have returned it to that feel from the 1960s and so raise Bond to its former status.  Regardless, I love a good Bond movie.

The church seems to be undergoing its own Bond problems.  Church used to be a common denominator with common denominations.  It was relevant.  And yet we see the church drift.  Attendance is down, and people respond to surveys about faith less convicted than in the past.  Studies even of Christians show that some wonder about the Trinity, possibly even the resurrection, and mainstream denominations find challenges to their authority by new, non-denominational churches or by other "spiritual" options and the secular world.

I believe these kinds of events to be great in truth.  Challenge the status quo.  Challenge the comfort zones.  Make people confront what they really believe and test those convictions.  Instead, we sometimes retreat in fear and become concerned, wring our hands and circle the wagons.  It's not that the Word of God is as powerful as we proclaim or that we've lent a hand in the church's message becoming irrelevant, it is those other people.  They just don't come our way anymore.  Maybe the Word carries no relevance so let's adapt it to today's standards and repackage it and THEN it will carry meaning.

Christ tells us, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well." (John 14:6)  The message is that simple.  So, do we make it too complex?  Do we burden people, as did the Pharisees, with our own ideas of what church should be (customs and traditions) and how we should be within it?  Or do we believe Christ and the power of his Word?  Do we believe that sharing the Word with others will truly reveal that "know the truth, and the truth will set you free?" (John 8:32) 

Pray that we keep the simplicity of God's Word as our compass when we take the Word to others. Pray that we listen to them in love and learn of their needs as we seek to share the Gospel with them.  Pray that we allow the Spirit to use us to speak this truth in love and mercy to others.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Devotion 2.4.15

Was Johnny Manziel's timing for going into rehab accidental or on purpose?  "Let's do it the day after the Super Bowl and minimize coverage on this," I can hear a publicist saying.  Sunday night, after THE play of the Super Bowl, I imagine a phone call that went something like this, "Kid, we gotta do this now."  TV coverage on Monday was like this:  Could you believe the call?  What was Pete Carroll thinking when he sent in a pass play? And what about those commercials?  Really, probably the worst commercials ever. And oh, by the way, Johnny Manziel checked into rehab.

Johnny is his own worst enemy, but when this was reported, I thought, "I hope this works out for him."  Sadly, we see people all around us with demons.  They haunt them and torment them and consume them.  Unfortunately, we sit in judgment all too often with people, either those in fame or not so famous, yet we are all susceptible to these whether or not we want to believe it. 

Christ comes across a man literally with a demon in the book of Mark.  "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are - the Holy One of God."
Interesting that Christ hasn't revealed himself, but demons know who he is.  Christ notes the man and orders the demon out of him.  The man convulsed and the demon came out.  (Mark 1:24 - 26 which provides us ultimately the irony that the demons knew this was the Christ more so than the religious leaders of the day)

So with our celebrities (and others), we speak of "demons" in a figurative way.  In this passage, Christ confronts the demon.  All of this reminds us of the fragile nature of life.  Despite what we may see as our strengths, the vulnerability is there.  We pray for those who have problems.  We pray that they find ways to come to grips with their problems and learn to cope with them.  We also pray that they make Christ a central theme in their recovery and that we keep him as a central theme in our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, February 2, 2015

Devotion 2.3.15

"Ideals are peaceful.  History is violent."  Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) in the movie "Fury."

This was a tough movie to watch, but over the holidays, my son and I went.  Sgt. Collier uses this line with a new soldier in his tank crew who has objections over killing people he doesn't know (the Germans/World War II).  Collier has spent the war in his tank with his crew successfully staying alive in some of the worst campaigns in Africa and Italy.  He has grown to hate the Nazis, and possibly even the entire German people, for their destruction and killing, and the hate has taken its toll on what possibly was a nice kid from the country before the war started.  In a scene that tests the soldier, as well as the viewer (what would you do?), he shoots a captured German soldier (SS whom he detests the highest) to teach the new soldier how to kill.

His statement is truth.  History is violence. Man has continued to show during our time on earth our capacity to deliver new and cruel methods of destruction and death to our fellow man.  Sure, history has given us greatness, but more often than not, our history as mankind has been marred by war, fear of war, death, starvation (sometimes delivered intentionally at the hands of a despot) and our ability to deliver cruelty to others (slavery, genocide).  This creates the question, "How can God let this happen?"

In our modern society, this question is push back from people to those of us in faith.  How does a God of love allow bad things to happen?  Fair question really.  However, it isn't the first time this question has been asked.  It's been asked in scripture.  Job asks why when he lost everything.  David asks in the Psalms, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1) Christ asks while on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mathew 27:46)

We separated ourselves from God when we broke from him.  This separation is real and it is painful.  "We know that the whole creation has been groaning, as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:23)  In truth, we don't know why God allows such things to happen, and we cannot speak for God.  In truth, we know that God is as grieved by our pain and suffering as we are.  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets..." (Matthew 23:37) is how Christ laments over the separation of us from God.  Finally, we do know God is a God of love and mercy showing us grace daily by answering our requests.  As I hear our questioning of God and how He can allow such to occur on earth, sometimes I think I hear, "I didn't like the answer."

So, how to respond?  Interestingly, we know from these passages that we should take our suffering, and even our anger over our suffering, to God.  These passages and others instruct us that God desires for us to take our concerns to Him.  We know in each of these passages that God does answer, and that sometimes the answer isn't what we were hoping for.  We know we can pray to our God for suffering, ours and others.  We know we can talk to God about such matters in life including the unfairness of it all.  As Paul writes about his own suffering and Christ's response: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) Pray for those who suffer that God may grant a measure of relief.  Pray for healing and remedy from suffering.  Pray that God's will be done on earth.  Finally, when possible, pray that we be able to comfort those who are in the midst of suffering and that God grant us the ability to bring relief to those in need.

Peace -

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Devotion 2.2.15

This is being written prior to the game that most of us surely watched.  Interestingly enough, I heard a stat on radio Friday that said that NBC had not sold all the commercial time slots until a few days before the hallowed game which, as the story noted, was much later than last year's.  Last year, the network carrying the Super Bowl sold out ads about a month before the game.

Reason?  Bad press this year?  Begin with spousal and partner abuse.  Another charge is the on-going coverage of the brutality of the sport with concussions, injuries, and such.  What about the inane nature of the coverage?  We act outraged over Deflategate and demand answers as well as anger over officiating and add things such as the replay of the 5 minute non-interview with inner-city Marshawn Lynch over and over while there are other weightier stories of far more significance in the world sit on the sidelines.  There is also the shear amount of coverage of a game that usually is less about the sport than the spectacle itself to "crown" a champion probably wears on the average fan of the game.

We spend a great deal of money on this game, and football in general, starting in grade schools, moving through the college ranks, and then on to professional football.  It is hard to measure in dollars how much we spend, but Cowboy stadium cost $1 billion dollars, so you can probably guestimate how much money changes hands for the game in general, as well as just one Super Bowl.

There is nothing wrong with profit, and there are probably countless jobs created by such revenue.  Yet think of the massive amount of money generated by sport  which makes Christ's comment in Luke resonate even more so: "For where your treasure is, there will be your heart as well." (Luke 12:34)

How much do I give to other things before I give to God?  How much time do I give to such important things like sports and other earthly topics rather than share the Word with someone in a simple way. I pray that I use our limited time on earth wisely and that our hearts are aligned with our hopes in the resurrection through how we use that time or other precious resources God has given us.

Peace in the Risen Christ...and hope you enjoyed the game.

Hope Men's Ministry