Monday, March 30, 2015

Devotion 3.31.15

Natural rights.  These rights were defined by men like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes before the founding of the United States but they were cited by Thomas Jefferson in the "Declaration of Independence."  These were a logical step to remove the authority of the king who held his authority was "divine right."  Divine right had been the custom for centuries, but the thinkers like Hobbes and Locke asserted that people had lived with natural rights which Jefferson, then, took the added step to say these had been "endowed by our creator."  As you remember in your civics classes, these "unalienable" rights (cannot be taken from the crown or government) were "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Christ rides into Jerusalem.  It was he who had a divine right, assigned by the Father, to be the sacrificial lamb.  The crowd thought they saw the next David riding into the city on the back of a donkey.  He was certainly there to deliver them from Rome.  Christ knew differently.  He was a deliverer, but his divine right was to deliver us from ourselves, our sinful nature.

Due to our sinful nature, we have no rights from God our Father.  Our guarantees were clearly spelled out at the fall - toil the land and death (Gen 3).  Christ comes to earth and suffers on our behalf to make us whole in the sight of God.  Our sinful nature is now clothed in righteousness through faith in Christ.

"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[ through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith." (Romans 3:22-24)

We think about the ultimate sacrifice from God the Father of his Son.  We think about the weight of this sacrifice on Christ as he took on the sins of the world.  We thank God for our righteousness we gain with faith in Christ and the suffering and resurrection that gave us this righteousness.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Devotion 3.29.15

"If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country  - Victory or Death."
        - Col. William Travis, Alamo

What makes someone knowingly go into his or her own death?  That question is usually one we ask ourselves when we consider the Battle of the Alamo or some Civil War battle.  It is expressed in Travis's letter when he says he will "sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier."

So it is with this week.  Christ enters the city of Jerusalem in triumph on Sunday (the day after the Jewish Sabbath) and by week's end, he finds himself crucified.  How?  He knew of his death because he foretold of it on many occasions with his disciples. What were his thoughts as he rode into the city with the crowd who loved him?  Did he know it was about to come to an end?  Certainly the main thing we know is he was fulfilling the Father's will. We know it from his prayer in the garden, "Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." (Matthew 26:42)

Paul writes, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient t the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8). 

Christ's sins?  Ours.  Christ's guilt?  Ours.  Christ's mission?  Reconciliation for us with his Father through his suffering, death and resurrection.  This is our focus throughout the week.  We pray for forgiveness and thankfulness for this reconciliation.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Devotion 3.25.15

From Tom Allen, member of Hope Lutheran.

One of my favorite passages is Romans 12:12, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."  This verse to me sums up our Christian life.  We should be thankful in all circumstances, regardless of what we're going through.  We need to be patient when we go through difficult times as
they will not last forever but will make us stronger in the process.

Finally we need to be faithful in our prayer life. Peace!


Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 23, 2015

Devotion 3.24.15

From Jeff Hill, member of Hope Lutheran.

The one passage that I always come back to is Psalms 23. I know that it is used a lot, but when I was old enough to start reading the Bible that Psalm has stuck with me. I know that no matter what is going on I am not ever alone.  There have been times when I was teaching that it seemed I was alone, but I always knew in the back of my mind that whatever happened God had my back. It made some situations better knowing that.

We thank God for his presence, his having our back, in times of need.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Devotion 3.23.15

From Jon Ulmer, member of Hope Lutheran

Ephesians 6:10-20 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

Even though Paul is telling us how important the Word is, I struggle to spend time in it. This passage puts a whole new light on what the Word is "armor". It is words on our mouths when we need it. It should also be a reminder that this is a war for souls, mine own included.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Weekend Devotion 3.20.15

Snakebit.  He's been "snakebit."  We've been "snakebit."  It's not a positive phrase (and yes, for you grammarians out there I realize it should be "bitten by a snake").  It is usually a phrase that is associated with a negative or series of negatives in life.

For all the joy in life, the demise of another team not-my-own is always particularly fun.  As a life-long Astros fan, my team's been snakebit.  After a rise to the top and outstanding performance of almost a decade, the wheels began to fall off.  Owner wants to sell the team.  Fire sale of eligible free agents, many of whom almost achieved a World Series championship with the Astros.  And then, the sale which had a clause that the Astros go to the American League - almost baseball.  Gulp.  New vision from the new owner and we have three years of consecutive 100-loss seasons.  THAT is snakebit.

Yet there is hope and now the snakebites move north of Houston to Arlington and the Texas Rangers, who managed somehow to:  lose former president and managing partner of the Rangers Nolan Ryan (who had a large role in building a championship franchise); lose a major hitter in Nelson Cruz to the steroid bug; lose pitchers and players to higher bidding teams; and this season see the star second baseman that rarely has played out again because he slept wrong on his shoulder that had surgery; and finally, now see star pitcher Yu Darvish leave in need of Tommy John surgery.  The snakebit baton has been passed.  To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, "The torch has been passed to a new generation of snakebit."

In reading Numbers 21, we see a generation of Israelites, freed from captivity out of Egypt, wandering with Moses and not very happy about their conditions.  They'd rather be back in slavery, they said to Moses, because at least we ate well.  At least they knew their lot and did not have to put up with such conditions (living on the move, eating the bad food God provided).  God heard their outcry and responded by sending venomous snakes to eliminate the wicked.  Many died as they were bitten. More than a symbolic gesture of growing weary of complaining, the death caused the Israelites to turn to Moses and seek forgiveness.  God instructed Moses to place a fiery image of a snake on a pole and have those bitten to turn to the bronze serpent.  The site of the serpent would heal them.

The application for us today, beyond our favorite sport franchise, is simple:  We have much to be thankful for, yet we can somehow make a hell of our own lives.  Much like a solid ship navigating through the ocean called life, we somehow manage to forget God is God and wreck our lives on the rocks of a shore we could have seen had we kept our sites ahead and paid attention.  Like the Israelites, we have our image set on a cross for us to see to receive that forgiveness - that of Christ.  Christ tells us in John 3 that as Moses set the fiery serpent up in the wilderness for those wounded, so to the Son of Man will suffer.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

We pray that we look at Christ, who forgives us and heals us from our wounds - our ship-wrecked and snakebit lives - and came to us and died for us to save us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Devotion 3.19.15

From Todd Anderson, member of Hope Lutheran

Not a verse, just always thought it was a cool beginning and for 40-some years I didn't' get much further into it other than the first page.

"In the beginning God . . . "

We pray that we place God at the beginning of our lives daily. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Devotion 3.18.15

From CJ Marquette, member of Hope Lutheran

As I travel...

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  -Joshua 1:9
We are reminded yet again of God being with us through our day.  Our prayer is that God is with us in our daily lives, at home or on the road.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 16, 2015

Devotion 3.17.15

From Drew Paxton, member of Hope Lutheran -

Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Just a good solid reminder to, well, be strong and courageous.  A quick little pep talk to bust confidence.

We pray that Christ make us strong and courageous.

Hope Men's Minisry

Devotion 3:16

Today, March 16, 2015  (3.16.15) - we dedicate the devotion to the simple yet absolutely remarkable scriptural truth:  "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This is a truth we hold dear in our faith.


Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, March 13, 2015

Weekend Devotion 3.14.15

I was talking to a friend the other day over breakfast, and he mentioned attending seed company presentations.  "They throw so many facts at you to convince you their product is the best that there is no way to remember everything they say," he mentioned.  I mentioned attending a political presentation done here in Lubbock that featured Edwin Meese, formerly the attorney general under Reagan, and taking my son at the request of the organizers of the event (they wanted people who had children to bring them since it was being held for high school students to show they had a packed house).  Meese was gracious and cordial but supported much of what he said with statistics, and as we left, my son asked, "How do you argue with someone who has so many facts supporting what he says?"  I replied, "Oh, you put someone from a different political persuasion up there, and when he or she is done, you have to go back to what you believe to be true."

What's the difference between the truth and a fact?  In strategic planning, our firm taught us to establish beliefs or core values at the very beginning of the process for the organization.  Core values transcend what you do as an organization and provide that organization with those truths that the group believes.  These truths transcend time and should be somewhat lasting.  "People have an inherent right to be free."  I cannot prove this, nor should I have to support it with statistics.  This statement is a conviction.  I believe it.  I feel it in fact.  If it has to be proven, it is probably not a core value.  "Faith is fundamental to human existence."  I believe that in my entirety.  I will gladly talk with people about it, perhaps even argue, but in the end I will not be moved.  It has less to do with stubbornness and not being open minded but rather it is that much of a conviction of heart.

Core values/beliefs then are overriding convictions, principles, truths that exist over time.  These, then, are what constitute a truth.  A fact can change.  We once taught that the earth was flat and that the sun and moon rotated around it.  Discoveries in the past century have completely changed what we once knew about almost every subject imaginable in every field, yet our truths, our core values and beliefs, remain constant.

Forgiveness, mercy, redemption, grace and love all have an element of truth in life, and these elements are the foundation of our faith.  In Ephesians, Paul writes "...among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead and in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved -..." (2:3 - 5)  John 3 says it another way, "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son."  As recipients of this undeserved love, we should, in turn, live lives accordingly, showing forgiveness, mercy, redemption, grace and love to others.  Can people outside the faith exhibit these same traits?  Yes, yet for those of us who follow Christ this love from God clothes us in righteousness before God's eyes.  Our sinful nature we could not redeem ourselves from was removed in God's eyes through His Son.

What do you believe?  What are your core beliefs?  What are the truths that you share with those you are with - family and friends?  What does your church believe?  What are its core principles, value, beliefs (don't recite a creed now - dig deep)?  How is that reflected in action through what you do and what you share with others who hold similar beliefs? 

Pray that it is.  That people know us by our love and our service to others.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Devotion 3.12.15

From Ernst "Ernie" Kiesling, member of Hope

PS 107:1 says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever”.

In my grandfather’s house and in my father’s house, brief prayers were always spoken before meals (usually the common ‘Come Lord Jesus’ table prayer in unison) but also at the end of the meal: “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and his mercy endures forever”.

My father lay in a comma for several weeks before his physical death. He seldom uttered a coherent statement or word when I was present. But one day as I sat alone by his bedside, he said very clearly “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever”. Those were the last words I heard him speak. I value that moment and my memory of it.

I have often marveled and thanked God for my father’s faith and spiritual leadership. My mother died when I -- the youngest of six children -- was less than two years old. My father never remarried. Somehow he managed our household and farm through the great depression and beyond. He continued to give thanks for our blessings and to reflect God’s love to us.
This ends our third week of devotions inspired by members of Hope or readers of the Men's Ministry Devotions.  Ernie's (Dr. Kiesling actually) reminds us of the strong impact men of faith have on their families.  As we continue in this Lenten season, we want to remind ourselves of our duty as men of Christ with our families, our primary duty while on earth, to share and shape faith and faith lives.  This personal sharing is powerful on many levels.  Thanks be to Christ for His Word, its power in our lives, and its power for us as we walk through life striving to be men of God.
Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Devotion 3.11.15

From Rob Hiner, member Hope Lutheran.

I have given my favorite verse some thought and have decided that the verse most often in my mind and recited in my thoughts most often these days is an old favorite of many.  The 23 Psalm. 

In these times where every day we can feel like we are  "Walking through the valley of the shadow of death", we need to remember who is in charge and know that His rod and staff are mightier than even the greatest army. In remembering the Psalm, I am able to go to my place of mental comfort.  My "green pasture", and "still waters".  Despite how troubled the world seems (is it really more troubled or do we simply have much more access to world news), have peace in the knowledge that a place has been prepared and "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever". 

As you bring this Psalm to memory may you find this peace as well.

We ask that God continue to remind us that he is with us in all aspects of our lives, even in the valley of the shadow of death.  We are reminded that we fear no evil because God is with us.  Give thanks for his presence and for the peace of his presence.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 9, 2015

Devotion 3.10.15

From Gary Tonniges, member of Hope Lutheran.

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It speaks to God’s plan for our lives.

We ask that Christ continue to open our hearts to the plans in our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Devotion 3.9.15

From Larry Tanner, member at Hope Lubbock.

Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

It succinctly says “I AM” and it was my father’s favorite verse.

We praise God for being the same yesterday, today, and forever.  We continue to seek Christ as the great "I am" and ask or his guidance, forgiveness, grace and mercy.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Weekend Devotion 3.6.15

Came to Fredericksburg this week for an opportunity to enjoy the Hill Country here in Texas.  It's hard not to enjoy this area and part of it is the history that the Hill Country.  Tuesday found my friend and me in Austin looking at the Travis letter at the Texas Library and Archives on the capitol grounds.  The Travis letter, for those of you not intimately knowledgeable in Texas history, is that letter written by Col. William Travis, commander of the Alamo, which was written asking for more troops, status of the Alamo, and saying he and the volunteers will man the garrison faithfully.  It is a piece of living history.

Outside of Austin is home to Lyndon B. Johnson's ranch, another piece of history.  Using LBJ's name draws one of two responses depending on who hears it:  powerful man who occupied offices of importance and used his power to bring about meaningful and lasting change and programs OR powerful man who abused his power to bring about change that was detrimental to the country.

When interviewed after his last volume in his biography of Johnson (four in all at this point with one more in the works), Robert Caro (who has given a sober assessment of Johnson that is truthful but well-crafted to reserve opinion of Johnson) said he neither admired nor disliked Johnson, but as a historical figure, he really grew a sense of awe toward Johnson.  It is likely that this country will never again have a figure who can amass the kind of political power and influence like Johnson did for a variety of factors.

It is said that Johnson truly knew the men and women he dealt with and what made them tick.  He was, for better or worse depending on your viewpoint, a man who knew people and how to manipulate them.  He is, much like all of us, flawed and used his influence for his own gain.

Christ stands as a stark contrast to Johnson (and us).  "I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you.  I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts," Christ says to the Jews (and to us) in John 5:41-42.  Christ often references the heart and the motive of man.  Where our hearts are.  Christ knew where our hearts are and what drove us.  He viewed us as sheep, easily moved and influenced.  He loved us.  He had compassion on us.  In the end, with all of our flaws, he died for us rather than use his own power and influence to avoid the cross.

We pray that we use our time on earth to glorify God and that our hearts be with him.  We pray that when we fail him, we seek his forgiveness for our weakness and that he strengthen us.  Keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Devotion 3.5.15

From Kerry Wright, member of a Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock and former colleague and friend of David Baldner, Hope Lutheran Lubbock. Kerry is one of many who get our devotions who are not members of Hope Lutheran.

Proverbs 3:5 - 6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

"It is my go-to verse when l cannot figure out what to do and why life is the way it is at the moment. Comforting. . ."

A common thread has been taking our struggles, our weaknesses, our "can't figure out what to do" moments to Christ.  Pray that we love and trust in God with all of our hearts, even in our struggles, and lean on him, not ourselves.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Devotion 3.4.15

From Eric Hiner, pastor of Hope Lutheran Lubbock.

Mark 9.24 - Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

“I believe; help my unbelief.”  "I love this verse because it reminds me of the constant struggle I have with faith and life.  I strive to be faithful, but fully recognize my inability to adequately do it.  In my faith, there are still moments I don’t rely on God, or trust in him.  I would even say that my unbelief drives thoughts and actions instead of God at times.  That is not to say that I don’t have faith.  I do.  But even in my faith, I struggle."
We all struggle with our faith from time to time.  We ask that Christ be with us in our struggles and to strengthen us daily, in strength and in struggles.
Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 2, 2015

Devotion 3.3.15

From Eric Hiner, pastor of Hope Lutheran Lubbock.

2nd Corinthians 12:9 - But he said to me (Christ to Paul), "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

"The greater context helps explain why this is my favorite verse.  Paul, struggling with a thorn in his flesh accepts the fact that it will not be removed by the Lord.  In fact, it is more than mere acceptance, it is comforting.  In Christ, Paul does not need the thorn removed by God, but rather Paul needs grace.  God’s grace is sufficient for all his weakness. God’s grace is what gives strength to Paul to overcome his weakness or his thorn.  For me, it is a reminder that as I deal with and struggle with my weaknesses, God’s grace is the answer.  There is no answer in turning to self-help remedies, rather turn and look at God’s grace because it is sufficient for me and his power is perfect in my weakness."

Where are we weak?  Pray to God that Christ strengthen you, even in your weakness, and allow you to show Christ's grace in you.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Devotion 3.2.15

From Mike Ratke, member of Hope Lutheran Lubbock. 

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

"When you look at it on its surface it seems really simple.  It is a clarification to me of the Great Command given by Jesus.  But it is much more.  It tells us that there is no reason to hide our faith and to share it will all we come in contact with.  Paul uses the line 'first the Jew, then the Gentile' because in his time, in a Jewish culture, they were who you would come in contact with first, and were God's chosen people.  God gave us the gift of Jesus, but bear in mind at the time the Jews were who he promised Jesus to all the way back to Adam and Eve.  

"So first the Jew, then the Gentile.  Meaning, this is my special gift to my chosen people, but he is my gift to all mankind.  It is our job to tell all about him and do so in a very deliberate and proud manner...proud because we are 'boasting in the Lord.'  Do not be shy about this go forth....To me this is one of the greatest challenges to the Lutheran mindset.  To actually get up off of our collective butts and do something that Jesus commanded us and have faith in the fact that the Holy Spirit will give us the skills to do it.  I read much more into the simple verse than most would, but my mind works that way, never is there a simple answer to a simple question.  All simple questions are designed to make us simply think they are simple, when in fact they are there to probe much deeper and look for a much more complex answer."

Pray that all Christians move from their collective seats in the stands to follow Christ's command to take the gospel to all nations by getting on the field of play and engaging.

Hope Men's Ministry