Sunday, May 31, 2015

Devotion 6.1.15

Jeff Foxworthy made himself famous with, "You might be a redneck if...." We were treated to lines about what qualifies you as a redneck that dealt with all sorts of examples.  In a discussion once with a good friend, we were attempting to determine who had more redneck lineage.  The discussion ended in us conceding a tie.  My family tree is as redneck as his. We had an abundance of evidence that could make three albums of country music to our credit (you know what comprises country music - cheating, hurt, betrayal, love gone bad, divorce, getting dumped for another, fighting, lawlessness and maybe a crime or two... the list is endless).

Matthew uses the opening of his gospel as a detailed account on the lineage of Christ.  And to our surprise, Christ's lineage is comprised of all sorts of people, some with some less than honorable pasts.  Abraham was the father of Isaac (Matthew 1:2).  Abraham, the man who was given a covenant by God, who couldn't wait on God's time as recorded in Genesis, so he conspired with this wife Sarai to have a child with his servant Haggar.  Ishmael is born illegitimately, to fulfill the covenant God had made in Abraham's eyes because he and Sarai were old and did not trust in God. Isaac would be born to Sarai and Abraham later.  Isaac, the father of Jacob (1:2).  We remember that story as well. Esau was the oldest entitled to the birthright according to custom, but Rebekah (Isaac's wife) and Jacob conspire to trick Isaac into giving the birthright to Jacob.  Jacob, then has a family with sons, including Joseph, whose brothers jealously conspire to give the appearance of a violent death and sell Joseph into slavery.  Finally, we see "David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah..." (1:6).  Remember that story?  David got Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, pregnant, and tried to get Uriah to make love to her to believe it was his child.  When Uriah was more worried about his troops than anything else, David sends him into fierce battle to fight and hopefully die.  When he does, David brings her in.  David is called on the carpet by God through Nathan and the child born to adultery dies, but they went on to have Solomon who would become king.

Such a sordid family tree for the Christ, our Christ and savior.  Such a genealogy made of such misfits and criminals.  Our savior?  Christ?  Yes, our savior, the Christ.  We learn from this genealogy that God makes perfect from the imperfect.  God's plan is not thwarted by our plans. 

We pray we seek God's plan but we praise God for his plan of perfection coming from our imperfection.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Devotion 5.28.15

On the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall (near Fredericksburg), there is a Lutheran church that stands on the other side of the river from the ranch home.  When the park ranger was talking about the ranch to us, she was asked if LBJ was a Lutheran.  "LBJ," she said smiling, "Was pretty much whatever religion he needed to be."

I laughed because having heard LBJ talk, seen him speak, watched him on TV, and now in biography and film, I'm certain that he took advantage of whatever leverage was necessary to get a bill passed, to make a nomination work, and basically, to get his way. 

We may have convinced ourselves that we are not like that, a chameleon who changes color when the time is necessary to do so, but we are. We go in and out of this world daily.  Prayers in the morning, time with God.  Get into car, lose everything I gained when I prayed.  We have our feet in two worlds - earthly and heavenly, and we find ourselves attempting to compromise both as necessary.

Christ is told by a teacher of the law in Matthew, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."  Christ replies, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay."  (8:19 - 20)  Animals have a place to call home, so the creature comforts we find ourselves in are difficult to part with.  When we say we want to follow Christ, Jesus wants us to know the path we've chosen.

What do we need to give up to follow Christ?  What is standing in our way of serving him and serving our earthly desires?  Pray that when called upon to serve, we give up our earthly comfort and choose Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Devotion 5.27.15

It is the end of the school year.  This simple fact brought to you by a person who lives across the street from a school, and so I'm now dealing with the more pleasant experience of people coming almost daily, early in the day and sometimes in the evening, for the pleasure of seeing little John or Buffy get recognized for this and that and parking up and down the street in numbers that are too numerous to count.  The marquee at the school is changing the announcements steadily with dates for parents, guardians, grandparents or others to carefully read - Kindergarten graduation 5/5/15...1st grade award ceremony 5/6/15 - morning....splash day 5/7/15 - morning...2nd grade award ceremony 5/7/15 - morning... 3rd grade award ceremony 5/7/15 - evening... annual school campout 5/8/15 - sleepover... AR (accelerated reader) awards luncheon 5/11/15....

I was a principal. This time of year was, in a word, a beating.  Recognition programs, awards' ceremonies, graduations.  Ironically,I didn't believe in any of it personally, but when you are a principal, it's not yours to exercise your personal beliefs fully.  So, you march out in your coat and tie and put on a happy face and strive to make each child know just how proud you are for his or her award.  Shake the hand of the tyke, pose for a picture smiling (beaming in fact, and after awhile, the face gets stuck in that position). If you know the child, make a personal comment about him or her (of the 950 students in the school, I was familiar with about half of the students and knew some well - not just the bad stuff either), smile, and then greet the parents afterward to talk about how special the day was.  And gird your loins for those who felt like their child was not recognized adequately or that we failed our due diligence by not giving the C student an "Honor Roll - All A's" certificate.

Unfortunately and statistically, rewards and recognition really only work for a small fraction (very small) of children.  Some noted education researchers have done extensive studies to demonstrate that there is little, if any, correlation with rewards and recognition and success in school.  Sadly, most of it is done for us, the parents.  We like hearing our children did well and we like hearing their name called at an assembly for good things.  And in the school business, you do want to make sure you are actively engaging parents in a positive manner (which is why we did it at our school - my opinion aside, it is one way of getting together with parents on a positive note and a great way to end the year on one as well).

Our pastor last Sunday used the scripture lesson to teach something that resonated with me, and probably explains why I resisted such events.  An awards program, a graduation, a recognition is just temporary.  In his words, commencement is not about an ending of any kind, but rather about a step in life.  "Graduation" means the next step, not a final event.  I liked that personally mainly because it is true.  Nothing in life is final until God calls us to our final resting place. 

The book of Acts (chapter 2) shows the disciples in a transformative event.  Christ's call to discipleship was not the end of the road, but rather a beginning.  Christ's teaching and miracles were merely a process.  Christ's crucifixion was not an end for them.  Neither was his resurrection.  The resurrection meant a new beginning for them and us.  Christ staying on earth 40 days after his resurrection was not an end either, but a transition period with his ministry.  And in Acts 2 we see the disciples empowered with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Jewish celebration that recognized the 50th day after the Passover).  On this Pentecost, God's Spirit descends upon them and gives them the ability to speak so that all understood.  This was a transformative event for the apostles, but not an end as well.  This was a completely new beginning for them.  The church and the word of God exploded, literally, and the numbers grew dramatically as people responded to the call of the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Enjoy these events your school is holding this month, but please, fathers, take the time to make sure that regardless of the accomplishment, your son or daughter realizes it is just a step, not an end.  Christ sends his Spirit to us to make us new creations as well which does not mean we stop after baptism, confirmation, a milestone,  communion, or other act or event.  Make sure your son or daughter knows of your unfailing love and that it is separate from the accomplishment or event.  Our love for them needs to be regardless of status, just as Christ's love for us is unconditional and not related to what we deserve.  Be a part of this time, and as an educator, I apologize for giving you so much to be a part of and to celebrate.  You're welcome.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Devotion 5.25.15

We remember those who have lost their lives on the fields of battle to protect our precious liberties, among them, the right to write this devotion, read it, and to otherwise express our religious beliefs freely.  We pray it never is taken for granted. 

Inspired by the Men's Retreat - Four C's That Interfere with Our Relationship w Christ - Concerns

"I have a concern about the direction our school is going," the teacher sitting in my office once said to me.  "We used to be like a family but now I feel as though that is no longer the case."  I expressed my appreciation for her feeling comfortable enough to come and express her thoughts to me and listened.  She was an outstanding teacher who did a great deal for the children she taught.  Because of her strength as a teacher and her independence, I thought she would be successful in a portable building which was not inside the main building.  The fact is you see those staff less and they are not part of the interaction that occurs as most teachers see each other, and the principal, during the course of the day.  In the end, she thanked me for listening, and then I was promoted and never had the chance to demonstrate that I was going to act on her suggestions.

The Fourth C, concerns, can improve the church, or destroy the dialogue, depending on the motive behind them.  For example, in Luke 10, Christ gets a question from a person, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  Now, if our pastor is teaching a confirmand (an 11 - 13 year old in Confirmation), and he or she asks that, he sees it as a teachable moment.  "Thank you dear child for asking that..."  Yet Luke introduces the question with the truth, "And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying,..." (10:25).  So, is my concern a true concern, or a trap? 

Unfortunately, we can only guess, sometimes more accurately than at other times, about the motive of a concern. It can be genuine, and it can be one meant to destroy.  Concerns, generally spoken using a personal pronoun (I, me, we), come from the personal level about ministry.  Our hope is to take them to the mission level and seek Christ as we build his kingdom. 

Peter opens his epistle with this:  "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:13)  Preparation for the challenge before them as disciples of Christ at varying levels of maturity in the faith.  Then, Peter closes his epistle with this:  "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:6 - 8)

So, we are to be sober-minded, prepared an place our hope in Christ and we are to be sober-minded, watchful, leery of Satan who may lure us into a trap.

We pray our concerns are for the ministry and are used to build up the body of Christ, not tear it down. We pray we are sober-minded, preparing for our opportunities to create, build, and construct the body of Christ and that we are sober-minded, alert, and watchful that we guard against Satan who seeks simply to destroy.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Devotion 5.21.15

Inspired by the Men's Retreat - Four C's That Interfere with Our Relationship w Christ - Causes

The Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence is a prestigious award given to a company or organization (public, private, non-profit) that exemplifies excellence and quality.  The seven criteria are easily understood but difficult to master.  The trainers for Baldrige often remind all participants in the training that the idea is organizational excellence and not an award.  As an examiner, I learned quickly that many people will pass through the training, but few companies or organizations attempt the award.

There is a story within the circles of the quality movement, as it was once called, of a company that dedicated much of its resources to get the Baldrige and accomplished that goal.  It then promptly went out of business.  Why?  In the pursuit of the award, it forgot its business. 

The book Good to Great (Jim Collins, 2001) introduced us to the "Hedgehog Concept." Simply put, the "hedgehog concept" is about simplicity.  As he puts it, "A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best.  It is an understanding of what you can be best at."  Consequently, great companies have an ability to determine what fits within their business and deliver it because it helps them be what they are best at.

The Third C, Causes, are many in churches.  A cause is an idea, an activity, a plan of action, a goal, a program, a ministry, or some other kind of function in the church that has ownership from at least one individual and usually more.  Churches have taken on causes that do two things: Serve the mission of the church or serve the cause.  As causes grow in size and in number, does the church have the ability to say, "This cause no longer serves a purpose.  It should be re-purposed or ended."?  Causes, and feuds over causes (usually started because someone asks, "Why do we do this?" or "Do we need to continue doing this?"), can have an adverse impact on the true function of a church.  In essence, we start worshiping the cause.

Paul's words about this are a stark reminder of our true purpose and the causes we have chosen to address and their purpose:  "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained."  (Philippians 3:13 - 15)

We pray for our causes, that they serve Christ and Him crucified, and we pray for those who lead our causes, that they keep the main thing the main thing when it comes to that cause.  We celebrate those causes that have achieved their purpose, and we celebrate those causes that have done well but no longer continue to serve Christ and Him crucified.  We pray for guidance as we look for or examine current ministries that bring the Word of God to people and strengthen the faith of those they reach.
We pray that no cause divide us, only strengthen us as Christ's body.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Devotion 5.20.15

Inspired from the Men's Retreat - Things that interfere with our relationship with Christ - Carpet

The Astrodome.  Once the marvel of the Western Hemisphere, and now reduced to an organized pile of junk.  Yet so sacred is the Dome that no elected politician in Houston or Harris County has the gumption to actually lead.  So many proposals have been put forward to make it a shopping mall, or perhaps a 5-Star hotel, or maybe an indoor amusement park/shopping mall/hotel to rival the Mall of America in Minnesota.  Here is a novel idea - tear down that 50-year old stadium that just sits and rusts.

Yet it is, in a word, sacred.  We could call it a "sacred cow," but that is like comparing cattle to something colossal.  It is a "sacred Dome."  It may be there for another 25 years or so.

The going joke is, "How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb?  Answer:  None, Grandma donated it."  Oh, we have our sacred items, and these sacred items are summed up in one word for this devotional - carpet.  Nothing can come between us and our savior better than our collective facility stuff from the foundation to the steeple and all points in between, including the things that occupy it.

It is worth noting that in Exodus (25 and 26), God gives careful instructions to Moses for two specific items - the Ark and the Tabernacle which will be His dwelling place with Israel with the Ark.  A few hundred years later, Solomon builds a temple for God.  God says to Solomon, "Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father." (1 Kings 6:11 - 12)  John tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  (John 1:1)  Really, all that matters in a church facility is that God's Word dwells in it.  The tabernacle, the temple, and the Ark are all gone, but God's Word is still with us.  Our "carpet" will one day be gone as well, but God's Word will be with us. 

It is worth noting that Christ foretells the destruction of the temple (Luke 21), and in his foreshadowing, he doesn't tell the crowd, "So cling to it with all your might."  The temple was destroyed.  Christ became that temple for us.  In the end, God's Word dwelling among us is all that matters.

Pray that we always keep focus on God's Word and that we remain steadfast to "all that really matters" when issues of importance, like the carpet, come before us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, May 18, 2015

Devotion 5.19.15

Inspired from the Men's Retreat - Things that interfere with our relationship with Christ - Cash

Debt.  Families incur it.  Businesses incur it both public and private.  Credit and debt are almost an American way of life. When borrowing on a house, the banker that was going through our paperwork said the average American borrows approximately 2.5 times the amount of annual income in that household.  Most of us borrow for our house, car(s), and use credit to pay for things.

Churches are no different than the body that comprises the membership.  We borrow for facilities. We may borrow for other items on the property.  On the healthy side, paying for facility maintenance and upgrade suggests growth which suggests feeding the community the Word of God and that the community is responding to the Spirit through the church.

However, debt can become an albatross for a church because it can invite experts or people who want to focus on how we spend our money, how we budget our money, and where we can cut, especially in lean years.  They speak in broad terms and say such things as, "In my house, we have to balance our checkbook," forgetting the fact that they, too, have incurred debt more than likely.  We can spend an inordinate amount of time on money, and debt, while neglecting the Word of God.  So, on the unhealthy side, debt (Cash) is that area that can keep us from our relationship with Christ. 

Debt, then, can expose a deeper problem for the church, a spiritual one.  We want a great deal for our church.  Nice facilities.  Clean and comfortable.  Programs for our members that can become an extensive list.  Activities.  Grounds that are inviting and provide a place for those activities.  But please, don't lecture me and use that "tithe" word.  I give in other ways that takes care of those things I think we need.  These kinds of issues can lead a church to then seek funds from other sources which can get us into the problem noted in yesterday's devotion as our church looks like the temple where Christ chases out the money changers and sacrifice sale-reps.

God speaks directly to this spiritual issue in Malachi when He confronts Israel.  "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may e food in my house.  Test me in this," says the Lord God Almighty, " and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." (3:8-10)

Do we give freely?  People shift in their seats in discomfort when they hear tithe, but first fruits is a New Testament concept as well.  We give generously back to Christ because he first loved us.  We provide our "offering" out of response to His sacrifice for us that atones us.  Are we giving as we should, or are we leaving it up to the church to find ways to fund ministries that we desire?  No where else in scripture does God state that we can "test" him.  Are we testing God?

Pray that we give as we should in all of our areas including time, talent, and treasure.  Pray that we give out of love.  Pray that we support our ministries that we seek so that God's Word is heard in a variety of formats.  Pray that cash and debt don't become those obstacles for our mission of taking the gospel to all nations.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Devotion 5.18.15

Inspired from the Men's Retreat - Things that interfere with our relationship with Christ

George Will is an avid baseball fan (as well as Pulitzer Prize winning editorialist).  He has written on the game frequently and has a book to his name about baseball (Men at Work). Will considers himself a purist of the game, and as such, he finds the side acts during baseball a distraction. The true fan of the game goes for the game, but baseball has found ways to make a great deal of money with the side shows. In Houston, we have the "Chick-Fil-A Fowl Pole" that separates foul balls from home runs.  There are the Landry Crawford Street Boxes.  There is the Coca-Cola section in center field.  There are the races between innings sponsored by....  Between each inning there is something, and it is annoying.  Yet it raises the almighty dollar, so the fan can afford to go to the game and spend only an average of $120 per game.

As we look at those things that come between us and our worship of Christ, we can look at Cash.  Money provides needed ministries and programs to connect people to the Word of God, but like the "stuff" in baseball, when does it become a distraction?

Christ comes into the temple and sees money-changers and people selling pigeons for sacrifices.  The explanatory note the study bible says this was common for the traveler who came to Jerusalem on their pilgrimage. Yet it didn't please Christ as the Matthew account says, "And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple." (21:12)  What angered him?  Might it have been the distraction of vendors trading and selling in the temple from worship of his Father, our Father?  "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers,'" (v 13)

Christ came in and saw vendors taking space, regardless of the reason.  Oh sure, it was for ministry reasons, or so the explanatory note in the study bible says, but had it gone too far?  Did the church begin to take on the money generated by the lenders?  From what Christ said, it had.

Cash can be a distraction for us in the church.  And our focus on it to have a "better ministry or ministries" CAN take away from the simple truth of God's Word as the central focus.  Our relationship with God comes from hearing God's Word through song, scripture, and sermons, prayer, and through the sacraments.  We pray that God give us the ability to focus and not let other "things" take away from hearing God's Word and sharing His Word with others.  We pray that when we need money, it is only to serve Him better and to bring meaning to the ministry of God's Word.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Devotion 5.14.15

I have a friend who has decided to become a new man.  I see him regularly at my workout place (Zach's) and have for the past couple of months, and we have said hello to one another.  I finally decided to ask him one day about working out (see, he wasn't really known for working out before, he was known for....well, raising heck - that's the devotional way to put it).  He was great at raising heck.  Much as they say about any profession, there is a science and an art to it, and this guy had them down.

So when I asked, he looked right at me and said, "I gave up the booze and stuff and have committed to eating right and have committed to working out every day.  Have been clean the past three months."  Good for you, I said.  It's showing, I continued, starting to gain some muscle mass.  Keep up the good work.

I wonder what his "cathartic" event was?  What made him decide it was time?  He's not married, so not the mrs saying take your foolish ways and go.  No children to say, "Dad, quit embarrassing us."  Something convinced him and made him decide to move forward in life.

Isaiah's cathartic event was probably hours of God, in a vision, telling him the of the faithlessness of Israel.  It takes up the first five chapters of Isaiah.  God is fairly blunt and leaves no room for escape.  Finally, Isaiah sees God on His throne surrounded by angels (seraphs), and Isaiah confesses his uncleanliness, "Woe to me! I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!" (6:5)

Isaiah, the prophet to come, hears God's words and confesses his conviction, and God hears his call.  "Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it, he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." (6:6-7)  A sacramental act combining a physical means with the Word of God to deliver forgiveness and renewal.  God then asks the broad question, "Whom shall I send?" to which Isaiah answers, "Here I am!  Send me!" (6:8)

What prompts us to change?  What convicts us?  U2 notes in a song, "If you want to kiss the sky better learn how to kneel."  When do we, somewhat like my friend, look at God and say, "Thy will be done" and mean it?  All of us are as guilty as Israel, and God provides that same forgiveness he gave Isaiah through our sacraments (baptism and communion) where visible elements of water or bread and wine (body and blood) combine with the words of Christ to cleanse our hearts and minds.

As we approach God's altar, do we approach on bended knee?  Do we truly seek the will of God?  And do we then, as we are forgiven and are renewed, turn to Christ and say, "Send me!  Thy will be done!"?  As Isaiah famously states later, "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  We pray for his strength daily and go to him humble, on bent knee, as we confess to him and seek his forgiveness and renewal.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Devotion 5.13.15

That boy needs to man up.  The first time I heard that was here in West Texas, and that's not a negative slight against West Texas.  It is just that I had not heard this matter of fact phrase about how a guy responds to something.  Man up.  I had heard it posed as a question in my life, "You are a man aren't you?"  Working on the Port of Houston, I had heard it put bluntly in words not proper for a devotion.  These weren't and aren't words of encouragement.  They are usually words meant to let the hearer know that his actions toward something aren't necessarily "manly."

The fact is that Christians are not to be fearful.  We are to be of courage.  We hear it throughout scripture.  God doesn't tell us to "man up," but he does remind us to be of courage.

"Have I not 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?" (Joshua 1:9)  What he tells Joshua he shares with us.  In fact, he commands us to be strong and courageous for He is with us.

The fact is that we forget, as Peter did when he joined Christ on the water, to keep our eyes on Christ.  We begin to sink.  It isn't necessarily a matter of how strong or weak our faith is.  It is a matter of knowing we are frail, regardless of what we believe about our faith lives, and that our command (the First Commandment), is to know that God is our only God.

Christ reiterates the command in Joshua this way:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19 - 20)  Teach everyone all Christ has commanded us, and know He is with us, to the end of the age.  Christ is with us.  We need not fear or dismay.

Our prayer needs to be that we are faithful to God, and that the measure of "manning up" is that of keeping our eyes on Christ, the author of our faith.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, May 11, 2015

Devotion 5.12.15

What is our typical response when called upon to do something?  "Please give me some time to think about it."  In fact, it was a common joke in my profession that we would go through three interviews with a candidate, and in the final interview (if you get that far, you really do have to think you have the job), the response was almost universally, "Let me go home, talk to my spouse, pray about it.  Can I let you know my answer to your offer tomorrow?"

Isaiah is called by God when he hears God's voice, "'Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us?'  Then I said, 'Here am I!  Send me!'" (6:8)  We've seen prophets in the past offer up answers much like our job candidates (give me a day or two).  Many attempted to get out of the call from God, but Isaiah is different.  Isaiah willingly and apparently gladly accepts.

Christ calls his first disciples as he walks by them fishing, saying to Peter and Andrew, "'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.'  Immediately they left their nets and followed him." (Matthew 4:19 and 20)

When we are called by Christ, what is our response?  Pray that when we hear the call from Christ, we gladly accept that call and serve Him.

Hope Men's Ministry 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Devotion 5.11.15

Sunday, May 10, we celebrated Mother's Day, historically a proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson in the early 20th century.  We take a day each year to acknowledge the importance of mothers in our lives, yet Solomon writes in Proverbs, "Hear, my son, you father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching." (1:8)

A psychologist came to speak to us when I was a principal, and she noted that children who lose their fathers to an early death adapt much better than those whose fathers are in absentia.  Solomon writes the formula, mothers and fathers.

We speak too often about the dissolution of the family and its impact on society.  Mothers have, by and large, had responsibility heaped on them as fathers have shirked theirs.  As men who follow Christ, rather than condemn the situation, our actions should be as follows:  pray for our family; pray that men learn of their importance and impact as fathers and accept that responsibility gladly; pray that we seek opportunities to mentor children in our sphere of influence, either at church, school, or within the community, who've lost their fathers; and, pray for families.

We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for our mothers.  They hold a special place in our lives.  We pray that prayer of thanksgiving as well as honor of the day, but as men of Christ, pray we never forget our roles and the importance they play as we stand by our wives and children's moms daily as parents in the eyes of God.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Devotion 5.8.15

"Is not my word like fire," declares the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jeremiah 23:29

"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication." Ephesians 6:16 - 18

The Word of God can convict and it can heal and protect.  It can come down like "a hammer breaking a rock into pieces" or can guide us through "prayer and supplication."

We see this play out in John 4 when Christ, the Word of God, speaks to a Samaritan woman.  Christ asks the woman for a drink, against the customs of the day since Jews considered Samaritans unclean.  The woman brings up this point and Christ answers, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (v. 10)  Christ then explains that he is the living water that will give a "spring of water welling up eternal life." (v. 14)  When she asks to receive the water of which he speaks, he asks her to go get her husband.  "I have no husband," she replies. Christ said, "You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is quite true." (v 17 and 18).

Like a velvet hammer, Christ spoke and she was convicted.  He spoke truth and offered her the well of eternal life.

Where are those areas in our lives that the word needs to break apart as we examine our lives?  What are our needs that we go to the word for supplication?  How can we use Christ's example as we deliver the Word to people?  Pray that we use God's Word daily as we seek to grow as disciples who have been called and known since we were in our mother's wombs.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Devotion 5.7.15

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  He will be like a bush in the wastelands.... He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.  Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green." Jeremiah 17:5 - 8

Where do we place our hopes and our trust?  Is our hope and trust in Christ and the cross?

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13

Pray we place our trust in Christ, seeking the spring of water giving us eternal life.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Devotion 5.6.15

"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?  If you stumble in safe county, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" Jeremiah 12:5

How do we measure up when we are tested along our walk of life?  We ask God for guidance, but how do we respond when He guides us into areas that are well beyond our boundaries of comfort?

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our fait, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1 - 2

Pray that God give us the strength necessary to take on those areas of challenge He presents us.  Pray that we have our focus on Him as we wander into the thickets of life.  Pray that Christ give us the strength necessary to endure the race we are running called life.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, May 4, 2015

Devotion 5.5.15

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

What is our significance?  What is our purpose and meaning here on earth?  Maybe we should ask why God has called us to be his.  What is our purpose in light of what God desires for us?

God has chosen each of us to be light in the world. Pray that we seek God's meaning in our lives.  Ask God to guide us as we live out our faith lives walking in the light.  

Hope Men's Ministry