Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Devotion 7.1.15

An Intentional Savior, An Intentional Faith
I find it interesting when I think about the things that I am or have been really intentional about and the things that I am not.  For instance, when I was in college, I had a goal.  In football, I wanted to be the best at my position so I knew the things that I needed to do in order to give the best opportunity to achieve that; running harder, lifting more, learning my plays.  I wanted to go to seminary, so I was intentional about the classes I took; Greek, Hebrew, Philosophy, etc…  I knew what I wanted at that point in life and I was intentional about trying to achieve that. 
We are often this way with our careers, with our families, with our hobbies.  But are we this way with our life with Christ?  How often have you stopped and thought about the things that you need to do in order to be a stronger example of your faith?  A better witness to the life Christ called you to live?  A more devoted follower of Jesus?  I believe that for most of us, we live each day as it comes.  We may throw in a healthy exercise of reading the Bible, coming to church, sharing with others.  But I wonder if we can be more intentional about it. 
That is what the Summer of Health is meant to be.  An opportunity to reflect on your life and examine your physical, mental, and spiritual health while being intentional about how that health interacts with your life of faith.
I think of how intentional God was when he thought of us… “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…”  As God had a plan for saving our lives from the beginning of time, I think it is healthy for us to have a plan on how we can more intentionally live our lives for Jesus.
Pastor Eric Hiner

Monday, June 29, 2015

Devotion 6.30.15

Health.  When the word is mentioned, what comes to mind?  I'm guessing that most of us went directly to our physical health.  The kind of shape I'm in by appearance, the numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, PSA....), feeling (pain for example), weight, and other factors. 

Let's look at the larger picture of health though.  What drives health and a desire to be healthy?  Something since childhood (a friend of mine ran track since age 12 for example and still remains fit)?  Was it something the doctor told you?  Do this or you will die young.  Was it driven by your own motivation?  And when we talk of health, do you see more than just physical health?  Mental?  Emotional?  How about even spiritual?

Proverbs 14:30 speaks to this.  "A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot."  Health is a good thing.  Caring for one's body is scriptural (as we will discover), but health comes from the mind and spirit as much as from training the body.

We will spend time over the next few months examining this as well as assessing our own body, mind and spirit.  We will also insist that any work done toward improving one or all of these three during this time be done with Christ as the central focus.  What does working to improve one or all of these areas do for us to be better stewards sharing God's Word to the lost?

Pastor provided a well-developed and extensive handout at church for those who are members of Hope Lutheran, so if you are not a member, we will attempt to reference that during this "Summer of Health."  In the meantime, begin asking yourself these questions:  If I could set a goal for health, what would that be?  How might I consider sharpening the body, mind, and spirit (or how might I settle on picking just one or two?  which would they be?)?

Think about it, pray about it, and remember that we are Christ's vessels, given life to serve Him.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Devotion 6.23.15

The law.  We are a nation of laws, not men, which means that no man is above the law either in status or position.  Some look for room in the law to interpret as it is applied.  Charges filed, trials held, acquittals or convictions as a system designed to give each person his or her day in court seeks to apply justice fairly.

When Christ's ministry began, he started by blessing groups who suffer, are lowly in form, afflicted (The Beatitudes - Matthew 5), then he moves into saying he comes to fulfill the law.  He is here in our place, to accomplish what we cannot. He then begins to speak of laws, "You have heard it said...."  Christ then does this, moves the target from the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. 

You have heard it said that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to his judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the council...." (Matthew 5:21 and 22)  Do you really think you have followed the law?  Think again!

All of this leads us to Christ.  We need Christ.  Him who is perfect came to stand in the place of those who are not.  And if you begin to "say you have no sin, you deceive yourself, and the truth is not in you." (1 John 1)

We pray thanksgiving for Christ standing in our place.  We are thankful that he who is without sin took the penalty for our sin.  We pray thanks for God's grace.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Devotion 6.22.15

During my childhood, I was fascinated with pictures from the turn of the century to World War II.  Life before I came to be.  Pictures of hope during strife (The Great Depression), pictures of the battlefield, pictures of cities as they stood at that time or as familiar buildings now were under construction then.  Then, of course, there were the crime pictures - Bonnie and Clyde, before, during, and after; mob hits such as St. Valentines Massacre; and, pictures of Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, and others.

Violence is a theme (and there are others) of our life on earth.  Certainly the events in Charleston caught my attention, as I'm sure it did yours. Emanuel AME Church members gunned down by a man who had  been attending the bible study.  To make it worse, race appears to be an issue (at face value, certainly he is not in his right mind) and led the man to kill 9 people.  Victims families and the church in general have either spoken to the culprit or of the culprit and the crime by saying that forgiveness needs to happen, yet others ask why?  Why does this happen?  Why does God allow it?

Social media has simple answers to the crime.  Since a gun was used, gun control was in headlines the day after the attack which has led the crime to an issue of partisanship of those who allow access to guns and those who have solutions to control it.  There are other issues as well - how we handle those with mental illness and such.  The church can lend its voice at times like tragedies and attempt to explain it in simple terms - sin-filled world, evil in the world, the world getting worse and worse.  And we, as members of the body of faith, can sometimes give ill-counsel - "something you did," or "God wanted this to happen."  Sometimes we should just hush.

We cannot speak for God.  We cannot assume to know.  Job demanded answers.  Job demanded his day with God.  Job's friends pointed to Job, saying something he did led to the calamity that afflicted him.  He finally got that day with God (God spoke to him as a whirlwind and asked him a series of questions such as "Where were you when I formed the earth?") In the end, he clearly showed that God had humbled him as he concludes his confession and repentance to God by saying, "I know that you can do all things...therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things to wonderful for me, which I did not know...therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (42:2- 6)

We pray for people who are victims of crimes.  We pray for those who lose their lives or family members for acts unexplained.  We pray for our brothers in the faith who die at the hands of people who clearly are not acting in accordance with God's desires for us.  These prayers are in our community, our state, our country, and for this world. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Devotion 6.18.15

·        Dads are encouragers.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21) 

·        Dads affirm their children’s accomplishments and teach their children.  “A wise son hears his father’s instructions.” (Proverbs 13:1)  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  (Deuteronomy 6:4 - 8)

·        Dads provide their children with discipline. “…we have earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them…. For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them….” (Hebrews 12: 9 and 10) Discipline is the broad spectrum of expected behavior, separate from but includes forms of punishment.  As dads, our role is to instill that sense of discipline through encouragement, teaching, modeling, and when necessary, punishing our children. 

·        Dads are the primary spiritual influence on their children.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Have a very Happy Fathers' Day from Hope Lutheran Men's Ministry!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Devotion 6.17.15

The First Amendment to the US Constitution:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is our favorite amendment, and logically it is one we hate vehemently.  It has given us brave speeches which created a firestorm of controversy but which proved, in the long run, to have changed our course of thinking and acting.  Art is included in speech, a form of speech, and as such, we have seen beautiful works of art, and some so controversial that we have prayed for the heavens and the earth to open and swallow up the creator of such works.  We are rare in that very few, if any, western nations have such a guarantee as the right to speak freely.  It gets tested almost daily in many instances.  Yet, in truth, this is an earthly issue, for many have continued to speak in places that assure persecution.  Martin Luther said the pope was not God, that works were not the method for salvation, and that there were many areas the Catholic church needed to reform, and for his thoughts, he was sought after for a certain death.  Deitrich Bohnhoeffer was critical of the churches capitulation to the Nazis and came to America to avoid imprisonment (which he eventually faced and was executed).

The truth, whether in a "free" environment, or in one of persecution, finds its way out.  The interaction between John and Christ is interesting in that it demonstrates true conviction and bravery in an environment they knew would be hostile to the truth (both were executed). "After me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 3:11)  Christ, after being baptized and tempted, begins to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (3:17)

This had to completely throw off the leaders of the day, religious and secular.  Who are these trouble-makers?  What is this they claim to offer and who are they claiming to be?  We pray that regardless of our freedoms, we maintain the truth in love.  We pray we speak the truth.  The truth may create discomfort, but it also heals and forgives. We pray for the Spirit to use us, regardless of circumstances, to extend that truth to all.  We also pray for our brothers in the faith who speak the truth in hostile lands, that God keep them safe from harm and that their message is received.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, June 15, 2015

Devotion 6.16.15

The pinch hitter.  The worst position in baseball.  Basically you are firing the next hitter and saying, "We believe this buy has a better chance, statistically, to hit in this situation than you," OR you are saying, "You aren't pitching in the next inning" (that's in the NL, the AL gave up that situation years ago).  Regardless, when you go in, all eyes are on you.  You are there as a substitute for the batter.

So, to a far more significant scenario for us.  Christ.  A man without sin stands up willingly and says, "I'll stand in for them."  In Matthew 3, John calls on Israel to repent.  John tells them that the kingdom of heaven (Christ) is near.  John, as a prophet, tells them what Christ will do.  Then Christ, Him who is without sin, stands before John to be baptized (3:13).  John, very aware of the situation, protests, "I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?" (3:14)

Jesus sets and example for us.  He stands up and responds to John's call for repentance and says, "I'll be baptized and repent."  The irony is he has nothing to repent for.  His is free of sin.  He is obedient to the Father.  He basically commands John, who protests, to do this now to fulfill all righteousness (3:15).

Jesus will stand in for us again, on the cross.  He will make the ultimate sacrifice for us and defeat death for us.  We remember our baptisms as we thank God for the gift of faith and the forgiveness of sins.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for this life-giving faith we have received through nothing we have done, but rather through Christ and God's forgiveness.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Devotion 6.15.15

Two seats, formerly in the Astrodome, now reside in my house.  They weren't seats where we normally sat (Upper Deck and Mezzanine levels).  They are from the outfield, center field specifically, referred to as "Bleacher Seats."  We sat there a couple of times, but in the primitive days (before large diamond vision screens and such), that was a long way from home plate and it was like watching baseball from the back of the game.

I sat in one and watched the Astros when we returned from our trip and the Astros scored eight runs in the first inning as I sat and watched.  This will be a long season if I have to sit in this in order for them to win, I thought to myself.  Oh the things these seats could share if they could talk.  Clearly they could walk me through all the highs and lows of being a stadium seat with baseball, football, basketball, rock concerts, rodeos, motor cross, races, indoor track and field, and other large venue events.  Along with my other memorabilia, my collection is beginning to grow.  I've even begun to talk to my son about how he and his sister will have to decide how to divide it up when I die.

We do like the things of this life.  No matter how hard we try, we become attached to this earthly life.  What's interesting is that John the Baptizer (or Baptist) has a distinct role in the life of Christ, serving as a prophet to pave the way for Christ as he told Israel to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:2)  What Matthew notes that is of interest is John's wardrobe and lifestyle, saying that "John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey."  (3:4)

Clearly John was focused and not of this world.  Earthly things mattered little given this brief description of him. His focus was on repentance and setting our sights on the coming kingdom, Christ.  We pray we have a level of focus and dedication to Christ and His Word. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, June 5, 2015

Devotion 6.5.15

We like to name drop.  Who is more connected than whom and how.  It's like the game of Top the Bat.  "I have a friend who works in the governor's office who can personally take care of this."  "Oh? I'm friends with his commissioner of education."  "My friend works next door to his chief of staff."  "Oh? I hunt with a guy who was in the army with him and the governor calls him periodically."  And so it goes.  We like to be connected, be it politics, sports, Hollywood, and other such places where being connected puts us "in the know."

Connections are a source of influence and power.  We like to pose in some ways as people who possess such, at work, in our circles, or other places where it can be displayed.  Paul does such in Acts 22 when he is taken away to be beaten and flogged.  "Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?" (v 25)  That questions sent the centurion and the tribune into a tailspin. 

Christ, on the other hand, never uses his earthly status mentioned in Matthew 1.  He never really pulls the "son of David, son of Abraham" lineage out as the council is seeking his arrest, "trial," and execution.  That it was known and documented in Matthew (and Luke) bears meaning, but that he did not use it to his advantage tells us much about our savior, the Christ.  He speaks volumes in his resistance and discipline by not saying, "Excuse me, but are you aware of my lineage?"  When asked about being the king of the Jews, his response is, "You have said so."  (Matthew 27:11)  Such mastery is worthy of learning.

We pray we exhibit the humility and discipline our Christ did.  We pray that we seek him, and that only through him do we draw meaning and purpose. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Devotion 6.2.15

What's in an introduction?  Some people need no introduction.  "Oh, that's Dr. and Mrs. Hasenfeffer. He's the famous heart surgeon who did Big Named Celebrity's surgery."  "See over there, that's Tim Travesty, greatest running back of all time until his knee gave out in the big game."  Others of us require an introduction and how we are introduced depends on the event.  "Please no, call me Bill, not Dr. Johnson," changes to, "While teaching this class, you will call me Dr. Johnson."  In writing, it varies depending on purpose and audience.  In short, it is all very confusing.

Matthew, on the other hand, introduces his gospel this way, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." (1:1)  Just the introduction strongly infers two notions, the audience knows the lineage fairly well or they would otherwise hear that Christ came directly from David who came directly from Abraham.  However, that Matthew took the time to state it directly and then follow (v 2 - 17) with the lineage spelled out tells us it is important to link Christ as a descendent to both David and Abraham.

Why such an introduction to the readers of the gospel then and to us?  Lineage is important in this case because it spells out the promise to Abraham (father of Israel - Genesis 12) and David, the line of the coming messiah (2 Samuel 7).  So, it teaches the hearers and readers of this gospel that Christ is the "anointed one," the promise fulfilled.

We learn that even a short line is vastly important in scripture.  We pray that God give us the time to look at his Word and to hear, listen, and learn from it.  We praise God for sending us his Son, the Christ.

 Hope Men's Ministry