Monday, August 31, 2015

Devotion 9.1.15

The Little League World Series just finished Sunday as the US took an early lead and then lost it soon afterward to Japan.  What I found most amusing about the game was the catcher for Japan.  He was suited up in the gear, and because of his size (very small), there probably wasn't any gear available that wouldn't appear too big.  It was clear the US boys had been grain fed in their Pennsylvania town (a couple were 5'10" in their 12-year-old bodies), but this Japanese player was small.  Consequently, the gear looked awkward.

The gear reminded me of David in 1 Samuel 17.  David's been chosen for service to defeat Goliath, and Saul fears the small boy is being set up for a tremendous loss.  So, Saul dresses him in his armor. "Then Saul clothes David with his armor.  He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor.  And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them.  Then David said to Saul, 'I cannot go with these....'" 

Picture a boy in a man's armor with the sword dragging the ground.  That's what the Japanese catcher looked like.  What might fit better?  Paul writes of our armor as well.  "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Eph 6:10 - 11)  Our armor fits more naturally. It's not someone else's armor, but the armor of faith in Christ. We grow in that faith through prayer, being in the Word, taking part in worship, and through our participation in the sacraments.  God has sized us up, given us our faith, and given us the means to grow in our faith.

Pray we use our armor daily through prayer, devotion, and through being with others in the faith actively in our church community and the community at-large.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Devotion 8.31.15

Mind your manners.  I remember the phrase as a child because I am a product of the south.  Manners were very much a part of the rearing of a child, me included.  Not that they weren't in other areas of the country, but I had the privilege of visiting my dad's family in Minnesota as a child.  So, when I used words like "ma'am" or other such mannerly words, they loved it.  Then my aunts and uncles would say, "You learn more manners in the south than our children do."

Not that manners made me a better person mind you.  It was just a part of who we were, but it made me stand out.  My cousins resented it too.  "Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes" I would hear.  Come up here and make us look bad.  And I knew I could be just as evil as anyone else with how I said, "Yes ma'am" or "No ma'am" based on the tone of how I said it.

So the Pharisees questioned Christ when the disciples didn't wash their hands prior to eating. "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands?" (Mark 7:5)  Deep into Christ's reply, he says something very relevant, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean." (21 - 22)

The fa├žade is clear.  You can paint a house and make it appear neat, but what is in the structure is what makes it stable.  Likewise, what we appear to be on the outside has nothing to do with how we are in our hearts.

Pray our hearts are aligned with Christ. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Devotion 8.26.15

Cimarron Elementary is located in East Houston in an area referred to as North Shore.  In my childhood, I attended Cimarron, and like the other schools in the area, it was a mix of solid blue collar men and their families.  Those men worked on the Port of Houston in some capacity - refinery, steel, off-shore construction.  There were a number of professionals, but it was mainly blue collar.  Cimarron is also the school I was an administrator at some years later, serving as an assistant principal and then principal.

The old 'hood was a changin' when I came on board, but I still loved it and knew the traditions that worked for the better regardless of economic status or race/ethnicity.  So, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, along with a thought for the day, and the Golden Rule (referred to as "The Cimarron Code of Conduct").  Children led the announcements, and the lore of the school has it that one day, a young man came to the office to read the thought for the day.  Ah, nothing like getting up to the microphone to make your one claim to fame and realizing your nerves as 950+ students listened to you.  This young man was no exception, so something as simple as reading the Thought for the Day became a chore. 

We turned off the microphone and encouraged the young lad, but he panted nervously and paced.  I finally got him still and we read the thought several times to practice, "Don't count your chickens until they hatch."  Finally, we turned the microphone back on to a school that wondered why the morning ritual had gone silent for a period, and then they heard young Eric belt out in a loud voice, "Don't hit nobody 'til they call you chicken!"

Sorry son, you missed it.  Yet we see in Eric ourselves, as we do in the disciples.  Matthew 16 he foretells of his need to go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and be raised, but Peter says, "Far be it from you, Lord!" (22) which draws a sharp rebuke from Christ.  Sometime later, the foretelling occurs again, and we read that the disciples "were greatly distressed." (17:23)  We see Christ yet again foretell his crucifixion in Matthew 20, and after his confession, two disciples, James and John, ask if they can be at his right and left hand. (20:20 - 22)

We just sometimes don't get it.  Why?  Sin.  Pride.  Stubborn nature.  Arrogance.  Thinking only of our earthly existence.  That's my confession as to why.  What's yours?

Pray that we "get it."  Pray that we know the moment.  Pray that we be in the moment.  Pray we understand what Christ would want of us and to live that out as it happens.
Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, August 24, 2015

Devotion 8.25.15

School started in earnest today statewide, but some schools started earlier.  The school across the street was packed as parents dropped off their children.  Some have made an art of the first day making signs indicating the year and having one for each member of the family.  Working at the store, heard several moms a buzz as they walked the aisles talking on cell phones about the classes their children were in.  Saw two members of church as well at the store, and the two dads both have daughters either starting or finishing high school, both milestones.  Both are in shock.  One lady I work with said she offered to walk her daughter to the class and her daughter refused outright. "How old is she?" I asked.  "Eighth grade," she replied.  I couldn't help but laugh.  Heavens no she doesn't want that.  That's punishment at that age.

A rule I employed each morning during our announcements was to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, have a thought for the day, and then state the Golden Rule, which has scriptural roots in Matthew 7. 

I thought it was a good rule for application to any situation large or small.  "Did you treat _______ as you wanted to be treated?"  It even worked in staff situations as well since adults are not exempt from the "turnabout is fair play" mentality.

Matthew 7:12 - "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."  Good reminder as our children start school at various levels or some in our lives go back to the school to teach and such.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Devotion 8.24.15

I love the "why does everyone get a trophy?" debate.  When I was a principal at the elementary level, I could see the reaction to the certificates and awards that all children received and note the look on their faces.  Achievement is not driven by the idea that I will get an award and recognition when I reach the accomplishment.  The staff and I would spend hours in conversation about appropriate recognition of effort and true recognition of accomplishment.  How best to recognize effort and not discourage someone who is struggling?  Mike Matheny talks about the same in "The Matheny Manifesto" as he talks of putting baseball, skills, life and winning in perspective.

The disciples were no different at the feet of Jesus himself.  In Matthew, James and John approach Christ via their mother at first and then speak for themselves asking, "May we sit at your right and your left in your kingdom?" (20:21).  The question is one of pride.  "We want to be high in your pecking order.  We want to be prominent in your kingdom."  Christ replies, "You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" (22).  They didn't know what they were asking.  Christ had foretold of his suffering and death twice prior to this moment, but it didn't seem to sink in.

This speaks volumes.  We seem to be more like James and John when we allow our pride to enter our service to Christ.  Perhaps the notion of a trophy in the form of how others view our service gets in our way of true service, like it did James and John.  Maybe our trophy is the hopes it will earn us higher status in Christ's eyes. Fortunately, that's not how it works.  Grace is what makes us acceptable in Christ's eyes.  Grace and grace alone. 

Pray that we aren't like James and John.  Pray that our service is from our heart and that it is a response for the love Christ has given us. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, August 17, 2015

Devotion 8.18.15

Today we pray for peace.  That peace we pray for is from our continued struggle that comes from sin.  Sin has corroded the relationships we have with our loved ones and those around us.  The definition of neighbor is narrow as sin has corrupted our view of others.  Our sin limits us from seeing our own sin (the log in our eye) while acknowledging the faults and sins of others.  Our sin has created immeasurable problems, and our greatest sin is that we fail to turn to God to seek his wisdom, guidance, forgiveness, as well as failing to ask that we are able to forgive others and give Him thanks for what We have.

We ask God to guide our eyes to focus on Him and Christ.  We ask for His Spirit to give us a measure of faith that leads us to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him.  We ask that we forgive those just as Christ did from the cross and that as we live our lives on this earth, Christ give us the capacity to love one another, especially those we find difficult to love.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Devotion 8.17.15

This week we pray in earnest.  We pray for those who are ill or sick in our midst and for those we do not know but who are in need of healing.  We pray specifically for Brian Pool, Anna Young, Noe Morales, Connie Canning, Gail Blain, Luke Siegel, Cynthia Tonniges, Kurt Kerns and Jim Hester.

Some are in need of prayer from disease.  Some from surgery.  Three on our list from fairly normal and routine days turned into serious injury:  Luke Siegel (golf cart accident), Cynthia Tonniges (hiking and getting her leg caught), Kurt Kerns (whiffle ball).

Each of these people, and people in your own lives not mentioned here, need God's healing hand, and their families are in need of strength and comfort.  We ask God to be with the doctors and nurses who perform the treatment and provide care. 

During this prayer week, we pray for people in our lives in need of healing.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Devotion 8.12.15

Went to see "Vacation" Tuesday night with my wife before school starts for her in earnest (teachers return Thursday).  It's "Vacation" 30 years later.  This time Rusty, Clark Griswold's son, takes his two sons and wife to California from Chicago to see Wally World (Disney never didn't allow them to say Disney in the original even though the story, taken from National Lampoon, used "Disney Land" in its story).  It had its moments, but no matter how you retrofit a movie already done, it is that movie rehashed. 

There seems to be a lot of remakes these days, and at 55 years of age, a movie made 30 years ago has a good chance of being seen by me at least once already.

Made me think of Ecclesiastes' "nothing new under the sun" passage ("What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." 1:9).  In fact, what makes entertainment less than entertaining is that much of what is being passed off these days really is pretty much what's been covered previously.  Plots are fairly predictable.  Punch lines can be uttered along with the movie even if it is your first time to see it. 

What makes us so restless?  I'm not sure, but it took me to another passage: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 

We pray that we look to Christ for our comfort and meaning.  We pray that our restlessness be settled by taking our weary and burdened lives to Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, August 10, 2015

Devotion 8.11.15

NOVA on PBS had an interesting show last week.  It was about a Viking sword discovered by an archeological team that had a word etched into it.  Being over a thousand years old, the scientists were interested in the composition of the steel as well as how a word was successfully etched into it during a more "primitive era." 

NOVA took the viewer to a blacksmith who still practices the art of making objects from metals with older tools of the trade to see if the Vikings really had the wherewithal to create a sword in their day like this one.  Metallurgists, the blacksmith, and historians came together to recreate a sword much like the one they found still in fairly good condition despite its age.

The creation of a sword in this day and age much like this one was interesting.  Steel, despite its strength, has some vulnerabilities during its creation according to the show.  The sword that was discovered was flawless and had been etched into, which as they recreated it via the new one, is a difficult feat to accomplish.  After much smelting, heating, shaping, and sharpening, they did just that, create a new polished sword that was flawless.  In short, the Vikings probably did create this with their tools of the day.

The show made me think of Proverbs 27:17:  "Iron sharpens iron just as one man sharpens another."  Heating, striking, filing, heating again, cooling, polishing.  How do men interact with one another to create that "sharpening" as the proverb mentions?  Clearly all of our interaction together can sharpen us - reaching agreement via the Word, disagreement, conflict, finding solutions, creating.  It's all part of who we are and is what "sharpens" us.

Pray that we work together to sharpen one another intentionally in all we do.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Devotion 8.10.15

Children are a blessing.  As parents, we willingly enter into the arrangement, and the truth be told, we do so because it is the reason we came together as a couple.  We fall in love and join one another with the thought in mind that there will be a family one day.  And then we are blessed with our children.

We learn, very quickly, that parenting is, despite education level, trial and error.  We learn instantly that these small beings are completely dependent.  I've heard some folks say they decided to get a pet first to get accustomed to a dependent being.  Well, I suppose, but most pets come to maturity within a year.  Children?  You're just getting started.

So, I wonder what the Jews heard when Isaiah told them, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...."? (9:6)  Perhaps they believed this child would eventually become king, much like David.  Christ, that child, came in "under the radar."  Christ's birth was heralded to shepherds and not announced from the towers of a castle.  The angels said, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  A child? (Luke 2:11)

The disciples were in an adult argument. Who, Jesus, will be the greatest among us (in heaven)?  Christ, ever the teacher, points to a child and says, "Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1 - 3)  We mistakenly read this and hear, "An innocent child."  Listen more carefully, mature adults arguing about the greatest, having learned at the feet of Christ, see a child placed in their midst, which is foreign to them.  The child knows nothing.  The child has not even begun the learning process.  Christ tells us to become like children, meaning dependent, and our dependency is a child-like dependency on Him.

As men, that concept of dependency is completely foreign to our upbringing, but in reality, we are to be dependent on Christ.  We thank God for placing this child in our midst to be our savior. We pray we are humble enough to be dependent on Christ in our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Devotion 8.6.15

Hard to believe it was 25 (?) years ago this week when Nolan Ryan hit Robin Ventura with a pitch in the shoulder.  Ventura, now a manager, tossed the bat and moved toward first base, but you can see the wheels turning in his mind.  Being a catcher, the leader on the field of play for a team, you can see him consider his options for that brief moment, and then he turns toward the mound and starts to run.  There is, in that moment, a pause in Ventura's mind, and then he commits, which was his biggest mistake.

Nolan, as those of us who know him intimately like to call him, is a rancher.  Nolan tosses calves to brand them.  Ventura's pause and thought process wasn't about the consequences of his tangle with Nolan.  No, he was tossing about in his head, "Do I take retribution for a pitch that I believe was retribution?"  Nolan said it was because he always made sure that the plate was his, not the batter's. He was famous for brushing batters back who crowded the plate, Ventura was no different.  Then came the famous moment as Nolan wrapped his arm around Ventura's head and then threw about 10 punches, two in the face and several on the top of his head.  To the crowd at Texas, it was a magical moment.  It still is.

In his biography, Ryan credits Bo Jackson for getting him out of the crowd that had gathered in the form of a bench clearing.  Injury would have been certain, he said, had Jackson not stepped in and pulled him out.  Ventura learned the hard way that Ryan was not just competitive on the mound, but actually fierce. I saw that up close once when Texas came to Houston for the first time in what the two owners at the time (a guy named Bush and another named McClane) dubbed the "Texas Playoff" for the Silver Boot.  Billy Doran, the Houston second baseman, was the first batter to face his former teammate as Ryan stood on the mound, and I had first base seats.  Doran was beaming like a brother who was seeing his older brother for the first time in a long time.  Ryan did his famous wind up, pulled his left leg high, and then sent heat right at Doran who bailed out of the box so fast that you could hear the ball hit the glove at the same time he was hitting the ground.  It was a "sure we're friends, but not while I'm pitching" moment.

Ferocity.  Ryan possessed that.  He was under constant creation as a pitcher to gain that competitive edge.  Workout.  Driven.  Stretch. Eat.  Weights.  Pitch.  Review.  Repeat.

Do we possess that drive like Nolan for our spiritual lives?  Seek relationships.  Pray.  Focus.  God's Word.  Worship.  Engage others in meaningful venues and opportunities.  Review.  Repeat.

As Isaiah notes, "Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.  So to those who have an anxious heart, 'Be strong and fear not! Behold, your God will come with a vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.'" (35:3 & 4)

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Devotion 8.5.15

What is it about royalty that attracts us? As Americans, we are supposed to be opposed to royalty, but we stay up to watch the weddings, to track the birth of the new prince by our favorite prince back in England.  We get caught up in wondering why the queen doesn't step down to give Charles a chance to step up and then down, so that sweet, sweet Harry can be king.

They are not the only royals on the planet, but the most obvious.  Yet observers say Americans have created their own unique royalty in Hollywood and a sweeping love of families like the Roosevelts and the Kennedys. 

Israel wanted a king.  In 1 Samuel, the nation wants a king.  Samuel, speaking for God, says, "'This is what the king who will reign over you will claim a his rights:  He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses.... He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.... He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.  He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.... He will take a tenth of your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.  When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.' But the people refused to listen to Samuel. 'No! We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.'" (8:10 - 20)

God sent a king.  ""Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 'Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming seated on a donkey's colt.'" (John 12:14&15 citing Zech  9:9)  This king came to us and was hardly royal.  No, this king came to us and dwelled among us and suffered and died for us.

We thank God that this most unassuming king came to earth to save us from our earthly desires.  We pray that we can share this king with others so they to can follow Him and realize the peace this king brings.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, August 3, 2015

Devotion 8.4.15

Protect this house.  If your team is sponsored by Under Armour, that is a motto you hear at games.  Usually in a loud, rough voice, "Protect this house!" and the crowd gets rowdy at that point.  It's goal is to get the defense ready to keep the other team from scoring or winning.

Interestingly enough, the motto has scriptural roots (not sure if that was Under Armour's intent).  Isaiah 32:18 simply says, "My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." We will abide in peaceful habitation, says our God.  The Message says it this way, "My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood, in safe houses, in quiet gardens."

We know that Christians around the world live in persecution.  Even the sanctuary of God's house is not safe, but in Christ, we are at peace.  As a body of Christ, we are in our peaceful neighborhood. 

We pray that God "protect this house."  We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution.  We pray that God give them a sanctuary and that others seek the sanctuary we know as Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Devotion 8.3.15

Life can change on a dime.  One minute you are going one direction completely oblivious to the challenge that is just around the corner waiting on you.  It can be a pleasant surprise in some instances. "Hey, Jim, we got together and think you should be the next man over development here.  It comes with a raise." 

Yet, your mind probably went worse-case scenario when the devotion started.  Much like my dad in 1975, driving on a golf course one Sunday with his golfing buddy Frank, when the golf pro showed up on the hole about midway through the game saying, "Don, David's shattered his arm in an accident, and they took him to the hospital."  My dad paid me back later in life when I was at home in our new home of Lubbock on a lazy Sunday afternoon when my dad's friend Ed called saying, "David, your dad was taken downtown with a DWI last night, you need to come to Houston."

Those events just leave you flat-footed.  Suck the wind out of you.  You find yourself, momentarily, staring at the wall sorting in your mind between disbelief and the logical notion of what to do first.  We provide a prayer list each Sunday of people who are dealing with health issues from disease to accident.  At some point, they were introduced to the situation, either startlingly quickly in an accident or over a week or so as doctors wait for test results, but the news, once delivered, creates the same momentary pause with what to do next and I can't believe what I just heard.

Where do we turn when such events happen?  Christ has a moment in John in which disciples turn and leave him after he notes some still do not believe and that they (we) can only come to him if the Father grants it.  He turns to the twelve and asks, "Do you want to go away as well?" to which Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life...." (6:65 - 68)

God hears us.  God listens.  God answers.  As Christ notes, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall not thirst." (6:35)  We pray for each other in our daily walk as well as our own needs.  We pray that God give us the words of eternal life to hear, listen, and take to heart and that we are there to comfort those who are in the midst of issues in life.

Hope Men's Ministry