Thursday, April 28, 2016

Devotion 4.29.16

Apple Inc. suffered its first quarterly loss in 13 years.  That's the news this morning, and the analysts are speculating as to why this may have occurred.  The theme is that nothing is really new, so there hasn't been that "next big thing." 

The "last big thing" according to analysts was the iPhone 6 which, they claim, was a great innovation to the iPhone.  The watch?  Ho-hum.  iPad? Yesterday's news.  So, what will that "next big thing" be is the question?  A car, perhaps.  Google is working on a driverless car, so logically Apple has pressure from competitors in that potential market as well as their stronghold.

Really, though, isn't all this invention and innovation really more about convenience?  My albums were perfectly good, but the CD was a logical next step.  Both, however, gave me music.  Apple came along and said, "How about this?" and put out its iPod.  (Now albums are becoming popular again if you talk to music folks.)  The technology world has given us a way to speed up the delivery of information, but that information basically existed in a different form before these inventions and innovations.  From carbon copy to NCR paper to fax machine to scanning.  From encyclopedias and libraries to Google. Sure, we've learned more each year, thanks in part to technology, but the more things change, the more they remain the same.

We can almost hear a modern day Solomon say, "Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'? It has been already in the ages before us.  There is no remembrance of former things nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after." (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11) 

Yet we know the source of all things new.  In Revelation, we hear the voice of God proclaim, "Behold, I am making all things new!....It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."  (Revelation 21:5-6)  Our creator and redeemer creates all things new, not just innovations of convenience, but new creations redeemed through Christ.

We thank God for giving us all things new, including creating new creations in us through his Son Jesus Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 4.28.16

Ever walk into your backyard when a baby blue jay or mockingbird has descended from the nest into the yard?  If you have, then I don't have to go any further do I?  You've experienced the parent, male or female, not just dive toward you with a sound that is like live electricity, but more like bombard you.  You might escape with just harassment, but a cap might be the only thing between your head and the beak of an angry parent letting you know that while it may be your house, the yard is theirs at that moment.

The dove, however, is puzzling.  Twice this week my dog and I have crossed the path of a small dove laying in the grass attempting to fly.  Hank, my dog, is certainly curious and spends time considering his options.  I'll walk up to see what the lump of feathers is at first, and when I get close, I realize it is a dove just learning to spread its wings.  I then look up, and there is at least one of the parents sitting and watching me.  No diving.  No live electricity.  Just sitting watching.  I even quipped, "What kind of parent are you?" when I noticed the dove just staring at me as I inched closer to the young dove.

"Innocent as doves." That's a phrase Christ uses in Matthew, and it is a warning for his followers.  In this case, he is sending out the apostles and gives them specific instructions as to who to engage, how to engage, and how to greet the homes of those who are receptive as well as how to leave those that aren't.  Then he warns the apostles, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)  Note the use of three different creatures:  Wolves - the world is a dangerous place; Serpents - Be wise of the ways of this world; Doves - Be innocent and without anger. 

Pray that we act in Christ's name in a manner fitting to Christ's desires.  Pray we engage people allowing His Spirit to speak through us (Matthew 10:20).

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Devotion 4.27.16

Currency is in the news these days.  Whose likeness should be on the currency?  In a positive way, it teaches us who these people are.  I remember watching an educator put together a history exam once and he had a question about Alexander Hamilton.  He was putting a picture (early days of computers) of Hamilton in the question.  That's not Hamilton, I said.  That's Jefferson.  You sure? he asked.  I pulled out a $10 bill and placed it in front of him.  Oh....  He then went back into the cut-and-paste function.  So in this current debate about Andrew Jackson, Harriet Tubman, and the $20 bill, we can ask whose likeness we may need for a reference point somewhere down the road?

Does our currency make some kind of statement?  Does it really matter who is on the face of currency?  I guess in a way it does.  We are fortunate we don't live in a monarchy or dictatorship where we have the mug of a monarch or the dictator for the length of their reign.  Yet I've always wondered how Jefferson, one of our greatest thinkers, got a nickel and a two dollar bill.  What's up with that?  I'd have Jefferson and Hamilton alternate on the $10 bill because of the utter irony of that (now you will have to look that up, I will go no further). Finally, growing up with a decidedly southern mother, I learned of the flaws of Lincoln and Grant when I saw their likenesses (Lincoln far more than Grant in my house mind you), so no matter who you choose, it will draw controversy.

The pharisees attempt to draw Christ into controversy with a question very much along these lines.  "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" The question came from the pharisees trying to tap the Jewish resentment of paying a tax that demonstrated they were subjects of the Roman empire.  The pharisees, knowing of this resentment, attempted to trap Christ, rising in popularity with his followers, with this question.  Saying yes causes a loss within his followers, and to say no would give them charges before Pilate (Lutheran Study Bible).  Christ senses this hypocrisy and the trap, so he has them get out a coin and asks them whose likeness is on it.  Of course, they have to answer Caesar, to which he states, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." (Luke 20:25).

The Study Bible also notes that the fact that the pharisees had a coin bearing the likeness of Caesar "tacitly acknowledged Caesar's rule."  (Explanatory note in Matthew) It was, in a word, an awkward moment.  All from currency.

We thank God for all that we have and we know that we have nothing that hasn't come from him.  We know Christ's clear lessons for us in the differences between our earthly civil obligations and our returning to him our first fruits as a response to the love He has poured on us through his own sacrificial act of suffering and dying on our account.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, April 25, 2016

Devotion 4.26.16

Baseball is that sport that can be one's undoing.  Texas Tech certainly contributed to that theory this weekend, going into the weekend in the Top Ten, slipped after two losses to Texas and now ranks depending on the poll somewhere between 13 to 16 in the poll. To make matters worse, Texas (19-21 on the season) "run-ruled" Tech (31-12) in the final game, 17 - 1. 

Since this is a devotion meant to build up men, the intended audience, my thoughts that raced through my head as I watched the debacle will remain just there, in my head.  There is no reason to share some of the things that ran through my mind, on a Sunday after church no less, possibly undoing all that may have been gained that morning. ("Losing my religion" I believe is what that is called.)  Naturally, turning to the Houston Astros for relief just puts me further in debt because they lost to Boston in extra innings, placing them further in the cellar.

David in one of his psalms describes the intimacy we enjoy with God, and yet it is an intimacy that exposes even our deepest thoughts we may not reveal to one another, like my displeasure with the teams I follow, and in a more serious tone, even deeper and less God-pleasing thoughts than that.  "O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether."      (Psalm 139)

God knows what is on our hearts and in our minds.  Our joy, our sadness, our thoughts meant to build him up, and our thoughts that tear down.  Our thoughts are not kept in secrecy in our relationship with God.  He knows them.

We pray a prayer of thanks for this intimacy.  We know that the Holy Spirit "helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26)

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Devotion 4.21.16

The news this morning (Tuesday, April 19) was full of stories about the Boston Marathon.  The Boston Marathon is the mecca for serious runners who compete in marathons, so it is a news event among the faithful.  However, the Boston Marathon has become newsworthy for average joes like most of us because of the heinous attack on a "soft target," runners and fans gathered at the finish line.  Suddenly, the entire country focused on Boston after the attack.

Monday, then, focused on the human interest side of the 26.2 mile run which included two people who lost legs in the bombing, one a runner and one not.  Yet, despite the fact they lost their legs two years ago, both committed to finishing the marathon, and miraculously, both did.  Let's underscore this accomplishment:  you train about four months if you are a runner in good shape to complete a marathon under a certain time (marathoners who run more than a couple a year are in constant shape).  To lose a leg to terror, rehab learning to cope with the loss, rehab to learn to use the new prosthetic and then commit to training for a marathon is inspiring.  To then actually complete it?  Speechless.  Really, a hard knot or lump in the throat moment.

This man and woman possessed the focus of a runner, determined to push themselves and their bodies past a logical point to true endurance, and yet they had to drive past a potentially handicapping condition as well to get to the point to run a race of endurance.  As George Sheehan once wrote, "Sometimes the winner is deep in the pack." 

Life, however, is a full-contact sport and all of us, at the end of the finish line, are afflicted by a multitude of conditions, all of which are potentially handicapping.  Paul says it this way, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be qualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24 - 27)  Like runners, the writer of Hebrews notes, "It is discipline you have to endure." (Hebrews 12:7)

We pray a prayer of praise for people who inspire us, like these two, who refused to be sidelined.  We pray that we discipline ourselves to focus on that "imperishable wreath" given to us by God (salvation through Christ).  We pray we discipline ourselves in this endurance race God has set before us, each of us running in our own metaphorical marathons, and we pray that God give us the endurance to complete this race through His Holy Spirit, who gives us our faith and strengthens and renews our faith.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Devotion 4.20.16

"I can see the writing on the wall."  That's a phrase used when the apparent outcome is obvious.  I heard it in my days as an administrator from various people as we talked about programs, funding, and perhaps even job performance.

"The writing on the wall."  We use that phrase quite a bit.  Do we know where it comes from?  If you said, "The book of Daniel," you would be correct.  Daniel, an apocalyptic book in the Old Testament, tells the story of Israel, God's unfaithful people, and their capture by Babylon (a lesson constructed by God to teach his unfaithful people, but He wasn't a champion of Babylon during the course of captivity either.)  From the moment Babylon captures Israel to fulfill God's will, God puts Babylon's king through trials via dreams and visions, which elevates Daniel as he speaks on behalf of God, interpreting these.

During a great banquet given by King Belshazzar, "Immediately, the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote.  Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together."  (5:5 - 6)  The king literally buckles under the pressure.  Calling in the astrologers and tells them that whoever can read the writing and its interpretation will be clothed in purple, gold and be declared the third ruler in the kingdom. Daniel is eventually called as they fail, and he reads the writing to the king and gives its interpretation.

"And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN.  This is the interpretation of the matter:  MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (5:25 - 27)  Later, we are told, the king was killed and his kingdom handed over to Darius of Mede.

We have the writing on the wall in the form of God's Word.  God's Word tells us of our creation, our fall, sin, God's plan for our redemption, the suffering, death and resurrection of His Son to overcome the certain death we face, and God's Spirit who strengthens us. 

Pray we stay in God's Word to learn his plan for us.  Pray we share this good news, this "writing on the wall," with others and that God's Spirit place that faith in them.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, April 18, 2016

Devotion 4.19.16

It is said that this is the first year in many years (1969-70 season in fact) that there are no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Canadian fans of the game, home of where it was invented they claim, are in disbelief.  The USA Today ran an article yesterday titled "Canadian fans are coping with no teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs" (Kevin Allen, USA Today, April 18, 2016) in which one fan said, "“Part of our patriotism is living and breathing everything that is hockey.”

As Texans, we can relate, because we invented football to hear it told, and there hasn't been a serious contender for the Super Bowl since the 1990s (sorry Dallas fans, we aren't counting two years ago, there is a difference between fluke and serious).  Yet how we act as fans during such trying times as these says much about who we are.  Of course, we all chant that same phrase, regardless of sport, "Wait until next year." (As an Astros' fan, that phrase is old and I'm tired of hearing it.)

On a more serious topic, Peter talks to the faithful in his letter and speaks of the trial we face as Christians.  "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." (1 Peter 4:12 - 14)

We pray that when we are tested or tempted, we turn to God and ask for his Spirit to rest upon us.  As we endure tribulation, we as that Christ's love and grace radiate through us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 4.18.16

"Signs of the Apocalypse."  That's a phrase used when something occurs that was not only totally unexpected, but shows a major shift or change.  For example, let's say that Cowboy owner Jerry Jones fired himself from the general manager's position, hired John Elway to become the president of the team and general manager of operations, and said the era of winning is more important than him running the operations of the team.  Sports' writers the next day would probably have a headline saying, "Signs of the Apocalypse:  Jerry Jones Fires Himself, Hires Elway."

Christians are familiar with the phrase "signs of the apocalypse."  The bible contains "apocalyptic" books and passages that speaks toward trials and tribulations faced by people of faith, the body of Christ specifically.  In Matthew, Christ spells out those days by saying, "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand. So if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness, do not go  out.  If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms, do not believe it.'" (Matthew 24) 

Each generation seems to concern itself at some point, wondering if we are in "end times."  Christ says in the same passage, "But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (24:36) So then, what should we do to prepare? Peter says this, "Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these (final days, Christ's return, dissolving the heavens and the earth and creating new heavens and earth), be diligent to be found without spot or blemish, and at peace." (2 Peter 3:14) Our salvation guaranteed through faith in Christ, we then carry out Christ's instructions for us to "make disciples of all nations," and to live as Christ has instructed us through our actions in response to his love.

Pray that knowing our actions speak to Christ's love for us, and that our actions speak to his grace.  Pray that we continue living as Christ instructed us, even through trial and tribulation.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Devotion 4.11.16

Jordan Spieth went into the final 9 holes of The Masters with a certain win.  He led for the first three rounds and had four birdies in a row on the front nine of the last round.  And then came number 11.  I was on the road, and I was listening to The Masters in the car. First shot in the creek.  Drop the creek.  Next shot... in the sand.  Jordan went from the lead to three back in one hole.  Like that, he was done. 

When we speak of excellence, we don't speak of perfection.  Unfortunately, we too often put ourselves up against impossible expectations, and unfortunately, we have people who claim to be friends who make us feel as though perfection is an expectation.  Yet there is a vast difference between excellence and perfection.  One is attainable, and one is not.  One is a frame of mind, and the other a game you play with yourself or others play with you.

Excellence may result in a win, and excellence may result in failure.  Either way, a person seeking excellence puts their hat in the ring and strives to be the best he or she can.  Theodore Roosevelt said it this way in one of my favorite quotes in life:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."  Theodore Roosevelt, "Man in the Arena," Citizenship in a Republic speech in Sorbonne, France, 1910

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face if marred by dust and sweat and blood.... because there is no effort without error and shortcoming."  You got out there, and you fought the good fight.  That is excellence, win, lose or draw.  Paul says it this way:  "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5)

Excellence doesn't mean greatness.  Excellence doesn't mean a sure victory.  Excellence means being in the arena.  Excellence means endurance, maybe even as we suffer.  That endurance means character because we learn to enjoy the great enthusiasms and devotions, spending our time in a worthy cause, that of Christ and him crucified, even when it may mean loss.  And if (and when) we fail, at least we fail while daring greatly, in the name of Christ.  Yet we never want to be numbered among those timid, those "lukewarm" men (Revelation), who know neither victory or defeat.

Hope Men's Minisitry

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Devotion 4.8.16

My favorite quote from any fan of any team or individual athlete is this one, usually occurring during pre-season games (or non-major events such as the Shell Houston Open):  "Well, their record is bad right now because they don't play pre-season to win."  Rubbish.

It is not in an athlete's DNA to lose.  An athlete of excellence plays to excel when he (or she) is placed in a field of play.  "Tell you what Pete, it's preseason, so go out there and really just swing the bat, but a hit which can score a run is not one of my top priorities right now.  Really, just go through the motions, and if you get on base, none of this 'Charlie Hustle' stuff."  Sure, the manager may play the athletes who are trying to make the team.  The manager may put certain starters on the bench and play the untested player, but "losing" is not in the vocabulary.  The owner may not put the pressure on winning in a preseason event the same way he or she would in the regular season, but "loss" isn't a word they use lovingly.

God's clearly not fond of creating us to begin our lives and commit them to mediocrity either.  Mediocrity, as defined through observance, is doing what it takes to put a check-mark in the "done" column and moving forward.  Did it get done?  Yes.  How well did it get done?  That is up for discussion.  We know in our hearts when it isn't the best we can offer. 

Want to hear how much God detests mediocrity.  In Revelation, Christ talks to the church in Laodicea this way, "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit (vomit in some translations) you out of my mouth." Yet like that church, we are offered a second chance, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent." (Revelation 3) Be zealous and repent is reminiscent of Joshua 1:9's, "Be strong and courageous...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Christ is with us.  Christ forgives our timidity, our mediocrity, our lukewarm.  Yet we know he despises it, so we pray that God's Spirit is with us and that we respond to God's love and forgiveness by exhibiting excellence in our faith.

Hope Men's Ministry

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Devotion 4.7.16

The excuse is perhaps the greatest casualty given to us during the fall of man.  Yes, sin and death are a result of our fall from God's perfect creation, but the excuse was the first sin out of the bag after defying God.  After God finds Adam hiding in the garden, he asks, "....Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." (Genesis 3)

Excuses are not traits of excellence..  We rationalize or justify ourselves as to why something or someone keeps us from getting something done.  Anything but myself and my lack of action bears the responsibility for me not being the man I want to be.  Phil Mickelson didn't win the Houston Open last weekend, and in his response, he said, "I like playing in this tournament, but I was working on my game management for next week, not to win this week." (Next week being the Master's Golf Tournament.)  That might be true except he has won the Houston Open (2011) and has come close before.  That makes his rationale sound more like an excuse, which might have been better stated by saying, "I wasn't playing at the level I want in order to win."

Peter notes we are meant to pursue the excellence that comes from God.  The passage is one that is worthy of memorizing: "His divine power has granted to us all  things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, nd godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1)

The promise of our faith makes us "partakers" of the divine nature, God's excellence.  So, what do we do with that?  Hopefully, our prayer is that we seek Christ's gift of excellence in all we do, intentionally.  As Peter notes in his progression from knowledge to love, we work intentionally to be examples of the grace we are given (as he notes later, it is our calling).  We pray for forgiveness when we fail, but we offer no excuses.  Rather we pray we get back to the excellence God has planned for us in our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 4.6.16

It is completely fascinating to see a golfer perform during a match in a tournament.  We arrived very early on Saturday and watched as the golfers arrived and began to meticulously prepare for that day's round.  Practice tees to hit a variety of clubs and then to the putting green.  Jordan Spieth went to the practice green first.  His caddie got three balls out and tossed them at his feet.  Jordan made a straight line with a club and then adjusted the balls about five feet from the hole and then began methodically putting the balls toward the hole.  Phil Mickelson worked his way through his bag, starting with long irons before he went to his woods.  It was all done with a purpose as caddies and maybe golf coaches gave feedback on the swing, the movement, the speed of the swing, and other items.  And yes, you can hear it all as they banter with each other and work to perfect their game.

So, there is routine in excellence.  You go through the motions to literally see if the motions are serving you well.  It is said if Tiger Wood was slicing during practice, he worked to eliminate the slice, and then Jack Nicklaus said if he noted a slice or slight hook in his game during practice, he adjusted his stance to play the slice or hook during the round.

Me?  I grab the clubs, stop for a breakfast burrito, get a diet Coke (the John Daly two cokes and a cigarette approach) and meet the group at the first tee.  I stretch, and then hit.  My game is literally my practice.  I hit into situations, while the professionals practice to be ready to hit in situations.  It made me think, "How many of us approach a day in our lives like my golf game and how many approach each day before us like a Spieth or Mickelson?"  I'm guessing more of us approach it like my game than we do like the masters of the game.  We go through the day landing on our feet in the morning and not stopping, except to eat maybe, until it's time to go to bed.  No time to have our game examined or to analyze where we excelled and where we didn't and to ask what might have held us back from our expectations of excellence.

Christ expects that of us because he gave us the example in his own life.  Prayer, meditation, lessons on life, and teaching and reaching others.  We each have that ability at our disposal too.  We are called to be Christ's disciples, each in our own vocation (calling).  We have many who watch us and learn from us, starting in our families and growing out from there - colleagues, staff who answer to us, suppliers and vendors, people we touch each day in our lives at the store, the job, and other places.

God expects excellence.  Do we work to meet those expectations?  Again, as Paul writes, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, April 4, 2016

Devotion 4.5.16

In Houston this past weekend catching two days of live golf in person at the Shell Houston Open, and during the course of the weekend, I was able to catch an episode of the Texas Country Reporter hosted by Bob Phillips.  The episode was fascinating because it featured a farmer turned sculpture named  Douglas Clark.  His studio is in Edinburg (the Valley) and his sculptures have been featured throughout Texas (and beyond).  How did he get to art from farming.  Long story short, he began sculpting while farming and realized he was not pursuing his passion, so he began sculpting and is now renowned.

While the field of art and sport are not normally seen through the same lens, I thought it was interesting to watch people pursue golf with a passion and then see this man pursue art with an equal passion.  In short, they are pursuing mastery and excellence in their given fields with high degrees of success (as judged by performance and spectators willing to see both).

What drives our passions and what interferes with that drive?  If you were like me, perhaps you chose to work in a field that was initially your passion that may have changed over time.  Love of history and political science drove me to teach, and the desire to perfect the learning environment drove me to administration.  Yet, over the years, I found myself removed from that to pursue other "important" things:  budgets and building a fund reserve; policy; human resource; legal issues; legislative requests; legislative sessions; and other "meaningful" activities.  I woke up one morning and knew that the passion that may have once driven me existed no longer.  Granted, I didn't approach the tasks with a lack of excellence.  I strove to provide accurate and quality information because it had organizational impact, but I knew it wasn't my calling, my vocation.

So, now my fascination with excellence has time to take root in some other form.  It's not just mine.  It is yours as well.  And it is a function of the God-head.  God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit expect excellence from us.  We were not created by our creator for the purpose of being mediocre, to just get by, and to excuse ourselves from excellence when we aren't driven to it.

Our prayer is that we pursue excellence in a God-pleasing way as we fulfill our vocation (our calling in life).  You can pursue that excellence in your given field as well as fulfill your God-given calling.  As Bob Clark noted in the story about him, Michelangelo is reported to have said, "Inside every stone is a sculpture and it is your job to find it."  As Paul wrote, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Hope Men's Ministry