Sunday, July 31, 2016

Devotion 8.1.16

And so as the weekend came, I discovered that the sinus congestion had turned into a full-fledged head-cold with a cough.  I awoke early Saturday morning to discover a very sore throat which ruined my plans for my Saturday.  I went to the walk-in clinic and was early, so I was able to see the doctor in no time, but the nurse came in first to get a list of my ailments.  She was German, given away by her accent, who came to the states after marrying a military man back in German.  I had to laugh as she asked me about my cough because she said, "Is it dry or productive?"

Leave it to the Germans to label to a cold symptom as productive or useless.  Fortunately that was as far as it went and there was no discussion as to the essence of the product produced by my cough.

That made me think about faith.  Are we dry or productive?  Had a call from Jon Ulmer last week (many of you remember Jon from our church and/or from Texas Tech University) to tell me about a time we co-taught Sunday School (ironically, I was looking at some old email exchanges from 2013 about that very topic).  Jon called to inform me that a student who had gone through the grad program, and about whom he commented when teaching one Sunday, had finally come to faith and was baptized last Sunday.  During our class in 2012 or 2013, he noted that the student was not of faith and that he tried, as you can as an educator in a public institution, to be open to her inquiries about faith. 

I was glad to hear that Jon's prayers and openness (as well as others I'm sure) had finally moved her heart to listen to the Spirit's desire for her to join the Christian faith.  So, when it comes to the idea and notion of being a "productive" Christian, how might that even be measured because the fruits of our labor may never be seen or witnessed.

As was noted by then-District President Louis Pabor in 1991 from a story he once heard, "I didn't find the world desolate when I came into it, and as my fathers planted for me before I was born, so do I plant for those who come after me." ("Plant a Tree..." Feb 1991 Lutheran Witness)  As we hear Christ in Luke 8, "The seed is the word of God... As for the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." (v 11 and 15)

So, Jon planted a seed that he may never have known took root and resulted in a woman coming to faith, and hopefully each of us are doing that daily, working the soil to nurture the Word of God in those who are open and receptive and praying that the Spirit use us to be those "productive" Christians, not dry Christians.

Pray that we seize moments and opportunities to nurture the Word of God to the lost and that the Spirit work that faith in their hearts.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Devotion 7.29.16

This presentation was given at the LCMS convention July 11.  The presenter, not a pastor, gave a talk about the state of marriage in the US, and interestingly, he uses some statistics early that were shared at our Father's Day service in June.  Pastor Eric shared it with me, so I thought if you have time, you might enjoy the presentation.  It's about 30 minutes in length, so set aside the time and enjoy.  Click on the link provided to view.  Have a great weekend!

LCMS Presentation July 11

Devotion 7.28.16

I was employed early in life, around the age of 14, at the office next door to our house which housed a recording studio, employment agency and a restaurant.  The owner saw me mowing the lawn at our house and asked if I would come once a week and vacuum the offices.  Sure, I said, simply because the idea of working there sounded novel.  I got to know the woman who owned and operated the employment agency, whose name was Pat Frederick (short for Patricia I'm guessing).  Pat had a son, also named Pat (short for Patrick I later learned) who was a member of the highway patrol, the DPS as we refer to them.  Young, tall, slender, dark features, and in all rights (as I would hear my mom say it), a distinguishingly handsome young man.

We awoke one morning, and I went to get the paper at the end of our driveway.  I pulled the rubber band off of it and on the front of the paper was a picture of Officer Pat Frederick.  The headline was something to the effect of "Officer Killed in the Line of Duty."  Needless to say, I ran back in, called for my mom and dad, and began to read. When my mom came out, I asked, "Do you think this is Pat's son?"  No doubt, my mom said, to which she then went to "Oh my God...."  Officer Frederick, it appears, pulled over a car in the night which he didn't know at the time had just been stolen.  The thief knew being pulled over wasn't good, so he was waiting for Frederick with his gun drawn.  Like that, Frederick's life was over.

About four years ago, I went to the police memorial in Austin, Texas (downtown) and found his name.  I remember when Mrs. Frederick returned to work a few weeks later and I was in there cleaning the offices.  She said nothing about her son, and I asked nothing.  When my mom came to express her sorrow, Mrs. Frederick simply stood up and gave me a hug, teared up and looked at my mom and said, "Always love him because you never know."

There are people in our lives whose sworn job is to put their life on the line for us if the need arises.  These men and women take on a job that probably has somewhere in its job description, "Dangerous situations that may be life threatening."  It reminds me of the line from John, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (15:13)

Christ was given that assignment for us, to give his life so that we may have grace and eternal life.  We give thanks for those who serve in all areas in which danger is a possibility (not remote either) be they civil police forces, firemen, and military.  These people go into their job knowing their life may be given in order to save others.  That sacrifice ought to truly bring home the message of the sacrifice Christ gave for this fallen world.

If you are a police officer, fireman, or military, thank you for your service.  We also lift a prayer for their safety and wisdom while on the job facing uncertain dangers.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the ultimate sacrifice and the sacrifice given ultimately by Christ to save us as well.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Devotion 7.27.16

I was an administrator about 26 of my 31 years in education, and to this day, I wonder if that was the correct career choice.  It's a bit late now, but administration stressed me to a high degree.  Some people thrived on the pressure, almost like these adrenaline junkies might who wear those winged suits and jump from a mountain top and glide at unbelievable speeds until they open the parachute in the valley of the mountain range.

Me?  I wanted to advance and work to create a better organization, but unfortunately I thought everyone else would want the same thing.  I'm not even talking about change.  I'm talking simply working to make the school a great place for kids to learn, and surely, I thought, we would all agree on that, wouldn't we?  When conflict arose, it would consume my thoughts for days as I examined as many facets of the situation as time would allow.  When to act and when to hold your cards close?  Some seemed to work best in that situation.  I did not.

I wonder, often, as I reflect on those times as to why I did not use prayer as a constant resource?  Go to God, talk to him for awhile, ask for his guidance and wisdom and read his Word to see where an answer might lie.  One place in his Word I would now turn to often would be Psalms because despite what calamity I might feel is before me, David had it worse.  You can tell, however, that he uses each psalm as a prayer to God for deliverance, from himself, his enemies, from the trial he faces, and as a thanksgiving to God for the blessings he has been given.  Psalm 1 sets the tone for the entire book when it says, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither." (1 - 3)

Who do I listen to?  The ways of this world or to God's Word?  Who do I turn to?  To Christ and the Holy Spirit to hear me, shape my words, and to give me strength or to man and our feeble ways?

Take some time today to explore a psalm.  The study bible should have it divided by themes at the beginning of the book.  Psalm 1 can be a start if you so choose.  Use the psalm you choose as the foundation to a prayer.  We pray we become those trees planted by streams of water that yield fruit.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, July 25, 2016

Devotion 7.26.16

What is it you love the most about retirement?  Solitude would be my answer.  What is it you miss the most about work?  Conversation would be my answer.  Yet I find in retirement that I engage in more meaningful conversation with the people I encounter.  Perhaps it is because it isn't the mundane conversation of work:  What do you have scheduled?  Do I have any meetings?  Tell me how things are going in your department?  Can you give me that information so I can share it with the executive director?  Let me know when that is about to happen, so I can get it on my calendar.  Let's make sure to write a thank you note, letter, or show our gratitude somehow for this. 

You get the idea.

Now, if I'm talking to you, it is because I want to and want to engage at some level and not just because it is a part of workplace etiquette.

So, I guess in retirement, your devotional life and prayer life took off too?  (Silence, crickets chirping.)  No, you are correct.  There probably should be a correlation to available time and quality of devotional and prayer life, but there isn't sadly I have to admit.  Yet I will say this to each of us:  There is available time while going full throttle in vocation and with available free time.  There are, as we used to say in our school district back in Houston, no excuses.

Prayer is that time we spend with God to dialog with him about our life.  Our hopes, our aspirations, our fears, our gifts and our issues, and God's hopes, aspirations, desires and answers to our issues in our lives.  God invites us to pray.  Christ says in Luke 11, "When you pray, say:..." as he instructs us then in the Lord's Prayer (2 - 4).  In Luke 11, he also invites us to pray at any time, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrive on a journey and I have nothing before him.... yet because of his impudence, he will rise and give him whatever he needs.'"  (5 - 9)

God hears our prayer at any hour and knows our needs.  He listens to us and gives us answers in his time based on what he believes is best, as Matthew notes in his account of the Lord's prayer, "Your will be done." 

As a goal, set aside time to pray if you haven't done so.  Take time to clear your thoughts and be in dialog with God.  Find that place where you can stop and talk to him about what is on your mind:  Your hopes, your concerns, your thankfulness, your needs, and even your wants. 

A prayer of thankfulness that our God let's us come to him and talk to him.  We also give thanks that he is there to give us answers and guidance in our daily lives (our daily bread).

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 7.25.16

It is interesting to be placed in the same dorm with junior high boys between the ages of 11 - 14 for an entire week.  As the counselor, you find yourself as a disciplinarian more than a counselor.  It reminds me of being a levy along a river, placed there for the here and now, but as we all know, nature has a way of over-taking the boundaries man puts in its way.  So, we may tame a river during our lifetime, but the river can certainly erode, flood, and overtake what we put in its way.

Not that these boys were of a mind to do anything terribly wrong, but if given the chance, they might stay up well past their bedtime (taking away swim time curbed that).  They might be a little more aggressive in the field of play than is good (go tell him you are sorry).  They might blurt out language not fit for church camp, and in simple terms, they may bully someone where teasing goes past acceptable (do an act of kindness for the person you just humiliated).  Beyond that, though, it wasn't anything that an old man and a college-aged kid couldn't handle.

And aren't they like the adults they learn from (parents, teachers, mentors, others)?  Sinner/saints?  Luther said something along the lines of "saints are sinners too, but they are forgiven."  Saints in his mind meaning followers of Christ.  Yes, we adults test the boundaries as well as our children.

Peter says it this way, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but  as he who called you to be holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." (1 Peter 1:16).  We are assured through the resurrection that our sins are forgiven and that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, but "If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:9).

Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for our youth.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving that they have opportunities to grow, and that we, as their caregivers, take time to grow as well, in order to teach, lead, and care for them as they move into their own faith lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Devotion 7.21.16

It is easy to love your team when they are winning.  No doubt, social media is lit up when it comes to a winning team, and we talk smack about our team when they are good.  We also go into hiding when they aren't good.

Likewise, there are times when it is easy to be a Christian, pontificating about society in general and issuing edicts about the deplorable conditions we find ourselves in.  Shame on them (whomever that may be) for having fallen to the depths of depravity as society spins further out of control, for I know the love of Christ at work within me, and you clearly do not.  And then we step out of the sanctuary and back into the world which can be hostile to the gospel. 

So was the message the first night of camp as we climbed to the "wooden cross" on an adjacent ledge to the "lighted cross" mentioned in an earlier devotion.  At this point of our camp, the first night, we had started talking about following Christ and sharing Christ to others.  At this point in the hike, I read from Luke 9 about the transfiguration of Christ where he takes Peter, James and John with him to a mountain to pray.  While there, Elijah and Moses appear with him and he is shown in his heavenly glory.  Peter unwittingly says, "This is a good place to be, let us build tents here" to which Luke says, "...Not knowing what he said."

It's easy to be a follower of Christ when you are on a mountain top with Christ (and other Christians at Lutheran Camp).  It's easy to proclaim the gospel, but like Peter, we want to stay there.  Our calling is not to stay there, though, but to go out into the world and share that love of Christ with others.  Not easy to do, we noted in that devotion, and the trappings of the world make it difficult, even for the best of us.

Pray that we have the courage to proclaim the gospel of Christ with others, even in the trappings of this world (comfort, stability at times, and things that distract us). 

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Devotion 7.20.16

At some point in time during camp, after a temporary but large thunderstorm moved through the camp, someone in the group decided it would be a good time to take the kids on a hike to "the lighted cross."  Wisdom and judgement tossed aside, the four of us (counselors) said, "Okay."  After all, we were equipped with flashlights (every kid brought one).  With the main trail wet, we had to take an alternate trail not familiar to everyone, and it was growing dark.  So, sure, why not?  Let's do this thing. 

So, off we went, hiking along a trail with Austin (Ratke), the more experienced camper in the group in the lead, and me, the least experienced at camp but someone who runs and hikes, in the rear to take care of those toward the rear.  Austin's voice, distinct, was ever present as we hiked our way up to the rim of the canyon overlooking the camp.  My name was familiar by this point because Austin called it at least a dozen times for help and to think through our next steps.  There was only one precarious spot on the trail and that was a step up that was about six feet in height which required assistance from me and the song leader, Tim, who joined us on this hike (he was my age). 

Once we reached the lighted cross, we prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and asked for safe return.  I told Austin that Tim and I would go back to the point that required assistance to be ready for the kids.  As we walked, to the point, I noticed Tim was not using a flashlight (oh yes, I was).  You need light? I asked Tim.  No, he said, using night vision. By this point, my eyes had adjusted to the use of the light from a flashlight, but Tim followed the trail true to its form until we were about 10 feet from the dropoff, then he turned on his flashlight. 

The opportunity did not go unmissed.  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:104)  We were safe and always had been safe despite the fact the conditions were not ideal.  God had literally given us light for our path and we turned to his Word to ask for safety, his Son Jesus Christ, as Austin prayed at the top of the climb near the cross.

When do we allow God to lighten our path and when do we decide to go it alone?  "Sorry God, I don't need you, I can do this?"  The kids heard us pray and saw us work together as a team, which was part of the theme of camp as we go out in the world proclaiming the love of Christ. 

Pray we are in constant prayer with God and that we know we can and do turn to him at all times, not just when we are in the valleys of life.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving that God listens to our prayers and answers them in his time.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, July 18, 2016

Devotion 7.19.16

Where does the energy come from?  Men, I'm telling you, activity that would drop the average human in two hours had little effect or impact on the drive these young kids have.  By Wednesday, I was thinking to myself that this will be the day when the kids eventually drop from exhaustion.  Of course, I said that from my bed after having dropped from exhaustion, so I was hoping to have some company in the dorm, kind of that "please tell me I'm not the only one" moment.

The heat, significant, was oppressive, but to try to get the kids to rest in the heat of the day was as easy as changing tires on a car with no tools or car jacks.  When we arrived, I had five cases of 40 bottles of water for just the junior high boys (18 in all).  Pastor Eric said, "Maybe we can take the remainder to New Orleans for the National Youth Gathering," to which I said, "Sure, we will probably have some left over."  By week's end, we had to buy another case of water.  It was that hot, and we were that thirsty.

Yet, it was apparent that these kids thirsted more than water.  They were engaged in the bible studies we had for them as well as they were the games and activities we had, eager to answer questions and participate in discussions.  They were bright and asked questions of various leaders when we took turns presenting.  I was reminded of two passages during this time:  "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:2) and Christ in the book of John, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" (8:37 - 38)

Our kids thirst for answers.  We thirst for meaning and purpose.  Christ brings us that living water that quenches that thirst for meaning and purpose.  Christ is the living water that delivers us from the heat in our lives that we face.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for his Son and for the living water he provides.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Devotion 7.18.16

So many stories and so little time.  For almost one entire week, a group of kids and adults ranging in age from around eight or nine years old through 56 years of age (my age, I was the oldest from Hope Lutheran to attend), 33 (thirty-three) people from Hope (around 28 youth, four counselors, and one pastor) attended one summer camp at Ceta Glen, joining youth and sponsors from other Lutheran churches from West Texas to have a camp that numbered around 140 people I believe.  It was a large gathering as some said for a year that also had a national youth gathering on the other end of the week (starting Saturday). 

I am told the camp is 94 years old, and one of our member's grandfather was one of the first to camp there at the age of 8.  I was assigned (along with another member of Hope, Austin Ratke), with 18 junior high boys ages 11 - 14, to that grandfather's first dorm room.  Oh, it had running water, electricity, toilets, a/c, showers, and beds (about 20 bunk beds put in a room slightly bigger than the average living room in a house), but when you put a man in a room with adolescents whose primary objective at camp is to be adolescents, the housing conditions are primitive no matter what the modern conveniences are.

Play we did.  Games with names like "Nuke 'Em," "Snow Ball Fights," "Slip n Slide Kickball," "Camp Olympics" and other such activities filled our time along with Bible Study (it is a church camp after all), song, and worship.  The temperature hovered, in the canyon, around 110 - 115 degrees during that heat spell that saw temperatures in Lubbock around 105.  At one point, I looked at my fellow counselor Austin and said, "These kids stink, but so do we," as we sat supervising some activity. 

The theme of the camp was "Follow and Share" and the logo was an android with the words "Follow and Share" written in the face of the android (reflective of the modern social media culture).  The passage that drove the event was from Matthew 4 in which Jesus calls his disciples to follow him, and immediately they drop their nets. 

As men of a church and as fathers of some who went, we have a responsibility to teach these young children diligently to become those kinds of disciples like the men Christ called, and we have a responsibility to be disciples who share the good news in our own way as well.  Over the next few days, you will hear stories that came from that setting, all good, that will give each of you reading these the opportunity to impact those around you in your home, your work, and your own church if you are not a member of Hope.

We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for our youth and the opportunities to develop them to become faithful followers of Christ.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for their safety and for their safe return from each of these events.  We prayer a prayer of thanks for everyone who made these events possible, from donations, prayers, and working directly with the youth as opportunities arose.

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, July 8, 2016

Devotion 7.9.16

Stephen Covey tells us that a successful person "begins with the end in mind."  So, when I had the opportunity to deliver the message on Father's Day a few Sundays ago, I suggested that parents, moms and dads, sit down and ask, "What do we hope for our children when they become adults?" In essence, what qualities in terms of behavior and in terms of beliefs do we hope to develop in our children?  Not what do we want them to be when they grow up, but what essential qualities do we expect for them?

As we approach camp for our children under the theme "Follow and Share," we've been bouncing around character traits we hope to discuss with our youth when it comes to "Spiritual Development."  Here are some of the themes:  Lead/Follow; Teamwork; Courage; Maturity/Wisdom. 

There are any number of scriptural passages that support each of these, so the themes are given to you as parents and as members of your own congregations (not all Lutheran).  As you develop your own children and youth in your midst, what commitment do you have to develop these boys and girls, soon to become young men and women, with Christian character traits, that they will take with them into their own adult lives?

Pray for our youth.  Pray that God's Spirit strengthen them as they literally take a retreat to develop their faith lives in the name of a camp. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Devotion 7.8.16

Men, we are a team, so when you go out there, play as a team.  I don't want anyone to start second-guessing the other.  You each have a role in the outcome of this.  You see men, we are a machine, and each part of the machine is important.  The engine can't run without gas, so the tank is equally important to the engine, and each piston in that engine contributes to how well it runs.  So, the mechanic is equally important making sure we have a well-oiled and fine-tuned machine that runs like it should.  The mechanic is as important as the driver, who optimizes the effectiveness of the entire machine.  That's how we win, by knowing we all have a part to play.  So, are we ready to get out there and win and be a team?  Huddle up....

Ah, the Friday night ritual.  Win one for the Gipper kind of thing.  Everyone so fired up they run out and forget their helmets in the locker room.  Apparently, Tim Tadlock, Tech's baseball coach, used a tree (which I used as a principal of a school) and that you have to care for that tree to get it to grow.

Our youth have a very active summer, and next week, they learn to "Follow and Share."  Part of that is to work together as a team, just like the church.  If the team doesn't work well together, then there is that potential for God's Word to become diluted in the murky waters that flow from our message as a whole (okay, yes, I know and you know that God's Spirit has power over our frailty, and that He is made strong in our weakness, but we should strive to work in unity).  What do we, as a church, teach our youth when they come through our doors and watch us, as adults, interact and work together?  What is your call within that activity as we work together?

Paul calls us to "work together."  "I...urge you to walk in a manner of the calling to which you have been called, with all the humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4)

Our youth are following Christ this summer through their activities.  They are learning about their own faith as part of the larger faith of Christianity.  How do we teach them that we follow?  How do they see us work together.  Children learn best what the see, not just hear.  Pray that we model our teamwork in the unity of the fellowship in Christ.  Pray that we exhibit the love of Christ toward one another and in those we share that love with.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 7.7.16

When you choose someone to follow, what criteria do you use?  Do I look for someone like myself, who espouses ideas similar to my own, who may have traits I desire to exhibit?  Basically, we tend to follow people who have something we either admire or desire.  In some sectors of life, we call them "mentors," and in others, we may refer to them as "heroes."

Yet, these people are human, and when we learn of something in their lives less than desirable, we become disappointed.  You can think of people in which that has happened, from celebrities to people you know personally.

The topic for the upcoming youth camp next week is "Follow and Share."  Who do we follow?  What does it mean to "follow Christ?"  And when given an opportunity, how do we share? In truth, we are going to follow several people in our lifetime, so what time do we give Christ, whom we profess and confess in our articles of faith?  Do we share what we learn from Christ, like we might from a baseball camp when we go and learn from a great or a coach we respect?

Peter, James, and John go to the mountain top with Christ during his Transfiguration, during which Moses and Elijah appear and Christ is shown in his glory.  Peter, caught up in the moment, suggests they build tents for the three to stay, which Luke notes "not knowing what he said."  (Luke 9)  Yet our youth, and ourselves, are like Peter.  Easy to be a strong Christian while at camp, when on a mission trip, when at church.  Easy to profess that faith.  Easy to look and be considered strong in faith.  Yet once we come down from that mountain top, the glow wears off, and within a week, life happens.

Pray as fathers that you reinforce what your son or daughter learns while at camp.  Pray that we as a congregation reinforce our youth and each other as they learn about Christ, whom we follow, and how to share that faith with others.  Pray for the courage to profess and confess our faith to others, including those who may not be receptive to that faith.

Pray for me, Pastor, Austin Ratke, Ashley White, and Katie Pendergrass as we go to be leaders in the camp and for our youth and all youth who attend.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, July 4, 2016

Devotion 7.5.16

Revisiting Stuff and Junk as they relate to life, but in this case what goes on inside of us.  It's like I once told a friend (and shared here before) in this analogy:  People are shrimpboats.  What you see on the surface is the serene picture of a boat peacefully moving making hardly a wave, but underneath, there is a large net hauling both Stuff (good seafood to eat) and Junk (literally Junk in the form of sea life that could cause harm, Junk left on the floor of the sea, and other things).

All of us carry Stuff and Junk that we've accumulated over a lifetime.  The Stuff are the useful things:  learnings, teachings, faith, and other areas that serve us well.  The Junk are those painful items, those things we bury deep in our lives hoping to never see again.  Unlike the Stuff and Junk from the recent devotion, it isn't as easy as keeping an inventory and hiring someone to come remove that Stuff or Junk, yet they both can be very difficult to let go of.  Sometimes, it even requires professional help to begin to deal with the Stuff, but mostly Junk, that we have in tow behind us under the surface that we've accumulated over a lifetime.

In Galatians 6, Paul tells us to be there for one another to help get rid of the Junk.  "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." 

Pray that we have the relationships necessary for people to know they can share when they have burdens.  Pray that we listen and seek wisdom to help a brother through the burden he bears through prayer, through possible sweat and labor if the burden is a physical need, or through guiding him to the right help if it is an emotional or mental need.  Pray that the Spirit give us the tools necessary to be there and to be of help should a need arise.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 4, 2016

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.... Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?  And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."  George Washington, Farewell Address (delivered in writing, not delivered in a speech)

Clearly one founder had a notion of the place of faith in our articles of freedom, and yet we know we are not perfect.  Our nation, to this day, debates the role of faith in a free society and a democracy, each side believing firmly they are right.

As a Christian, there is only one true freedom: "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'  They answered him, 'We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?'  Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8)

Only in Christ are we truly free and that freedom knows no earthly bounds.  Today, as we celebrate our freedoms in the United States, consider our brothers in the faith in countries which have either outlawed our faith outright, or made it difficult to observe faith.  We can support these brothers in the faith via prayer or other ways such as the missions we belong to or donate to.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for our freedoms which invite those throughout the world to our nation to enjoy those same freedoms where persecution exists.  Pray that we hold our freedoms dear and that we not take them for granted.

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, July 1, 2016

Devotion 7.1.16

Stuff.  That's the general theme of the summer at my house:  Stuff.  Stuff, and its step-sister, Junk, seem to reside at our house in general locations.  The kitchen is the initial intake center since it is central to the house and close in proximity to the garage:  mail, packages, items from trips, furniture, and other such items all report to the kitchen via the garage for general processing. 

Sometimes it may take days for Stuff to be processed.  Credit card companies, for example, are fond of sending you pre-awarded cards for your convenience with information already filled in, so we prefer to shred that since it is potentially dangerous Junk, not Stuff, but the person we've contracted with to shred all documents (me) usually waits until there is a stack of Junk to shred.  However, Stuff in the forms of ball caps and other such random Stuff (computer at the table and other technologies) may stay at rest during the week until they can be processed back to the assigned room.  That is usually determined by an official schedule of the House Manager (me) which waits until either the Stuff reaches critical mass or we have company coming and need all the slots on the official dining table of Baldner Enterprises and Home.

With my wife's father's passing, there has been an inordinate amount of Stuff to be processed because his house was also a collection of an inordinate amount of Stuff (pictures, furniture, official documents, dishes, trophies from bowling days, etc.).  This created Newton's Law of Stuff (for every room filled with your Stuff, there is a room to be absorbed of equal and opposite Stuff from somewhere else.) The staff at the Baldner house had to bring in added help to process the Stuff when it came from Dallas (wife and children) as we decided what was Stuff for our house or the kids.  Junk had been processed back in Dallas and was not brought to the house here to be processed, although some items initially thought to be Stuff was really Junk when it came to the house.  For example, he had a set of 1963 mint condition WorldBook Encyclopedias that featured somethings such as the advent of a thing called a computer which would revolutionize the world someday as it only took up a room or floor of an office building.  I wanted that Stuff for my collection, but my wife insisted it was Junk.  So, it went with the Junk instead of staying with the Stuff much to my dismay.

Why do we have so much Stuff that is potentially Junk given time, value (actual or emotional), and usefulness?  Why do we have so much Stuff to begin with?  Unfortunately, we have so much Stuff that some has been assigned a small climatized storage room at a local storage facility (Christmas ornaments collected over a lifetime and 30+ years of marriage for example).  "You won't take it with you when you die" is a popular adage.  That's true.  There will be another household assigned with processing all of this stuff when we are gone to determine if it has any value and assigning it either Stuff or Junk status.

I say all this because I am not alone.  I am certain that as you read, your own mind began processing the Stuff you have and some of the things you want to get rid of because it has become Junk, not Stuff, but someone, or something (emotional attachment), is standing in the way of processing your own Stuff or Junk.  Why are we like this?

I'm not sure, but Christ uses Stuff as a theme in a parable in Luke 12.  "Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But he said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?' And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.' And he told them a parable, saying, 'The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'”

As we look at our Stuff, we should from time to time ask ourselves how much is enough?  Pray that we not be consumed with material goods to the point that we hear God speak to us as he spoke to the "fool."  Pray that what we have is what we need and to know that all we have comes from God.

Hope Men's Ministry