Thursday, September 29, 2016

Devotion 9.29.16

It is a great story.  Roy Hobbs is an exciting baseball prospect who shows promise, striking out the home run king on a train trip in the epic baseball story placed in the 1930s.  Roy returns an old man to actually play after a mysterious woman guns him down in his days of promise.  Roy fulfills the promise much to his team's owner's dismay as he has more money to gain keeping his team a loser.  As the New York Knight's, Roy's team, moves to the championship, the owner offers him money to lose the game.  Roy's response is an epic home run that makes the Knights the champions. The ball hits the lights as it leaves the park, causing a shower of electrical sparks that resembles a fireworks show.  The music, almost a fanfare of sorts, coupled with the shower of sparks and Roy running around the path, is the story of triumph of reaching the promise of your youth, good over evil, and a victory of the underdog.

So, when I learned who Jose Fernandez was Sunday while in Houston, I began to learn about a story of good over evil as he escaped communist Cuba, bringing his mother with him.  I learned about a young man who was an outstanding pitcher who was early in his promising career.  It all came crashing down early at the age of 24 due to a boating accident.  The Marlins, his team, returned to the field on Tuesday all wearing his number, 16, gathered at the mound, knelt down (for a different reason that others who are kneeling these days), prayed, and then tearfully hugged one another and the other team.  Imagine my surprise when the first batter for the Marlins, after ceremoniously taking the first pitch on the right side of the plate (Fernandez' side), turned to the left side of the plate and launched the first pitch into the upper deck.  Ironically, the second baseman who launched the epic home run has only a handful of home runs in a career of about nine years to this point.  He called it a miracle and told the team that if they didn't believe in God, they needed to, because he doesn't have the strength to launch one that far.  Tears streamed down his face as he ran the basepaths signaling a tribute to his lost teammate.  It is, as people said, the stuff stories are made of.

Our story, as seen in scripture, is a story of sin and death, and the promise of victory because of a faithful God, who sends his Son to dwell among us, die a cruel death, and rise again to give us that victory over sin, Satan, and death.  How do we dwell in the Word of God?  How do we ponder on God's Word and seek its meaning in our lives? 

Pray that we, "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:16)

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Devotion 9.28.16

Do you ever wonder about what that really means… that God is eternal.  That means there has never been a time when God was not and there will never be one.  Even more mind-blowing, God created time.  That means God just is.  (Right now minds are exploding or imploding depending on how hard you are thinking about this).  But this truth as taught in the Bible is not simply something that speaks to the mystery of God. 

When the eternal God is an eternal God for us, that is comforting.  Since God is eternal, His Word is also eternal.  God is unchanging, so the Word of God is also unchanging.  John 1 tells us that Jesus is that unchanging Word from which God spoke everything into existence.  And it is that unchanging Word that died for you.  The world changes, but the promises of God don’t.  Our realities change as we move through time, but the promises of God don’t. 

Society will change around us, but the promises of God don’t.  It is comforting to know that we have an unchanging, timeless God.  That means that at any time and in every situation, we have a home base to return to.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Devotion 9.27.16

The Word of God is not a trifle; it is a matter of life and death.  When one treats the Scriptures as mere empty words, it is life they are forfeiting.  John 20:30-31, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” 

A quick summary of these verses from John could be as follows… The Bible points to Jesus, Jesus gives life.  Therefore, imagine what one forfeits by neglecting the Bible.  Our spiritual life begins by the reading, hearings, learning, marking, and inwardly digesting the words of the Bible as the prayer states.  This is where life begins.

Devotion 9.26.16

Eugene Peterson, theologian and author, tells the story of his grandson who at the ripe age of six was given a New Testament at a bible school function.  Peterson said that upon receiving the bible, prior to being able to read, his wife watched in the car as the grandson opened the book and held it.  When she inquired about what he was doing, he said, "I'm reading the bible."  The Petersons enjoyed that grandchild moment with a smile, but Eugene, as he thought about it, began to consider this:  It's the devil's own work to take what is presently endearing and innocent in Hans' (his grandson believing he was reading the bible at six) and perpetuate it into a lifetime of reading marked by devout indifference.

Think about that for a moment.  Can you be whatever your trade is at this moment (farmer, teacher, professor, attorney, investor, pilot, actor, etc. etc.) and not have invested study in that field?  In his work titled, "Eat This Book," (2006) Peterson writes further:  "There is only one way of reading that is congruent with our Holy Scriptures, writing that trusts in the power of words to penetrate our lives and create truth and beauty and goodness, writing that requires the reader who, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, 'does not always remain bent over his pages; he often leans back and closes his eyes over a line he has been reading again, and its meaning spreads through his blood.'"

We are assured that faith alone is our saving grace, but think of the riches we rob ourselves of if we ignore the opportunity to delve deep into the Word of God to get to know and learn more of the Word (John 1) of God.

Yesterday we heard about a foundation of faith, the simple truth about where our foundation lies.  In Matthew 7, we learn of the wise builder:  "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (24 - 27)

Pray that we take God's Word and spend time in it, deepening our understanding of the "truth and beauty and goodness" that lies within as we deepen our foundation to prepare for life's certain storms.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Devotion 9.21.16

Pastor returned today. 

"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it." -1 Corinthians 3:10. 

I love to build things. When I'm mentally or even emotionally tired, building something with my hands can really recharge my brain. Or perhaps let rest a little from stress.  To me, there is nothing better than standing back and looking at accomplishments that come from my own hands. So, when there's a project to be done... No problem, I'll do it. If someone destroys my mailbox out front, just another opportunity to distress.  (This really happened).

But I wonder how I would feel if after all my prep work on a project someone else would come behind and finish the work and claim the success. Perhaps that would frustrate me, or relieve me. Depending on the project.  

Paul, speaking to the Corinthian church, encouraging them to grow in their faith reassures them of their foundation in Christ. Christ is the foundation, but Paul is the agent that laid the foundation of Christ in their lives. Apollos, another follower of Jesus, is the one who came later and built upon that foundation.  Paul doing the legwork.  Apollos doing the fun stuff of building and growing.  What amazes me most is that God uses people to lay that foundation and build upon it.  People like you and me. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, September 19, 2016

Devotion 9.20.16

(Pastor is on assignment, so I'm back.)

"It was beauty killed the beast." Carl Denham, "King Kong"

I have felt it for sometime, but in reading Ryan Hyatt's post (, as well as having conversations with him, I'm now inclined to say it.  The Big 12, numbering 10 teams, is dying.  The sin that originally cursed the Big 12's demise?  Money.  It exists in football in high numbers.  Greed is part of the game, and you might protest it if you'd like, but there is proof beyond measure (Texas Tech did lower the cost of a bottle of water at the stadium from $5 to $4 while increasing the cost of everything else).

Pride in the form of  greed as the original sin in the Garden (you want to be God when you have everything else) continues to this day in various forms.  In this case, UT got ahead of itself and made an agreement with ESPN (who is now paying a price for that decision according to the Wall Street Journal) and got its own network. Unfortunately, other conferences have their own networks, not individual teams, but UT began the wrecking ball in motion that year.  Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado left.  A&M may have been the wisest, going to the SEC, because they became a part of a highly publicized conference with its own network AND deepened its recruiting by doing so. 

So, it's now comical to listen to people, mostly from Texas Tech since that's where I am located, talk about proposed expansion with team such as BYU, Cincinnati, and Houston. Bringing those teams in, to hear it, will kill the Big 12.  Hate to say it, but it is already dying. As a Houston graduate, I'm inclined to advise them to stay put.  Their conference is growing in strength, and Houston, a team with a great record dating back to the 1960s, would probably not serve themselves well coming to a conference gasping for air.  "It was greed killed the Big 12."

Football in general, is a sport that may not have the means to survive itself.  Men grow stronger and faster and hit harder in an age where moms put helmets on their children who are learning to ride tricycles.  Yet the sins of the Big 12, and college football in general, are the demise of many programs (turning a blind eye to rules violations, laws, and other such things and the domination of money that creates the greed that leads to poor decisions).  .

So to ourselves.  Do we have the means in this life to save ourselves?  The answer, be it long or short, is no.  We did not overcome our turning away from God and looking to ourselves to become God in the Garden nor can we overcome the impact of sin now.  We can point the finger at football programs and say, "Bunch of greedy people who think they are above rules or the law" and not realize we are in the same boat in the same storm called sin. 

Yet a foundation of our faith is that God provides us with rescue.  Paul writes in Romans 5 that our hope is in the faith given freely from God in Christ.  "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." (v 1 and 2)

We pray for forgiveness from pride, greed and all the other sins that befall us.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving in this faith that Christ gives us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 9.19.16

All it takes is one domino to get millions to fall.  Watch this link to see just that (really, many of you will find it very interesting to watch).  As you watch, you note the initial domino creates a vivid pattern with almost thousands of other items, mostly dominoes, fall in patterns.

All it took for sin to spread throughout mankind for the history of mankind was one small act of disobedience to God as we find in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit God had said not to.  With that, sin and death spread throughout mankind.  We learn there is no such thing as "one small sin" in our own lives.

Paul writes in Romans 5 that "...just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin and so death spread to all men because all sinned...."  Yet, God overcomes that sin as Paul continues later in Romans 5, "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for al men, so one act of righteousness leads to justifications and life for al men  For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one's man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

We ask for forgiveness for our sins and lift thanks for being made righteous through Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Devotion 9.16.15

I wonder how many reading this remember the old hymn "Christ Is Our Cornerstone?"  It continues… “on Him alone we build”.  How true is that for us?  It seems like there are those moments in my life where I am working hard at building on anything but the foundation of Christ.  “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,” another old hymn, will remind me. 

Christ is the cornerstone of our faith.  This means the foundation of our life.  We should build solely upon Him.  Beginning this weekend Hope will begin a new sermon series called Foundations.  If Christ is to be the foundation of our life, then we need at least a foundational knowledge of what He says and what the Bible says.  So, in this series we will look at foundational Christian topics such as Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, worship, evangelism, and others.

Let’s learn together so that we can build upon that solid foundational rock that is Christ. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, September 12, 2016

Devotion 9.13.14

In the 1960's, John Wayne made the classic "Sons of Katy Elder," a western featuring Wayne and Dean Martin in lead roles as brothers, along with two others to make four sons in all, who have returned to the town in Texas where their mother passed away.  John Wayne, as the oldest Elder son, returns with a tarnished reputation as a gun fighter.  Martin returns having gambled his fortunes away and may even be wanted by the law.  The third son is a quiet type whose sins escape me, leaving only the fourth to have been there when Katy Elder died.  They returned to learn that Katy died poor, living on wages she earned by sewing and giving music lessons.  The Elder property had been taken by a wealthy man in town as a settlement after a poker game with the Elder father, who unfortunately was shot in the back after signing over the property.  Of course the rest of the movie is on settling the score and getting the Elder property back, especially because they believe it was wrongly taken.

Fast forward to 2016 and the movie "Hell or Highwater."  Two brothers have lost their mother who was about the lose the property to the bank.  A bank in Texas called "Texas Midland Bank."  Jeff Bridges is in the movie as a Texas Ranger whose headquarters are in Lubbock, Texas, and who with his partner, is set to capture the robbers of the Texas Midland Bank in towns with the names of Olney, Post, Childress, and a few other names you would recognize.  The brothers have a master plan of robbing the banks to gain the money needed to pay off the deed and keep the property, rich in oil, in the family as a trust for their sons.  In essence, they are trying to take back what they believe was wrongfully taken.

Oddly enough, in both movies, you find yourself, as do other characters in the movie, sympathetic to the Elder brothers and the brothers in the Bridges' movie.  Bridges asks one man in a diner after the robbery, "Did you see those fella's that robbed the bank?"  The man answers in a great West Texas drawl, "Shore (sure) did.  Course, that bank has been robbing me for years, so it as good to see them do the same."

We seem to be able to compartmentalize like that in our lives.  The sin I commit may be just if I believe the sin the other commits is unjust or more unjust that my own actions.  And in a John Wayne movie, if it is John Wayne, then it isn't a sin really, is it because well, it's John Wayne.  The law may view an action as justifiable, but taking something that doesn't belong to us regardless of how we lost it is, in the long run, taking something that doesn't belong to us.

What's sad is that it is sin that has gotten us so knotted up to begin with.  Immediately after disobeying God, God asks Adam where he is.  "I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked...." was Adam's reply (Genesis 3:10)  As you are aware, it gets no better after the fall.  The only redemption we have in our knotted up world is through Christ, who comes to serve as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.  We cannot redeem ourselves, only our faith in Christ presents us before God as whole.

We lift a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the redemption we receive in Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Devotion 9.12.16

The dust had just begun to settle as firefighters desperately dug through twisted iron and steel.  The fires were still burning and the hope among families still existed on finding some sign of life in the rubble formerly known as the Twin Towers.  The magnitude of what happened still had not quite sunken in on that day.

Fortunately, most news from that time still came via television with the Internet still in its infancy, and things like "smart phones" and "social media" were still non-existent.  I say fortunately because it was possible to walk away from it and not get on things like "Facebook" or other apps to be bombarded during quiet times.

We were gathering in our churches and praying, in mass.  We were talking to each other across fences, calling long distances or emailing to see how others felt.  We were even in places like the store or a restaurant talking to people we didn't know about what had happened.  The nation was on alert and for the first time ever, every plane in the US, and those who would  be bound to the US, were on the ground.  Chills went down our spines as we realized that our military had orders to shoot any rogue planes not responding to the orders to land, which may include hundreds of innocent lives.

That was the day after 9/11.  That day changed our perspective and we still deal with the impact of that day in our every day lives (even as we stand in line at Texas Tech games and get our clear bags searched and our caps removed which until 9/11 was almost non-existent).

What does Christ tell us about all of this?  He does speak to us in Matthew, chapter 24, when he speaks of the "war and rumors of war." "And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet...All these are the beginning of the birth pains." (6 - 8)

So what do we do if this is just the beginning, the birth pains?  Christ again answers that later in Matthew 25 when he delivers the parable of the Ten Virgins, a parable of preparation.  How are we to be prepared?  In the parable, he speaks of five who kept their lamps oiled and wicks trimmed for the day the groom returned and five who stood when he finally arrived and asked for help from the five prepared, only to find they were locked out.  How are we to be ready?  Christ speaks to that as well later in Matthew 25 when he reminds us that we are to follow him and take care of those  and to minister to when he says, "Truly I say, as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me." (v 40)  In short, we continue following Christ and ministering to those around us including those who don't know Christ.

Pray we remain sober and alert at all times and that we continue to minister to those around us.  Pray for those who continue to protect us and serve us at all times, who are willing to lay their own lives on the line to save us, during times like 9/11 and after. 

Hope Men's Ministry