Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Devotion 12.1.16

When it came to naming your child or children, how did you go about it?  My mom once told me about the naming process for me, but I've long since forgotten the length or time of the discussion.  When it came to our own children, we liked names that had scriptural roots.  When I taught, you can see names that have scriptural backgrounds, family backgrounds, or are names that are creations based on various choices made by parents.  I've seen names that were combinations of mom and dad's name.

We take the naming process seriously.  I remember hearing Will Farrell say he and his wife wanted names that would be hard to pronounce and names that kids would tease them about.  "I think we accomplished both," he said.

In Advent, we see God name his Son and his Son's cousin.  Gabriel, visiting Zechariah in the temple, tells him his soon-to-be conceived son is to be named John. Later, we see in Luke (1:57 - 64) a discussion occur after John is born.  Relatives (of course, they always have an opinion about how we name our children) ask Elizabeth his name and she answers he is to be called John.  "None of your relatives are to be called by this name," they respond, so they go to Zechariah who can certainly clarify this.  They ask him via sign language of some kind (he had been stricken dumb - speechless - after doubting Gabriel's assurance he and Elizabeth would have a son at their advanced age).  He wrote, "His name is John."

They don't disclose this is God's desire for his name at this point, but they carry through faithfully in God's desire for his name.  The name in Hebrew means "God has shown favor," which for the older couple meant a son, and which for us meant that a man will come and tell people the good news that is to come, to prepare them and us for Christ's coming.

Continue to pray for preparation in Advent as we seek God's will and desires in our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Devotion 11.30.16

Never formally studied "Generational Studies," but I've participated in workshops put on by the experts.  It's interesting from the standpoint of history, which I have studied formally, because there are trends in history, and in generational studies, you see the trends.  One such trend is fairly easy to see:  Each generation believes the one following it is fraught with issues and has problems - namely weaker, perhaps lazier, has it easier, and falling away from the mores and culture we knew.  Each generation says that about the next.

I look at a picture, the only picture I have, of my grandfather, Lewis Farris, my mother's dad.  He's standing at an oil rig in the 1930s with other men working in the field, his fedora is beaten and tattered and smeared with grease and as are his clothes down to his boots.  I've heard a phrase from people who knew that time which I loved, "The rigs were made of wood and the men were made of steel."  So, as I think about generations dealing with the newer generation and I look at this picture, I understand it is entirely possible to almost certainty that my grandfather's generation was looked down upon by my great-grandfather's generation.  Lewis did not serve in World War I, so there among the generation before him is already a strike.  And the rigs used in the 1930s were probably more "modernized" compared to those in the days of Spindletop, so I'm certain he heard from old-timers about how easy working oil rigs had gotten.

Each generation has to learn on its own, it seems, and decide whether or not to see the world the way the generation before it did.  Each generation also sees itself as the promise that can deliver the world from the woes it now faces (JFK's "the torch is passed" sentiment).

As we prepare for the Christ, the coming of Christ in Advent and his return, we look at scripture to see how they prepared generations.  In Luke 1, God prepares the way for Jesus by preparing the way for John who would teach about the Messiah.  God sends Gabriel to tell an aged Zechariah that he and Elizabeth will have a son, and "you will name him John.... and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,... to turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared." (1:14 - 17)

We've heard this plea before.  The nation of Israel needs to turn its hearts toward God is a common theme in the Old Testament, and it is in the beginning chapter of a book in the gospel.  What does this mean in our lives?  As we bemoan the next generation, its faithlessness and lack of direction, please note that we can say that about ourselves, and that it is our duty to give the gospel to each generation we meet in ways that we have at our disposal.  In a season of preparation, our call is to prepare, ourselves and the other generations. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, November 28, 2016

Devotion 11.29.16

I've begun to enjoy genealogy in recent weeks.  What began late in my mother's life really began to bloom after a family reunion with my dad's family in Minnesota.  I was familiar with my dad's genealogy because that part of my family has been around all my life.  The Baldner family is very German with my grandfather's parents (my great-grandparents) being the first generation born on US soil in the 1870s.  My paternal grandmother was the first born in the US in 1900 after her parents landed in the late 1890s from areas in Europe that no longer exist but are part of today's Germany.

On my mom's side?  Who knew?  A series of tragedies comprises my mother's early life.  Born on April 16, her dad (my grandfather), was taken in an oil field explosion in East Texas on April 17.  My mom wasn't even sure he had learned of her birth that spring day since phone calls were spotty at best.  Not long after my mom was born, her sister died of leukemia and then her mother was taken by uterine cancer.  So, the Farris family (my mom's maiden name) was nothing I could identify with because they were gone.

After weeks of looking, though, I've been able to trace their history in Central/East Texas beginning around the same time as my dad's family settled in Minnesota.  The Farris family is Scottish/English and my grandmother's family (Birge) came through Louisiana, Mississippi and Scotland/Irish descent and settled in Texas in the late 1800s.  Farming drove the Baldner family and farming drove the early Farris/Birge families, but as you read the census reports in the late 1800s, you see the impact of oil on their occupations stated on the US Census.

As I've learned more about my mom's genealogy, I've been interested in meeting people I never knew, and I'm comforted in many ways.  First, it means I'm at least a fourth generation Texan.  That in and of itself gives me a certain sense of history.  Second, with their migration from Europe and occupations mentioned, I'm fairly certain the they weren't slave-holders.  It looks like both sides of the family were working men and women, but not large property holders with farms so large that the families themselves couldn't handle the work.

Genealogy is important to us.  We learn of it at the very beginning of Matthew for the Christ, who meticulously details his genealogy in the first 16 verses of chapter 1.  Why is that so important, as we begin the observation of Advent, for Christ's lineage to be so detailed?  Luke notes that prior to his birth, Mary and Joseph have to go Bethlehem (the city of David) "because he was of the house and lineage of David" (2:4).  Cleary the need to link Christ to David was important to those making the case he was the Messiah, who was to come from the lineage of David. 

We prepare in Advent for the coming of Christ.  Certain of his lineage, we await our coming Messiah to return in triumph for believers.  Pray that we spread the good news of the message of Christ so that others may believe and prepare with us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Devotion 11.28.16

Kliff is  our man.  So we heard on Sunday from Athletic Director Hocutt who had a press conference to say, essentially, "Not the season we wanted or where we want to be.  Kliff has agreed to delegate some offense decisions, and he will spend time dedicated to defense."  For those of you not familiar with the situation, Texas Tech will not make a bowl game for the second straight year and has a losing record for the second straight year.  Coach Kliff Kingsbury, extended in his first year through 2017 for a large sum of money, has not delivered on expectations and after the last game of the year against Baylor, many fans were saying the team needed new leadership.  Now the athletic director says no, he's still our man.

There are many ways to read this.  You could take him at his word.  Kliff is the man.  Or you could read between the lines.  Was this an administrative trick meant to draw a line that Kliff can claim he retained his job to other teams interested in his skills?  "No, I wasn't fired.  I kept my job, so I'm not looking because I don't have a job."  That makes a candidate more appealing in some cases.  Or, was it meant to draw a mutual line for Kliff, a Tech graduate with loyalty to Tech, who would then say, "No, I'm not interested in defense, so I'm planning on leaving and not asking for my large payout due me because I'm leaving and not being fired"?

You make the call, but if you have felt dissatisfied with the Tech football program over the past few years, the message for now is "more of the same."  Not that Kliff isn't a fan favorite or appealing to the team.  When he was chosen, there was a candlelight vigil when it was announced in celebration of the choice.  He was, in short, a logical choice.  Kliff would deliver on the promise started earlier that the big offense and daring plays would win out because he had led that offense for a time as a Tech QB.  Kliff would be that return to that promise.  Now, Tech fans the world over have started saying, "Defense is important."  We will, over the course of the next few months, need to see the plan unfold.

In Advent, starting in earnest yesterday (Sunday, Nov 27), we observe Christ's coming to earth in anticipation of his eventual return.  Advent marks that point where God's plan unfolds involving his Son, Jesus Christ, born into this world as an infant.  As Isaiah notes in chapter 9, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given." (v 6)  We begin the observance of the coming Christ and witness God's plan unfold as we await for God's final plans to unfold.  Pray that we remain vigilant in our time of preparation during this time and that our preparation continue throughout our days on earth.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Devotion 11.21.16

So, Tony Romo stood before the press last week and delivered his simple statement:  Dak is the starter.  I am not.  Dak deserves it.  Dak earned it.  Dak "Roger, Troy" Prescott is the new quarterback for Dallas and is their deliverer, their redeemer.  To hear the Cowboy faithful talk, Dak has righted the ship that was listless for so long and put them on their rightful path to a championship.

Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboy owner, has a "however" to add to this story.  That "however" is Tony Romo.  Tony and Jerry have formed a bond that is unexplained (at least I've not found a story or article that describes their relationship beyond owner and player).  Jerry, even after Tony said Dak was the starter, said Tony will play for a Super Bowl winner as the QB.  Odd, with Prescott's success, to declare that Tony still has it even though he hasn't taken a snap in the regular season as Dallas enjoys a successful season unlike any they've seen in a long time.

In the era in which the success on the college field doesn't necessarily transfer to the NFL, especially at the QB position, Dak has demonstrated that he picked up where he left off at Mississippi State, even as a rookie this year.  Coupled with the other rookie in the backfield, Ezekial Elliott, Dallas has a potent offense and a great record thus far.

The people of Israel were looking for their deliverer as well, in a more serious vein than NFL football.  The man who would be the next David, that young unassuming man who became a man after God's own heart.  Their deliverer would not come with Dak's or David's credentials though.  He would come in a lowly state and not be recognized by those who were anticipating the messiah to deliver them.

We can be like the nation of Israel, looking for our redeemer and deliverer and often times forgetting to turn to our Lord and Savior.  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believers in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." 

Pray that we share the good news of this savior, this redeemer, with the world, not to condemn it, but to offer that saving grace that Christ gives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Devotion 11.22.16

The demise of football has been a slow erosion, with the game imploding on itself.  Ratings are down and the attacks are subtle but nevertheless exist.

It started with the idea of the game, a punishing and grueling sport, injuring people in unseen ways.  Head injuries with the athlete recovering at first and yet having the injuries return later in life in forms of dementia, depression, and other debilitating diseases.  These stories became a steady stream of reporting.  Then the game showed it had no real method for governing the unseemly.  Men who abuse their spouses or significant others.  Men who are charged with serious crimes, still allowed to play as the judicial process plays out.  To make matters worse, a guy gets suspended for allegedly doctoring footballs (really, he was suspended for interfering with the internal investigation) and receives a harsher penalty than a man who admitted to striking his girlfriend (until the video surfaced and he hasn't played since).  So, the public moves on to other things that aren't quite as violent in their eyes (like it did with boxing in the 1970s) and maybe not quite as sordid.

Football is analogous to life.  We find ourselves unable to recognize our own behaviors and sinful nature, unable to govern ourselves which eventually leads to our own death.  In John 3, Christ talks about that this way, "And this is the judgment:  the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."  (John 3:19 - 21)

While we are in the light, we know our works and deeds.  The church spreads the message of that light, as Christ noted earlier, not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (3:17).  Pray that as we share the gospel message, we do it not to condemn, but to save.  Pray that we share the light we received through faith with others, so that they to may have everlasting life through the grace given through faith.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Devotion 11.10.16

Today, the Marine birthday.  Tell a Marine Happy 232nd birthday today of the US Marine Corp.  Always celebrated Nov 10 of every year.

What role the conscience?  I've heard some say the conscience is there to prompt guilt in order to convict you of your sin.  Perhaps, but Luther writes, "...just as justification would be uncertain if it depended upon the condition of our works or the law and were not freely received on account of Christ through mercy, so also hope would be truly uncertain if it depended upon our works, because the law always accuses consciences."  So, perhaps drives you to guilt, but useless if left in our own hands to remedy the offense.

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22)

God provides that cleansing that our consciences may need, and Christ alone.  Nothing we do. 

Pray that we receive the free gift of mercy and that we move forward from that point in accordance with God's will.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Devotion 11.9.16

Again, our apologies, but the server is now up and running but the listservs (groups) were not recovered.  It's now being rebuilt which will take time. Working on a Facebook page for the men for future potentially handicapping injuries to our system like this. 

If I were to walk up to you and say, "All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works or merits, by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood," (Romans 3:23 - 25) you would probably say, "Yes, I understand."

Believe it or not, that was a radical statement in its day.  Luther, 20 years after his 95 theses (1537), developed that confession, yet this notion of a free gift of grace does not settle well with the human mind.  Why?  Hundreds of years of teaching to the contrary, in which grace was something earned (maybe thousands actually).  Maybe even our own sinful nature, in which our forgiveness of someone and moving forward is determined by the terms or conditions we've weighed them with.

We thank God for not having strings attached to our grace we live under through faith.  We ask that we live according by showing that same grace to those we clash with.  We ask that this clarity of faith always be before us and that it not get clouded by our own reasoning.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Devotion 11.4.16

So we awaken today to the news that the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions!  That's the second championship to visit the city of Chicago in this century, which in a humorous kind of way, is twice as many as we have here in Texas in the existence of our franchises.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that Charlie Brown never got to kick the football because Lucy always managed to successfully pull it back in every frame that famous relationship was shown, and with winning the series, the Cubs would no longer be the Charlie Browns of baseball, the lovable losers.  Well, the Cubs kicked the football last night in a game that Hollywood couldn't script.  Game 7, extra-innings, rain delay, with odds against the eventual victor before the game started (baseball metrics types had all the stats that told you why the Cubs wouldn't win the game).  It had it all.

What metrics (statistics on steroids) can't measure is spirit.  Spirit, the element that is as true as oxygen in the air but just as invisible, gives us life.  We speak of spirit in sports terms.  We recognize spirit by saying things in life about the spirit of the agreement, the spirit of the effort, and the spirit behind the entire event.  The Cubs, the fans, and the nation to a large degree (except the hard of heart who just don't like the Cubs), those who love baseball and those outside of baseball, were caught up in the spirit of the series and the possibility of the Cubs winning.

We speak of spirit in faith, our own faith.  The Holy Spirit comes to us in our baptism and writes faith on our hearts.  We speak of spirit in terms of our faith.  A familiar psalm refers to both beautifully as David writes, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me, the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."  (51:10 - 12)

We receive God's Spirit in our sacraments.  We ask for God's Spirit to be with us and renew us, to give us strength.  We ask for God's Spirit to restore our spirit.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Devotion 11.3.16

Looks like the church has turned to Facebook for announcements, including the upcoming 3Bs.  Please help remind folks about the event, Nov 12.

I'm watching Game 7 of the World Series. Who will win?  Apparently a number of people want to know because the ratings for this series are high.  In fact, more people watched it this weekend than NFL football, which hasn't happened in a long time.

Of course, that is because of two things:  the story that is the Chicago Cubs and football has lost its mojo this year.  The Cubs are the team you like even if you aren't a fan of theirs.  They have a history in baseball, their ball park, and the fan base.  How do you not like a Cub?  Football, on the other hand, has eroded its fan base these past few years as it looks awkward on things that should be easy and it looks foolish when things seem clear.  Then, you couple that with the on-field protests this year in a heated political season and  people begin to say, "I've had enough."

Why can't football appear to govern itself?  That question isn't just for football.  Why can't people govern themselves?  Why can't corporations?  It seems as though we bailed out a number of large corporations in 2008 under the idea "too big to fail."  People, it seems, make bad decisions in their personal lives and corporately.  And just when we think we've learned from our mistakes and our past, we make those mistakes all over again.

Absent from these conversations is the whole simple notion that we are sinners, and as sinners, we lead lives that are not God-pleasing.  As we note in Proverbs, "A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed - without remedy."  (29:1) The problem is there is no real remedy because sin has corrupted the flesh.  The only remedy in God's eyes is Christ.  "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Our forgiveness for our sin comes through faith in Christ.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for that truth.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Devotion 11.2.16

Server still down.  Many announcements to be made:  Men's Brisket "The Big Smoke" Cook a success with many thanks, more later; 3Bs just around the corner (less than two weeks); and much more!

Joe Maddon, the Chicago Cub manager, said something profound the other day (we could be talking about the Cleveland Indians Series' win this morning, so this is written blind of the outcome).  When asked about the Cubs 3 - 1 deficit, he said reflectively, "You know, I told them this is just a game.  That's all it is.  So I told them they needed to treat it like this and enjoy this moment because it may never happen again.  Enjoy the fun of this and being in the Series." (I treat it as a quote, but it is a paraphrase.)

"It's just a game."  Wow, how sobering to hear that while at the same time refreshing.  Not this, "Fellas, we got one chance and it's that moment that will define us for the rest of our days and beyond.  Your mommas and daddies are watchin' and you have to make them proud.  The city is watchin' and you can't let them down.  We've come this far, so you've got to dig deep...."  No, he merely says, in truth, it's just a game.

How have things in this world become so serious that we can't just treat it as "life."  I thought of my own parenting when I heard Maddon say that (yes, just my own, not yours, while I care about yours, I have my own worries and joys mixed in with my two).  Did I ever look at my children (now grown) and say, "You know what?  It's not what derives meaning in life for me.  School is yours to learn to handle and enjoy.  It's only important to me that you seek to do well and do good." (I did in fact say those kinds of things, in between things like, "Why do we have to remind you so much to get things done?  Don't you want to show your own initiative?  Do you want us parenting you until you're 30?" among other such gems.)

Jesus, when asked about life, never answered the question.  Instead, he takes us on a walk.  After the Pharisees mumble about Christ eating with sinners (Luke 15), Christ begins talking about loss.  Lost sheep, a lost coin, and then gives us this beautiful story of a man whose son squanders his portion of the wealth and gets lost in life, finally living as a beggar eating what he is feeding pigs (The Prodigal Son).  The son finally comes to his senses and decides to go back to his father and throw himself at his mercy, expecting he might be fortunate enough to work the fields with the laborers.  However, upon returning, he is met with open arms by the father, who rejoices upon seeing his son from a distance.  Even after the confession, the father, clothes him, brings him in, and has a feast to celebrate.  After a protest by his oldest son, the father says, "We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."  (v 32)

What's really important?  Faith and salvation are at the top of the list I'm thinking.  Everything else flows from there.  What do we stress to our children as being important?  If you are like me, maybe not what's truly important as often as I should have. 

Pray we stress to our children the importance of faith in their lives and that we live that with them daily.

Hope Men's Ministry