Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Devotion 2.1.17

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I was a young principal and we were going through training on planning.  The processes we were being trained in was called the DuPont Processes.  I loved it.  I was about 30 years old and the training for this young principal could not have been more timely.  Our district was investing in us, as I saw it, and it was enjoyable... to me.  There were some older principals in our group who had been there since my childhood (I was a principal in the district I went to as a child).  Their comments?  "They are trying to get us to all think the same way.  They are trying to tell us how to think." 

Sadly, I still hear that today.  In one organization I served, after completing a mission statement, the facilitator said, "Get your organization to read that together.  It's a powerful way to get people to hear it and begin to process it."  So we did that.  About a month later one of the clients we served said, "I heard you were having the staff make a pledge of allegiance to the organization.  What are you doing up there?"  In text code, SMH (shake my head).

In truth, yes, an organization walks that line of encouraging freedom of thought but ensuring we all are on the same page.  Creativity is crucial to improvement, but so is adhering to the mission, knowing that my energy is contributing to that mission.

Paul says that to us as Christians.  "So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." (Philippians 2:1 - 2)

The body of Christ needs to be of the same mind and sharing in the love of Christ.  Pray that the work we do in our congregations is of that same mind and love of Christ, all in one accord and of one mind.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 30, 2017

Devotion 1.31.17

In education, we have come a long way from the days of sitting in rows, taking information from the chalkboard, writing on slates, and taking tests on tablets.  Science has taught us better approaches to learning, some of which includes technology and other "brain-based" strategies (strategies that are better adapted to how the brain receives and processes information and new information).  And these strategies can be met with resistance from the public for a variety of reasons that often boil down to this:  "That's not how we did it when I went to school."

I think where we, as educators, fall short is in our responses.  The first thing that should come from our mouths when talking to the public is this:  How we care about children and their learning hasn't changed over the years, but what we know about how they learn has.  There are some things that remain true in the teacher/student relationship regardless of age, and there are some things that change as we progress scientifically and medically in our knowledge and how that impacts teaching.

Paul, in talking at Corinth, says this to a group trying to process a new way of thinking about the faith they've become a part of:  "Yet among the mature, we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages of our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."  (1 Corinthians 2:6 - 8)

Like education, there are certain truths that do not pass away.  In our faith, the mature impart a wisdom, but the truth is that wisdom is not an earthly wisdom.  Those ways pass with the ages.  The wisdom we share is that of Christ and him crucified (2:2).  That does not go away.  That is an eternal truth. 

Pray that we share as brothers in the faith this eternal truth.  Pray that our message gets through the wisdom of today, the earthly wisdom we know that can and does resist the eternal wisdom of Christ and him crucified.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Devotion 1.30.17

The standard, that usually leads ceremonial processions, is symbolic of its use in war.  The standard bearer was there to keep it held high, so while in battle, the men could look to it to know they were still in the fight.  We use that phrase today to speak of someone in leadership, say a president, who is our standard bearer in (blank) political movement.  Martin Luther is still our standard bearer in faith, for example, as we read what he wrote when we look at scripture to find its true and deeper meanings.

Paul was one of our initial standard bearers, and while addressing the church in Corinth, he is holding that standard high.  The divisions among the church and the body were many.  Yet he speaks of the standard he holds in chapter 2, "And I, when I came to you brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (v 1 and 2)

The standard we all stand with as Christians is Christ and him crucified.  His suffering, death and resurrection is what binds us together in the body of Christ.  As followers, when we get into disagreement, our common standard should be the proclamation of that redeeming grace of Christ. 

Pray that we never forget that standard of Christ and him crucified.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Devotion 1.26.17

Sometimes I am quick to forgive, and sometimes I am slow to forgive.  Where does the difference fall?  The deeper the emotional content of the offense is probably the answer to that.  I still feel a twinge of anger toward the Adams family (Bud, the owner of the Oilers that is, not the TV show).  Silly as it may sound, it is an example, that the mentioning of the Oilers moving to Tennessee can still irk me.

Move to more serious subjects.  Has anyone done anything to me that I couldn't forgive them for?  An attack against my family?  No, none that has created a residual resentment or anger.  Internal family disputes that can still rankle me?  Sure, my mom was a fountain of fuming anger at times that if I think about, I can still recall the anger that created in me.

It is my observation that forgiveness is a double-edged sword.  The more Christ-like we can become at forgiving others, the better we can become at forgiving ourselves.  In the Augustinian prayer shared in yesterday's devotion, we learn that we have a "lust" to "vindicate ourselves."  So in Matthew 7, while we are obsessed with a speck of dust in our brother's eye, we are blinded by the log in our own.  As Christ notes in the Lord's prayer, the forgiveness we seek is the forgiveness we distribute ("Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us").  Paul expands this thought in Colossians 3, "Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

So, being forgiven and forgiving are inextricably linked.  If I still feel anger, perhaps I haven't accepted the forgiveness God has given me for my own sins, much less the sins of someone I believe are against me.  Perhaps then, it does deal with wounded pride, that lust to vindicate myself.

Pray for the capacity to forgive and to accept forgiveness.  Pray to unload the guilt of sins forgiven that we haven't accepted yet, and to learn the free love and grace of God's through Christ Jesus.

Hope Men's Minisry

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Devotion 1.25.17

"Lord, deliver me from my lust to vindicate myself." St. Augustine

What's my greatest sin?  My constant insistence on being right.  It's not just mine either.  It is the sin of pride that afflicts all mankind.  We can justify just about anything.  I can justify my stance on an issue with facts, statistics, opinion or just as a stance "just because."  When I work with groups developing plans, I hear it there as well.  I hear it in the workplace.  I hear it in politics at all levels, local and national.  I hear it in the sports' arenas where I watch baseball, football, and occasionally, basketball.  I hear it in the grocery store (sometimes posted online now that people just snap a pic and post it rather than talk to the manager), and I hear it in other locales.  Worse, I hear it at home and at church, from myself and others.

We want to be right, to vindicate ourselves, our thoughts and actions, and worse, it is a lust.

In 1 John, we read, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1:8)  That is a familiar passage in confession, followed by, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1:9)  Still resistant to this notion of a lust to vindicate?  John almost anticipated that because in verse 10, he says, "If we say we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar, and his word is not in us." 

When I go to the Lord to confess my sin, in private prayer, publicly during church, or maybe even in confession with a pastor or priest, I need to drop my guard.  I sinned.  I was wrong.  It was me.  I cannot blame others or God ("That woman you gave me..." we hear from Adam after the fall in Genesis).  I sinned. 

We pray that we resist our own pride, our lust, to vindicate ourselves and lift our sins to God, who is faithful and just, and who forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness..

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 23, 2017

Devotion 1.24.17

The Baseball Writers have spoken, and this year we saw three men added to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  Jeff Bagwell, who came to Houston from a 3A affiliate with Boston, was added.  Tim Raines, a man who played a career with Montreal primarily, was also added to the ranks of recognized greatness, and then there was  Pudge Rodriguez, who played most of his career with the Texas Rangers.

I was glad Bagwell was added because I watched him from the beginning of his career through to its end around 2007.  Pudge, however, was someone I was proud to see make it because I had watched him, either in person or via television, for much of his career from his rookie year through his retirement.  Pudge was, in a word, a great player, making it on his first year of eligibility for the Hall.  Pudge was a great batter for the position (catcher), but what impressed anyone who watched Pudge was the gun he possessed known as an arm.  I was at a live game one time when he threw from the catching position down to third base to pick a runner off.  Being right-handed, he rocketed the ball down to the bag from the crouched position with the runner having no choice but to attempt getting back to the bag.  It was futile.  He was out before he even knew if the call at the plate was a strike or a ball. 

Before Interleague play began between the two leagues, Drayton McLane, the new owner of the Astros, contacted George Bush, the managing partner and proposed the two teams play in pre-season for "bragging rights."  We had season tickets to the Astros' games, so we were there.  Before the game, the people in the outfield began chanting back and forth, much like they do at a Tech Red Raider football game.  One side of the outfield would yell a chant, and then another would respond in kind.  "What's going on out there?" my dad asked.  I looked and there was Pudge standing in center field, directing the crowds back and forth.  It was comical, and yet telling about Pudge.  Personality displayed on the field as well as intensive play.

While we take time each day to devote to prayer and scripture, every now and then we take a break to appreciate the life that is going on around us.  The addition of Pudge to the Hall of Fame was a perfect place to stop and say "Thank you" to God for the people around us who make a positive impact, who display a work ethic and intensity in a field of play we can learn from, and who also show kindness by the way they engage people.  We thank God for the ability to laugh and enjoy life.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Devotion 1.23.17

"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects. 

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests." Publius, Federalist #10 (James Madison)

The Founders recognized that society would be divided by passions which, as you see, were referred to as "factions."  Factions divided by cause, idea, or passion.  It IS going to happen, and we shouldn't be surprised when it does.

I was born in a time of division, just before the 1960s era ushered in antiwar protests and civil rights marches and eventually , as the decade went on, riots.  So today, we witness the same thing.  Those on the side of the cause and those who oppose it.  Some are joyous and some are in anguish.  So, as Madison notes, rather than an attempt to eliminate the passion, and hence remove liberty, find a way to control its effects while allowing the citizen to express his or her passions.

In the church, we turn to Paul, who in Corinthians deals with factions.  A fractured church in Corinth in all kinds of hurt from various forms of misunderstandings, malpractice of faith, and ego of who they follow hence more valid faith.  We see the same struggles today, so Paul's admonition is something to which we should pay heed.

"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement.... For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." (1 Corinthians 1:10 and 17)

Divisions in society and country (and world) is expected, hence means created to "control" or "limit" its impact.  Divisions in the church are completely unacceptable and reveal that we are not looking at Christ and the cross which gives us victory, but rather our own wisdom.  Pray that at all times and in all places for the church and that we continue to witness to the miracle of the cross and Jesus Christ, our savior.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Devotion 1.19.17

My observation is that many great ideas die because they were not thought through.  A group of well-intended people gathered, maybe under the enthusiasm of an individual or a couple of dominant individuals, and they decided that it was time to do something.  My favorite tv show example of this is from the "Andy Griffith Show" (that's a show from a long time ago if you are under 45 years of age - you might have caught a few episodes on TVLand).  The circuit preacher came to Mayberry one day to deliver a sermon one Sunday and harkened back to yesteryear when people took time, didn't hurry quite as much.  What happened to those Sundays in the park when people gathered in the afternoons, made ice cream, and listen to the town band play? he reflected fondly. 

So, after Andy and Barnie get excited to do just that, throw together an afternoon in the park that includes getting out the old band uniforms, sewing them back together, getting the band together to rehearse, and getting Aunt Bea and others to throw together a picnic type set up, they literally beat themselves down and are drop dead weary by the time it is supposed to fall together.  And they fall apart.  This notion of a relaxing Sunday afternoon is a great idea, but how is it going to happen.

I marvel at the Apostle Paul.  He understands the undertaking he has committed to after being called by Christ.  He is to preach and teach the gospel to people, namely take the message to the Gentiles.  That should seem simple enough.  Go out and take my gospel message to the people.  What we learn in Paul's letters is he has an understanding of how to carry an idea through to its completion.  In 1 Corinthians, he writes the church in Corinth, a result of following up on information he has learned through his interactions with people who have come and gone from there, only to learn there are some divisive issues.   Paul visits.  Paul writes.  Paul sends people.  Paul follows up.  In speaking of the divisions within the church, Paul says the following, "For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  What I mean is that each of one you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas (Peter),' or 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor 1:11 - 13)

It is important that to understand the magnitude of spreading the gospel, we follow the example set forth by our apostles in scripture.  It took leaders and followers.  It took time. It took planning.  It took work.  It took follow up.  It took teaching again if it wasn't quite where it needed to be. 

We thank God for the gifts we have and for those who use those gifts to spread the Word of Christ to the "Gentiles" (those outside the faith).  We pray that we lead, follow, and work to be a part of the unified body of Christ in the capacities that God has given us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 16, 2017

Devotion 1.17.17

From 4 - 12 one year ago to 13 - 3 and in the playoffs. That is in one word, remarkable.  So, Cowboy fans around the country are probably still in a funk.  It is easier to be objective when you aren't tied to a team with the emotion that comes with being a true fan of that team.  The future looks bright for the Cowboys because the two rookies who made this season possible, Prescott and Ellliot, will have a season under the belts.  There is much promise with this team for next year, and it is that promise that gets fans back year after year (if I could stick with the Oilers all those years until they left, a promise was about all I had).

Paul writes and uses the word "promise" as well.  As he writes of Abraham in Romans, Paul says, "For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." (4:13)  What is that promise?  "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (8:1)

Abraham received that promise and we receive that promise. That promise frees us from condemnation.  We thank God for that promise he gives us in Christ Jesus, His Son.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Devotion 1.16.17

When you get introduced, how are you introduced?  "This is my friend David."  What typically follows?  "Good to meet you.  What do you do?"  How do you answer?  Work is probably a typical response. 

When I was in Rotary, we had to introduce ourselves formally as new members.  Mine followed a Sunday in which a guest pastor noted we never introduce ourselves by our highest callings - husbands, fathers, and other true vocations.  So, I chose that to talk about being a husband, father, and son (both parents were still alive at the time).

In Paul's epistles, the introductions are very formal, but they also express conviction and faith.  No two are alike, but they are similar in format.  Look at his introduction of himself in his letter to the church in Rome:  "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David, according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:1-6)

What would Paul have me write if I were writing such an introduction of myself?  David, a servant of Christ's church, in spite of my full sinful nature, by the grace of God through his Son Jesus Christ, unworthy of the grace of God but aware of the power of His Word, desiring to share that Word with others and the power it gives us to be sons of God.  What's your introduction?  Challenge, think about that this week.  How would you write it?  As true sons of God through Christ, our relationship with Christ is clear.  Perhaps a clear understanding of it starts with your formal introduction. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Devotion 1.12.17

The good news is things aren't quite as insane as they appear, but the bad news things are insane. As someone who has followed the news via radio, tv and print for a lifetime, it appears as though it has increased at a rapid pace.  Perhaps the pace has picked up because of the intensity of the news coming at us because now I can add the internet, websites, and social media to the list of news gathering methods.

I watched a video of David Brinkley and Chet Huntley of NBC's "Huntley Brinkley Report" interviewing John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office (click on the link to see it yourself) shortly before his assassination.  They are asking him about issues of the day, and at the end, they sit and chat while the crew reviews the video.  Kennedy looks at Brinkley and jokes about Harry Truman taking his daily walks, then looks at Huntley and says (paraphrased), "I wish I had said [it this way about a subject] instead of [saying what I said.]"  Huntley looks at the crew and says, "Can we reshoot that and I will re-ask it?"  They begin again and Kennedy rephrases his answer.  Now, that was a period of time that no longer exists.

Today?  Brinkley would have tweeted out the response by Kennedy and one of the crew would have recorded the raw footage on his cellphone to upload for all to hear before the news came on.  It would have gone viral and Kennedy would have been barraged by questions before noon, much less the next day after the news.  And we can put that kind of phenomenon on all aspects of life, not just politics.  One momentary lapse of judgement and your indiscretion, momentary failure to think, or sin is out for the entire world to see.  When did the world become so insane?

According to Paul, it started a long time ago. Listen to his words in Romans 1:  "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  Amen." (1:22 - 25)  Our wisdom became greater than God's, and we began to worship ourselves and other idols, and we took on the lusts of our hearts, a list that can go from A - Z. 

Yet Paul shares the good news as well.  "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) God sends us his Son to live, die, and rise again to save us from our own thoughts and actions.  We thank God for the saving grace He gives us through His Son Christ Jesus.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Devotion 1.11.17

How did Alabama and Clemson get to the spot they now occupy? I am certain there is a combination of factors that contributed to the success the programs now enjoy.  Vision, goals, plans, hardwork, dedication, commitment, support, practice and practice again, and then the intangible items like spirit and enthusiasm.  Everyone wants to copy them, and the recipe isn't a secret.  It's just hard to attain. 

It seems that in sports, we see the great programs again and again, like Alabama and its professional football counterpart New England.  Both coaches tout the same personalities, and yet both are masters of their games. Both put a competitor on the field each year, and it's not a question of will they win, but how far will they go?

In Romans, Paul talks to us about our spiritual game, the game that pits us against ourselves.  Sinful man and the new man, the man in Christ.  We are like those teams.  Some people excel and some watch from the sidelines.  Sure, we may feel like we are masters of the game, but in truth, we are sinful human beings.  Each day presents us with enough opportunities to fall or to glorify Christ that we are thankful at the end of each day for God's forgiveness and renewal.  Paul says it eloquently in Romans 5:  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, 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." (5:1-5)

Like the teams who excel, we stumble and fail (sufferings), but with our focus on the cross, we have that endurance (practice, work hard, commit) which gives us that character to persevere and finally gives us hope in the cross of Christ Jesus as the Spirit fills us with that faith and love from Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 9, 2017

Devotion 1.10.17

A primary reason goals fail is that they aren't set, and if they are, they lack clarity.  "I need to lose weight," is a common comment at this time of year.  The holidays offered parties and the parties offered food.  Combine that with our normal activity and the belt tightens.  The problem is weight is not a condition of sudden behavior, so we fail to see the word "diet" as what we eat daily, not just an activity we go on to lose weight.  And diet, our daily meals, and exercise are critical to health and weight control.

Christ spoke with clarity when he set the activity before the disciples or those listening.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19 - 20)  It is clear:  Who do we take the word to and make disciples?  All nations, no exceptions, including some people we may not agree with or see as our enemy.  How?  Baptizing them in the name of the Trinity, teaching them in the Word of God. 

As Christ commissions us, he gives us clarity in the mission.  As we seek improvement in life, do we give ourselves the same clarity in what we hope to achieve?  Pray that Christ be at the center of our life improvements and that we speak with that same clarity to address those areas we want to improve.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Devotion 1.9.17

I had decided to work on my master's degree shortly after my first year of teaching.  The University of Houston had a policy about not admitting a candidate into the Ed Leadership Program until they had three years of experience.  However, I knew that several candidates got in during our first year of teaching, so I knew that practice set precedent over rule.  That said, I applied and got in.  I talked a guy into going into the program with me that I had gotten to know as well, so we embarked on the path to obtain our degrees together.

That did several things.  First, it gave us a ride share plan.  I didn't have to drive the 30 mile round trip by myself each time and didn't have to bear the costs of such.  In addition, I could chat with someone who wasn't very boring (probably the smartest man I've ever known in fact, so I could learn from him as we traveled).  In addition, we could compare notes, study together, and get information in the event one of us had to miss.  The other contributing factor was essential to the path to getting a degree - we held each other accountable.  When summer came and I didn't want to really go because other people I knew where going to the beach, fishing, hanging at the apartment pool late on those hot Houston summer nights, and other things that drew my attention away from the path I had set for myself, John would say, "Come on, we need to register and start classes."

Why do resolutions, plans and goals fail?  We don't hold ourselves accountable.  So, almost all people who are enlightened on the subject tell you to find an accountability partner.  We see it in groups designed to help people in need, such as AA and Weight Watchers, and we see it in other areas like running, career development, and working in our families - husband and wife.  "David, it's your turn to read to the kids," I would hear as Cindy was gently reminding me of my fatherly duties. 

Christ recognizes this important fact as well.  In Luke 10, he sends out 72 disciples in pairs.  He notes the work they are about to encounter ("...harvest is plentiful, workers are few..."), the dangers ("...sending you out like lambs among wolves..."), how to pack for the journey ("...don't take a bag or a purse or sandals..."), how to conduct themselves ("...do not greet on the road. When you enter a house, first say..."), and how to enter and leave cities.

Clearly traveling in pairs gives them benefits for safety and well-being, but it also serves as encourager.  So, as you plan your goals, do you consider Christ and his desires for you, and do you consider who your earthly encourager, your accountability partner will be?  Trust me, when it was a balmy 25 degrees outside and the wind was coming from the west at 40 mph, our pastor and I decided to skip the run outside and go to a gym and use a treadmill instead.  We called each other after the run to see how it went.  18 miles on a treadmill is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but because we knew we were going to check on each other, it got us to mount up and get the run in.

What's your goal?  What's Christ got in store for you or what does Christ desire for you.  Pray about it, be it health, career, spiritual, emotional, physical or a combination.  Pray that Christ be at the center of your plan, and state your goal, finding that person you trust who can hold you accountable.  If it is one that needs professional help, such as an addiction or something, find that person who can guide you and get you the help you need. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Devotion 1.5.17

Once upon a time, I ran distances.  Once upon a time, our church had a new pastor who discovered I had finished couple of marathons (note the past tense of that). When he discovered I had marathon experience, he asked, "Would you want to run another one?  I'd like to learn and finish one."  Let me think about it, I responded. No, was what I wanted to say, but after about a week, that desire to run another one got into my blood.  So, I met with him over lunch to say, "Here's what you are going to need to do...."

Whether or not you are choosing to run a marathon, or seek a college degree or a grad school degree, or restore a car, or some other achievement of a personal or public nature, the first thing you have to do is state the fact that you are going to do something.  I am going to (name the activity or goal) this year.

One reason that goals fail is because they go undeclared or unstated.  I found it strange, but I've heard this in leadership circles enough to know it is true.  Even more interesting, you don't have to share it by standing in front of a group and say, "I am here to announce...."  You can share it with a person you trust, a spouse or a close friend.  Some people even hire personal coaches who become that confidant who is there to hear the goal or achievement and begin working with you to accomplish that.

How does that transfer to our faith?  As followers of Christ, we hear the call, but we resist the call.  Jesus, in walking past Peter and Andrew, said, "Follow me and I will make you fish for men."  At once, they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18 - 22)  Peter and Andrew immediately dropped their occupation to follow Christ, literally.  What is Christ calling you to do?  Is Christ talking to you as a husband, a father, a brother, or a friend and neighbor?  Or as an employee? Is he asking you to consider improving that facet of your life, be it health, attitude, ability, knowledge, skill?  And what is our response?  Resist, or realize we need to move forward?  If you seek improvement, declare it to someone you trust or to a group.  That's a big first step to accomplishing something, and doing it in Christ is a great step as well. 

We pray that we continue to grow and strengthen in Christ as we grow and seek improvement.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 1.4.17

I was watching Gary Kubiak live yesterday as he announced he's leaving the game of football.  Kubiak, a native of Houston, has been a part of the game for a number of years.  He played at A&M, and after playing behind John Elway for a number of years, he began coaching.  His head coaching years were spent in Houston and then Denver, where the Broncos won the Super Bowl last year.

Kubiak is close to my age (57), but he noted during the press conference that head coaching began taking a toll on his health.  He said that Bob McNair (Houston Texans' owner) is still a good friend of his, and the year he was relieved of his head coaching duties (which Kubiak said happens "in this game," McNair suggested he take a year off).  He went to Baltimore for a year and then "I got a call from John."  He fulfilled his potential by making Denver a champion quickly.  BUT, as he noted, he knew something had to give at the beginning of this year.  Consequently, he shifted duties to delegate some of those head coaching duties, which by game four or so, he noted, he took back.  "I just couldn't change," he said.

We seek to make meaningful change and somehow it just doesn't happen.  This time of year, the new year, is specifically a time where we take a date and say, "It's going to be the year I...."  The makers of gym wear, clothes and shoes and such, love this time of year because all the "It's going to be the year I...." typically involves health and wellness.  Sales soar and goals fail, typically by about the end of February.  Why is that?

Goals fail for a variety of reasons.  That said, what makes a goal attainable and habit forming?  Over the next few days, we will look at those goal in the context of Christian men seeking to be faithful Christian men who walk with Christ to be the kind of man, husband, father, son, brother, friend God calls us to be.

We pray that our goals, whether resolutions or goals we set during various times of the year, are centered under the knowledge that all we have is Christ's and that we do the things we do to glorify him, no matter how insignificant the action might seem to us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 2, 2017

Devotion 1.3.17

Welcome to the New Year.  We hope the holidays, both Christmas and New Year's, were a time you enjoyed with family and those you love.

Dumpster fire.  I've heard the word quite a bit recently, especially in the sport's world.  The (insert the situation here) is a real dumpster fire.  Given the context and situations, it usually infers that it is a disaster in its impact that took a life all its own.  For example, "Tech's defense was a real dumpster fire in this game as it had no control of the game, giving Tech's offense no chance to stay in a game in which it totaled 675 yards and seven touchdowns to still lose by...." 

I'm not sure how we got to "dumpster fire" because it is used like that is a common occurrence we should all be familiar with.  I'm familiar with grass fire, because I've seen them, and they take a life all their own.  I had a friend who got the bright idea to burn his trash before we left his ranch.  As he filled the steel barrel with the trash, he doused it with gas.  The liquid went to the bottom and the fumes stayed around the various pieces of trash.  As he tossed the match in, the fumes served as a propellant and sent the trash, ignited by the match and fumes, skyward.  Suddenly, there were five men on his ranch scrambling to limit the spread of the fire from ground zero to his entire ranch with the grasses ripe to burn, dormant from winter.

However, I've had a friend who informed me last week that the dumpster in his neighborhood caught fire one night, started probably by a neighbor who cleaned out a fire place and an ember or two were not out entirely.  Upon hearing about the outcome, I've since accepted the use of "dumpster fire" for situations that seem to have no control over them (the plastic lids melted by the heat of the fire) as he noted the fire department got there and just limited the spread of the fire by hosing down the perimeter.

Christ came into this world in a potential dumpster fire.  Mother pregnant out of wedlock.  Engaged husband decides to leave her rather than follow through with charges and potential stoning. God intervenes through his angel.  While traveling with a  very pregnant Mary for a census in Bethlehem, she delivers while they cannot find a hotel room.  Now, as we celebrate events after the birth of Christ, wise men seek him which enables Herod to begin his search and destroy mission, as God again intervenes.

Our savior, our king, came into the world in a less than royal environment.  God intervened to limit this potential "dumpster fire."  This is true for our lives as well.  Whether or not we care to admit it, we sometimes are one step away (or one foot already in) a potential dumpster fire, and yet our God intervenes.  He delivers us from our own calamity by giving his Son as a free gift.  As we begin this new year, we give thanks for our savior and the salvation he gives us in our lives, our own personal dumpster fires.

Hope Men's Ministry