Friday, March 31, 2017

Devotion 4.1.17

Worship/Praise - Psalm 134

Preparation.  Preparation varies depending on experience of the person and the task at hand.  Each of us prepare in our own way, and that preparation may take minutes or it may take months.  Putting a team together to prepare for something changes the dynamics entirely.  Now the preparation has to be communicated and understood by several as they address a common task at hand.

What is "preparation for worship?"  How do we get in that frame of mind to go participate with the body of Christ to worship Him? 

In the Psalms of Ascents (120 - 134), a combination of psalmists that include David prepare us for worship.  Some suggest that it begins at the door of the home and ends in the temple of the Lord, but each represents a step of preparation, examining our hearts and calling to God as we walk along the way.  In Psalm 134, the psalmist calls out, "Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!  May the LORD bless you from Zion, who made heaven and earth."

We prepare for worship as we move to worship the Trinity in our various worship services.  We offer blessings to our Lord for all He has done for us through prayer, Word, song, and sacraments.  We acknowledge who He is through the confession our sin as we turn to Him for forgiveness. 

Pray for a right heart as we enter the house of worship for our Lord.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 3.31.17

Grace - Psalm 68

When does "grace" kick in?  When do we begin the process of "forgiving" someone or ourselves?  In today's political discourse, the answer based on the language of the multiple sides in the discussion seems to be "never."  It seems as though the last politician who understood power and the fact of the phrase "revenge is a dish best served cold" was LBJ.  His opponents never saw him coming, yet when he accomplished what he set out to do, they awoke to the fact that he had rendered them impotent.  Outwardly, though, LBJ was all smiles and handshakes making it appear that even his political enemy was his friend.

Today that is hardly the case.  We've learned the phrase "snowflake" and in-your-face politics seems to be the rule of thumb rather than the exception.  We've learned a generation was pampered beyond belief and the other hardened, cold, and indifferent.  If there is a middle ground, it is measured in some measurement smaller than a fraction of a millimeter, and the person who seeks it is deemed a betrayer of the party faithful. 

That seems to find its way into every day life as well.  Our ability to bend and give appears to be less and less.  So, we find it as no shock that in Christ's day, a question was posed about forgiveness.  In Matthew 18, the disciples ask how much they should forgive someone.  The legalistic question is posed, "Seven times?"  Seven times?! If seven times were the true measure, I would have no wife, no children, no friends.  I would truly be an island in a vast ocean of humanity, and in truth, so would you.  I get seven chances before I'm out? 

In Psalm 68, David speaks of God's love this way, "Blessed is the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.  Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death." (19 - 20)  We don't deserve the grace we receive, each of us, for anything we have done. Our God bears us up through His Son, Jesus Christ, because we are "jars of clay" that require forming daily.

Christ's answer to the question posed expanded it exponentially - "seventy times seven." He then told the parable of the unmerciful servant, whose own wretched life needed mercy and grace, yet after being given grace, he turned to a man in need and had him jailed.

Let's be prayerful that as followers of the light, we show that grace and mercy in truth despite the earthly rhetoric of yesterday, today, or in day's to come.  In truth, "And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.…" (Romans 3:23 - 25) We lift a prayer of thanksgiving for this grace we obtain undeserved.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Devotion 3.30.17

Purpose and Direction - Psalm 31

The weekend in which we celebrated our great nephew's first birthday culminated in worship at his parent's church.  The service itself was one of dedication in which our great nephew was "dedicated" with other children.  The dedication was the introduction of the child before the congregation, along with how that name was chosen, and a favorite passage that would be his special passage of scripture. 

The elder who led that part of the service said some things that really struck a chord with me.  He talked about the young boy's faith as he grows.  He spoke of the parents' role and responsibility in developing the faith in that child.  He then turned to the congregation and spoke of the accountability we have in that.  We do the same in our church during the baptism of children as the pastor leads the baptism speaking of the work it does in the heart of the baptized, as well as the responsibility the parents have in that faith life.  The pastor then turns to the sponsors, sometimes seen as an honorary role rather than the true role it is in keeping the parents to their word given that day of the baptism or standing in place of the parents should something happen to them.  The pastor also turns to the congregation to remind us all of our responsibility in the faith lives of those in our church, including the young.

We pray for these young children and all in the midst of Christ that we let him guide us.  "For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God." (Psalm 31:3-5)

Christ will echo these words on the cross, but we echo these words daily.  Into Christ's hands we commit our spirits, meaning we turn to Him for our guidance.  We truly seek that "his will be done," through us here on earth as His will is certainly done in heaven.  Christ has redeemed us.  Our lives are bought with a price through his suffering, death, and resurrection. We pray that these young children receive that guidance through those responsible for them, including all who gather in his midst as the body of believers, so that one day they may walk with Him on their own.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Devotion 3.29.17

Hope - Psalm 5

Our great-nephew turned one this month, and there was the customary celebration for him at his parent's house here in Lubbock.  There was an abundance of family and friends at the festivities - great-grandparents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles, brother and sister to the parents, cousins, friends, and others.  There were children playing as the adults sat around and talked to one another, and then there was the opening of gifts.  One gift was a Tonka dump truck, made mostly of steel, which every man in the room made some sound of approval when it was opened regardless of age.  We could all identify and maybe even the boy in all of us envied the one-year-old's new toy.

There was one activity for him that was interesting.  The adults in the room were given two handouts.  One had prompts on it, and we were supposed to write what our guesses were as to things, such as the college major he might pick, what he may be doing at that age, little things he should know about his parents, and what he should know about me (the writer of the "predictions").  The other card was called "Prayers for...."  What would we pray for the toddler as he grows?

What would you pray for someone yet to be out of diapers as they grow and mature?  My prayer would be one of "hope."  That simple.  A hope for opportunity in life much like the generations, in this country specifically, before him have enjoyed.  A prayer for hope in his calling in life, regardless of what that vocation may be.  A prayer of hope in his faith as it grows and matures and blossoms.  Of course, there is that part of the word "hope" that also conveys desires about the world he will live in, a hope for a better world but also the reality of a sin-filled world and all the issues that will be the issues of his day. So perhaps a hope for successful navigation in the worldly events as a citizen of two kingdoms:  heaven and earth.

"But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.  I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.  Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.  But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.  For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as a shield." (Psalm 5:7-8; 11 - 12)

Our prayer for this young boy and all like him is simple, one of hope.  Our prayer is that we keep our God in front of us and that we worship our God, that he lead us in his Word to make our paths straight, and that he and others learn to go to Christ to take refuge in Him, the true source of strength and hope. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 27, 2017

Devotion 3.28.17

Strength - Psalm 31

We recently visited Ruidoso, New Mexico which sits at an elevation higher than Denver, Colorado.  The mountains around it are beautiful, and one day's adventure was to go to the Lincoln National Forest to hike a couple of trails.  Hike at that elevation literally means hike, unlike taking a "hike" along the trails on the flatlands of the Great Plains or even Coastal Plains of Texas.  The forest, still damaged by the fires a few years ago, is beautiful, but we hiked along a trail along the side of a mountain. My wife would say, "Should we take a rest?" to which I gladly replied, "Yes."  I was in the lead, but I followed her lead as to when to stop and take breaks. 

We usually stopped along the trail where there were rocks or fallen trees large enough to sit and to put down our things (camera and backpack).  We would sip water, look around, and catch our breath.  There was a level of solitude in that kind of surrounding providing a sense of serenity and peace.

This gave new meaning to David's call to God in Psalm 31, "In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;... Into your hands I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God." (1-5)

God is David's source of strength, his rock, fortress, refuge.  In the mountains of New Mexico, we understood this passage of God being our rock and refuge, our source of strength to rest and to renew. For us, as believers, God sends his Holy Spirit to us to be our source of strength and renewal as well. 

Paul's prayer speaks to us when we need this strength from God, our rock and fortress:  "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom ever family in heaven and on earth is named,, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit  in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and ground in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14 - 19)

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Devotion 3.27.17

God's Will - Psalm 121

My dad's will was read in court after he passed away 12 years ago almost to today's date.  I remember it vividly as the attorney, a young man I was working with at the time in education (he was primarily a lawyer practicing education law) was there with a more senior attorney who was to guide him through the process of probating a will in court.  The judge had not come into the courtroom yet, and it was just the three of us.  They were talking to me about the process, when I was to answer the questions, and when they were to answer the questions.

The judge entered the room, and we stood.  He told us to be seated, and the younger attorney began to speak.  The older gentleman leaned over to me and said, "David, today you will realize that your dad sat down many years ago to write out his final will for you and what his wishes were for his estate.  He did this for you to provide and to give guidance, so when he did this, he was thinking of you.  It's okay if you get emotional as we go through this."  In truth, I was fine until he said that, but his comments did weigh the gravity of the truth of my dad and his will, not an object, but his strong wishes and desires.  In truth, he did sit down some time ago and had all this done specifically for me and my family as the sole inheritors of his estate as put for in his will (the object) and his will (his strong desires).

How do we know God's will in our lives? "I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?" asks David.  "My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  This LORD is your keeper, the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore."  (121:1-2, 5, 8)

God is aware of and knows the intimate details of your life.  God watches over us as we go through our hour, our day, our life.  "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)  God's will is spelled out as plainly through his Word as it was in a legal document written years ago to express the will of the person for his or her estate.  Through prayer, reading, and fellowship with other believers, we learn God's will in our lives.

Pray we lift our eyes to God and ask for His will to be done in our lives, which He prepared in advance through His Son Christ Jesus that we should walk in His will.

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, March 24, 2017

Devotion 3.25.17

Conflict - Psalm 127

In the area of management, there is a type of management called "quality management."  Known by several other names, quality management engages in the study of processes, the idea being to maintain a consistency in those processes in order to maintain a level of quality.  Quality controls yield a better ability to assure the customer that a high percentage of what you produce is within a standard of quality.  When a problem arises in this or that area, you look at data to find the "root cause."

What is the "root cause" of conflict?  If you enter "origins of conflict" on Google, it produces an abundance of answers from personal conflict to war.  Recently, in a Sunday morning presentation at church, we examined three types of conflict:  conflict within the person (inner conflict), between people, and between man and God.  In earthly terms, we talk about conflict as a tension, usually between two people who know each other and possibly have a history with one another.  Conflict grows from somewhere deep within that relationship. The conflict could have been fairly superficial at its start but has grown over time to a deeper form of resentment and conflict. 

During one of the greatest conflicts in our nation's history, a man asked President Lincoln if God was on the side of the North.  Lincoln's response was, "My concern isn't if God is on our side; my concern is if we are on God's side."  Spiritually, we know the "root cause" of conflict: sin.  We know the usual suspects in conflict:  pride, ego, will.  Spiritually, sometimes we arrogantly believe that because of our faith, clearly God is on our side rather than suspending our ego and asking, "Am I really on God's side." 

"Unless the LORD builds this house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1 - 2)  The psalm is credited to Solomon who would later echo the sentiment of vanity in Ecclesiastes.  Vanity might perhaps be the greatest culprit in conflict.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 to a church in conflict, "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?...  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.  Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (3;10-11)

Unless the Lord Jesus Christ is our foundation, our labor is in vain.  When we come to conflict, we pray that our own jealousies, pettiness, and vanities are laid aside and that we seek God's will, not speak as though we know God's will.  When we come to conflict, those of us in the conflict should pray together to discover God's will and turn to His Word rather than allow our vanity and pride to talk as though we are acting on behalf of God.  Pray for wisdom, peace, and understanding in conflict - within families, within friendships, within congregations, and the world at large.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Devotion 3.24.17

Guidance - Psalm 63

My favorite part of the interview process we had in place was that of the final interview.  We used a multi-phased approach that included people closest to the work in the first interview which then moved to senior leadership in the second.  The idea was this:  Do you fit into the work component, and will you be an integral part of the organization?  Different sets of eyes assess both.  Inevitably though, after several weeks of interviews, the applicant was offered the job, and almost without fail, the applicant would look at us and say, "I should go home and pray on it.  When do I need to let you know?"

After years of being involved in processes like these, I really began to wonder to myself, "Pray on it?  That didn't start before you began this process?"  From that, we learn this:  You got what you wanted. What do you do now?

In a positive sense, you got what you wanted.  The opportunity has dropped into your lap.  It's yours, so what do you do with it?  In the negative sense when "bad" things happen to you, this test or this temptation has fallen upon you, maybe of your own doing, maybe not, but what do you do with it?  How do you respond to it?

"Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.... My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." (Psalm 63:1-2;8)  In truth, before, during and after opportunities or dilemmas, God is our source of guidance where we turn.  David describes it as "thirst" in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So, too, we pray to our God for his guidance.  The earthly guidance, that dry and weary land, can only go so far, but God is our source of truth for those answers we truly need in life.  Pray that God give us that wisdom and guidance we seek in both the good times and in the "dry and weary lands" of our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Devotion 3.23.17

Grace - Psalm 32

When do you get out of the hole that you dug for yourself?  You stop digging.  Isn't life like that sometimes?  Comedies are usually built on that formula.  Intentions to accomplish something (ask a girl out on a date, buy something for that special someone in your life, buy your parents that special vacation they've always wanted).  Then problems ensue as people get tangled up in the mess of their own plans until the bottom falls out, the truth is revealed, and people laugh along the way.  Yet sometimes it isn't comedic.  Sometimes it is far more serious.

Unfortunately, we may not even realize we are still digging that hole as they get deeper and deeper into the mess that exists.  Even worse, once we realize we are there, we don't believe there is any relief for the situation, the problem, the mess.  Who would understand?  Who could forgive such a thing?

In Psalm 32, David says it this way, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity.... You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.  I will instruct you and counsel you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." (1-2; 7-8)

Through Christ, God forgives the sin, He counts no iniquity.  We are cleansed, the blot is removed. "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we also have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)

Quit digging.  Leave the hole behind.  You are a forgiven son of God having received the gift of grace through faith.  Our hope is in this grace.  Pray that we constantly remember that we have received this grace and share the good news of this grace with others.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Devotion 3.22.17

Peace - Psalm 23

We come to the funeral of someone we've known, a member of the family, a friend, a co-worker, or a friend of a friend, and we hear the traditional psalm read.  "The LORD is my shepherd...."  From that, we associate the psalm with death and comfort for those who mourn.

Yet, there is a power to the "23rd Psalm" that extends to life, for our God is our shepherd throughout our lives.  Hear the words in David's psalm and consider your daily life and the comfort it brings:

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (1 - 4)

God is with us.  God watches over us.  God restores us.  Knowing He is with us gives us comfort that He protects us and strengthens us, even when our lives confront the evil in this world.  "The Message" says it this way, "God is my shepherd! I don't need a thing... True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction." What do we have to fear?  God is with us, and Christ tells us this, "I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.  I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:11 - 12)

So, it is true that God is with us as we live our lives here on earth, and that in the end, Christ laid His life down for us, so that, as David says, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (6)

Our lives are lives of peace, reconciled by our shepherd, who gave his life so that we may have eternal life.  Christ is with us every day throughout our lives for us to turn to for that peace we have in knowing Him. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 20, 2017

Devotion 3.21.17

Worry - Psalm 27

There seems to be plenty to worry about these days.  We won't elaborate on the litany of things that are out there for us to worry about, but by just asking this, you can run your own list through your mind.  What do you worry about?  The political joke is, "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean there aren't actually people out to get you."

For those who are professional worriers, that's hardly reassuring, but we spend time worrying, to the point that it is a popular topic among self-help literature.  It is also what a healthy portion of the skilled mental health professionals spend their time listening to patients reveal.  We worry to the point of literally making ourselves sick sometimes.

David was consumed with worry as well.  Certainly a study of his life showed that he was shaped by his life experiences, so he knew he had to look over his shoulder at all times as king because he felt people were out to get him (and they probably were).  So where did David take his worries?

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.  Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; through war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing I have asked of the LORD that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:1 - 4)

We realize the fall of man has given us problems like worry, yet like David, we take our fears and concerns to God through his Son Jesus Christ.  With David, we gaze upon the beauty of God and inquire in His temple - His Word.  Christ tells us not to be anxious about our lives, to not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6). 

We pray that we receive our daily bread.  We pray that Christ give us the strength for that day.  We pray that Christ grant us His peace and that we truly know He is with us each and every day.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Devotion 3.20.17

Strength - Psalm 1

It is officially Spring today.  It has certainly felt like Spring these past few weeks around here, and the trees and plants are responding to the warm weather as though Spring has arrived with buds coming out and shoots springing forth.  Baseball always arrives in late winter and early spring with players reporting and then squads working out and playing games in its preseason.  The grass is getting green, coming out of its dormancy and the shops are stocked with new flowers and vegetables to plant.  Spring is a great time of year.

Of course, we all begin our Spring activities, and then nature comes back and says, "Wait a minute, I'm not done," and gives us a few more freezes with frost.  This can be disastrous for those in agriculture, especially our grape growers, but it is the risk we assume.  Yet it is the Spring where we invest our time and our energy in beginning the growth cycle by planting and providing essential nutrients to the soil and to the budding plants to encourage growth.

In our spiritual lives we find a similar cycle to the season of Spring, of planting a seed and providing essential nutrients for growth.  That growth is not instantaneous but is nurtured over time.  In Psalm 1, David says, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,... 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 season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away." (1 - 4)

Our faith lives grow over time.  We meditate on God's Word, pray, worship, and receive the healing forgiveness and strength through the sacraments.  While all we do may not necessarily prosper (our spiritual lives have those freezes and frosts which can set us back in spiritual terms) in earthly terms, we certainly prosper through this redeeming faith in Christ and become like trees planted by streams, producing fruit. "Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit." (Matthew 7:17)

Pray that we stay in God's Word and meditate on it.  Pray that we are those healthy trees producing good fruit through Christ Jesus.

Hope Men's Ministry

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Devotion 3.18.17

Worship/Praise - Psalm 98

When do we "get ready" for church?  Is it part of a hectic Sunday morning ritual, beginning a little after sunrise?  Does it include the alarm clock, a pot of coffee, waking the kids (if applicable), sipping the coffee, browsing the paper (if applicable) or reading the news online, going back to wake the kids (part 2), pouring a second cup and checking the time, stirring the kids and telling them going to church is what families do, so yes, we are going, and then beginning preparation for yourself?  Does it finally include a mad dash to the car with the phrase, "I don't care, leave it, we are going to be late!"? No, I'm not watching your family or making judgements.  I am merely recalling the days of when the kids were older, and that was our getting ready for church routine.

Really though, church preparation reminds me of what I've heard about winning national championships.  I've seen and heard coaches say this:  "Enjoy the moment, because right now you are the national champion, and tomorrow morning we will begin preparing for next season."  So, in reality, preparing for worship is probably started when you leave worship that Sunday before you immerse yourself back into real life.  Life will begin to chisel at the edges of what worshiping our God and Christ provided you with through the gifts of the Spirit - strength, renewal, forgiveness, mercy, hope. So, it is at that moment when we prepare our hearts for worship.

"Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.  All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God." (Psalm 98)

Our worship preparation, a matter of heart and mind, begins as we see God's hand in our lives, guiding us to his righteous work of our salvation.  We see the sin in our lives (mind) and seek God's forgiveness and grace (heart) provided by the suffering, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  Because of these, our joyful noise of praise should be a 24/7/365 way of life.  Pray for this frame of mind and heart as we come to worship Christ.  Pray that we sing to the LORD a new song for all the marvelous things he has done!

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Devotion 3.17.17

Hope - Psalm 131

"I just want peace," I once heard a person say whose life was in the midst of turmoil.  When we hope for something like "peace," what does that mean?  For this person, it meant a life free from the conflict she was facing.  To us, our desire for "peace" probably means that, a life that has limited if any conflict in it.  We would like to not have storms in our lives, small or large crises, that erupt and toss the boat called "Life" around in the winds, waves, and driving rain.

Unfortunately, that kind of hope is probably unrealistic.  Our earthly life was disrupted a long time ago when man fell from the perfection of creation into the sin-filled life we now have.  So, what can we hope for now?

It probably is realistic to learn to cope with the stresses of this life that confront us, maybe not daily, but often.  It is our hope to learn to enjoy the quiet times, to learn to manage the stressful times, and to find solutions when the storms arise, regardless of the source.  David talks to God about this kind of hope in a peaceful passage, "I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous, but I have calmed and quieted my soul.... like a weaned child is my soul within me.  Oh Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore." (Psalm 131:1 - 3)

David has asked previously in other psalms for this quiet, this calm.  Now, he reassures God, who knows his thoughts and ours, that he doesn't "occupy" himself with things too great or too marvelous (the reference being of those things too consuming in life that are larger than we are for good or bad).  David's soul is quiet simply from being with the Lord.  Paul says it this way, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned that whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.... I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11 - 13)

Christ, our deliverer, gives us this hope and this contentment in all things.  As with David, Christ's presence through his Word and through the sacraments brings this hope we seek.  Pray for this hope and for the skills to learn contentment in all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Devotion 3.16.17

Forgiveness/Mercy - Psalm 103

Being a parent is difficult to say the least.  As parents, we have a duty to teach our children an abundance of concepts, behaviors, and visible actions.  We have a duty to teach our children to love, to behave correctly according to the activity, and to read, write, speak, and perhaps even how to think and reflect on their own thoughts and actions.  Much of what a child learns from us as parents is observed in terms of how we behave and act to our own world around us such as our jobs, our duties around the house, and how we interact with the people with whom we come into contact.

One concept that is very important but seldomly discussed is forgiveness.  How do we teach our children to forgive?  I read a post on social media the other day from a person I've known for a long time that said, "Sorry isn't good enough if I no longer trust you."  Really? I asked myself when I saw it.  Just what are the barriers to forgiveness?  Are there acts that we observe in others that is a red line.  "I'm sorry. You crossed a red line with me, and for that, you'll never receive my forgiveness."  We see it all the time and hear it in expressions like, "They still don't speak to this day," or "I just don't think I can ever forgive him for that." 

And that runs counter to everything we profess to be true about God and the scripture.  David praises God for his capacity to forgive us in Psalm 103:  "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.... He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; for as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." (1-4; 10-12) 

Our sins, foreign to God's will, are separated from us in God's sight, as David notes, "As far as east is from the west."  In that day, that was from horizon to horizon, beyond the scope of what they knew beyond.  It was vast, so David's description is vast.  God separates our sins from us until they are seen no more.

Because of his Son, Jesus Christ, our redeemer, our sin is separated from us in God's sight as "far as east is from the west."  David knew the redeemer would be coming and speaks in gospel truth about forgiveness from God.  As parents, David says this, "As a father shows compassion to his children...." (13)  We learn to forgive even when it our anger is still burning.  Pray for that forgiving heart.  Pray that our trespasses are forgiven, even as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 3.15.17

Suffering - Psalm 22

Suffering is exacerbated by another equal and profound feeling, that of being lonely.  There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.  Loneliness gives that feeling of having no where to turn.  I've experienced it a couple of times in life as I dealt with issues in my family, both times with my parents and both times from distances where going home was not an option.  To frame the story, I was away and received a call, once to tell me they were getting a divorce (I was in college) and the other to tell me my dad had gotten into trouble (we had suspected dementia but he still lived back at home and we had moved to a different city).  Both calls took the wind out of my sails.  Both meant a dramatic change in my life was coming which I understood after hearing the voice on the other side tell me what had happened.  So, there I stood, flat-footed.  In both instances, I think I stood and stared out into nothingness for a period.

When something dramatic and sudden happens, it can have that impact on our lives.  You suddenly understand the phrase, "It took the wind from my sails."

David, feeling deep and profound loneliness, says this in Psalm 22:  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest."

We do know God listens to us, and that he has not turned His back on us.  We know He is answering our prayer or will answer our prayer, yet we feel that loneliness of the moment.  Christ, as he was dying on the cross, cried out the same prayer David lifted, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). 

Here is what we learn.  In both instances, David's prayer was heard as was Christ's.  Ultimately, when we feel like they did, we know one thing:  God hears our prayer and has delivered us Christ, who defeats the wages of sin in our lives that produce the loneliness caused from suffering because we know, in truth, it is temporary, as was their own.  When we are in these moments, we pray that the Spirit strengthen us and give us wisdom to work through our suffering, either our own or that of a loved one.  We seek God's guidance through prayer and the true wisdom of others to whom we can turn as fellow believers.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 13, 2017

Devotion 3.14.17

God's Will - Psalm 119

The American male has developed quite the reputation, some of it earned probably.  In the past, I can remember vacations in my small family (dad, mom, and me), and I remember getting what we called "turned around."  That meant we were lost, but we didn't call it lost.  We called it "turned around."  "Don, why don't we stop?" I would hear my mother say.  Dad, though, had different ideas because we could just go back to that point where the turn in "turned around" occurred.

I've gotten turned around in adulthood, but I'm a true believer in "the map."  You've heard of them.  As a history person, geography was part of our study, and I love maps.  Maps to travel with, maps to fish with, maps that show demographics - concentrations of the population, historical maps, and battle maps (Civil War).  I use maps, and in the advent and evolution of cell technology, I plug in the city or coordinates and listen as the voice, usually a woman's, tells me how to get where we are going.  In the unexpected turn where we now get "turned around," I'm quick to stop and ask why, probably because I am loathe to waste time.

I note with interest how much we talk about God's will in our lives.  "What does God want me to learn from this?" or "What is God's will in this decision?" I read it on social media, hear it said as people confront decisions on a scale of easy to difficult, and listen to it as someone talks to me about issues they face.  We ask these when we face decisions with our children, with our families, about vocation, perhaps location of vocation (facing a move), and other life events. 

David, in his longest psalm (119), focuses on God's Word by breaking it down.  David, who talks to God and searches for his Word and its meaning in his life, gives us words to use as we do the same.  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (119:105) 

In those moments when we ask, like the maps we have access to, we know where to turn when we confront issues.  Christ had just taught on the realities of eternal life and how to obtain "the bread of life," which turned many of his disciples away.  Christ looked at the twelve and asked if they wanted to leave as well to which Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life...." (John 6:66) In all likelihood, we know God's will in our lives, so when we face those decisions in our lives, rather than get "turned around," we pray and go to God's Word and ask for the Spirit to give us a measure of wisdom. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Devotion 3.13.17

Love - Psalm 33

We use the word love in life so much that it almost has become bland.  We express love for many different items:  food, music, art, cities, regions (the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon for example), certain performers, entertainers, sports figures or teams, pets, family, and God/Christ.  I've been heard to say, "I love baseball," on the heels of which I say, "I love going to the game and enjoying all aspects of the game."

In music, I would suspect a search of titles and lyrics with the word "love" in it would yield millions of results.  Love references our relationships, and it depends on the genre of music as to its use.  Love, it seems, is all encompassing.  In an introductory class in theology, we learned there are four types of "love," ranging from devotion to others, to friendship or brotherly love (phileo), to emotional and sensual love (eros), and Godly love (agape').

David writes of God's love when he says, "steadfast love," the LORD of the covenant and his love for his people.  "Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you." (Psalm 33:20 -22) God's steadfast love, his faithfulness.  John references God's love frequently, captured mainly in John 3:16:  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."  Faithful, steadfast love.

So, when we express love, especially to those we are responsible for - our family, our loved ones, our friends, maybe even people we don't really know, what kind of love is most Christ-like?  Pray that we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and souls, and that we love our neighbors as ourselves.  Pray that we show Christ's love to those we love in our homes, our neighbors, and those strangers we meet we may not know.  As David notes, "For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness." (Psalm 3:4) Let that be true of us as well as God's people.

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, March 10, 2017

Devotion 3.11.17

Worry/Anxiety - Psalm 3

An enemy is someone who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.  So, who is our enemy?  The word gets used often in our society and throughout the world as we refer to those who stand opposed to us as a people, our way of life, our faith, and ultimately our lives.  However, I've heard it used in the workplace and other such less formal settings as we ask, "Who is for us and against us?"

Our worries are the sum of our fears.  These fears can be personal:  fear of loss of income, a friend, or a loved one; fear of status and reputation;  fear of how we are perceived; and, a host of other areas where our fears, founded or unfounded, find themselves.  The "enemy" plays into those fears of safety and security, whether real or perceived. I may stand a better chance of winning a lottery, but the fear of a terrorist attack is more real in my mind as I board an international flight than the thought of winning a large sum of money. 

Ironically, David the king writes in his psalms, usually filled with eloquent language, a strong desire for God to deal harshly with his enemies.  "Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked." (Psalm 3:7)  What we see in these is David's raw emotion, much like ours when we ask of God or say to God, "Get me out of this mess please God!  I don't know if I can take much more of this!"

Yet in the same Psalm, David breathes these soothing words of truth:  "But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.  Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on the people." (3:3 - 4 and 8)

Christ says it this way to us:  "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28 - 29)

Christ is our resting place, from our "enemies" to our fears and concerns.  Christ is where we seek justice and peace.  Christ is where we take our burdens and allow Him to lift them from us.  We pray to Christ for our enemy (as He instructs us) and to lift our burdens. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Devotion 3.10.17

Purpose and Direction - Psalm 119:33 - 34

When I was a child until a young adult, I loved hurricane seasons in Houston.  My particular fondness for the season came from the interest my dad showed in them.  When the local tv station would announce the new season's "hurricane maps" had come out, my dad would get one, and then he would listen to the coordinates given of lows forming off the West Coast of Africa or further across the Atlantic in the Caribbean or Gulf that might form hurricanes.  He tracked them with all the skill of a man on a ship charting its course with a sextant, the stars, and a map.

In the event one looked to come close to Houston, we stocked up on the necessities to ride out the storm (with possible power and fuel outages, food shortages, and such).  Dad took them seriously and listened to the warnings, adhered to the rules given to be prepared, and tracked them. 

How do we do that in our lives?  How do we prepare ourselves for the storms we are going to face in life?  Where do we go to prepare for such things?  Some people turn to various sources, found easily in the bookstore's self-help sections, on how to prosper, handle adversity, make serious life changes, and such.  David gives us clear instruction in his prayers and psalms with regard to where he would turn.

In Psalm 119, David asks God, "Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will keep it to the end.  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.  Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.  Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways." (33 - 37)

God does give us clear direction in life.  God's way is not ill-defined or poorly focused.  Our sin makes it difficult to either see that direction, or worse, to resist that direction. To that end, in answer to David's prayer (and others), God sent us his Son as an exchange for our sinful lives and inability to follow God's commands. Daily, we pray to seek God's counsel, and we still want to strive to follow his direction, especially in life's storms.  We thank God for his Son who cleanses us from all unrighteousness and makes us holy in the sight of God, who overcomes our lack of direction.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Devotion 3.9.17

Forgiveness - Psalm 51

What's the most unforgivable thing you have ever done?  Oh, somewhere in all of our memories, there is that one item that when it comes to mind our skin crawls.  It is, in a word, a deep regret.  It was a sin we would just as soon forget. 

David committed a sin that snowballed into an abundance of sins.  Lust turned to adultery which turned into lying and misleading which turned into leading a man to death (murder).  Of course, the entire episode was also violating the first commandment because David took his eyes off God.  It was the card pulled from a house of cards that caused the entire house to fall.  It was calamitous.  (2 Samuel 11)

Nathan gets the assignment to talk to David and call him on the carpet on behalf of God.  We know that would be a difficult assignment, but Nathan confronts David with a story about a wealthy man who takes a lamb from a man with little for his own banquet.  "Bring me that man!" David demands. "You are that man!" Nathan replies (2 Samuel 12).  David is confronted with facing the brutal reality of what he had done. 

Yet, even at his worst, David shows us how to deal with sin.  From it is a beautiful psalm, Psalm 51, which David asks God for forgiveness and spiritual renewal.  "Create in me, a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Caste me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me, the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." (10 - 12)  "The Message" (Eugene Peterson) says, "God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don't throw me out with the trash or fail to breathe holiness in me.  Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails."

God forgave David.  Christ forgave the thief on the cross and asked the Father to forgive the crowd who hurled insults at him while on the cross (Luke 23).  Christ, too, forgives us.

We turn to God for our forgiveness, even when we believe it is unforgiveable.  "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." (Lord's Prayer)  We pray we know that because of our faith in Christ that forgiveness is there, and that we know God's forgiveness is real and not dwell in the guilt from our sin.  We pray that we, like God, forgive others as well.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Devotion 3.8.17

Worship/Praise - Psalm 95

I want to learn to play guitar, and I want to join a praise band, preferably the one at our church.  If not there, then somewhere, and I want the name of the praise band that I play in to be "Joyful Noise."  I may have been beaten to that name by someone somewhere, but I have a love for music that runs deep, can read music, and can play an instrument not found in a praise band (clarinet).  So, my goal of new found talents of playing guitar would enable me to contribute. 

Yet it would have to be "Joyful Noise" because that would be the sound we would make.  My voice?  Hardly a voice that could lead others in song.  It's best if it's silent, heard only by God.  My guitar playing?  Clearly as an amateur, it would not be the best in the band (I know enough chords right now to probably have a hit song on some rock chart somewhere, but that's it.  Country is too sophisticated for my skill level), so the guitar would be muted on the sound board.

But I've wanted to form a band and call it "Joyful Noise" for the longest time, and it would be a perfect fit in a church (I think).  David gives us that line in Psalm 95, "Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods." (Psalm 95:1 - 3)

Worship is not just a frame of mind, it is a matter of the heart.  We worship to sing praise and meditate on God's Word.  We come to God for forgiveness, grace, and strength and to acknowledge who God is (the rock of our salvation).  Too often we reflect on worship as something for us (what do I get out of it?), but in fact, as David notes, worship is there to praise God, the source of our salvation.  We come to him with thanksgiving.  Pray that when we worship, we know we are there to praise our God and to be joyful as members of his body.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, March 6, 2017

Devotion 3.7.17

Guidance - Psalm 62

I once heard a story about a battleship at sea that comes across a light flashing in the distance.  The captain of the ship hails via radio to the source of the light in the fog to let him know that he's the captain of a battleship, and that the source of the light needs to move as the battleship travels its route.  The source of the light in the fog responds by saying negative, I cannot do that.  The battleship captain, not irritated, reminds the source just who he is and what his battleship means in terms of power on the high seas.  The source of the light responds by saying, "I'm the operator of the lighthouse, and you are on course to hit rocks if you don't change course."

When am I the battleship in my life?  Feeling invincible and powerful.  Full of myself, reminding people of just who I think I am?  And what can be the lighthouse in my life, reminding me that I'm not invincible and need to change course?  Sometimes it can be "the least of these," a nice, meek and mild widow who responds to a statement I make which in a nice and loving way sets me straight.  I'm a battleship, but she's a rock with a light giving guidance.  What about you?  What about your life?

David, the king of Israel, makes clear in no uncertain terms who his rock is.  "For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.  For God alone, O my soul wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory, my mighty rock, my refuge is God." (Psalm 62:1 - 2; 5 - 6)

We seek guidance in our lives, but we know God is our rock.  We know that guidance is needed in our lives, and God is our salvation.  We know God is there for us, yet we don't turn to him until the need and burden is too great.  God is our fortress in life, our source of strength, and His perfect and good guidance is there for us daily.  We pray we turn to God at all times and seek his guidance in our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Devotion 3.6.17

Peace - Psalm 118

I had a police officer walk up to the door of my house recently.  Working from home, I was at the table on the computer and saw him walking up.  With family in Lubbock but not at home with me at that time, my first thought was concern.  "Why would a policeman come to my door in the early afternoon?" I worried.

I got to the door before he did and opened it quickly.  "Good afternoon sir," he started, "I want to ask you real quickly if you have small children at home?" (Thank God, it's not me, I literally thought.)  "No sir," I said, "Is something the matter?"  He then went into an explanation that the 911 dispatchers were getting prank calls from cell phones that went something like this, "911, what's your emergency?" "Yeah, I'd like to order a pepperoni pizza," and then they would hang up.  "We tried to 'ping' it and it came to this address," he said. 

When he told me that, I pointed to the elementary school across the street.  "There is the source of your 911 call," I said.  "It's the same address, different street and the cafeteria is directly across from my house. That's where kids are pulling out their cell phones and calling you."  He looked, shook his head, and said, "The dispatchers hate those kinds of calls." 

911 was developed to be a simple system, easy to remember, to help us in times of distress. Our emergency system has seen an increase in that kind of phenomenon nationally according to the news.  Back in land-line days, you'd be caught before you could hang up, but in days where you can enter the code to mask your number and dial 911, you can prank call first responders. 

Spiritually, our 911 is G-O-D. David demonstrates that often in the psalms.  "Out of my distress I called on the LORD, the LORD answered me and set me free.  The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?  The LORD is on my side as my helper, I shall look in triumph on those who hate me." (Psalm 118:5 - 7)

Paul writes in Romans 8 that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (8:26) God sifts through our thoughts.  God knows our true needs.  God hears our prayers of distress, and ultimately, God will deliver us from our distress through his Son Jesus Christ.  Christ is our source of peace even in difficult times.  Those who rise against us, for actions we commit or through their own hate, will not have victory over us.  Through Christ, we have victory over sin, Satan, and death.  God, hear our prayers when we are in distress and give us peace.

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, March 3, 2017

Devotion 3.4.17

Strength - Psalm 73

I enjoy working out at the local gym, less than one mile from my house.  I go mainly for cardio workouts which includes treadmill, bike, and stair master.  I also do light weight training because back in the days when I ran distances, light weights help you as you get further into a run, keeping your upper body upright.  The workouts were to keep the runner (me) from sagging and slumping as he or she got further into the race.  I even took advantage of a trainer to help learn the kinds of routines to develop in that part of the workout.

The payoff was completing marathons and half-marathons, not building muscle mass.  So when I go to the gym today, I marvel at the men, and now women, who come routinely and workout, who have developed nice muscle mass and who are physically strong in appearance.  These people have developed a discipline that in physical terms is like that of an academician, who has studied and developed a body of work.  They literally read, study, eat, work, and sleep the study of body building (those who go about it honestly).  Their strength is impressive.

So, too, our spiritual strength.  Spiritual strength isn't measured by how often or how much you do - pray, read the bible, study.  It really isn't a matter of how much you know from memory.  Spiritual strength is measured by "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6)

David, as a man, gives us a great testimony to this kind of strength.  David turns to God often in the accounts of his life and in the words he leaves us in the psalms.  "Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterword you will receive me into glory.   Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire beside you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:23 - 26)

Through it all, David turns to God.  In beautifully written language, he holds God's hand and God hold's his hand.  God is with us.  God holds our hand through life.  We receive counsel from God.  God, and his Son Jesus Christ, will receive us into glory, and we have none in heaven besides them.  Our spiritual strength is measured in the simplest of forms - how much do we turn to God?  We pray for this spiritual strength David describes, and we pray that we turn to God in all occasions.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Devotion 3.3.17

Conflict - Psalm 4

What year was this written in?

"The world is in conflict.  We see sides dramatically drawn.  Anger and hatred are being expressed against fellow citizens, against the government, and people are protesting loudly and want an end to the violence."  Would you say 1863?  Would you say 1968?  Would you say today?  Or would you answer: D - All of the above?

You would be correct if you said all of those - the Civil War, the civil unrest of the 1960s and the Vietnam War, and the civil unrest of today.  This, by the way, is just in our own country, but this applies to the world.  Why does conflict seem to be ever-present in our lives?  To those who approach a worldly view, it is because of those in power and the path they have chosen to solve problems of the day.  Consequently, we speak out and seek to gain power to let our solutions take root. 

To those who walk in the light (1 John 1), we know conflict will exist, which doesn't mean we accept it or choose to just allow it to happen and withdraw.  What it does mean is that we know sin exists and corrupts the flesh.  What it does mean is that we turn to God first and foremost as our true source of peace from the sin of this world. 

"There are many who say, 'Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!' You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:6-7) 

David acknowledges the world may give us temporary joy (grain and wine abound), but only in Christ will we lie down and sleep.  We pray that we do turn to Christ and ask for that peace that surpasses all understanding.  Christ is our true source of peace in times of conflict.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Devotion 3.2.17

Suffering - Psalm 77

Social media, the broad category that has become established in our world, has brought an abundance of changes in our lives that we are still sorting through.  When we thought the internet and email created an immediacy to information, we had no idea we were still in the formative era known as the Information Era, because androids and iPhones have delivered instant information to us so rapidly that it is disruptive.  We are learning how to drive watching for distracted drivers who are on their cells messaging.  We are learning how to deliver  lessons in the classrooms as students successfully navigate social media when we are trying to eliminate such distractions.  I've even seen it in court rooms, where jurors are asked to check the cell at the door. 

This recent phenomenon has its pluses and minuses.  One plus side is we have learned how to let people we know, our "friends" on our different social media sites, what is going on in our lives.  This can be of value as we learn of the joys and the hurts in our friends lives, even from a distance.  Yet I have found the platform inadequate for words when someone is truly suffering.  Hard to express in sincere terms our thoughts and certainly we cannot use symbols, or emoticons/emojis to put into words thoughts that are best expressed in words.

There is nothing worse than seeing someone or something suffer.  Suffering can be caused from actual physical pain that's immediate or pain that is chronic, caused by disease, our own or that of a loved one.  We can also have mental suffering which is difficult as we see someone we love or know with depression or other issues trying to cope with them.  We also have our own anguish as we watch  a loved one having problems that can run the spectrum of mental and physical issues.   We have all experienced it or will, and it never grows easier to deal with when it arises.

We hear David's anguish in Psalm 77:  "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me; In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearing; my soul refuses to be comforted.  When I remember God, I moan;  when I meditate, my spirit faints." (1 - 3)  The psalms of David's are referred to as Psalms of Lament.  We lament in our time of suffering or that of a loved one.  God, hear our plea, hear our needs.  God, do you hear me?

David cries out to God, and he does so to the point of exhaustion.  Yet he never stops doing so because he knows God will hear him.  We remember that God, too, experienced loss.  We take our suffering to Christ who we know listens, and whose own suffering, death, and resurrection will ultimately deliver us from this earthly suffering we experience into an everlasting life with him.

Hope Men's Ministry