Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Devotions will take a break and resume mid-May.  If you would like to stay plugged into our Men's Ministry via announcements, follow us on Facebook @hopelubbockmen OR email the Men's Ministry at mensministry@hopelubbock.com .  Receive regular announcements and such via both.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Devotion 4.17.17

Cormac McCarthy wrote a book titled "All the Pretty Horses" in 1992 which took place in Texas and Mexico in 1949.  In it, there is a spot that talks about the cowboy's view of death.  Paraphrasing it, it eluded to the notion that most people in today's world want to die painlessly and preferably in their sleep, whereas the cowboy wanted to die with his boots on so he could stand and see death coming.
If this is true, the question then becomes when did we become a society that avoids talking about or even fearing death?  The follow up question, among believers, would be, "Why? What's to fear?"

Death is a discussion we avoid, especially in western culture.  In a recent news story on NPR (within the last year or so), it was noted that death is one thing we will all experience, but it is the least popular topic and the least discussed topic.  Yet we face death, each of us, at some point in our lives.  What causes the inevitable to be something we don't want to talk about?  Is this the truest definition of irony - that a nation that claims to be believers in the Christ whose resurrection guarantees eternal life fear death?

On the day after Easter, where we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, the feeling ought to be death no longer has its grip on us.  The bonds of sin, Satan, and death are broken, and Christ has freed us.  Might this have been the confusion of the disciples as they heard Christ say on at least three occasions that his death was coming and necessary?  Did they, too, have blinders and a fear of death that caused them to miss the entire point of the victory Christ was to bring? 

Paul tells us this about death:  "For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Beyond Easter, we continue to recognize this victory over death given by Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the grace given to us from God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 4.16.17

He is risen!  He is risen indeed, hallelujah!

"'Greetings!' And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.'" (Matthew 28:9-10)

Greetings!  The risen Lord greets Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" as they run back to Galilee, seeing His body was not in the tomb and being instructed by an angel that He was going to Galilee to see His disciples.  As they run back, Jesus greets them and instructs them the same - go to Galilee and instruct my disciples.

Our own eternal lives now assured through the resurrection of Christ.  Will Christ say the same to us when we see Him for the first time?  "Greetings!" 

Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the eternal life given us through Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection, and pray that when we see Him, we hear him greet us as He did those He saw after His own resurrection.

Hope Men's Ministry

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1 - 15

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Devotion 4.14.17

When we ask "why would God allow...?", we need to remember Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  It is on those days "when God allowed" the death of His own Son.

Christ is flogged to satisfy the crowd, yet they demand that He be crucified.  Pilate hands him over to be crucified.  Christ, bearing his own cross, would soon exchange His own life for the crosses we bear.  (John 19)

Pray that we understand Christ's death and soon-to-be resurrection was an exchange. Our sinful lives were redeemed through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry

Read Psalm 31

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Devotion 4.13.17

Christ celebrates Passover with the disciples and institutes the Lord's Supper, and as he's ministering to his disciples with the new sacrament, he foretells of his betrayal, as well as Peter's denial.  He then leads his disciples to the garden in Gethsemane to pray.  They fall asleep and he prays.  Judas then hands him over to the authorities, and Peter denies him. (Matthew 26) 

Pray for our hearts to be open to God's Word as we observe Maundy Thursday, a day of great significance in our faith as described above.  Pray that we consider the significance of Christ and the faithful actions he is taking in terms of their impact on our lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Read Psalm 118

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Devotion 4.12.17

Note:  While football isn't the value of a university, Spike Dykes was the face of Texas Tech University for many years, and even in retirement, he still spoke and provided service to the community.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those who knew him or worked with him and those who loved him as family.  Many great stories I've heard since coming to Lubbock about a man who could put a smile on any face.

Didn't they hold a candlelight vigil when Kliff Kingsbury came into town as Tech's next coach?  And didn't they extend his contract only seven games into his first season?  And now, aren't many calling for him to go, after just three seasons? It wasn't hard to be popular really, given the circumstances.  A popular coach fired.  A coach with a fairly good reputation follows him, but mixes with Tech like oil with water and leaves in the cover of darkness.  Then Kliff, who just a few years earlier was the first quarterback in a high power, high octane offense, returns after working under several successful coaches (albeit one whose reputation is now tainted, blemished, and beyond recovery), was returning to provide Tech with that level of excitement the fans had grown accustomed to.  And now they want him gone.

You see this play out all the time.  The person brought in with a level of enthusiasm unparalleled for his or her potential to resurrect the program, organization, or team, is sent packing after a short period of time.

Of course all of this is just drama compared to what unfolds during Holy Week, as we now observe it.  On what has now become "Palm Sunday," we observe the crowds cheering Christ's entry into the city as described in Matthew 21.  "Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"  (9)  In just a few short days, those same crowds will be shouting, "Let him be crucified!... Let him be crucified!" (27:22)

Our fickle human sinful nature recognizes the glory of the Lord one minute and then scorns it in the next breath.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German theologian killed by the Nazis shortly before the end of WW II) notes, we live in a state of "cheap grace," in which we meet God on our terms, but God doesn't meet us on our terms, He meets us on His.  Grace is "costly," Listen to Bonhoeffer's words:  "...the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.  Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of this living word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Son of God."

Pray that the faith life we lead is one that speaks of the costly grace of Christ is one in which our actions speak loudest.  Pray that we reach out to the community and the world to speak of the costly grace that came with a price.  Pray that we remain faithful and not fickle in our faith lives.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, April 10, 2017

Devotion 4.11.17

The Masters Golf Tournament is over.  Sergio Garcia may have won the tournament, but Matt Kuchar won the moment when he hit a hole-in-one on the par 3 Number 16.  He enjoyed the moment high-fiving everyone as he walked the hole, and when he reached the green and got his ball, he pulled out a marker and signed the ball, walked straight to a little boy standing near the green, and handed him the ball.  That boy had no way of appreciating what he just received, but his dad standing next to him did. 

Like NASCAR, it seems like golf has it backwards, playing its "Super Bowl" in the first major tournament of the year (NASCAR starts with the ultimate race - Daytona).  What makes the Masters enjoyable is its rich history.  For example, from his first appearance at the Masters until this year, Arnold Palmer was involved as a player and then starter for 60+ years - approximately 3/4's of the existence of the Masters.  His absence was noted with an empty chair where he ceremoniously sat as one of the starters for many years since his retirement.

I've had friends attend the event, coveted among the golf world since it is difficult to get a pass to view it live on the course.  One thing they note that is difficult to observe from TV is the terrain.  Augusta (the golf course) sits in a mountainous area, but TV doesn't show the course's undulations clearly so it is hard to appreciate the difficulty of the course.  We only notice it when a golfer hits a ball at the front of the green and it begins to roll backwards, finally coming to rest well back in the fairway.

CS Lewis talks about our eyes inability to see clearly in "Screwtape Letters" in the final chapter.  A young man, whose soul Screwtape (a demon) has been after has died and apparently gone to heaven. Screwtape chastises his nephew, the "caretaker" of the soul while on earth, for letting this one "slip through."  In the final letter from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, called "A Sudden Clearing of the Eyes," Lewis notes that upon death we see much more clearly the truth, like seeing Augusta in person rather than on TV.  Because of this sudden clearing of our eyes, we see the Trinity, whom Screwtape disrespectfully calls "Them," and we say, "It was you all the time!" We see the hand of God in our lives at times, but in the end, when we meet God, we realize he was more present in our lives than we realized. 

Through Christ, we see God, but we still see him through sinful eyes, and our imperfections block the truth.  In Romans, Paul says, "For what can be known about God is plain to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (1:19 - 20)  We can perceive God and know God, but we still don't see plainly.

We pray that the Spirit opens our hearts and our minds to the gospel.  We pray that the Spirit use us to present the truth in love to those in need of the gospel who may not know the truth.  We pray that God make perfect our feeble attempts because of our imperfections as we seek His will in our lives and share the gospel with others.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Devotion 4.10.17

I remember a friend I had in high school.  He was a nice guy, but he always tried a little too hard to fit in, if that makes sense.  It was as though he wanted desperately to fit in, so he would say and do things in an attempt to gain favor that were awkward.  One day he invited me to join him and his family at their bay house on Galveston Island, and I said, "Sure, be glad to."  We went, and it was his mom, dad, and older brother.  The older brother was a local celebrity of sorts.  Very popular in high school and a member of a band at our high school.  He was the epitome of "cool," so when I was in the presence of the entire family, I suddenly understood my friend's problem. 

His brother brought his guitar, and we sat in the living room while he played and sang.  My friend started to say something, and his dad fired a look and a barb at him when he spoke, "Son, don't talk while your brother's singing!"  I joked about it later with another friend and said, "He could have come running in and said he had just accidently stepped on glass and had a gash in his foot and his dad would have looked and said, 'Son, your brother's singing, don't interrupt!'"

This takes me to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke.  We read it and learn that a young man foolishly wanted to take his share of the inheritance that was to be left to him and go off on his own to live life as he wanted.  His father agreed, and after blowing the inheritance, he came crawling back to dad who welcomes him with arms wide open and celebrates.  Then the older brother finds out and resents it, and the father gives a "lost but now is found" response to the older brother. (Luke 15)

What if the younger brother had resentment at some point toward the other brother?  My friend didn't have it toward his older brother, but he easily could have (he basked in the popularity of the older brother).  What if he said, "Hey, I'm out of here" like the younger brother in the parable?  We always focus on the younger son in the parable, but the question is, "When are we like the older brother?"

This Easter, we will have people come to church, and our joke will be they are coming for their once a year visit.  But isn't that arrogant of us to say that, much like the older brother who was angry that his father celebrated the younger brother's return?  So, do we look at these once a year visitors to our midst and say, "I've been at this all year, this grace being served is for me, not the visitor who only graces our presence in this visit."  Do we, like my friend's dad, glare at the visitor and say, "Don't disrupt our routine!  We know what page we are on and what we are about to say!"

We pray that we are not the older brother and that we see Holy Week as the opportunity to welcome the person new to church.  We pray that the Spirit move us to seize that opportunity as people who are new in our midst feel the same grace that we have, and that they know this grace is available to all.  We pray we celebrate this moment and that the Spirit move their heart to faith.

Hope Men's Ministry

Friday, April 7, 2017

Devotion 4.8.17

Guidance - Psalm 67

Michael Lewis of "Moneyball," "The Blind Side," and other successful books has written a new one titled "The Undecided Project."  It follows to psychology professors rise in the new nation of Israel and the work they developed on how the mind works in decisions.  Through years of work, we learn that our decision-making process is fallible, regardless of just how trained the mind may be.  In fact, the higher the degree of training, say in medicine, sometimes the more vulnerable.

We are creatures comfort in our ability to decide.  We use data to support the direction we take if we are of a sophisticated lot.  We use guidance from others.  Lewis even notes at the beginning of the book that "Moneyball" covered the notion of "metrics" used in baseball to support small market teams choice of over-looked players or players that scouts wouldn't give a second look toward.  When used, teams that can't compete with money-market teams suddenly find themselves in competition.  Yet Lewis notes that the metrics groups are finding their confidence shaken, and two men who read "Moneyball" wrote an article praising the book yet criticizing its findings.  Their criticism brought Lewis to the two professors who years before found the fallibility in decision making among humans from militaries, to pilots in commercial airlines, to doctors and others.

Not noted in the studies is the simple notion that we, as believers, have before us.  "Sin" enters our lives and disturbs everything about us, including our thinking and our decisions. So, like David, we turn to God as we seek guidance.  "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on the earth, your saving power among all nations.... Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth."

We turn to God for guidance, guidance from our own fallible actions led by our fallible thoughts.  We ask God for guidance that "his way may be known on the earth."  His way, His Son Jesus Christ, will give us freedom from sin, Satan and death.  We turn to Christ for that guidance and the freedom we enjoy through belief in Him.

Hope Men's Ministry

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Psalm 4.7.17

Peace - Psalm 29

The paradox is an interesting study.  The series of words seemingly contradict one another but in a phrase they join together to create an entirely new meaning.  "I'd like to order the jumbo shrimp."  Is it "jumbo" or is it a "shrimp?"  There are sentences put together that form a paradox.  "Everything I say is the truth" is the starter, followed by, "I am a liar."

How about this?  There is peace through fear.  A great passage in the bible is in 1 Kings when God appears before Elijah, "The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'”  The great and mighty God shows his power, yet comes to Elijah in a whisper.  The whisper caused Elijah to uncover his face and stand to face God with confidence. 

David speaks of this as well.  "The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars.... The voice of the LORD flashes forth in flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness.... The LORD sits enthroned over the flood.... May the LORD give strength to his people!  May the LORD bless his people with peace." (Psalm 29)

God's strength gives us peace.  His strength is demonstrable and creates fear, yet at the same time we are at peace because God's strength is over us, around us, and in it we find peace.  The same strength that creates fear drives us to peace with God through His Son Jesus Christ, whose suffering, death and resurrection are over us while shattering the grip of sin and death.

We pray for God's strength to surround us.  The strength that can lay a forest low is the same strength in which we find peace.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Devotion 4.6.17

Forgiveness/Mercy - Psalm 25

This week at the Masters Tournament, one golfer faces his nemesis created last year on hole 12.  In 2015, Spieth went into the Masters and dominated from start to finish, so in 2016, when he led that Sunday, there were whispers of the next dominant player in golf.  When he got to the par-3 number 12, it was a matter of academics as to his impending win.  Go out with pars for the remaining six holes and it's yours.  Then as he teed up the ball and started the hole, the game dissolved before his eyes, and when he finished the hole, he lost four strokes with a seven (7) on a par three. 

Of course it haunts him, mainly because he's asked about it every day.  When he didn't make the cut in Houston, he was asked as he walked off the course about his game, about the Masters, and then, about number 12.  And in a couple of interviews, he's as much as said that.  Really, what more can I say about number 12 and the epic meltdown in my young golf life (23 years old I believe)?

So too for our lives.  Spieth's "number 12" wasn't a sin, but let's use it as analogous to sin.  That sin that haunts us.  That sin, our number 12, that is present in our minds that we, ourselves, won't let go away.  I've given my own "number 12s" a virtual 360, and where does it get me?  I know I'm not alone because I've sat in counsel with others who walk through their regrets in life.  It is as though that one action was the pin in the grenade responsible for the course our lives took.  When it comes to my own life, as it does your own, I cannot understand why I don't know and understand the grace that God offers, because my sin is a sin against God, who forgives that sin.

"The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.  My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.  Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins." (Psalm 25:14-18)

Hear the words of Christ as he talks to the adulteress who he has just saved from a stoning:  "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." and Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more."  Of course, we will sin, but we know that we take our sin to Christ who will not condemn us to the punishment we deserve, but He will forgive us.

Pray we hear those words of forgiveness.  Pray that we take in the knowledge of that forgiveness and forgive ourselves and others.  Pray for the Spirit to restore us and renew us each day.

Hope Men's Ministry

Devotion 4.5.17

Love/Loving One Another - Psalm 100

It was bound to happen the day the kids were born.  They would grow up and move into adulthood and become their own persons.  In time, they would fall in love and have families of their own.  News flash:  I thought I was prepared.

So, a couple of Saturdays ago, I got a text from my daughter's boyfriend.  Can I come talk to you?  I figured it out immediately because he never texts me, much less texts me to see if I want to "chat."  Sure, I replied.  So, he did what a young man is supposed to do.  He came to the house and asked if he could ask for our daughter's hand in marriage.  Yes, I replied, and then we talked about him coming by, my observations of him as a young man (a good kid in truth), and my hopes for him and our daughter.  We then went back inside and talked to the family at the house who were in suspense as to why he was coming by, and then a week later, while I was on the road, he asked our daughter, who said, "Yes," and then sent us texts saying he has asked. 

Love and the decision to marry based on what we believe is love at that time.  As I think back on our own proposal over 30 years ago, and as I listen to people who enter into relationships speaking of love, I hear people who rationalize to varying degrees the relationship.  "We liked the same kind of things."  "We met at church and knew our faith was important and that we had the same goals for our lives."  "We talked and we realized we had the same aspirations and that kids would wait while we explored our lives."  Love, however, isn't rational.  Love can make little sense.  Love is walking through a brick wall to be with someone.  Love keeps you awake at night counting the minutes until you see that person again.  Love is doing something completely irrational just to be in the presence of that person (for me in college it was showing up at the library to study - "Hey, fancy seeing you here," people would say).  As love grows more deeply, it still is an emotion, but you move from that love of youth to a mature love that still bears no explanation or rationalization.  And with children, you really begin to understand that phrase that "you'd lay down your life for them."  Because, in short, you would.

David speaks of our God with a constant phrase, "For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." (Psalm 100:5) LORD, in all capitals, is the God of the covenant.  That covenant is one He made to deliver a chosen people, which is why His love is "steadfast."  It bears no explanation as to why he would do what He does for us.  He is faithful when we are faithless.  "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12 and 13)

This sacrificial love is the love of the God of the Covenant, and this love is the love His Son speaks of - "no greater love has no one than this."  In truth, this sacrificial love makes no sense, but we know it is the degree and depth of love that God and Christ show for us.  Our prayer for each other and our loved ones - those who have matured in love and those just now beginning, is that they have this love for one another.  Our prayer is that the feeling of love not be what binds us together as husbands and wives or brothers in the faith, but the love that binds us together is that unconditional, sacrificial love.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, April 3, 2017

Devotion 4.4.17

Worry/Anxiety - Psalm 28

I vividly remember the deep recession that happened around 1982.  I remember it for many reasons, but mainly because I lived in a section of the US that was heavily impacted by it.  The Port of Houston suffered dramatically.  I was in my second year of teaching, and our district relied heavily on taxes drawn from several industries along the port - a steel company as well as a company that built off-shore oil rigs which both shut down.  As the recession worsened, my neighborhood, a new development of nice entry level homes, began to see foreclosures and values drop significantly.  It was a mess, and its impact lingered in our area for years.

I had one student in my class that year whose dad lost his job.  I remember this because the day his dad lost his job, his grades began to "tank." He quit turning in assignments, and every day (in my faded memory), Bryan would be found not reading assignments but reading want ads.  The fear and worry of job loss had consumed the entire family.  Fortunately, my 23-year-old mind sought to alieve his worries rather than his grades at that time.  I sent him to our counselor, a great counselor, and asked if he would work with Bryan to help him work through this.

I knew of that in my own family when I was young.  Dad lost his job as the meat packing industry consolidated and moved out of Houston.  He worked at odd jobs and as a substitute postal worker until he found steady work.  He did what he had to do. 

The realities of life meet the realities of life.  On one hand, life may deal us a difficult hand to play, yet on the other hand, God is there for us.  "To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me... Hear the voice of my please for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary." (1 - 2)  David asks for God to listen, and later, he affirms God does listen to him and to us when we call upon Him.  "The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him." (7)

God is our refuge, and when we feel the weight of life on us, we need to give that burden to God.  David reminds us to trust in God, our strength and shield.  Christ tells us this:  "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world, you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Pray and ask Christ for the peace to overcome the burden or worry you carry.  Pray that Christ deliver us from the tribulation we will all face, and that Christ grant us His peace.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Devotion 4.3.17

Suffering - Psalm 61

Where does one go when one is "suffering?"  The answer is probably "it depends."  It depends means the cause and the depth.  Scratch on the hand from digging in the dirt?  Go to mommy and have her kiss it and make it better.  A deep wound?  Probably the emergency room.  You get the idea.

So, what about emotional suffering?  A disappointment from a lost opportunity financially?  A break up in a relationship?  The loss of a loved one?  Each has a degree of sadness that grows in scale as it impacts the person who is suffering.  In both physical and emotional suffering, we turn to professional help if it is severe enough.  "Help get me out of this!" is our plea.

There is also spiritual suffering which may be caused by physical or emotional hurt.  In spiritual suffering, we turn to God, don't we?  Or do we?  It is said by some that God won't care or concern himself with my concerns.  Or we ask, "Why is God letting this happen?" We may even ask, "Why is God doing this?" 

"Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a  strong tower against he enemy." (1 - 3) In truth, as we suffer, God is there with us to lead us through it.  David acknowledges this by calling to God.  In figurative language, David notes that he calls from any length possible, but if God leads him even further, he will go to find refuge for God's refuge against "the enemy."  David asks in verse four, "...let me take shelter under your wings!" 

The image that conjures is one of God carefully pulling us in and guarding us against the outside world.  So, in the midst of suffering, God is there for us to be drawn in under his wing to take refuge and draw from his strength. 

Pray we learn to trust God and to turn to Him in our need.  Pray to draw strength in our sufferings, and pray that we eventually draw hope from God as Paul notes in Romans 5, where suffering eventually turns to hope - hope in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Hope Men's Ministry