Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Devotion 8.24.17

Ask the Pastor...

During a conversation recently, a friend (financial advisor and a very religious man) told me that “retirement is not biblical”. He was half-kidding I think, but certainly the idea of retirement
(the practice of leaving one's job or ceasing to work after reaching a certain age) is a relatively new practice (and even newer as a government policy).  I don’t think there is much about retirement in the Bible.

This is an interesting question, actually there wasn’t a question in there.  The questioner is correct that there are not many Bible verses about retirement, in the sense that we understand retirement at least (putting money aside for the day when we choose not to work).  There are peculiar Bible verses though that bring some thought to the issue, such as “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” Matthew 6:19.  But I believe it to be an interpretive leap to say that saving for retirement is sinful.  The real issue at hand comes in the end of that saying from Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  And that really becomes the issue.  Not just in retirement but in all life.

Another interesting note is how the church has viewed such issues.  For instance, I know that there was a time when taking out life insurance was considered sinful by some.  It was viewed as gambling on one’s life and not trusting in God to take care of your loved ones.  This isn’t heard much anymore as people are more educated about what life insurance really is used for.  But one could say the same thing about retirement, or any saving account I guess.  But still, the Bible doesn’t support this.  In fact, there are many examples in the Bible of saving for times when life becomes scarce.  That is how Joseph came to power in Egypt after all, interpreting Pharaohs dreams to lead to creating a crop reserve to survive the incoming drought.

This question really comes down to the issue of vocation.

I will say this, in ministry there is no such thing as retirement.  When I am done being a pastor, enjoying what retirement benefits I have, I will find a new way to proclaim Christ to the world around me.  I believe this to be true for all Christians.  Our vocations change in life, but our vocation to serve God in who we are and what we do never goes away.  We are the same servants of Christ and neighbor in whatever context we find ourselves, retirement or not. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Devotion 8.22.17

The PC environment has been a growing business.  It started as a way to curb insensitive remarks, mainly as heard and observed, mostly in university settings.  Today?  It's a cottage industry that thrives on not just what is said, but what is perceived to be meant through not just words, but actions that include, but are not limited to what you post on Facebook or other social media, your conduct at school or in the workplace, and social settings such as a party you attend, what you wear, and perhaps even books on your bookshelf.

So, as I was listening to "The Lutheran Hour" last Sunday on the way to church (790 am at 8 a.m.), I wondered where the speaker (didn't get his name, I could look it up, but that would take time) was going when he started his message by talking about the PC environment.  He then went to the passage in Matthew 15 where the Canaanite woman approaches Christ to heal her daughter.  Just the set up is a clash in culture.  Christ, a Jew, and a Canaanite woman, together that are like oil and water.  When she asks, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." (v 22)  She, an outsider, knows who Christ is.  Christ ignores her at first, and then he proceeds to tell her, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (v 24)  She persists, to which He then says, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (26)

Excuse me?  Did Christ really just say what we just read?  Did He tell the Canaanite woman she, and her people, were unworthy "dogs" not to receive the Word of God?  The woman is unphased and retorts, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table." (27) 

Was she offended?  We don't know.  Did Christ intend to offend her?  We don't know, but as Pastor noted on Sunday as did the Lutheran Hour speaker, Christ is the judge of our faith, and Christ used opportunities to test that faith (and still does today).  Christ finally said to her, "'O woman, great if your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed instantly."

From this, we learn that we do not withhold the Word of God from others because of what our sinful hearts deem "worthy."  We learn that Christ alone judges.  We learn that Christ's Word was made available even to a "Canaanite woman."  Finally, we learn that Christ's Words may not be PC, but His was a pure heart, not sin-filled, so His Words were spoken in truth and in love. 

We pray that our words are not divisive, but that when we speak from scripture, we let God's Words convict or heal.  We pray that those we reach out to are receptive and that the Spirit brings them to faith. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Devotion 8.21.17

There is a story about a judge who made the observation that there are so many laws on the book that a district attorney could indict a ham sandwich.  That implies that a sandwich sitting on its own doing nothing could, either in fact or through circumstance, be violating a law on the books.

So, in Christ's day, the Pharisees were armed with a  considerable number of laws on the books for the "faithful" to follow.  In Matthew 15, Christ says, "It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." (v 11)  The disciples come to Christ and let Him know He's offended the Pharisees.  What He said was in response to what the Pharisees viewed as a violation of the ceremonial washing of hands prior to eating.

Christ goes on to say, "Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person.  But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." (17 - 20)

What's important to you is what comes out of my mouth routinely, so what is it that I consistently say or do?  Does it honor God and build up my brother or does it tear down and shred the very fabric of what God wants me to be?  Sometimes we say, "I'm just speaking the truth, and if that offends someone, so be it."  Yes, but if it came from my heart to intentionally offend someone, then my heart is not honoring God and I'm making a mockery of Christ's words.

Pray that we honor Christ and what He teaches by what we say and do.  Pray that we build up one another and those we come into contact with.  Pray that any "truth" we speak come from scripture.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Devotion 8.16.17

My dad grew up in southern Minnesota and lost his mom at the age of eight (or thereabouts).  His father (my grandfather) fell into what was probably depression, so it came to the grandparents to help raise my dad and his siblings.  Dad spent much time on a farm in southern Minnesota, working an old plough horse, gathering eggs, and milking cows.  My dad was a tall man for the family, coming in at 6'2" and had large hands and wrists which for me were a source of strength.  Those hands built and those hands and wrists could turn things that the average man's hands could not.  I always attributed that to his time on the farm.

There were few times, but I remember them well, where those hands could strike fear into my childish mouth and attitude.  I could say something with that tone and that hand would go back.  My dad said nothing, but that hand going back spoke volumes.  I knew the severe pain (to me at a young age) that hand could inflict.  When it went back (which as I said was rare), I knew the line that I had crossed was well behind me, and there was no turning back.

So, I read Job 38:3 with interest.  Older interpretations say, "Gird up your loins and stand like a man..." as God spoke to Job.  Job had sat around in a pitiful state for a period of time, moaning and groaning to God with the "why me?" attitude (and after what Job endured, we all would have to be honest).  "Gird up your loins" we are told means "prepare for war" as the Israelites would bind the cloth around their loins to go into battle.  In an older NIV bible,  God says, "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you will answer me." 

Goodness.  God has drawn back that hand as Job stands before Him finally getting what he's wanted, a chance to ask God why all this happened to him.  God basically told Job, "I'm God, you're not.  Don't talk to me like that."

Yet we know we can go to God and bring all our concerns, sufferings, and joys to Him.  In fact, God uses our sufferings, as Paul noted, to bring us to Him, even when perhaps we are angry with God Himself.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12)

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is an excellent reminder of the power of taking all we want and need to Christ in prayer:

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer


Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, August 14, 2017

Devotion 8.15.17

We get angry, and sometimes we direct our anger at God.  Why did you let this happen, to me of all people?  What kind of God allows this to happen?

There is a man in scripture who asks this.  His name is Job.  Job has lost everything but his life.  Job seeks answers.  His friends come and bear poor witness to Job.  Surely it's something you've done, Job, they suggest. 

God finally comes to Job, and He does nothing to answer Job's questions.  Rather, God speaks from a whirlwind and says, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress of action like a man;  I will question you, and you make it known to me."  (38:2-3)

God eventually restores Job and chastises his friends.  What we learn is that God knows we will or have gotten angry, even at Him, and yet God comes to us.  We see this in Peter's relationship with Christ, who at times is very fond of Peter, and at other times lectures Peter like a child.  Through it all, we know that Christ "pulls Peter out of the water when he's sinking" (Matthew 14) on many occasions.  And so to us, God and Christ pull us from the water from which we sink.

We take our concerns to Christ, and we ask Him to pull us from the water.  Sometimes we may not be in the right frame of mind, but God still hears us and listens.  In the end, as with Job, He may not answer our questions, or as with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, He may simply say, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." That grace redeems us and gives us everlasting life, for which we lift a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

Hope Men's Ministry

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Devotion 8.14.17

When you are at camp, watching teenagers 24/7, you are exhausted after one day.  The problem is there are six days to camp.  By days 4, 5, and 6, you are dead tired.  I found myself so tired that by Wednesday evening I fell asleep as the HS boys played music and challenged each other to manly feats of strength around 11 p.m. at night.

In Matthew 14, we see Christ exhausted (good to know that the Son of God himself gets exhausted physically).  He's learned his cousin John is dead, executed by Herod as a favor to his wife.  Jesus withdraws in a boat as a retreat, but the crowds follow Him anyway. As a result, Christ "had compassion on them and healed their sick."  The disciples tell Christ the land is desolate the crowds need to leave them alone and go find food for themselves.  Christ, however, says no, and feeds the five thousand from five loaves and two fish. 

By evening, the crowd is sent away and Christ sends the disciples to the other side of the lake (sea) in a boat.  He stays back and prays.  Christ had to be physically exhausted and emotionally drained at the loss of John the Baptist.  Yet He rises and goes to join the disciples in the boat far off of land by this point.  The disciples are in the boat rocked by waves and see what they believe to be a ghost. In reality, it is Christ walking on the sea to them (walking on the water).  Christ says, "Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid." Peter asks for Christ to command him to come out onto the water as well to which Christ says, "Come."  Peter begins to walk on the water toward Christ, and upon looking down at the water, begins to sink.  Christ asks Peter why he doubted, reaches down, and pulls him up, taking him to the boat.

It's good to know that on a day where He is physically tired, Christ still has the strength to pull Peter out of the fix he is in, sinking into the water.  That should reassure us, even tired counselors at camp, that Christ is there for us too, never too tired to reach down and pull us up from the fix we find ourselves in. 

We pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Christ is there to pull us from our situation, to literally save us from ourselves.

Hope Men's Ministry
Sermon 8.13.17 - Pastor Eric Hiner

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Devotion 8.10.17

When I say the word "busybody" what comes to mind?  In a men's devotion, I feel safe in saying that most of us picture a woman of some kind, who makes others' business her own and uses the phone or other medium to share what she's learned.  Of course, it's information.  As they said on "Hee-Haw," "You'll never hear one of us repeating gossip, so you better be sure and listen close the first time."

So, explain to me this.  Why does Paul, in the passage used from 2 Thessalonians 3 for yesterday's devotion, speak to us saying this: "Now, we command you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.... For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Chris to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.... If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him.  Do not associate with him in order that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." ?  I note the masculine "brothers" and "him" as Paul describes the offending "busybody." 

Might we, over time, have forgotten that men can be as bad at the business of "busybody" as we proclaim women to be?  With men, it sometimes involves leaning in and asking the brother, "Hey, you heard why he had to leave his company," as he lifts his head and looks around, signaling this is going to be very juicy, "Let's just say he and his secretary got a little too close."

Paul doesn't give us a good description of what the busybody's offending sin is, other than being a busybody (8th commandment), just that they are no longer working and carrying their fair share, and that they need to quietly go about the work of Jesus Christ.

Paul concludes this with an excellent benediction that we all need to keep in mind as we go about our days.  This benediction can serve as a warning if we are about to jump into "busybody" mode, and it can serve as a guide to help us quietly go about the work of Christ:  "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all."


Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Devotion 8.9.17

"An idle mind is the devil's workshop."  That's what was said in my youth as we sat around in the summer, somedays doing nothing.  It was said with a rhythmic southern tone, almost like a reverential tone intended for worship in a tent revival.  Not that I've ever been to one mind you, but still, it came from my friends' moms or maybe even my own when they wanted us to be active but the heat of the day and the humidity in Houston could zap the strength from a piece of steel.

Is, however, an idle mind the devil's workshop?  I've hardly been able to ever keep my own mind from being idle.  It's either focused and working on a task, or it is in a separate gear trying to create and thinking, planning, plotting, or scheming.  It's probably those last two that are more in line with Satan's delights.  Plotting and scheming.  Deciding to take care of things on my own terms, I seek my own way.  I plot and scheme to change the outcome. 

Paul says this, "Now, we command you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.... For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Chris to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.... If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him.  Do not associate with him in order that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." (2 Thessalonians 3)  That's an interesting command from Paul, who as the study bible notes speaks with "apostolic authority."  In Galatians 5, Paul provides a list of sins that are "works of the flesh," and in 2 Thessalonians, he puts being a "busybody" in the same category and our brothers in the faith are to act accordingly.  To separate themselves from him.  All that for being idle and for being a busybody.

When does my nose get put in a place where it doesn't belong?  When does yours?  Like other works of the flesh, we should discourage these kinds of behaviors, and as Paul notes in 2 Thessalonians to "encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do (our) their work quietly...." 

We seek forgiveness when our minds wander to places they shouldn't, when we take the 8th commandment and break it. We pray that our minds are on Christ Jesus, and we ask that our work be done to glorify Him and Him alone.  

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, August 7, 2017

Devotion 8.8.17

I've traveled considerably the last few weeks.  St. Louis, Austin and New Braunfels, Kansas City, and of course Ceta Canyon for camp.  The highway department must see summer as the time to logically make road repairs because the interstates and highways were filled with construction projects.  The signs are familiar:  Road work ahead; Observe all warnings;  Protect our workers; Double fines in construction zones; Merge - left lane closed; 65 mph; and, finally, End Construction, twice in case you missed it the first time.

When I was a kid they used those torches to highlight a project or road closure.  They looked like those bombs from a Warner Brothers cartoon, the kind that Yosemite Sam might have lit for Bugs Bunny.  You remember the scene, lights the bomb, Bugs turns the tables, Yosemite Sam blows up (of Daffy Duck and his beak gets blown backwards).  Anyway, they used to use the old torches that sat low to the ground and had a flame that was meant to steer you away, along with wooden barricades.  Today, the road is lit up in a shade of orange that can be seen from miles away, big signs, and now the introduction of electronic warning signs.

And yet I'm willing to bet that people still miss them, or err on the side of driving recklessly to beat just one more car until it is too late.  What a great metaphor for us in life.  The signs are there, yet we fail to read them or pay attention or we decide to take the risk.  Where does it get us?  Trouble, avoidable trouble. Paul says something interesting in 2 Thessalonians reflective of this line of thinking:  "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." (3:13 - 15)  Paul has given complete instructions, so stay with it and deal with those who do not follow his instructions. 

Paul closes by saying this, "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all."  (v 16)  We pray for peace through Christ as we travel through life.  We pray that Christ be with us, and we ask for His forgiveness when we fail to observe those warning signs placed before us in life. 

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Devotion 8.3.17

A question arose on Sunday that I didn't really know that answer to, so today, we "Ask the Pastor."

What is the Book of Acts?  It's not listed as an epistle, nor is it listed as a gospel.  What, specifically, is it?

In asking Pastor Hiner, he said that was a great question because there are four gospels, the three "synoptic gospels" (Matthew, Mark, Luke aligning closely) and the gospel of John.  These are distinguished from the rest of the New Testament because they deal with the life of Christ.  Then there are the epistles beginning with Paul's letters and then the remainder attributed to other disciples (or author not known such as Hebrews).  The Book of Acts, then, is a continuation of the gospel of Luke, clearly written to Theophilus from Luke as he provides an account of the life of Christ first and then moves into the life after Christ - literally the Acts of the Apostles. 

Pastor noted that there are those in the theological world who would consider Luke and Acts as both gospel, with the distinguishing factor being the gospels are attributed to the life of Christ.  Yet in Luke we see a continuation of the ministry started by Christ with the Spirit actively involved in moving the disciples to a powerful level of delivering the Word of God to a world starved for the message.

So, the Book of Acts is a continuation Luke, separate from the gospel but very closely related.

Thanks for the question!

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Devotion 8.2.17

On Sunday, both Texas teams, the Rangers and the Astros, inducted a member into the Hall of Fame.  That same Sunday, Adrian Beltre secured his future spot in the Hall of Fame by hitting his 3000th hit.  To seal a great baseball Sunday, Houston and Texas both lost their games in honor of the lifetime accomplishments of three players. 

So, too, with faith.  Some days we win, and some days we lose.  We hear Paul's words in Ephesians as he says, "I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (4:1-5) 

How do we do?  Some days we win, and some days we lose.  Some days we look like the church Christ leads, working together and following God's Word to seek direction in our lives, and other days we look like a company in need of a rescue from a strong-handed CEO.  Some days we hear Christ's desires for our lives in our own homes and other days we desperately seek healing from our dysfunction. 

We pray that we keep our eyes on Christ at all times.  Peter, when fixing his eyes on Christ, walked on water.  We pray that we turn to Christ in times of need, such as Peter when he took his eyes off Christ and began to sink. 

Hope Men's Ministry