Monday, February 11, 2019

Devotion 2.11.19



Any admirers of General Patton out there?

I was reading about the idea of the warrior within men and the author referenced the movie and famous speech of Patton.  In it he says, “I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position….  We are advancing constantly and we aren’t interesting in holding anything!”  If you want to watch the clip, click here (but be warned, he’s a little blue in it)
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We may not want to model ourselves on everything in Patton, but he powerfully speaks to the idea of the warrior.  This can get a bad rap and for a reason. There’s plenty of men who have taken the idea of a warrior and turned it into the right to be aggressive, demeaning, and dominate those who are less powerful than them.

But this isn’t the point of the warrior.  The warrior is about the energy that encourages us to “advance” in the face of trials. To look at the problems we have in life (whether it’s at work, home, church, or beyond) and to not sit still, but to rouse ourselves to take them head on.  It’s about taking risks to create, defend, and extend what God wants for us and those around us, even in the face of opposition.

I read that some churches have taken, “Onward Christian Soldiers” out of hymnals because it was too warlike or aggressive, but the metaphors in this song are powerful and they are Scriptural.  So I’ll close by placing the text below so we can consider how God is energizing us to take on whatever battles he has for us today.

1 Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banner go!
Refrain:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
 
2 At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise! [Refrain]
 
3 Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity. [Refrain]
 
4 Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor, unto Christ the King;
This thro' countless ages men and angels sing. [Refrain]

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Friday, February 8, 2019

Devotion 2.8.19

We’re starting a new series this week.  If you have any questions, thoughts, and comments, email me and I’d love to incorporate them.
Reminder- 2nd Saturday Men’s Breakfast is this weekend.  8:30 am at Rudy’s.

Who is the greatest king in history?

I found a list of the 10 Greatest Monarchs in world history and it was interesting to see why they were included.  Many of them focus on military accomplishments and how much territory they ruled.  But there are others who are praised for reforms in legal systems that benefitted all classes, their encouragement of the arts, freedoms granted, economic booms, and even encouragement of morality.

So what makes a “king”?
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In the book on mature masculinity I’m getting insights from for these devotions, it speaks of “king” as the first and most important archetype for men.  Very few men in history actually have been monarchs but all men draw on this concept.  The idea of a king is someone who is the father of a nation, who represents leadership even from God to the people, who cares for all people by encouraging and rewarding them, bringing calm to their fears, and stewards the resources of others.

What does this look like in regular men like us?  I like some examples from the book. This is what energizes us to take on the financial and psychological stresses of our family and be the calm in the midst of their storms while encouraging them to succeed in their own schooling, work, etc.  It’s what enables us to go to work and confront a rebellious subordinate without having to fire them.  Or to build a relationship with a coworker struggling who we encourage and support through addiction or other family crisis.  It’s the ideal that we will be a voice of calm and reassurance when things at work or church seem like they’re out of control and others are panicking.  The king cares for all and succeeds when they succeed.

Remember, “Whoever wants to be great amongst you, must become a servant.” (Matt 20:26)

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Devotion 2.6.19

Think of some immature actions you’ve seen lately on the part of men…  The last Texas Tech basketball game comes to mind when a West Virginia player decided to take out his frustration at a one-sided loss by tripping a Tech player.   In some cases, this behavior is simply a product of the moment.  I don’t know anything more about this young man and hopefully this action is not repeated in his life.  Other players do have reputations where they continue to lash out in childish ways (e.g. Grayson Allen or Draymond Green).
Where does this and other immature behavior come from in men?
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In most, it’s the product of what we learn in our childhoods.  Now certainly, all children are immature- even good children are immature, but there are different versions of immaturity.  The book I referenced in the last devotion, “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover” talks about this.  For example, all children start with an understanding of the world revolving around them and are learning to use what’s in their power to control others, but for some, this starts to become leadership. In others, however, this becomes “high chair tyrants”.  Think of aggressive children who make big demands and throw fits.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are some who seem passive but are actually quite manipulative.  Think of the child who sulks until they get what they want (he calls them Weakling Princes).
If these behaviors are met with mature parenting, most kids will learn what is and isn’t acceptable and will start to lead rather than manipulate or bully, but some of this behavior can continue and gets transferred into adult life.  The body is that of an adult, but the actions and moral compass are that of an immature child.  We see it in all walks of life- in our politicians (what a shock), in our bosses, in our dads, and yes, even in our church leaders.
The reality is none of us completely leaves this behind.  Every one of us falls into sinful behavior which draws on immature behaviors we learned can work from our childhood.  The key is for us to recognize this (or listen when someone confronts us with it) and repent.  Paul puts it this way in 1 Cor. 13:11:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Devotion 2.4.19

We’re starting a new series this week.  If you have any questions, thoughts, and comments, email me and I’d love to incorporate them. 

What is, “The best a man can get?”  That’s the question posed by Gillette’s new ads that have drawn big reactions from many.  The coining of the phrase, “toxic masculinity” has also become a lightning rod for debate.
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A book was recently passed on to me by one of our members.  It’s called, “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine”.  I like the direction of this book which would have criticisms for many overreacting in both directions on this issue.  Here’s a quote.

“What is missing is not for the most part, what many depth psychologists assume is missing; that is adequate connection with the inner feminine.  In many cases, these men seeking help had been, and were continuing to be, overwhelmed by the feminine. What they were missing was an adequate connection to the deep and instinctual masculine energies, the potentials of mature masculinity.”

I’ve seen some well written articles in the recent debate that make a similar argument.  What we need is more masculinity, real and true masculinity that reflects well what God lays out for us in Scripture from Genesis 1-2 which show man’s role in caring for creation and woman all the way to Eph. 5 which calls on men to show their headship by sacrificing everything for their wives.  Too often, whether it was intended or not, the criticism of the bad actions of males was met by the argument that men needed to give up some of the traits that made them men and replace them with more “feminine” virtues.  Or perhaps needed to be led more by feminine role models.

No.

Bad forms of masculinity don’t arise by accident.  They exist because generations of men haven’t been appropriately mentored or taught and this is another impact of sin.  And just like sin breaks down everything else (including feminism) it can also break down the masculine.  And so we need to pay attention and work hard to encourage each other as men and help pass on to the next generation a strong and mature masculinity.  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at some of these basic roles identified by the book and look at how they line up with God’s design. 

Blessings!
Dan Borkenhagen
Associate Pastor
Hope Lutheran Church & School

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Devotion 1.31.19

Super Bowl LIII (53) is just around the corner.  New England looks well on its way to being ranked as one of the best, if not THE best, football team in the history of the game.  That's with or without a victory this Sunday.  You can say what you want about your team, if your team won more than two Super Bowls, but the crowning achievement that gets you into "best team in history" isn't just the rings.

Interestingly enough, local sports talk radio host Ryan Hyatt interviewed Michael Lombardi, a football analyst who worked for three coaches over his NFL lifetime:  Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, and Al Davis.  Lombardi has recently written a book about the experience called Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Winning Championships and  Building Dynasties in the NFL (2019).  He puts forth the argument that all three may be the best coaches of all time, but he certainly studied at the feet of Walsh and Belichick.

He speaks initially in the book about culture.  "Champions behave like champions before they are champions."  This quote came from Bill Walsh, who built a renaissance team in San Francisco that took football to a new level.  Lombardi notes that he was hired from college scouting ranks to be a scout for San Francisco, which meant he was Walsh's driver.  The beauty of that gig was that Walsh taught as he drove:  philosophically about building a champion, books on leadership, and sketching out his notes and talking to Lombardi as he drove him here and there.

Walsh developed a "Standard of Performance" which had 17 principles.  The first one:  "Exhibit a ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement."  Ferocious and intelligently applied....  He clearly parted ways with John Wooden who felt emotion was not the best way to build a champion, but how else can you tap into the passion of a human without finding the right emotion.  In Walsh's case, ferocity.  Attack with a purpose and do so "intelligently." Next: "Demonstrate respect for each person in the organization."

The list goes on and builds on each principal, but each also stands alone like the first two. 

In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul instructs us in a similar fashion:  "Finally brothers, whatever is honorable.., just.., pure.., lovely.., commendable.., if there is any excellence... worthy of praise, thing about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Do we dwell on the past? No, not in the instructions Paul gives us.  Do we stew on something?  No.  Do we fret about the here and now?  No.  What do we do?  We focus on and act on whatever his honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, or anything that is excellent.  In other words, we follow Christ and work in humility to imitate Him in our daily lives.

Our prayer is that we are followers of Christ and act in humility with one another, practicing all He has taught us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Devotion 1.30.19

Houston had five police officers shot in the line of duty this past week.  The duty?  Entering a dangerous situation to attempt to search for weapons and drugs in a home in a community.  One of the officers suffered wounds for the third time in his career.

When I was a principal in Houston in the 1990s, there were a few times when I was called about a possible break-in at the school.  We had an alarm, so the call came, and I responded.  Each time the Houston Police (HPD) were there.  I remember how we interacted.  I'd pull up in my car, and they were out of their cars near an entrance.  I'd get out of the car making every attempt that they would know I was there on their terms, hands clearly visible and out front for them to see.  We'd shake hands and they'd ask about entrances and the building.  It was before sophisticated systems, so we didn't talk in terms of sectors and motion sensors.

HPD would tell me to stay put, and they would go in, leaving a couple outside in case the would-be burglar would be flushed out.  Only on one occasion out of the three did they catch someone.  However, every time I remember they would stand between me and harm.  The police were definitely friends of the school.  They were responsive and quick to be present.  From speaking to a class, to dealing with potential abuse, to helping with small, petty stuff (going to the house of a guy picking up his kids and cussing at one of the teachers to tell the man we didn't appreciate that).

Every time I saw them, there was a feeling of reassurance.  They were going to take care of the situation.  And the neighborhood was one of a high ethnic neighborhood, but that never seemed to enter into a conversation because the policeman may be white, black, Hispanic as well.  They behaved as though successfully resolving the situation was the most important matter at hand.

So, when I heard five were shot trying to rid a neighborhood of an undesirable element, I saw the faces of the husbands of teachers in the school who were policemen, guys I went to high school with, and policemen who came as part of the route they covered.  It could be any of them.

The words of John 15:13 come to mind at this time:  "Greater love has no one than this; to lay down his life for his friends."

We pray today for those who put themselves in harm's way for people they don't even know.  Christ laid down his life for us, and He knows us, for better and worse.  We lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for those who are willing to lay down their lives for us, regardless of who or what we are.  Through their sacrifice, we witness John 15:13 and are given a small glimpse of the sacrifice Christ paid for us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 28, 2019

Devotion 1.29.19

The countdown to Super Bowl LIII has begun.  That would be Super Bowl 53 for those of you wanting it in plain Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals.  During a student-led conversation in Southlake Carroll when I was working on their strategic plan, one student asked about archaic learning.  "I mean, why do we have to learn Roman numerals?" he asked.  I replied, "How else will you know which Super Bowl it is?"

The NFL, back in its day, used Roman numerals as part of its theme of real men, in battle, like gladiators in the arena.  Flags flew, men played in conditions of the open air stadium in all kinds of conditions (even the name of the arena has Roman origins), and we have memorable NFL game films done by a man who made military films in World War II, John Facenda, as the narrator (see this link to hear his familiar voice with the familiar theme the NFL used at that time).  The NFL was a man's world, and the terms were of military origin.

Clearly we no longer use Roman numerals much, nor do we really talk about football in terms of gladiators in an arena battling it out on the gridiron to ultimate victory. (Click here to hear George Carlin's comparison of baseball and football - it is funny.) . That was then.  This is now. Football has changed to fit today's much more sophisticated fan who is complex.  Fan base is younger and more diverse, so it responds differently to the culture of football than it did 30 or more years ago.  The truths of the game are that it is still a brutal sport played on a field of play.  The men today have grown stronger, bigger and faster.  Despite our opinions of how soft the men who play the game are compared to yesteryear, I would bet good money that anyone I know would not be able to walk off the field after one direct hit from a line-backer coming at you full speed, or being tracked down and blocked by a 220-pound back coming out of the backfield.

There are truths in life and there are trends.

That is true for the church.  Truths and trends.  The truth we learn early is that Christ is  "the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14) . Sharing Christ with the world so that others may learn of His redeeming love and grace is our mission.  We may use trends in life to serve as a catalyst in how we approach these truths, but the truths do not change.  The trends may not serve us well as a church in some cases, but in others, we may resist a trend because we want to stay in our comfort zones.

Another truth is that Christ didn't come to enable us to find comfort zones.  In Luke 12, Christ asks, "Do you think that I came to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division."  Christ came to give spiritual peace, but not an earthly peace his disciples may have envisioned at the time.  To respond to the call of Christ is to set ourselves to be at odds with the world and worldliness.

We pray that we adhere to the truths found in scripture and that we zealously go out to take the good news to the lost.  This zeal may move us well away from our comfort zones, but the call of Christ isn't extended to be in comfort.  We pray that we always know the difference between truths and trends and that we use trends to serve God, not man.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Devotion 1.24.19

Rudolf Hess is dead.  I repeat, Rudolf Hess is dead. 

If you don't know who Rudolf Hess is, then we can find someone to blame like the education system, but a short bio would be in order.  He was a Nazi who helped Hitler rise to power to become one of his lieutenants in the German government.  In what was a fairly bizarre act in 1941, Hess flew to Scotland to negotiate a peace where he was arrested and imprisoned in Spandau Prison.  Of course, the conspiracy crowd, existent even then, insisted that was not Hess but an imposter.  As such, they felt that the real Hess lived in relative peace in some undisclosed place, so when Hess died in 1987, it was rumored he wasn't dead.

Except that a DNA test administered recently on a Hess descendent matched the DNA from blood taken from Hess during an exam in 1982 from Spandau Prison.  Hess, the sole occupant of the prison until he died in 1987, was confirmed dead again.

While there is no humor in what Hess and the Nazis under Hitler did, there is this bizarre, either sad or humorous, activity that takes place when something of significance happens.  There are those who will, with almost the level of certainty beyond absolute, deem a conspiracy of the event.  Our own history in the US is deep with conspiracies from those in our history through present day.  One from my childhood during the first Arab Oil Embargo was the fact, FACT, that General Motors had a carburetor in a vault deep in the basement of Detroit that got 100 miles per gallon.  Of course, they were just sitting on it because the oil barons were making millions on gas.  Imagine our surprise when they quit using carburetors and went to fuel injection.

Can you begin to wonder what the talk was during Christ's day shortly after his death and resurrection?  The panic among those who sought to sew seeds of conspiracy for the missing body of Christ?  Those fishermen have hatched a plot to take his body and begin to insist he's back among us! This is a disaster!  We must make sure this "risen" thing doesn't stand! Even one among them, Thomas, wasn't satisfied with just the simple statement among those who had already seen Christ.  "Unless I see the nail holes in his hands...." (John 20)

From the day of the fall of man in the garden until now, we still look for the sign.  In Mark 9, a man brings his son to Jesus to heal.  Jesus asks about the boy's condition and the man tells Christ that his disciples couldn't cast out the unclean spirit.  In a moment of desperation, the man exclaims to Christ, "...if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."  Jesus replied, "'If you can'!  All things are possible for one who believes." The man cried out, "I believe, help my unbelief!"

That is our prayer daily as we seek strength from the Spirit to renew us daily.  That is our prayer as we ask for God to protect us from "the evil one," who lies in wait to find that one little crack in our armor that can become a gaping hole.  Our frailty needs daily attention through prayer and devotion to God's Word.  To that end, we confess to God, "I believe, help my unbelief!"

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Devotion 1.23.19

"The essence of chastity is not the suppression of lust, but the total orientation of one's life toward a goal." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In Psalm 19, David called it his "presumptuous sin."  "Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!" (19:13) The study bible calls "presumptuous sins" sins committed in arrogant disregard of divine commands.  David's were doozies, and thank God I haven't pulled big ones like old King David (you know the whole story).

Correction, yes we have.  Our presumptuous sin is when we ignore God's call in our lives and put our goals and plans above his.  "For that call to be realizable, we need to understand ourselves sufficiently so that we know our gifts, motivations, strengths and weaknesses," the devotion writer notes.  Bonhoeffer's quote at the start is superb.  We set our sites on simple avoidance rather than being consumed with the call from God and the goal that lies ahead, that of Jesus Christ.

Our prayer should be to be fully and totally driven to that goal that God has called us.  "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)  Pray that we fix our eyes on that goal God has called us and that we submit to his will so the Spirit works through us.

Hope Men's Ministry

Monday, January 21, 2019

Devotion 1.22.19

That crash you heard Sunday was the NFL season coming to an end in spectacular fashion.  Several vulnerabilities in the game were exposed (bizarre calls or non-calls that replay was supposed to bring to an end and an antiquated sudden death system) as we now have two teams that I'm guessing most devotion readers could care less about  - New England and LA. At the risk of alienating friends long loyal to Dallas and other teams, New England may just be the single best team to ever take the field (and it is one team that I don't root for).  Make any argument you want, but the fact is they are always in the mix and have been for almost 20 years. None the less, Kansas City is out.

That said, we said adios on Sunday to Lubbock's favorite son, Patrick Mahomes, who did make football exciting this year.  How?  Mahomes made his presence known this year, even when he went up against Goliath known as New England.  He certainly made the sea of red at Tech games a sea mostly of Mahomes' jerseys from Kansas City.  Mahomes plays with intentionality and focus.  He sits between offensive drives with his head coach, Reid, and listens.  He doesn't argue with what was when penalties are called, only regroups and goes back out again to make the most of the next down.  Mahomes makes things happen that can only be described as miraculous when he does them.

Paul talks to us as Christians about this focus in 1 Corinthians 9: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

What would men of excellence look like as followers of Christ if this was our guiding principal?  First, we would be focused on what lies ahead which is the prize, that of Christ and the salvation He alone provides.  Second, we would be in strict training, daily prayer and devotion as well as sharing that prize with those who don't know it.  Third, we would encourage one another in the faith as we all stumble during our daily walk with Christ.  

We pray for this same focus we see on the gridiron from our best, like Mahomes, in our own lives in our own way.  We pray for the discipline necessary to fulfill Christ's mission for us as His faithful to spread the gospel.

Hope Men's Ministry

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Devotion 1.17.19

It was, in many ways, rigged from the beginning.  I have indisputable facts that are verified by those I know on the inside, and now that I've been given the power of the pen, I plan on fully prosecuting this calamity.

How else do you explain that two of the three winners of the Chili Cookoff during the Advent Season last Christmas were two employees of the church?  And when confronted with the ugly truth, they swapped one at the last minute (actually, after announcing the winners) to substitute for one of the staff members. The substitute had only come in late after the initial announcement.  Couple that convenient fact with the fact that the staff was hovering over the table where the judges were and there you have it.

Let it go? you say?  There are other, really egregious acts that I could concern myself with, you might say?

Sadly, I've seen families, businesses, organizations, and other kinds of entities melt down over far less.  Once you lance the boil, the poison spews, and as you sit and listen, you ask yourself, "How do you even remember that?  I can't remember what day it is." The environment can be, in a word, toxic. Interestingly enough, during a recent class, Pastor was talking about the multifold command in Matthew 22 where Christ emphasizes the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself."    Christ is giving us instructions that are simple.  Love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.

In our sinful and convoluted world, it is impossible for us to understand the simple act of truly loving ourselves, much less others.  That might explain the anger, resentment, hurt, and other pains associated with the feelings we experience when we feel as though we were betrayed or unloved.  While Christ doesn't say this, maybe it is simple enough to say, "Do you truly love yourself?"

We pray that we see ourselves as God's creation, created new in Christ Jesus.  We pray that we know that God loves us as redeemed by His Son and as such, that we learn to love ourselves and others around us, even when they rig the chili cookoff.

Hope Men's Ministry

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Devotion 1.16.19

"Nobody knows the troubles I've seen."  I've heard the old blues song a few times, but I don't remember much except the line above.  There is a common refrain to, "How's it going?"  Goes something like this:  "No complaints.  Besides, no one would listen.”

That's the truth.  To start talking about the woes we face in life can become like a game of "Top the Bat."  Last one to the top who can palm the base of the bat wins.  Woes or troubles are just that, and mine may sound petty and minuscule compared to another person's.  "I've got a headcold that's killing me right now.  How about you?" "I have cancer."  Time to hush, back off.  

And yet we can't discount trouble we face.  The question is what do we do with difficulty?  We have several options when it comes to troubles or difficulty.  We can walk away from it.  The problem with that those of us of a certain age know is that should that be your solution, it will find you eventually.  You can confront the trouble head on, but if your difficulty or trouble is another person, confrontation is probably not the best method, especially if that is an aggressive confrontation.  

David says this in Psalm 55:  "'My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.  Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.' And I say, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness. Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved."

From the devotion on Bonhoeffor's work, the author says this:  "We can't carry the difficulty on our own.  Being alone in it will only intensify it, but others can't rescue us from it.  We need to face it ourselves, seek God's intervention and support, and open it to others so that they might encourage us to see it through to the end."  

Bonhoeffer came to his conclusion in prison and wrote to deal with the issues that were confronting him.  This devotion was based on his papers from that time.  He was executed by the Nazis before the camp was liberated.  We pray we learn to approach our difficulties with Christ, and with Christ, we pray that he help us confront our difficulties and seek God's intervention and support.  Then we turn to our brothers to help us as we travel the course of dealing with these difficulties.

Hope Men's Ministry

Charles Ringma, "Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer"

Monday, January 14, 2019

Devotion 1.15.19

Listening to Dallas Cowboy fans after Sunday’s game on social media, I thought they’d finished the season 2 - 14 and missed the playoffs.  I went and looked at the standings again, and yes, with certainty, they made the playoffs and beat teams during the regular season that they weren’t supposed to.  As I listen to Cowboy fans, there is the hand-wringing that comes with fandom:  Dak isn’t the right QB (he was the second coming his first season);  Jerry Jones is an idiot (he certainly has never overcome his first season firing the beloved Tom Landry and the beloved GM Tex Schramme, but as a businessman, he’s built the Dallas empire to the point it’s close to surpassing the NY Yankees as the number one financial sports enterprise); the defense let us down (the defense was a surprising league-leading defense this year); and Jason Garrett’s an idiot (I can’t argue that because I don’t follow Dallas that closely, but I’ve seen worse in football).

It seems to me that the affliction that we find in sports is also one that we find in ourselves that afflicts faith.  Worry, Hurry and Blame, the Three Stooges which are obstacles to faith and in other areas of life.  

Two Sundays ago we looked at the Three Stooges who are obstacles to faith in a classic story from Luke 10, that of Mary and Martha.  Martha, frantically preparing the meal for Jesus who has stopped by the house to rest (hurry and worry).  Mary sitting at his feet listening to what our Christ has to say.  Martha, looking at Christ, pleads with him to lodge Mary from her seated position to help (blame).  Martha even says, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”  As an aside, that translates to a prayer to Christ sounding like this, “Jesus, I’m not sure you’re listening, I said fix this and now.”  Hurry, Worry and Blame.  

As we talked in Sunday school, we noted that it is understandable to be in Martha’s shoes.  After all, this IS the Christ.  This is bigger than the president coming to the house.  This is God in human form, so who wouldn’t want it to be perfect?  Yet what’s the motivation?  In fact, there was notable justification by many in the class on Martha’s behalf as we talked, but the answer from Christ is clear:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In the end, Martha was not right.  She allowed Worry, Hurry, and Blame, who are obstacles to faith and prayer, to afflict her.  Sit down Martha. Relax.  You are worried and hurried about many things which has you pointing the finger.  Mary is sitting and listening.  She knows where her salvation comes from.  And it won’t be taken away from her.

So where do we find ourselves in our faith and prayer life?  Distracted.  Hurried.  Worried and needing to just take matters into our own hands?  Angry and feeling rejection to the point of seeking blame for my lot in life instead of going to God in prayer to accept my own actions and seek forgiveness when they’ve alienated me from God and my friends?  The Three Stooges were in the end, cute and funny.  The Three Stooges that are obstacles from faith are far from it.  

Pray we focus on Christ and that we take everything to him in prayer.  Pray that we have the time necessary to listen and reflect on life and what the direction that Christ is sending me?

Hope Men’s Ministry

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Devotion 1.10.19

I'm confused.  For those of you reading this who aren't from Lubbock or don't follow Tech sports, there was a change at the helm of Tech football that saw the beloved Tech son Kliff fired after several seasons (five was it?).  Anyway, he didn't win when needed, as much as needed (bowl eligibility), or crucial games.  Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director, said Kliff was a great man.  He really gave no tangibles about the reason for termination, but the unstated was obvious.

The record produced apathy which produced stands more than half empty (the optimist view) which produced a lull in.... can we say it?.... dollars.  There's the rub.  Half empty stands mean no season tickets, no revenue at the concession stands, no money for a parking slot or more importantly slots for a tailgate with 1000 of your best friends, and fans leave at half to go watch a game in comfort if that game isn't important if the season is a foregone conclusion or if the game is out of hand.  Worse, they leave if Tech has shown an ability to lose in the final seconds, so who wants to stay to watch the likely outcome?

That hurts, even if basketball and baseball have become dominant forces, because football, like it or not, is king.  So, back to my initial premise, my confusion is over the fuss that Kliff has managed to create after a lackluster career here at Tech.  Off to USC where he will be presumably great at what he was great at - offensive coordinator.  Good, we loved Kliff and want him to succeed.  Wait, hold on, no, apparently he's not going to USC but is being pursued by the NY Jets to become their offensive coordinator.  Well, that's great because the NFL would be a great place for Kliff because he can focus on the players and the offense and not all the red tape of NCAA rules for recruiting or recruiting itself.  No, wait, apparently, yes, it is fact now that Arizona will hire Kliff as a head coach.

Many opinions are out there as to his potential success or lack of in this new role.  We'll leave that, like other topics, to those who are "in the know," but the crucial point for all of us, including the church, is this:  When do we get tempted to do something because we've seen it from afar?  What does that mean?  That means we see Pastor A at a church, see his dynamism, and get tempted to see if he wants to come to our church and be dynamic and all.  We see Program B at a church we visit and come back saying, "We have found the Silver Bullet, and it put Our Lady of Enchantment on the map.  We should do that here!"  We simplify the answer to the symptom as an answer rather than go to the heart of the issue.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing about Matthew 22 (the greatest commandment being love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself), "What we are in ourselves, and what we owe to others, makes us a complete whole."  Charles Ringma, in his daily devotions based on the work of Bonhoeffer, says, "True life has to express itself in a self-assertion that  is a free  response of gratitude to God and which sees the well-being of the other." 

At our heart of what we do has to be our love of one another and our love of others as we love ourselves.  We pray this gospel message permeates our activity as we seek to further God's kingdom on the foundation of the gospel message.

Hope Men's Ministry




Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Devotion 1.9.19

Epic fail...

That's the name of the activity we set at this time every year known as a resolution.  I'm setting myself up for epic fail.  Exercise, goals for work, family, money handling, being kind to animals....  These things all sound great in my mind, but in the end, we know that gyms make bank on people who sign up and cease coming within six weeks.

What if, though, you set a very serious goal?  Quit drinking, smoking, lose weight due to diabetes, heart, or other related health issues? You didn't start an exercise routine to lose weight or gain muscle mass, you started a routine to improve the quality of your life.  That's serious stuff.  So is perhaps controlling anger, improving the relationship with your spouse who is also your children's mother, and other areas we tend not to disclose that may require external help like counseling.  What if your control of money is due to a gambling addiction or other unhealthy lifestyle? What if you have addictive behavior that is being addressed by serving the addiction, convincing yourself you have it mastered and not the other way around?

Then let's not be so dismissive of New Year's Resolutions if they aren't the routine, every man's goals we often make fun of.  May I encourage each of us who are attempting to improve or enhance our lives to consider this:  Put Christ at the center of your day and your goal.

Isaiah 42 tells us “a bruised reed he will not break and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” This passage is repeated again in Matthew as Christ reveals himself adding, “...until he brings justice to victory.” This passage alone has come across my screen or in my open Bible through the spoken word or study at least four times in the past month so I feel compelled to share it. Christ is our ultimate care giver, not extinguishing even the faintest desire to overcome. His love extends to us as he reaches us in our deepest weakness to show his love, no matter what that affliction is.  The study note says, "Jesus the servant compassionately cares for those who have been abused."  That may include self-inflicted abuse.  Near the breaking point, Christ reaches out to us, not extinguishing that faint glimmer of hope.

We pray that where we need help, we turn to Christ and ask. We turn to those we trust who may guide us faithfully. We pray that Christ lead us through those dark valleys into still waters as we seek to end cycles that don’t serve us or those we love.

Peace,

Hope Mens Ministry

Monday, January 7, 2019

Devotion 1.8.19

Thank you Pastor Dan for giving me the opportunity to return and write devotions for our Men's Ministry for the month of January.  I hope the break recharges your batteries because I know that writing devotions can become a grind, even when you enjoy it.  David Baldner

What's the single greatest thing anyone has ever done for you?  A job?  An act of kindness?  Taking a burden for you and from you to give you relief?  Paid a compliment on your or on your family?  As I look back over a life of almost 60 years now, I can think of many, many acts directed toward me that put a smile on my face.  Being a young educator and finding guidance from an old gentleman in the church I went to, who taught me a great deal about thinking and leadership, is one act I remember.  He taught me how to build a fishing rod, and he taught me how to fish (my dad did too, but we didn't know the Gulf Coast like this fine man did).

Another thing that this man did for which I will forever be grateful is he taught me how to pray.  How to talk to God the Father and approach Him.  How to have a conversation with God.  His prayers always opened, "Gracious and Merciful God...."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian, borrows from 1 Thessalonians 1: 2 - 3 where Paul writes, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before God your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."  Bonhoeffer says, "Above all, we must not neglect the greatest service that is left to us, our faithful daily intercession." (The Way to Freedom) Not in the very least, but most importantly, we should pray for one another.

My brothers, I am sorry to tell each of you that I often fail at prayer for my brothers in the faith, being thankful each day for the blessings you bring to me of friendship, conversation, and acts of faith.  May we each take time in our day to lift each other up in prayer regardless of our status, how we feel about one another, or our differences we may have.  As brothers in faith, we do share the most important aspect of life, faith in Christ Jesus.  May we constantly and daily keep each other in prayer as men, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, grandsons, and friends.

Hope Men's Ministry