Scripture: Acts 10:30-31
Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God…’”
Thought for the Day: So is bribery the solution? It sure appears as if God hears the prayers of Cornelius, in part, because he has given alms (an offering) to God. Are our prayers answered because we have finally caught God’s attention with a gift or we found the right carrot? I don’t think so, and as an alternative reading, I would suggest that faithful living, including generosity, is not a tool for getting what we want. In our Crossing the River Campaign, we are not looking for gifts that could be construed as an attempted bribe offered to God. Instead, prayer, generosity and other Spiritual Disciplines situate a person so as to perceive how God is already at work in fulfilling God’s dream and to become a participant in that activity of God.
Like some of you, I’ve shown up to an event on the wrong day. I’ve shown up for an event on the right day, but at the wrong address. Rechecking the invitation would have made good sense. Putting the address in my GPS before leaving the house would have been wise. Preliminary work always helps in getting to the correct place at the right time, whether that is a physical location or a specific life-attitude. I believe God is always working to guide us into God’s future, but our spiritual orientation may not be fixed on the One who desires to guide us to the edge of the river and invite us to take the plunge. Prayer, generosity, fasting and other Spiritual Disciplines are tools that shape us to more fully perceive and participate in God’s dream for Cypress Creek Christian Church.
Prayer: O Holy God, may the life of faith I live help orient me toward you and the kingdom you are inviting me to help build. Amen.
Study at noon
Dance Classes starting at 5:30pm
Simple Dinner at 6pm
Study at 6:30pm
Children’s programming at 6:30pm
Youth Group at 6:30pm
Crossing Over Campaign Coffee at 7:00pm
Scripture: Joshua 1:9
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Thought for the Day: Rabindranath Tagore was a brilliant man and author. He also was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. I have a few of his quotes that I keep around as a voice of challenge. One such quote is:
“Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless when facing them.”
Life is full of risk and opportunity, uncertainty and possibility. So much of what is desired requires a step into the unknown. Each Sunday, we collectively pray for God’s kingdom to come, yet if we were a bit more candid with ourselves, we would recognize that such a request requires personal risk and sacrifice. It is often said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is great truth in those words, but followers of Jesus should tweak them a bit and say, “Be the kingdom God desires to see in the world.”
At Cypress Creek Christian Church, we are preparing to move Across the River. It sounds all well and good, but just imagine those Israelites who knew nothing but the 40 years in the wilderness. It would have been exciting and terrifying. For our church, the crossing over is symbolic of dramatic changes in who we will be for the next 40 years. It is both exciting and terrifying, but my prayer for us is that we do not seek shelter from the dangers as that only keeps us in the comfort of the known. Instead, let us risk being the people God needs us to be for the sake of the kingdom being built in Spring, Texas.
Prayer: Mighty Counselor and Everlasting God, provide me the spiritual fortitude to move across the river and into the future you are creating. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-45 (the Message)
You’re familiar with the old written law, “Love your friend,” and its unwritten companion, “Hate your enemy.” I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
Thought for the Day: English play write, Hanif Kureishi, shared these words: “Falling in love was simple; one had only to yield. Digesting another person, however, and sustaining love, is bloody hard work…” That might be the best summary of living in relationship I’ve ever read. It’s profound because it is honest. Falling in love is easy. It’s falling, and it takes absolutely no work. Staying and maintaining a relationship is like climbing a mountain, the absolute opposite of falling. It’s bloody hard work! Jesus doesn’t stop there as he challenges us to live in a loving relationship with our enemies. That’s more than mountain climbing. That’s mountain climbing with your teeth, except that you’re wearing dentures. It’s a challenge to say the least, yet it is made possible through the One who loved enemies until they became friends and followers.
Prayer: You love me, Lord, and you desire to maintain a life-giving relationship with me. As you have done great work, may I also be willing to do all that is necessary to grow my relationship with you. Amen.
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Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Thought for the Day: The belief to which Jesus refers in these words is a belief that leaves no one questioning what it is that is believed. It really doesn’t have much to do with the ability of someone to articulate what it is that one believes. The Greek word Pisteuo is what we translate as believe, but the Greek word speaks of commitment that trusts everything to that which is believed. The famous management guy, Peter Drucker, wrote: “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” Let us make sure our belief is not empty promises or hollow hope, but is seen by all as an embodied commitment to a man and his amazing ways of love, goodness and forgiveness.
Prayer: What I believe to be true is what should guide me. Help me to make it so, O Gracious God, who provided me the greatest of teachers: Jesus. It is in his name that I offer these words of prayer. Amen.
Are You Ready…
To Get Dirty?
Scripture: John 4:19-24
The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Thought for the Day: Yesterday, along with a number of Cypress Creek Christian Church staff and church members, I attended the annual Spring Interfaith Breakfast. It was very enjoyable, moving and heartbreaking. I believe it makes God smile when people of different faiths come together in a spirit of respect, seeking God’s guidance in the pursuit of understanding and truth. There were two representatives of the Yazidism tradition, a religion currently experiencing great persecution in northern Iraq and other places in the world. Thousands of the Yazidis have been killed, and thousands of women and young girls have been sold into sex slavery. We spent time in prayer, praying for one another. A female representative of the Islamic faith prayed a beautiful prayer for healing in our world; a jewish representative prayed as one who came from a faith that has known great suffering, but was also not innocent of bringing suffering upon others; a Christian prayed for God’s love to lead us into a place where every human being is treated with dignity, but he also prayed confessionally in recognition that Christian history is marked by times when the name of Christ was used to justify hatred. Afterwards, there were more beautiful words of friendship spoken. It was a good way of spending the morning.
The news is always trying to portray people – Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Yazidis – in very narrow terms, often exaggerated caricatures of the truth. None of the religions mentioned truly prescribe violence or hate as a method, yet ideologies of greed, bigotry and narcissism will often co-opt a religion’s name and holy writings as a way of giving divine legitimacy to what could never be justified. Christianity has its own list of such folks who have attempted to commandeer the name of Jesus, and in the process, the ways of Jesus were lost amidst their exploitation of the name. May we always seek the truth behind the narrow caricatures used to define our sisters and brothers of other faith traditions.
Prayer: O God of all people, let us seek out others so that the barriers created by fear and misunderstanding will cease to exist. Amen.
Scripture: Proverbs 11:3
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Thought for the Day: Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg church, in part, as a way of raising the bar of the debate he was having with Tetzel. Tetzel was a Dominican priest who sold indulgences on behalf of the church. An indulgence was a certificate sold by the church that indicated that the holder had purchased forgiveness for him/herself or someone else. A person could even buy an indulgence for someone who was already dead. One of Tetzel’s famous lines was, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” The abuse grew to the point of purchasing an indulgence for a sin you hadn’t yet committed. As you can imagine, it made a great profit for the church. In fact, it was enough to build most of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tetzel has become the personification of lost integrity, and because his actions seem so outrageous, he has become nothing more than a punchline at a clergy conference. But I think we need to keep Tetzel before us at all times as we maintain integrity in our stewardship. The high values we desire to share by means of the money we collect are values that should be clearly reflected in the method of collecting the money. We don’t want to pull a Tetzel.
Prayer: God of a grace-filled ethic, help me to design my work so the method always embodies my desired end. Amen.
11:00am – 2:00pm
Scripture: Isaiah 41:13
For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”
Thought for the Day: I took twenty minutes early this morning to pray for Cypress Creek Christian Church. Quite often I pray my way through our church membership or spend time lifting up a specific individual, but today I sat in silence doing some prayerful reflection on our current financial situatio (not good, but not horrible). It was interesting, but my prayer shifted from a word/thought prayer to more of an image/imaginative prayer. I found myself being pulled into the chapel where someone sat. I knew immediately that it was Jesus (he looked like all the usual paintings), and he took my hand and we sat. Each time I found myself wanting to ask something, I felt as if I was to remain quiet. In time my questions disappeared and the concerns seem to dissipate. There was this overwhelming sense of peace. The time provided absolutely no answer to our current financial situation, but there was this clear indication that worry was not necessary.
Was it my subconscious wishfully wanting to find a reason not to be concerned? That’s always a possibility, but later in the day I opened the Bible to these words from Isaiah and it felt as if it all went together quite nicely. I don’t know exactly what the future will hold or where it will take us, but I sense that we will never be beyond the reach of God’s hand. And for that reason, we have nothing to fear.
Prayer: Provide us a renewed sense of your peaceful presence, Lord. Through that gift, let us know that we are known – know that we are loved – know that we have nothing to fear. Amen.
Scripture: Colossians 4:5
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.
Thought for the Day: At 12:01 this morning, a video game more than five years in the making went on sale. It is estimated that this video game cost $500 million to develop, though the developers believe they’ll break even quickly (analysts are not so optimistic).
Over the next 30 days, it is thought that more than 2,000,000 individuals will spend more than 100 hours playing this game. Now I’m not anti-video games or against someone making money off such a project, but I find myself a bit distressed when I think about the 200,000,000 hours spent on that single video game in the next month…and that doesn’t include those who will play it a few hours over the weekend. I hear those numbers, and I find myself getting a little sick in the stomach. In a world facing serious problems, I wonder what could be solved if only 100,000,000 of those hours became volunteer hours in the community?
In this section of Colossians, the Apostle Paul appears to be inviting his readers to be good stewards of all things under their control. We should take seriously how we use our time, language, prayer life, worship, etc., yet too often I hear people say, “Oh, I just don’t have the time to give.” In most cases, that is not necessarily true. We all make choices, and spending a little time goofing off or playing a game or watching TV is not bad in and of itself. With that said, most everyone has a lot more time to give to volunteering, praying, serving, worshiping, etc… it is all about the choices we make.
Prayer: God, make clear those places where I can make a significant difference. Provide me with a limited number of excuses, and more importantly, a passion for service that will overshadow any of the excuses that come my way. Amen.
Scripture: Genesis 35:14-16
Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with God, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.
Thought for the Day: As we talked about yesterday in worship, the Israelites remembered the place where they crossed the Jordan River with a 12 stone marker. It was, in part, a way of designating the place as holy. It also provided a conversation starter so that when their descendants might ask about the marker, the people could tell the story of how God had acted on their behalf.
In the above passage from Genesis, Jacob raised a marker at the place where he and God had a major encounter. Those who might have seen it would know something special had occurred there, but for Jacob and his children, that place would forever signify God’s blessing of love that came upon their family.
For those who take faith seriously, symbols and reminders help to keep us on track. For most of us, even the most powerful God-moment can easily slip away as the day-to-day grind happens. We need little reminders to bring those memories into the forefront of our attention. Yesterday in worship, everyone received a bag of 12 rocks (thanks to the CraftCrowd for putting them together), and my hope was that those rocks would find a worthy place to call home; a place that would regularly catch your attention. Below, you will see a picture of the 12 rocks that came home with us. They rest upon the mantel where they will remain as a reminder for at least a couple of months.
Prayer: For all the little reminders that make my faith crisp and present, I thank you – my Lord and my God. Amen.
Scripture: Mark 12:41-44
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Thought for the Day: What do you have that another person may need? Rev. Bruce Barkhauer, the Director of the Center for Faith and Giving, talked about the homeless man he saw who shared his sandwich with another homeless man. Bruce pointed out how everyone has something to share. It often takes the example of someone else’s generosity – especially generosity out of what appears to be scarcity – to stir something within the rest of us. Why does it so often take the example of another to provoke our spirits to be more generous with what we have. Why is it that the needs of others is not enough to stir generosity? Though if we need an example, the poor widow is a pretty good one…and there are others.
Prayer: Whatever it takes, Lord, help me to be the generous person you believe I can be. Amen.
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