Scripture: 2nd Timothy 2:21-23
All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
Thought for the Day: I learned a good lesson yesterday. Amidst a very good Thanksgiving Dinner, I realized that we did not have an important element. I nearly gasped when I noticed that we had not purchased black olives. If you had asked me earlier in the day – Is Thanksgiving possible without black olives? – I would have quickly offered an opinion from my nearly 50 years of enjoying black olives on Thanksgiving. That educated opinion would have been a strong, “No!” Yet to my surprise, we enjoyed a good meal in a spirit of gratitude without the consumption of black olives. In fact, it was a really good meal.
How often have we allowed a change in tradition or a forgotten custom ruin an otherwise amazing moment? If we are in a confessional mood, I would have to tell you that it has happened on more than one occasion in my life. Now don’t get me wrong – tradition and regular ritual can be very meaningful. They can solidify an important teaching, but at the end of the day, we are invited to pursue: righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Don’t let a lack of black olives (or whatever it might be in your setting) ruin an otherwise good event that is about preparing special utensils for the work of God.
Prayer: I really like black olives, but at the end of the day, I love my family and you, O Lord. Help me to keep my priorities right and my focus on pursing your ways. Amen.
Make Worship A Priority
Scripture: Psalm 22:26-27
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
Thought for the Day: Later today, like many of you, I will eat very well. My family and I will pray, giving thanks for the multitude of blessings that we have known this past year. How often have I been poor – a spiritual or emotional poverty – and been gifted by God in such a way that satisfied my deficiency? My hope for this Thanksgiving Day is that my gratitude truly appreciates and acknowledges the gifts I have received, and I pray that you too can truly value the gifts you have received.
Prayer: Beyond just the plate of food I will devour, Lord, I wish to give you thanks for the way you have allowed me to feast at your table of unconditional love. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 122:6-9
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Thought for the Day: I have refused to be a 24-hour news junkie when it came to the court proceedings in Missouri, yet it was difficult to find any news without being bombarded with every possible angle on the story. And when there wasn’t a new angle, it sure appeared as if someone in the news outlets would make one up or at least suggest something outrageous to give them a topic for another 30 minutes of mindless gibberish.
Now I do not pretend to know whether the Grand Jury made the correct decision, and I do not know what it is like to live as an African-American in a nation that is still burdened by racism. Though amidst what I do not know, I am pretty certain that what we are seeing on TV right now is not just a response to the Grand Jury’s decision. It is rooted in historic suffering and injustice that continues to this day. To pretend that I would have a different reaction if the situation was reversed is both naive and a little ridiculous. All I know is that I am called to serve my sisters and brothers who are hurting, and one of the ways I can serve them is by praying for the peace of Ferguson; praying for peace inside their neighborhoods; praying for peace within them as individuals. And of course, praying for peace assumes I will act peacefully in all my circumstances and interactions.
Prayer: As you have taught me not to judge, O Lord of Love, show me how I can be a part of a lasting change within my community and nation. Amen.
JOIN US THIS SUNDAY
First Sunday of Advent
Scripture: Romans 12:5 (NIV)
“In Christ we are many who form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Thought for the Day: Last week we launched our new website. Once the site was live, I spent a few moments basking in the joy of a project completed. With each click, one message shined brightly and sang to my soul, Because God first loved us (1John 4:19). What a glorious and simple message; we love because He first loved us. It got me thinking about how important it is to focus on this basic discipline and stay connected to church in the midst of all things—exhausting projects, meetings, phone calls, hiccups, aches and pains, demands—in other words, life’s chaos.
Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life describes it like this:
For the organs of your body to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you as a part of Christ’s body. You were created for a specific role, but you will miss the second purpose of your life if you are not connected to a living, local church. You discover your role in life through your relationships with others.
If an organ is somehow severed from its body, it will shrivel and die. It cannot exist on its own, and neither can you. Disconnected and cut off from the lifeblood of a local body, your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist.
Cypress Creek Christian Church is my body, the place I love, serve, work, worship and give. I don’t have to perform well in order to receive God’s love. I only have to love well because God first loved me and remember that it’s not about me.
Prayer: Glorious God, Lord of my Life, ignite a passion within me to use this church—my church, to connect others to You. Shift my focus from the tasks at hand to Your radiant presence. Let love be my guide in everything I do and use our brand spanking new website to draw others to this family. In Jesus mighty name I pray. Amen!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!
You Are Invited…
Scripture: 1st Thessalonians 5:25
Beloved, pray for us.
Thought for the Day: In what is thought to be the earliest letter written by the Apostle Paul, we come across a long string of requests, suggestions and words of counsel. Toward the end, Paul makes one clear appeal: …pray for us. I made that same request last night as we were finishing up the Christmas Decorating Party at the church. There had to have been 20lbs of glitter scattered on the floor. It was everywhere. A smorgasbord of colors, each speck catching the light from the floor of the Activity Room. One of the children described it as beautiful, but I requested that they pray for me once the custodians saw the mess. Actually, the prayers should be for those who came in later in the evening to make our church ready again for another week. I do ask – Beloved, pray for us. But when I use the word ‘us’, I am making a request on behalf of all those who make Cypress Creek Christian Church move along… but specifically those whose faces are rarely seen. They do hard work at odd hours, yet they deal with all the mess that I and others have created. One of the other petitions Paul makes earlier in the chapter is to respect those who labor among you. This should be true throughout the year, but especially during the holidays when the labors among us are easily dismissed as nothing more than objects to be used and then forgotten. They are people and beloved children of God.
Prayer: Eternal God, provide me with heavenly vision, so that what I see is what you see… and that what I pray is what you would have me pray. Amen.
Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 9:12-13 (the Message)
Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone.
Thought for the Day: President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Today is Thanksgiving Sunday, an opportunity for us to pause, and in the context of worship, offer an appreciative song and prayer. It is a good day, but we cannot let our gratitude remain bound to the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. It belongs on the street, in the workplace and home, at school and the park, and even at the in-laws where some will be eating this Thursday. This unleashed gratitude should come in the form of beautiful acts of compassion and mercy. As Paul says, we should show our “gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ.”
Prayer: Let my obedience be found in my hands and words and actions, O Lord who gave us the living model of gratitude, Jesus Christ. Amen.
JOIN US FOR WORSHIP THIS MORNING
8:15, 9:30 or 11:00
Scripture: Leviticus 4:1
The LORD spoke to Moses,
Thought for the Day: Five words in this single verse. That’s all there is. For many, such a verse would be viewed as nothing more than a path taken to what is really important. In fact, I am probably guilty of doing the skip over on more than one occasion. We are looking for something important, something we assume we need to find in scripture. This tunnel vision has us passing by the word or phrase that just might be what’s needed. In this case, it was good to hear that the Lord spoke to Moses. As I read those words, I realized that my prayer life has been filled with a lot of talk on my part and no listening for God’s response. For me, it doesn’t come in an audible voice, but if I’ve put my spiritual perception on pause, I will miss what God is attempting to say.
Prayer: Keep me keenly aware of all the possible means you might use to offer me a word of your grace, O Lord who is my savior and friend. Amen.
Worship at 8:15am, 9:30am and 11:00am
Come with a spirit of gratitude!
Scripture: James 3:13
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.
Thought for the Day: One of the great poetic voices of our times was Maya Angelou. She wrote, “Hate – it has caused a lot of the problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.” Just today, I have witnessed in news headlines and the picketers at the county building veritable hate. And though hate can, through intimidation and fear, produce the desired end in the short-term, it has never brought about any goodness or healing or positive resolution. Last night, Cypress Creek Christian Church played host to the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. It was a magnificent event, and it allowed us to glimpse the path to genuine healing and problem-solving…a path lit by kindness, humility and peacefulness.
Prayer: In your great wisdom, O Mighty God, you made more than one person, more than one perspective, more than one opinion. We could hate what we do not understand, or we could strive in the ways of Jesus who humbled himself with a spirit of grace and patience. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 5:7-8
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
Thought for the Day: I was visiting Paula in the hospital yesterday (she went home later in the afternoon following her knee replacement surgery on Monday). At the Tomball Hospital, the main elevators off the lobby are glass on one side, and you can see for a number of blocks. As I rode the elevator to Paula’s room, I faced the doors as there were other people on the elevator (I think that is proper elevator etiquette). On the way down, I was alone and I stared out the window. As a kid, I would have loved that experience — pressing my face against the glass and looking down…almost as good as a ride at the county fair. Based upon the expressions of those at the entrance to the hospital watching me ride down, I am guessing those memories from childhood must have unknowingly taken over. These folks were smiling at me, even laughing a little. I must have looked like a seven year old riding the ferris wheel for the first time. I was quickly jerked back into proper elevator etiquette by my embarrassment, yet something bothered me. There was a part of me that wished a grown man could ride a glass elevator with his face pressed against the glass and screaming,”Weeeee!” Most of us need a little more awe, amazement and wonderment in life.
Prayer: O God who inspires awe, provide me just enough childhood innocence to be unconcerned by what others might think. Allow me to be dumbfounded and astonished by the spectacular beauty and delight found all around me. Amen.
DON’T MISS TONIGHT
Cypress Creek Christian Church
Scripture: Psalm 31:9-10
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
Thought for the Day: I think most people can look back over their lives and find a time when they were able to relate to these words of scripture. For some people, it is right now. As I read these words of scripture, I feel the utter despair within this person’s voice. Most of us have a sense of empathy for this individual whose emotional distress is being felt at the very core of his bones. Yet as we move further into the Psalm, the author remains undeterred by the difficulty and anguish. In the end, God’s steadfast love with prevail. No question about it! Without ever being naïve about the present reality, the author remains hopeful to what God is doing and what God will continue to do.
Prayer: Through your steadfast love, O Lord, renew my trust in you. Amen.