Scripture: Romans 12:3
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Thought for the Day: I doubt there is one person who has not, at one time or another, made a decision while intoxicated. This intoxicating impairment might have been brought about through an overindulgence of alcohol, but equally concerning is when we are drunk with hormonally-induced infatuation or irrepressible apprehension or some other momentary experience that limits our judgment. Not that alcohol or hormones or anxiety are bad in and of themselves…they’re not, at least in appropriate amounts! The concern lies with the decisions we make when we are under the influence of something that impairs our judgment. Paul wishes for us to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. There are times when we are so blind to our impairment that we cannot think clearly enough to name it. Could it be that, on occasion, the faith God assigns us is the faithfulness of another human being? It is good to have a friend in the faith who can think with sober judgement when we cannot. And know that maybe, just maybe, God will assign your faith to someone else who is not in a place to make a sober judgement. It’s what we call living in supportive community. It is really a good thing.
Prayer: I love you, Holy God, and I appreciate those friends in the faith who can speak from a better vantage point than the one I currently have. Let me hear their words in love. Amen.
Join us Sunday Morning
8:15, 9:30 or 11:00
(It is family worship Sunday)
Scripture: Matthew 9:7
And he stood up and went to his home.
Thought for the Day: This short verse comes after Jesus healed the paralytic man. This unnamed man had his life totally reordered and redefined by his encounter with Jesus. His response – to stand and walk home – doesn’t appear all that dramatic when you read it, but just imagine no longer being dependent on others to transport you. Picture yourself in his shoes (sandals) crossing the threshold of your home under your own power for the first time. You left the house earlier with limitations, and now you return healed and liberated. He is returning to his home, but because of his change, everything else will change. With the paralytic man’s dramatic transformation, the household system had to have been turned upside down. As people who have been and continue to be transformed by the healing grace of Christ, let us be mindful of the dramatic impact our change can have on the systems around us…from our households to our workplaces to our schools.
Prayer: May the change I have experienced become the change I offer to others. This is my prayer offered in your name, O Lord of my life. Amen.
Labor Day Weekend
Sunday Morning Worship
8:15, 9:30 and 11:00
(all children in worship)
Your Lag Shouldn’t Have a Leg to Stand On
Scripture: James 1:5
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
Thought for the Day: I made a visit to the new Sprouts Grocery store yesterday, and though I was not in awe of my experience, I did find cherries covered in dark chocolate (no dairy which is important for me). I would try to describe the joy of my indulgent act of consumption, but I don’t want to make you feel too jealous. While I was enjoying a few of the quarter-sized morsels of euphoria, I did a little research and discovered that chocolate was first understood by the Aztecs as a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. It was even believed that chocolate, specifically cacao seeds, were a vehicle by which wisdom was shared.
James believed that when striving toward maturity, seeking wisdom was important. In fact, those lacking could simply ask God who would give lavishly and without hesitation. James’ way seems a bit less complicated, though I think the Aztecs’ approach was more fun. Not to flaunt with the worship of other gods, but I have a feeling that a little time spent seeking wisdom through prayer and Bible study would not be hindered with a few pieces of chocolate. The wisdom may not come as quickly as you’d like, but when you have chocolate, patience seems a bit easier.
Prayer: Grant me wisdom, O God of Creation, and may I taste the joy of good and faithful judgment. Amen.
Scripture: 2nd Peter 2:12-14 (the Message)
These people are nothing but brute beasts, born in the wild, predators on the prowl. In the very act of bringing down others with their ignorant blasphemies, they themselves will be brought down, losers in the end. Their evil will boomerang on them. They’re so despicable and addicted to pleasure that they indulge in wild parties, carousing in broad daylight. They’re obsessed with adultery, compulsive in sin, seducing every vulnerable soul they come upon. Their specialty is greed, and they’re experts at it. Dead souls!
Thought for the Day: On Friday evening, I was reading an article about a so-called minister who had been abusing young girls for many years. He is currently on the run from police, but this man used his charisma to persuade families to turn over their ‘first born daughters’ to him. A dozen or so families agreed, and he took these young girls to a camp site where he lived with them and abused them for years.
This is just one example of why the church and other institutions need to be extraordinarily diligent in their protection of the vulnerable, specifically children. Along with other congregations, we at Cypress Creek Christian Church have instituted specific steps to keep children safe. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but God has given us a responsibility to teach our children and to make sure they are safe. If you are asked to help with youth or children, please understand that an extensive background check must be done and specific procedures will be followed. We are constantly reviewing those policies and modifying when needed. They have a purpose, and no one can be exempt.
With that in mind, let me also call Christians to a commonsense responsibility. We all should help guide one another into a relationship with Christ, but at no point should pastors or church leaders use their authority to manipulate or guilt those under their care. I don’t care how charismatic or spiritual someone might appear, don’t be afraid to ask questions or raise genuine concerns. This is why we do our work in community. Our denomination adds an additional level of accountability, requiring clergy to do Boundary Training and other classes that focus on creating safe-space.
I know this is not an upbeat devotional, but after reading that story, I felt compelled to call our attention to one of the greatest responsibilities of the church: teaching and caring for the vulnerable, specifically children. The church is capable of amazing acts of grace, but a single person can cause extensive damage to the life of another human being. For that reason, let us take our responsibility seriously.
Prayer: Before you, O Lord, let me renew my commitment to making my church an amazing place of grace and wholeness. Let me reach out to others, so that together, we can create a safe environment where young minds and spirits can flourish. Amen.
Scripture: John 8:2-5
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Thought for the Day: What do you say? I think most of us are generally opposed to the act of stoning, though the question asked of Jesus is an important one for Christians. They asked him, “Now what do you say?” We often critique culture as if it were a runaway train. Christians shrug their shoulders and ask, “What can I do?” I tend to think that the culture is regularly posing tough and important questions to us, yet we ignore their invitation to dialogue. Let us respectfully listen, and then offer (with a bit of humility) our thoughts in light of our faith experiences. In doing so, we just might shape the culture toward grace and justice…we just might save another human being from an act of cruelty.
Prayer: O Gracious God, may I be attune to the inquiries of those around me so that, when appropriate, I might bring you into the conversation. Amen.
And prayer time
in the chapel
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17-18 (the Message)
Listen carefully to my wisdom; take to heart what I can teach you. You’ll treasure its sweetness deep within; you’ll give it bold expression in your speech.
Thought and Prayer for the Day: Yesterday, I offered a prayer for students beginning a new school year. Today, I want to reflect and pray for those who will be providing guidance as part of the educational team — class room teachers, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, aids and assistants, cafeteria workers, volunteers, etc. Amidst all the general complaining, threats of budget cuts, concerns around standardized testing and violence, there is some pretty marvelous work happening in the classrooms and hallways of our schools. This work can be enhanced when it is surrounded and encouraged with prayer.
May your spirit, Lord, be a mentor to those who help to educate our young people. May these educators do more than keep peace in the classroom…may they shape the minds and bodies of those who could become voices for peace through knowledge and empowerment. Amidst the diversity of the classroom, there is a great assortment of personal struggles and fears. Each child has a story, yet too many of them have stories void of love and hope. Continue to provide an extra measure of patience to each educator, especially when a child’s struggle is expressed in unhealthy or destructive ways. Provide them a discerning spirit that knows when to be merciful, when to push accountability and when to do some of both. Continue to motivate their own learning so that the classroom remains a vibrant and stimulating environment. Most importantly, Gracious God, provide each of them a glimpse of the difference they are making in the world. Allow them to remain hope-filled vessels by which students glimpse their own potential and live into it. Amen.
SEE YOU TOMORROW
…and join together
to undergird your church
10:45am in the Chapel
Scripture: Proverbs 1:1-6 (the Message)
These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king – Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn – Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
Thought and Prayer for the Day: Like many of you, I am thinking about young people returning to school. Some have already begun their studies for this year, while others still have a few days of vacation. This is always a time of mixed emotions. There are those students who thrive in the classroom, finding their self-esteem growing with each day of learning. There are others who have a very different experience – for some, school is a reminder of failure – others, find themselves belittled and bullied by fellow students. School is so important, and for that reason, let each of us recognize our responsibility in helping make it an amazing and eye-opening experience.
Below, is a prayer for students beginning the new school year. Maybe you’re not a student. That’s fine! Consider sending it to someone you know or praying this prayer on his/her behalf.
My God and my Great Encourager, I seek your help as I begin this new school year. Allow me to experience your presence as I study and learn, as I interact with teachers and friends, as I participate in physical activities and the arts. Open my heart and mind to the new challenges and exciting opportunities that this new school year brings, and when I am a little nervous, be my comforter and friend. Help me be mindful of other students who are struggling with their own sense of self-worth, and where opportunities arise, give me a voice to speak to them as a companion and confidant. I give you thanks for teachers and other school workers who create a healthy atmosphere for learning. In all things, give me the courage to accept new opportunities and the insights they offer me. This I pray in the name of Jesus, whose life witness inspires me to do my best in all things! Amen.
This Sunday, August 24, at 10:45am
Led by: Bonita Strawn and Vernon Williams
Scripture: Matthew 21:19-21
And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, Jesus went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.”
Thought for the Day: It may appear that Jesus was not fond of fig trees. Whether that was the case or not, the cursing of the fig tree was a living parable that pointed to a coming transformation that would require the faithfulness of the disciples in the face of great barriers. The fig tree was a rich symbol within the Jewish community, but it came to represent the temple system in particular. For Jesus, the temple itself was not a problem. The problem was found in what the structure of the temple was permitting to happen against those who were poor, orphaned, widowed and marginalized. The fruit the current temple system was producing was unhealthy, and so Jesus symbolically brought an end to fruit that was not life-giving. When questions were raised, Jesus suggested that the disciples would go far beyond symbolic gestures. In fact, great obstacles would be overcome, like a system that was abusive and unhealthy. In the eyes of the disciples, the structure must have appeared insurmountable, yet Jesus presented a vision of the possible. It’s amazing how a small symbol can cast an achievable vision in the face of the impossible. Albert Schweitzer once said, “One who gains strength overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” The little steps – sometimes symbolic – teach and configure us to better deal with the overwhelming barriers that come between the present moment and God’s future.
Prayer: Mighty and Gracious God, provide me all the symbols and examples and teaching opportunities that will create a faith that will see mountains moved. Amen.
Scripture: Numbers 4:5-6
When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the screening curtain, and cover the ark of the covenant with it; then they shall put on it a covering of fine leather, and spread over that a cloth all of blue, and shall put its poles in place.
Thought for the Day: Over the last few days I have spent time in the book of Numbers. To be honest, I have not said that a lot in my life. But here in the 4th chapter, a census of those between the ages of 30-50 is being taken for the purpose of organizing a moving crew. This time in the wilderness (40 years of preparation before crossing into the Promised Land) required the Israelites to pack-up the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary, and move it to the next spot along the journey. I was fascinated by the requirements around the Ark of the Covenant, the fancy box made famous by the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Since the Levites are not designated to handle certain holy items, including the Ark, specific preparations are required before the Levites can assist in moving these items. The Ark itself must be covered with three separate layers—the screen curtain, fine leather and a blue cloth.
Let’s be honest here, can two pieces of woven material and a big chunk of leather contain holiness? This is where symbolism is so important, for though these materials are really not very thick, there is something in the act that teaches respect. Might I suggest that we do not take the influence of symbol seriously enough in our lives today. It is one thing to be told that the items in the Tabernacle are holy and worthy of respect. It is another thing to see these items carefully covered with precious material by a select few who have been designated to do so. The symbolic act reinforces certain values central to the community, values that are important for the sake of the community’s future identity. How might the church help in the reclaiming certain values through educational symbols?
Prayer: It is often hard for me to learn and embrace certain values, so I seek your assistance, Lord God. Provide me whatever is going to help me to make forgiveness, love, humility and compassion central values in my life. Amen.
“An Unqualified Everyone”
Romans 11:1-2a, 11-12
Scripture: Proverb 23:18
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Thought for the Day: Someone once quoted this passage and said, “It is really easy for others to say that when they are not the one who feels the loss and disappointed.” The promises of faith seem very clear that God will not cut us off, but it does not mean that life and the people we know won’t drop us like a rock, leaving us disillusioned and hurt. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” It is a balance. We do not ignore the emotional wound caused by some hurtful event, but we also do not forget God’s promise to be present to us in all of life’s situations. Michael J. Fox wrote, “There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.” I think Fox was attempting to say that there will be holes into which we fall on occasion (or be pushed), but they do not have the power to keep us there.
Prayer: Keep repeating your promise of eternal love, God, especially when I feeling discouraged and demoralized. It may take me a little while before I can claim what I hear you saying. Amen.