Scripture: James 1:17
Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.
Thought for the Day: When I do a public prayer, I often use similar language to that of James – O God, giver of all that is good, beautiful and life-giving… Now a lot of folks attach some rather strange, unhealthy and even destructive things to God. People suggest God gives us disease, earthquakes and murders. They may not use those exact words, but they are implied when people suggest that God is in control of all things or that we may not understand God’s reason now, but someday it will be made clear. Or I hear people suggest that God gave those horrible things in the past, but since Jesus came along, God changed. James tries to set things straight when he explains that God is the giver of good things, not bad. And equally important, God hasn’t changed. The God we meet in Jesus is the same identical God who worked in the world before Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, there are some passages in scripture that suggest otherwise, but that’s where followers of Jesus must use the life and teachings of Jesus as the lens through which everything else is understood. If it doesn’t align with the grace and mercy of the crucified Christ, then we need to revisit James and reintroduce ourselves to the Giver of all good thing who was the same yesterday, today and forever.
Prayer: How I see, interpret and understand life must start with how I see, interpret and understand you, O Merciful God. Make Jesus my starting and ending place, for he is the fullest expression of you that can be seen in human form. Thank you for giving us your goodness in him. Amen.
WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY
9am at the church
Scripture: James 1:13-14
No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them.
Thought for the Day: That is some really good theology! We try to blame anyone and everyone for our feelings of temptation except the one who is really responsible. As human beings, we all have our stuff, our baggage, our issues, our weaknesses, our insecurities, etc. These are the voices that tempt us and derail our works of faithfulness. Part of what it means to be a healthy human being is doing the hard work of self-reflection and confession in regard to all the personal junk that makes us vulnerable to temptation. Today, let your prayer life explore some of that junk, and then seek God’s assistance in naming it and owning it. In doing so, this junk is less likely to own you and the possibility that it will bring about unhealthy temptation is reduced.
Prayer: Guide me inward, O Gentle and Gracious God. Assist me in the uncomfortable task that needs to be done if I am going to continue to work toward a truly healthy self. In your mercy, be patient. Amen.
At The Church
Beginning at 9am
Scripture: James 1:2-4
My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.
Thought for the Day: To be honest, I am not a big fan of these words…especially in light of the way people’s lives have been tested. Now let me restate something important. I do not believe God tests us by causing problems or bringing floods. The world around us is constantly challenging us and putting our faith to the test. Clearly, God doesn’t need to add an additional extra credit test to life. Yet with that said, I think most people would find it hard to accept when James suggests these struggles we experience are occasions for joy. On the other hand, I have witnessed so many people rise above the heartache brought about by flood waters. They’re not happy about what has happened, but they have found reasons to be joyful even in the trouble. No one wants to be flooded, but when it occurs, the gracious generosity of people can bring forth a joyous gratitude.
Prayer: Continue to keep me connected to you, O God, so that I can see the goodness shining in the darkness. Amen.
Scripture: James 1:1
From James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the twelve tribes who are scattered outside the land of Israel. Greetings!
Thought for the Day: For the next few days, I am going to spend a little time in the book of James. Though a very popular book for some Christians, it was Martin Luther – the 16th century reformer – who suggested that James might be best left out of the Bible. According to Luther, the book contradicted the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Though I have great respect for Martin Luther, I am going to encourage that we continue to find a place for James in our Bibles. James opens the book by referring to himself as a slave of God and Jesus. The Greek word we translate as slave or servant is Doulos, and though James was not technically a slave (there were real slaves at this time), the use of the word describes a person who is so devoted to another that s/he is willing to relinquish his/her own self-interest. James is so devoted to the ways of God that his self-interest and personal agenda are set aside to make room for God’s interests and agenda to dwell.
Prayer: May your vision, O Gracious God, dwell within me. May my life relinquish what is not of you to make room for you. Amen.
Dinner – 6:30pm, Study – 7:00pm
Cramer Reterat Center
Scripture: Acts 4:31
After they (Peter & John) prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence.
Thought for the Day: Some of our men are at the Regional Men’s Retreat this weekend. I drove to Lake Brownwood Retreat Center on Friday, and then left yesterday afternoon to come back in time for worship this morning. Though I cut out early, it was so good to be in a beautiful setting with over a 100 other men to sing, pray and share. I heard two exceptional keynotes, and though I can’t say the place physically shook, there was a palpable vibration as the Holy Spirit moved among us. It seems a bit strange that I was gone from Houston for only 30 hours – 10 of them were in the car driving and 7 of them were sleeping – which leaves only 13 hours of real retreating, yet I feel renewed and energized by my time away. It may not be as long as you’d like it to be, but I pray that each of you finds a little retreat in the next few weeks. Try to carve out even a few minutes at some point to pray, listen and to be refilled with the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Guide us into places and times where we can catch our breath and connect with you, O God of Grace and Goodness. Amen.
Scripture: Genesis 22:1-2
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
Thought for the Day: There are few stories in the Bible as troubling as this one. Even though God provided a ram to sacrifice instead of a young child, it remains heart-wrenching and disturbing to think that God created this elaborate test (or joke) that manipulated human emotions. With that said, I must realize that I am viewing this story through 21st century eyes. For another people in another time, these words would have been transformative. In its ancient context where children were sacrificed to different pagan gods, the notion that the God of Abraham and Sarah would provide a ram instead of requiring a child would have been glorious news. It would have been a turning point in their faith discovery. We might say God never changes, but the context in which God works is constantly changing. The story of God is always adapting to reveal how grace is always relevant. Maybe it wasn’t God who invited Abraham to sacrifice his son. Maybe it was Abraham’s assumption about God – an incorrect assumption based upon the many gods of other cultures – that God corrected with grace.
Prayer: Come anew, O God, into this moment and into our unique historical setting. Amen.
PRAY FOR THE MEN OF CCCC
WHO ARE ATTENDING
THE REGIONAL MEN’S RETREAT
Scripture: John 10:14-15
[Jesus said,] “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep…”
Thought for the Day: In the last two weeks, I have been engaged in some very interesting theological conversations that directly or indirectly related to the above passage. In times of crisis, there can be for some people a renewed intimacy with God. The God of scripture and history is no longer trapped on the pages of a text or those years gone by. God becomes much more real and connected to our current reality. In two of those conversations, people spoke about the idea of God knowing our names, and how that had previously been more of a pretty religious precept. But now, it clearly communicated the relationship God desires to have with us – a relationship rooted in love and concern for us as individuals and as a community. The Gospel writer uses another I AM statement to reveal a God who wishes to find a way of entering our lives and circumstances. This is not a distant or detached God, but One who takes on flesh and stands alongside humanity. This is a God who knows us by name.
Prayer: O God who knows us and loves us like a parent, continue to find ways of drawing us more closely to you. Amen.
When grief grips us like a prisoner’s restraint,
our vision beyond the present is bound and diminished.
So many images and stories afflict our spirits
leaving us spent and gasping for the Divine Breath.
Breathe into us, Holy Spirit,
so the shackles of our anguish are no more;
Breathe into the darkness of dismay
a loving kindness that enlivens an inert perspective;
Breathe resurrection into neighborhoods demoralized
by the symbols of suffering
lying in state upon front lawns;
Breathe life into the proverbial dry bones
scattered in the valleys of so many lives.
Breathe into us, Holy Spirit, a vision of what is possible
even when our possible is bound and diminished.
Breathe into us the vision of hope and new life
reflected in the news of an empty tomb.
Scripture: Genesis 20:1-2
From there Abraham journeyed toward the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While residing in Gerar as an alien, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
Thought for the Day: It appears that Abraham is not a quick study since he denied that Sarah was his wife just a few chapters earlier. Notice how Abraham comes to this decision out of fear for he was residing as an alien in a foreign country. Throughout scripture, people find themselves in difficult situations or forced to make tough choices for the simple reason that they are living in a foreign land. Because of this history, God will later teach the Israelites that they are to be respectful of the foreigner residing in their midst. Life circumstances may change and we may find ourselves living on the other side. The hope is that we will always remember our history as a faith and show compassion to those who find themselves as foreigners.
Prayer: Though life may of changed, O God, may I never lose sight of where I have been. Amen.
THIS COMING SUNDAY
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth.
Thought for the Day: Billy Graham offers us these words:
Patience is the transcendent radiance of a loving and tender heart which, in its dealings with those around it, looks kindly and graciously upon them.
Patience and love look a lot alike. Patience is love in real time, and love gives us the reason to be patient in the first place. No matter your circumstance, reach for patience and demonstrate patience. I’m pretty certain there are some folks who are desperately needing a little this day.
Prayer: Your love is patient and kind, O Generous God, and as I learn to be more patient, others will discover your love and kindness. Make it so! Amen.