A Thought About Prayer and Possibility… I would not describe it as a blinding light or even the proverbial cartoon lightbulb appearing above the head. I don’t want to make it more than what it was, but to dismiss it would feel disingenuous. This past week, I shared in a couple of prayer gatherings in our chapel – Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon. I won’t pretend to know if they meant anything to the others who participated. All I know is that Thursday morning I woke up with a different attitude. Since the flood, I have remained upbeat and relatively positive. Though a born optimist, there is a pragmatic part of me that can unknowingly slide into the valley of the spiritually vanquished. Like many of you, feeling overwhelmed and anxious by the list of “unknowns” and “the beyond our controls” can quickly eclipse optimism. Yet I found myself on Thursday morning with an optimism that was not rooted in traditional optimism. That may sound strange, but too often optimism is nothing more than wishful thinking that crumbles with the first wink of skepticism. I felt as if I had tapped into something that could loosely be described as a euphoric reassurance, a holy head rush, that left me feeling convicted. Could it have been the new dish I made with the spicy Muchi Curry? Maybe… but I would like to suggest something else. The flood was not God’s doing, but something of God’s using. We are being made anew – by water and Spirit. We are being reformed and reshaped as a community that is no longer trapped by a nostalgic vision of the past that conspired to dictate the future. Suddenly we find ourselves at a juncture that could be defined as either critical or creative. A critical juncture is what is seen by those who already see their situation as being in critical condition. What I perceived in those times of prayer was so full of life and promise that God was the only explanation. And when God is the explanation, it can only be assumed that buckling your seat belt and raising your hands in the air is the proper response. The ride has started, and where God will take us is limited only by God’s creativity. If you can’t tell, I woke up Thursday morning feeling excited.
SEE YOU IN WORSHIP
Continuing our discussion on gratitude.
Learn About The Scrip Program
Scripture: Ephesians 2:18-19
We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household.
Thought for the Day: Today, and for the next couple of days, I will focus on some words from the second chapter of Ephesians. I used these words in our prayer gatherings earlier this week, and I invited the participants to keep these words before them. Most notably for me are the very illustrative words – access and strangers/aliens. Ephesus was a true cosmopolitan city – a port for international goods. For that reason, there was a rich diversity of people who must have felt like strangers and aliens. In Ephesus, there were many temples and religious gatherings, but outside of a few nationalistic Emperor cults, a majority of these were tied to trade or ethnic groups. So you can understand the power of Paul’s words when he said to those who felt like strangers and aliens, “You are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household.” You didn’t need to be a citizen of Rome, a member of a specific trade group or even share a common ethnicity. The message of God’s grace and love stretched well beyond all the divisions used to divide the human family. This gracious and loving act provided full access to God. In our current Post-Flood situation, I believe there are many people who are feeling like strangers and aliens. Maybe it has been decades since they were in church, and though they feel a longing, there is the perception that they won’t be welcomed. Or maybe the flooding has forced a dramatic change in life and life circumstance, and they have been cutoff from their traditional communities of support. Whatever the case, we need to echo Paul’s words. At Cypress Creek Christian Church, we are striving to put love first in all things because of a God who first loved us, and revealed that love in Jesus Christ. In our vision and mission, we are stating that all of us were once strangers and aliens, but by the love seen in Jesus, we all have full access to the household of God.
Prayer: Our humanity finds fullness of life in the experience of belonging. For all who feel as if they are strangers and aliens, provide for us a clear way of communicating your message, O Lord…a message of true welcome and belonging. Amen.
The Women’s Gathering will NOT be meeting
this Saturday, November 18,
because of the Dickens Market.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:17
When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near.
Thought for the Day: Though these words could be easily overlooked, Paul uses them as just another way of speaking about the character of God’s grace. The message of Jesus is not looking for the audience that is most accessible or the most receptive. Though many people today look for a job with the highest salary that requires the least amount of work, what we find in Jesus is a calling that requires a lot of work with very few tangible rewards. Most of us would be willing to speak about Christ to those who are already having the conversation, but the challenge is to seek out those who remain far away. The grace of God in Jesus is for both, and God is looking for those who are willing to stretch themselves.
Prayer: Let me continue to look beyond the comfortable and well known. Call me, O God who has gifted all of humanity with the Good News. Call me so that I might give witness to this Good News, a Good News for those who are near and those who are far. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 14:7-9
We don’t live for ourselves and we don’t die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Thought for the Day: Today will be the final of about three weeks on Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome. Though there is still so much to discuss, I thought I would end with these words. For Paul, these are thoughts offered to the community itself, and within them, we find more than a calling for simple tolerance. It is a Christ-like living that bridges all divides, including the valley of death. The community to which Paul is writing is more than the diverse group of Christians living in Rome, but also those followers who have died. We tend to draw our definition of diversity based upon a limited spectrum, but in Christ, the calling is to include the Great Cloud of Witnesses who have gone before us. We bicker over divisions of gender, race, politics, sexuality, economics and nationality, but Christ continues to broaden the scope by which we view his community. We tend to separate the dead from the living, but Christ is Lord of both. And if Lord of both, then we stand – the living and the dead – together in the Kingdom where Christ is Lord of us all.
Prayer: Though separated by death, I am connected to brothers and sisters who reside with you, O Lord of Life and Life Everlasting. Let me draw upon their witness and example as I strive to be more Christ-like in my daily life. As the world seeks to divide itself along so many different lines, you call us to find unity in your gift of Jesus Christ. Help us to live as one for the sake of your kingdom here on earth. Amen.
JOIN THE PRAYER GATHERING
A Nehemiah Ministry
Today at 12:15pm
In the Chapel
Scripture: Romans 10:4
Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God.
Thought for the Day: Christ is the teleos of the nomos – Christ is the culmination of the Mosaic teachings. Though we cannot achieve by ourselves the numerous and demanding taskS of the Mosaic (Moses) teachings, Christ is the fullness of such teaching in human form. As I read through Paul, I believe he was suggesting that if Christ lives in us and we live with Christ, then we have reached the culmination/goal because of our connection to him. Not to be too crude, but it’s as if we rode the winning horse across the finish line. Without the horse, we would still be sitting at the starting line. Our righteousness is nothing for which we can brag. Instead, we are humbled by the gift and, if truly understood as a gift, then we begin to live our lives like the one who gifted us so generously.
Prayer: For all you have done and all you continue to do for me, O Gracious Triune God, I am thankful. By your Spirit, I wish to live my life as one who both understands the depth of your gift and accepts the responsibility that comes with such an understanding. Amen.
TONIGHT & TOMORROW AFTERNOON
Scripture: Romans 9:24-27
We are the ones God has called. We don’t come only from the Jews but we also come from the Gentiles. As it says also in Hosea, I will call “my people” those who aren’t my people, and the one who isn’t well loved, I will call “loved one.” And in the place where it was said to them, “You aren’t my people,” there they will be called “the living God’s children.”
Thought for the Day: Donald Kraybill wrote a book entitled, The Upside-Down Kingdom. In it, Kraybill writes: “…the kingdom of God points to an inverted, upside-down way of life that challenges the prevailing social order. It certainly challenged the patterns in ancient Palestinian society and does the same in our world today.” Paul’s world had been turned upside-down, or some might say right side-up as he journeyed to Damascus. The same should be true of Christians everywhere, yet the decline of Christianity is, in my opinion, directly tied to a Christianity that attempts to mirror the current cultural patterns that include exclusion, exploitation, greed and division. Christianity looks and acts no differently, except it decorates itself with pretty language and rituals. As followers of Jesus, we should preach and embody the upside-down kingdom, the Jesus who was known for his teachings on the great reversals. We are to stand against the prevailing winds, not to destroy the current culture, but to transform it. And Paul would encourage us to begin with simple invitations to those who sit on the margins and know the brunt of rejection. To them, we say, “You are among God’s beloved, and though many will suggest otherwise, we are here to announce your rightful place as children of God.”
Prayer: Though it might be easier to live a cultural version of Christianity, I believe you have called us, O King of Kings, to fully participate in your Kingdom that stands firmly and faithfully against the hatred and violence of our world. Amen.
LET’S JOIN TOGETHER IN PRAYER
Tuesday at 6:45pm
Wednsday at 12:15pm
Scripture: Romans 8:38-39
I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.
Thought for the Day: As we continue to work our way through Romans, I am quickly drawn to these words found at the end of the 8th chapter. In fact, I referenced them yesterday in a funeral. First of all, Paul uses the word nothing to described those things that can separate us from the love of God. It is not even a short list. It is a non-existent list. But just incase the reader did not grasp the meaning of nothing, Paul offers a poetic litany of potential items that people had suggested were worthy of separation, yet he crosses each of them off in his pursuit of defining the word nothing. I never thought I could enjoy nothing so much.
Prayer: Make me a believer in nothing but your love, O God, revealed in Jesus Christ. I like your nothing list as it is grace to me. Amen.
SEE YOU IN WORSHIP
9AM & 11AM
Scripture: Romans 8:2
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Thought for the Day: What is the Spirit doing with the Law? You would think the two would not go hand in hand, yet Paul taught back in the 7th chapter how the Law was spiritual before it encountered the corruption of sin. The Law was a gracious gift from God, but humans used it as a tool to wield power over others. It appears that Paul was suggesting that the heart of the Law in its original expression is what we come to see in Jesus. This life of Jesus provides a gracious exit strategy from the abusive use of the Law and a fleshly embodiment of the Law that we can embrace and love and maybe even learn to follow.
Prayer: I want to be encouraged by your Spirit, O Lord. I want to be encouraged to leave behind what is not of you for the purpose of knowing you better and following you more closely. I want to be encouraged by your Spirit. Amen.
An Often Difficult Gift
An All Church Prayer Experinence
Scripture: Romans 7:18-20
I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it.
Thought for the Day: This could be interpreted as a rather unhealthy internal conversation, yet Paul presents his thoughts in a way that leaves me (maybe you) nodding in an affirmative way. We have all done things we should not have done, and even as we were doing it, we knew it was not a good idea. We might have even had a conversation with ourselves in an attempt to justify why we were about to do what we were going to do. It appears as if Paul is pointing toward a tension between the good inside of us and the sin that lives within us. That might be a slight oversimplification, but I do believe there are a multitude of competing voices within each of us. Everything from the voice of your grandmother telling you what is right – to your ego telling you how you deserve the promotion at any cost – to your insecurity telling you to hide the real you – to a childhood experience that continues to suggest you are a nobody – to the voice of the Spirit announcing you are a beloved child of God and are to be an agent of love wherever you go. There is a lot happening, and the life long journey of a Jesus follower is to give more and more authority to the voice of the Spirit that speaks the teaching and values of Jesus. What will you do today to listen and appreciate that voice a bit more than you did yesterday?
Prayer: Speak loudly, O Spirit of Christ, so that all the voices attempting to have a say in my decisions might bow to your authority. It is my struggle, O Gracious One, but I believe you will be patient. Amen.
An Often Difficult Gift
BLOOD DRIVE THIS SUNDAY
Consider Giving The Gift Of Life
Scripture: Romans 7:24
I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse?
Thought for the Day: This is one of those questions you ask on a bad day, yet for Paul, it was the necessary starting place for understanding the grace of God made real in Jesus Christ. Though like a number of things, an idea trying to make its point can create unforeseen problems. People have allowed themselves to dwell on those opening words. They agree fully with Paul’s assessment, and do not see hope or possibility. I’m pretty sure that was not Paul’s intention. Words like that must always be read in the larger context of Paul’s joyful proclamation of grace. It is ok and even healthy to speak of how we are incapable of earning love, for love by its very nature is a gift that is given without determining merit. It becomes unhealthy when a person’s capacity to receive love is overshadowed and restricted by a sense of complete unworthiness. God marked us each with the word GOOD, and though we do some things that are less than stellar, divine love still seeks us out for the sake of our redemption and transformation.
Prayer: Don’t ever let my ego ignore my failures, O Lord, but continue to remind me that those failures do not ultimately define who I am. I am made and animated by your grace and for the sake of your grace. Amen.
Cypress Creek Christian Church
Workday for Habitat
Saturday, November 18
8:00am – 3:00pm
(22907 Fairfax Village W. Dr., Spring, TX 77373)
Contact John Basel for more info