Scripture: 1st Peter 2:11-13
Dear friends, since you are immigrants and strangers in the world, I urge that you avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives. Live honorably among the unbelievers. Today, they defame you, as if you were doing evil. But in the day when God visits to judge they will glorify him, because they have observed your honorable deeds. For the sake of the Lord submit to every human institution.
Thought for the Day: Immigration is a hot topic these days, and though some might suggest that I should not venture into the conversation, it is impossible to stay away from politics when it is really about people. Now let’s first state the obvious – immigration is complicated, but when lives hang in the balance, complicated scenarios can find a path forward when love and compassion transcend the real obstacle which is usually pettiness. The prophets of old warned that nations would be judged based upon their treatment of widows, orphans and immigrants (foreigners/aliens). This judgement comes, in part, because the Hebrew people were once outsiders living in a foreign land. They were not wanted, yet their services were used and abused by the Egyptian culture. In the New Testament, Jesus challenged those who wished to narrowly define who was in and who was out by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Suddenly the definition of neighbor had to include even those the culture had deemed worthless. In our 240+ years as a nation, we have struggled with how we welcome and relate to immigrants even though we were once immigrants (99% of us). Of course, our nation is not unique in this struggle. Fear of the other and the unknown can drive both individual and political decisions, yet fear by itself is the single worst tool in decision-making. As followers of Jesus Christ, let us make sure his voice and opinion are part of the conversation when lives and families hang in the balance. And it is interesting how 1st Peter’s community felt as if they were immigrants (outsiders) in the culture of the time, yet as 1st Peter points out, it would be these outsiders who would eventually be seen as the examples of true faithfulness…and eventually, their works would be the means by which others would glorify God.
Prayer: Encourage me, O Spirit of God, as my relationship with you speaks to the real issues of my community, nation and world. You did not invite us to live in a bubble, but to live as those who are in the world but not of the world. Amen.
Scripture: 1st Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Thought for the Day: There are some passages in scripture that need to be read out loud. Not only do we need to speak them audibly, but there needs to be some strength and passion behind them. This is one example of such a passage! If you are in a public place right now, it might feel a bit odd to suddenly speak these words for all to hear. It is ok to wait until you feel a little more comfortable before shouting them. With that said, notice how these words were intended to be spoken to others: “You are a chosen race…” Today, you may not feel comfortable sharing these words out loud with the spirit of intensity they deserve, but how can you share that same message without the actual use of words? What might that message look like to someone who feels as if they remain in the dark? A verbal declaration might mean something to those who feel consumed by the shadows of darkness, but being treated with a love that resembles God’s love might just help them recognize their place among God’s beloved.
Prayer: Where your Living Word spills from my lips or is expressed in my actions, I pray for your continued encouragement, O Wonderful God. I seek to be the instrument by which others experience the fullness of your eternal welcome and loving embrace. Amen.
THIS SUNDAY — Literature-ism
Scripture: 1st Peter 1:22-23
As you set yourselves apart by your obedience to the truth so that you might have genuine affection for your fellow believers, love each other deeply and earnestly. Do this because you have been given new birth—not from the type of seed that decays but from seed that doesn’t. This seed is God’s life-giving and enduring word.
Thought for the Day: The Qumran Community (Jewish sect that lived away from society, and was the source of the Dead Sea Scrolls) had a manual for discipleship, and it called upon its members to love all the children of light and hate all the children of darkness. Like most of Christian scripture, 1st Peter resists this division. Instead, there is a new birth (transformation) within a person that comes by means of God’s life-giving (or living) and enduring word. This logou zontos (word alive/breathing) was not the written scripture (the New Testament had not yet taken shape), but the Gospel proclaimed in both word and deed. Scripture is this amazing gift, but it should never be confused with the living word which is Christ – God’s redemptive and transformative power unleashed upon the world in the Good News of God’s unconditional love and the proclaiming of this Good News. Scripture can reveal and teach us about Christ, but there is a difference between reading the manual and actually encountering that which the manual describes. As I am currently trying to get a new printer online, I have been reading the manual. There have been numerous times when the manual’s description has left me confused, but upon fiddling with the printer itself, I have come to understand. Or as I have said on occasion, the Bible is a dating service that introduces us to Jesus. At some point, you need to stop talking to the dating service and actually go out on a date.
Prayer: Continue to plant the seed of your unconditional love within me, O Life-giving Word. Allow it to dwell deeply within the soil of my soul, take root and flourish. Allow it, through my regular attention and care, to produce fruit that will bless others as well. Amen.
TODAY’S STUDIES CANCELED
(Concerened about the Sidewalks)
Children, Youth, Choir
and Community Center Board Meeting
Events at Cypress Creek Christian Church are canceled for Wednesday, January 17, 2018. Please remain safe, and if you have to be out, be mindful of melting and refreezing.
Scripture: 1st John 2:5-6
But the love of God is truly perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know we are in him. The one who claims to remain in him ought to live in the same way as he lived.
Thought for the Day: The Danish Theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote a prayer of which I offer a portion of it:
You have loved us first, O God… We speak of it in terms of history as if You loved us first… rather than that without ceasing You have loved us first many times and everyday and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You – You were there first – You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at that same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first…
Kierkegaard’s prayer expresses the depth of God’s love that continues and continues to be the love that is there prior to every moment of life. In 1st John, this amazing love comes to fullness (perfection) within those who “keep” the word. The word we translate as keep, comes from the Greek word for observe/behold (Theoreo). We find it in Mark 12:41 where Jesus is observing/watching those who come to make an offering. When 1st John refers to keeping the word, it is something visible/observable. This would only make sense as the love of God that continues to love us first in every moment of time is a love that is always visible for the world to see.
Prayer: Allow for our lives to be in your life, O God, as your perfect and wonderful love continues to grow and develop within us. Amen.
(Assuming the weather is ok)
Noon & 6:30pm
Scripture: Luke 24:31 (the Message)
At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.
Thought for the Day: Yesterday, I preached on Awareness — awareness in regard to our own need for Spiritual Growth, but also an awareness of those outside the church who long for an experience of the Holy Other. Though too many of those who feel the longing don’t quite trust the church to be the place where such a thing could happen. In Luke’s Gospel, the resurrected Jesus meets some travelers who do not initially recognize him. It was only in the act of gracious fellowship (the sharing of bread and hospitality) that they recognized what had been right before them. As followers of Jesus, we need to continue to be aware of his living presence that beckons us to places we may not have imagined, but even more so, we need to be aware of our actions and interactions with others. How are we perceived, and are we demonstrating the gracious hospitality that helps others recognize the beauty of the living Jesus in our midst?
Prayer: Help me to notice what you need me to notice, O Living God. Whether it is something within myself or someone along my path, I wish to be fully available to the needs you perceive. Amen.
First Phone Bank of 2018
6:30 – 8:30pm
Scripture: Hebrews 6:7-8
The ground receives a blessing from God when it drinks up the rain that regularly comes and falls on it and yields a useful crop for those people for whom it is being farmed. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it’s useless and close to being cursed. It ends up being burned.
Thought for the Day: The first house Donna and I purchased had a steep hill in the backyard. Mowing was very difficult, and it often left me frustrated and exhausted. After a couple of years, I decided to cover the entire hill with ground cover. I started in sections, and it went surprisingly well. The ground cover, a type of vinca, begin to spread as I had hoped. After the entire hill was covered, I stood back and pridefully enjoyed my accomplishment. But it wasn’t long before other grasses and weeds begin to appear, pushing out or even killing the vinca. For the vinca to do what I wanted it to do required regular maintenance and care. Our spiritual lives require regular work, and though God provides the sustenance and growth for which we desire, there is still the personal responsibility of living a disciplined life that includes prayer, study, silence, etc. If we do not continue the necessary care of ourselves, the thorns and thistles will return and begin choking out the healthy growth that has been gifted to us.
Prayer: Guide me, O Giver of Growth, to those disciplines and practices that will allow me to better tap into your grace and mercy. I yearn to know you and serve you, yet a passive approach will leave the soil of my soul full of weeds. Show me one thing I can do today that will strengthen my relationship with you. Amen.
Scripture: Hebrews 6:1a
So let’s press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics about Christ’s word.
Thought for the Day: What does the author mean when referencing the basics about Christ’s word? What we translate as basics in this verse can also mean starting place. Yes, it was a starting place but I doubt Christ ever intended it to be the final destination. Too often, Christians have become overly comfortable with the basics. Don’t get me wrong, the basics are good when it comes to the beginning, but they are the starting line for disciples who wish to run the race. Let’s press on to maturity for the sake of God’s kingdom coming to earth.
Prayer: Keep each of us on a path of growth toward maturity in you, O Giver of the Christ. Amen.
9am & 11am
May we seek to be fully committed to you,
who has forever been committed to us.
Our hearts yearn to declare with confidence
“We Are All In!”
when it comes to our devotion to you.
Our hearts yearn,
but our daily living
does not always match
such a declaration.
O Spirit that swept across a formless void
and brought forth light and life,
sweep across our lives,
and like the valley of dry bones,
may our barren spirits
find renewal and restoration.
O Jesus, our friend and companion,
walk with each of us
even when the path is dark;
even when our steps are slow;
even when we stumble and fall.
Provide us light for the journey,
encouraging words when anxious,
and a hand to lift us back to our feet.
Continue to be the voice of hope
when pessimism and cynicism
seek to deflate us
and devalue us
and defeat us.
O Creator of All,
we yearn to be those whose lives
are woven so fully into the divine life
that observers can see only you.
Yet we know our living and our loving
falls short of our best intentions
or the mark set in the life of Jesus.
May deficiency and failure
not thwart the yearning we have.
This is the request
that rises from deep within us –
a request made in faith,
our faith in you,
in your faithfulness to us.
As I said yesterday, it is the ten year anniversary of when I first started writing my daily devotionals. The following is the first one that I have from a decade ago. For some reason, I didn’t keep the first devotionals that I wrote. Note, it was written to First Christian Church of Naples, but I find that it fits well at Cypress Creek Christian Church ten years later.
Scripture: John 14:12
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
Thought for the Day: One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. This wonderful movie has a character named Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) who is invited to help create a miracle. One of the other characters asks if he can move a little more quickly, to which Miracle Max responds, “You rush a miracle. You get rotten miracles.” Though Jesus performed some amazing things in his life, he indicated that his followers would do even greater things. First Christian Church is participating in one of those amazing happenings, though the process of this miracle is slow and tedious at times. The words of Miracle Max are important for us to hear: “You rush a miracle. You get rotten miracles.”
Prayer: Give me the virtue of patience, Lord, so I may faithfully participate in your miraculous work. Amen.